Wirral people 'honoured' to be recognised by Queen

Wirral Globe: Gareth Williams OBE was recognised for his services to special needs education. Gareth Williams OBE was recognised for his services to special needs education.

INSPIRATIONAL people who have made a difference to the lives of people in Wirral have been recognised by the Queen in the New Year’s Honours List. The Globe caught up with some of this year’s winners to find out what it means to them.

Wirral Globe:
Gareth Williams OBE was recognised for his services to special needs education.

THE principal of a Wirral residential school said he never expected it to be him receiving a New Year’s Honour.

Gareth Wynn Williams, who has been in charge at West Kirby Residential School for 20 years, was awarded an OBE for his services to special needs education.

The 56-year-old said he felt incredibly “proud” and “humbled” to receive the gong.

“It was an incredible shock,” said Mr Williams.

“You hear of all of these people getting it and you don’t really ever expect anything like that because you are just doing your job but it’s a big big surprise.

“I feel incredibly honoured and very humbled. I’m also very proud.”

During his career, Mr Williams has made a significant difference to changing the lives of many Wirral youngsters and has led the school through several successful Ofsted inspections, including a hat-trick of outstanding reports.

His role as School Improvement Partner means he is able to visit other schools and assist other headteachers and governors in shaping their own school improvement plans, something he feels privileged to be a part of.

“I thank my wife and everybody - obviously my colleagues at work and the governors. I work with some terrific people.”

Wirral Globe:
Professor Robert Lee MBE was recognised for his services to the restoration of Birkenhead Park.

THE professor who helped to restore an historic Wirral park says receiving an MBE is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of all those involved.

Professor Robert Lee was recognised by the Queen in the New Year’s Honours List for his services to the restoration of Birkenhead Park and the community in Birkenhead.

He was integral to the reopening of the 1847 park – which inspired Victoria Park in London and Central Park in New York – following a £11.25m restoration scheme.

But Professor Lee, chair of the Friends of Birkenhead Park, said it is not an individual honour, rather a reflection on those who have helped over the years.

He said: “There are so many Friends and volunteers who have made, and continue to make, contributions to the upkeep of the park.

“The park is so important to the community and we see Birkenhead Park as being a key element in how the community in Birkenhead has actually been trying to improve its position because it’s based in part of the Wirral which is still suffering from very extensive relative deprivation.

“That’s why the Friends and volunteers take forward a wide range of projects and programmes to improve the knowledge and information about the park and to give the community a sense of involvement.”

Wirral Globe:

Beryl Dare received a British Empire Medal for services to the community.

A PENSBY woman who has dedicated more than 30 years of her life to volunteering at a Wirral hospital told the Globe she feels “humbled” to receive a British Empire Medal.

Beryl Dare was recognised for her selfless and enthusiastic services to the community after leading the volunteering for the Arrowe Park Hospital League of Friends for 31 years.

“It was a complete and utter shock,” said Beryl, whose hard work, passion and generosity has helped the Friends to raise millions of pounds for Arrowe Park with equipment to enhance its services, including endoscopy scopes and incubators.

“I feel quite humbled really because I have totally enjoyed all my volunteering work for 31 years and still do enjoy it.”

The mother-of-one, who is currently the group’s vice chair and personnel manager, added: “I’m very pleased that somebody put me up for it – I have an idea who it is and I just want to thank them for nominating me.”

Mrs Dare has worked under four Trust Chief Executives, four Trust Chairmen and numerous Presidents of the League.

She was instrumental in identifying the need for and development of a League of Friends shop in the hospital, which started life as a trolley service to wards.

“All of the profits from the shop go right back into the hospital and we have been able to buy some equipment that the hospital wouldn’t otherwise have,” she explained.

“We are now in our third million of the 31 years.”

Mrs Dare, who first joined the group after attending a hospital open day, added: “I really enjoy it – in the shop you get to talk to people and I love talking to the children when they come with their parents. I just really love it – I am very happy and I will carry on volunteering for as long as I can.”

Fiona Dillon received the British Empire Medal for her voluntary services.

THE co-founder of West Wirral Lions Club hopes her recognition in the New Year’s Honours List will encourage more “ordinary people to nominate ordinary people”.

Meols resident Fiona Kathryn Dillon received the British Empire Medal for her voluntary services to Wirral.

The 53-year-old, who as well as her time with the Lions, has also helped organisations including Alzheimer’s Society, Pro-Life, Liverpool Legal Aid and her local church – St Catherine’s – said: “It is very nice to receive it but I haven’t done anything more than anyone else who is involved with charity work. It’s just part and parcel of my life.”

Mrs Dillon, who followed in the footsteps of her father – a member of Wallasey Lions – to co-found the West Wirral Lions Club in 1994, added: “I am no different to anybody else and there are lots of unsung heroes who deserve the award who have done a lot more than me.

“I would like to think that it will encourage other people to nominate others for these awards.

“I hope that it will encourage ordinary people to put forward ordinary people.”

Wirral Globe:

Paul Lougnane received a British Empire Medal for services to Wirral's nature conservation.

A WIRRAL man who has spent a quarter of the century at the heart of Wirral’s nature conservation is overjoyed to have been recognised on a national level.

