Gallery: Suffolk stalwarts receive their British Empire Medals
PUBLISHED: 09:00 23 April 2013
THE nine people honoured by The Queen with the British Empire Medal yesterday have together contributed many decades of service to the community.
The medals, were presented by her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, Lord Tollemache, during a ceremony at Helmingham Hall after being announced in the New Year’s Honours list.
Lord Tollemache said each of the nine deserved their medals for their “incredible” contribution to Suffolk.
He said: “They have given incredible service to their communities. There are so many people that are so grateful for what they have done and help they have given to people completely selflessly.
“It’s a huge privilege to be able to present these medals on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen.
Leslie Ager served as the conductor for Haverhill Silver Band for 30 years and was musical director for 48 shows.
His connection with the Silver Band is being continued by his son and daughter and now his grandchildren are also involved in the band.
Mr Ager, 74, said: “It’s reward for my services to music in Haverhill. I regard the award really as for the people who supported me over the years.”
Michael Ames is well-known as a champion of Bury in Bloom and has worked hard for many years to help the campaign achieve its success. He is also part of the Bury Society and is a former town mayor.
Mr Ames, 75, was accompanied by his wife Monica and friend Nigel Finch, said he was “very proud” to be given the honour.
He said: “I’m very proud, not just for myself but for the Ames family because I don’t think any other generation has had any royal recognition. “I hope that the townspeople of Bury St Edmunds are proud because without them I wouldn’t be here.”
For seven years Robert Clinton, 72, has been the treasurer for charity Veterans Aid which helps former service personnel who are homeless or facing homelessness.
Mr Clinton, who lives in Stradishall and worked in the City all his life, said: “I was astounded to be given the award and never expected it to happen. It’s more of an award for the charity than for me personally and it does some good for Veterans Aid and gives it greater visibility.”
Stradbroke community stalwart Jane Gemmill said she had no idea who had put her forward for her BEM.
Mrs Gemmill, 68, has been part of the village Meals on Wheels scheme for 30 years, helped start a playgroup and is part of the community centre committee, among other commitments.
“It’s been lovely and it’s nice to have recognition that you do the quiet things in the village,” she said. “Being involved in these sorts of projects is a great way to meet people and make friends.”
As the chair of governors for the first free school in Suffolk, Keith Haisman has played a ground-breaking role in modern education in the county.
Mr Haisman, 63, is also chair of finance at the Stour Valley Community School, which opened in 2011 on the site of the former Clare Middle School, which was closed under the School Organisation Review.
Mr Haisman said: “We are not doing this politically - we’re doing this for the community. We’re the biggest employer in the town with 50 staff and community engagement is now part of the job description.”
Since 1961 Susan Harrison has played a key role at Aldeburgh Cinema and was given her BEM for her services to independent community cinema.
Mrs Harrison, 73, was joined at helmingham Hall by her sons Andrew and Paul and said the cinema was one of the best things about Aldeburgh and that she had enjoyed a “wonderful day” yesterday.
“We have got a big cinema club with 1,200 members. If the cinema was in trouble, the town would really want to get it out,” she said.
Muriel Healey was given her BEM in recognition of her work for services to tenants in Suffolk as a long-serving board member at Havebury Housing Partnership.
Mrs Healey, 92, said: “I didn’t know anything about it and was in hospital actually. After I came out I got the letter and was absolutely thrilled.”
David Nicholson received his BEM from Lord Tollemache for his services to the rehabilitation of prisoners through his work at HMP and Young Offenders Institute Norwich.
He said: “It’s not just me, there are a lot of people who work very, very hard behind the scenes. It’s about giving these guys an opportunity.”
In a bid to raise money for several charities, most significantly the St Elizabeth hospice, Peter Taylor, 86, has sold thousands of pounds worth of woodturning.
Funds raised by Mr Taylor, of Wickham Market, have also helped refurbish village halls in Bredfield and Dallinghoo and also boosted East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices and several churches.
Accompanied yesterday by daughter Jane and son Grahame, Mr Taylor said: “It’s been a wonderful day here and everyone has been so friendly. It’s very informal and relaxed.”