Paul Loughnane, secretary and honoury reserve manager of New Ferry Butterfly Park, received a British Empire Medal for his services to Wirral’s nature conservation.

“It’s fantastic – it just came out of the blue,” said 47-year-old Paul.

The butterfly park – which was created from a former railway goods yard more than – has become hugely popular, attracting almost 2,500 visitors during the summer months of 2013 – a fantastic achievement considering it is only open on Sunday afternoons.

“I have been here since the very beginning,” said Paul, who has helped to transform the former wasteland into a bright and beautiful spot.

“It has helped the regeneration of New Ferry and it has become a thriving attraction. We’ve transformed what was once an area of land covered in drug needles and rubbish.”

Paul thanked all of the volunteers he has been involved with over the years.

He added: “You don’t expect to be recognised for improving a little bit of the country so it’s nice to be recognised on a national level.”

Cheshire and Wirral Wildlife Trust’s chief executive, Charlotte Harris, said: “We're thrilled to hear of Paul's richly deserved award after 25 years of dedication to wildlife across the Wirral.

“Volunteers are the bedrock of the conservation movement and not least the Wildlife Trusts, who themselves were founded by keen amateurs a century ago.

"The best results for wildlife can often be achieved when time is dedicated to understanding a site and its habitats, and Paul's work demonstrates this superbly at New Ferry Butterfly Park with the continued successes there not only for biodiversity, but for involving the local community too.

"Paul's ongoing commitment to rural skills like hedgelaying and other crafts mean that traditional methods of managing our countryside are being kept alive as well, an added bonus in our increasingly technological rural environment."

Wirral Globe:

Anne Crawley received the British Empire Medal for her services to charitable work in Europe and Africa.

“AMAZED” is the word used by one Bebington woman to describe receiving a British Empire Medal in the New Year’s Honours List.

Anne Crawley received the gong for her services to charitable work in Europe and Africa through Operation Christmas Child – an organisation that fills and collects shoe boxes for children in less privileged parts of the world.

Mrs Crawley, who has been working with Operation Christmas Child since 1998, said more work is involved than people may think.

“I have done 15 years and it’s full on – people think it’s  just at Christmas but we work all year around to collect fillers, make the boxes, check the boxes.

“I am only one of a wonderful team on Wirral – I’m amazed to have received an honour.”

Mrs Crawley, who got involved with Operation Christmas Child after losing her husband, visited Croatia in 2002 and Serbia in 2008 to see the other side of the operation.

The 77-year-old, who decided to visit Serbia after recovering from a cyst on the brain, said: “You realise how lucky we are in this country because people had virtually nothing. These children who get a box, sometimes it is the first gift they have ever had.

“They can’t believe it – they can’t open the box because they are so overwhelmed.

“It is a wonderful thing to be able to give them.”

Operation Christmas Child has grown massively in Wirral since Mrs Crawley first got involved, with this year’s total up by 330.

“I want to say thank you to everybody who donated – we collected 11,480 boxes.

“They come from churches, individuals and schools and it is just a wonderful thing to be part of.

“These boxes are given to children based on need regardless of their background or religious beliefs.

“Globally we have given more than 100  million gift-filled shoe boxes to needy children.”

Work has already started on this year’s boxes, with the mother-of-two urging people to get involved and make a difference to the lives of some of the world’s poorest children.

She added: “People cannot go to school in parts of Africa unless they provide their own pencils and paper but when they receive them in their boxes they scream with delight because it means they can go to school.”

Wirral Globe:

Margaret Parry recieved a British Empire Medal for her services to DWP and for services to the community.

A WOMAN who has been helping the unemployed for more than 40 years has been honoured with a British Empire Medal for her services to the Department for Work and Pensions.

Wallasey resident Margaret Parry, who is executive officer of Jobcentre Plus, was also recognised for her services to the community in Merseyside through Wallasey and District Disabled Persons Swimming and Social Club.

The 62-year-old former sea ranger first got involved with the club in 1969 when she would take a spina bifida sufferer swimming.

“The only way she could go out was on an elongated pram which was seven foot long,” said mother-of-one Mrs Parry, who is the swimming club’s treasurer.

“I took her a few times down to Marine Lake in New Brighton, that’s where we used to canoe but then a friend at work mentioned the club and I asked what the access was like. She said it was fine so I went down in August 1969 and started taking her from then until she died.”

Since then, Mrs Parry has started taken a stroke patient swimming, helping her to get back into the water and giving her a great boost.

Mrs Parry said: “At first I was just involved with the social side of it, they would hold a pantomime every year and I would get involved in that. But then I started to go away with the club. They would go to Spain either every year or every other year.

“Then when I had my daughter in 1982 I started going swimming there. My daughter Angela has been involved with the club since she was eight months old.”

Mrs Parry, who kept her medal secret from everyone, including her daughter, added: “It was very surprising to receive the BEM. I wasn’t expecting it at all - I was bursting to tell somebody.

“I would appeal for anybody who is disabled and has an interest in swimming to get involved because our members are falling. We swim from April to October at Guinea Gap Baths.”

Honours were also given to Birkenhead Youth and Community worker, Michael Joseph Kennedy MBE, who was recognised for his services to children and families.

Among the well-known names being honoured this year is international pianist – Heswall born Stephen Hough - who was made a CBE for his services to music.

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