Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland New Year Honours 2018: Hard secret to keep... but now let's celebrate

Claire McNeilly and Mark Edwards ask five of our unsung heroes what it’s like to be recognised in the New Year Honours list

James Andrew Emery BEM: Jim Emery hadn’t told a soul about the BEM which he has received in the New Year Honours - until today.

That’s because it has taken him a while to believe that he has picked up such a precious accolade.

The 73-year-old, who has lived in Castlederg all his life, is a well-known figure in the Co Tyrone area.

Having sat on Strabane District Council from 1989 to 2011, and served as chair in 2003, he has been a Boys’ Brigade officer since 1963.

An avid coin collector for four decades, Jim, who received the BB long service gold brooch in 2003, said he would “cherish” the BEM.

“I’m most grateful for the award which is largely for my work with the BB,” he said.

“When the envelope arrived I initially thought it was some coins but I then saw the letter, which I re-read a few times to make sure it was really me!

“It gives me a great thrill to be involved with the BB and to train the boys and bring them up. Over the years I’ve seen hundreds of boys pass through.”

Peter Francis 'Frank' Mulligan BEM

In 1970 Frank Mulligan and his wife Patricia moved to Banbridge where he has been coaching ever since.

Over 47 years Frank has taught thousands of archers, inspiring many to local, national and international success, including his children Peter, who won two gold medals at the World Championships in 1998 and 2004 when he was part of the Great Britain Field team, and Edel, the European barebow champion in 1999.

The Portadown native has also founded archery clubs including St Patrick’s (1970), Banbridge (1975), Craigavon (1988), St Mary’s (1988) and Ballyvally (1996).

Frank, who coaches for more than 20 hours per week as well as setting up field archery courses around Northern Ireland, said he was “extremely proud” of his BEM.

“It is fantastic recognition not just for myself but my wife Pat and our family,” he said. “I’m very grateful and feel humbled to be selected for a British Empire Medal and want to thank all the club volunteers who have helped me over many years, the local community and people of Banbridge.”

Jeffrey Smith MBE

Jeffrey Smith founded the Ards Peninsula First Responders’ Group after a close friend died of a heart attack when an ambulance was unable to get to her in time.

Cumbrian-born Mr Smith, now living in Kirkistown, founded the group to try and help people suffering life-threatening illnesses get medical attention faster.

He said that people suffering from cardiac arrest need help within the first six to eight minutes but that it was often taking ambulances from Newtownards up to 20 minutes to travel to smaller towns. Mr Smith began setting up the first responders in 2011 and worked with the Ambulance Service, who trained the volunteers in first aid.

His group has responded to 450 heart attack call-outs since 2014.

Mr Smith has taught at Grosvenor Grammar School, Dundonald High School and also as a home tutor.

He said: “Of course, the Cabinet Office does not tell you who it was that nominated you. But I am very pleased and very thankful to the person or persons who nominated me for an MBE.”

Margaret McDonald OBE

Margaret McDonald has been an officer in the Girls’ Brigade for more than 45 years, working in Dunmurry and Lisburn.

The 68-year-old was shocked but delighted to be awarded the OBE.

The Dunmurry woman, who now lives in Lambeg, said she found it difficult to keep the news secret after receiving notification  from the Cabinet Office six weeks ago.

Husband William and son Stuart said the honour was richly deserved.

She has spent 26 years as captain of 40th NI Girls’ Brigade Company attached to Dunmurry Presbyterian Church and currently serves as company president.

 “I was just so shocked when I got the letter. I thought it was a summons to appear in court or something!” said Mrs McDonald.

“I just wanted to say that I have been very fortunate in my time as captain to have the support of a wonderful and enthusiastic group of officers.

“Personally I felt shocked, humbled and privileged to receive this honour.”

Sandra Moore MBE

Employed by the Welcome Organisation for 10 years, its CEO Sandra Moore has spent four decades working in housing and homelessness. Originally from Ballynure, Co Antrim, the 62-year-old has also been volunteering for Habitat for Humanity ever since her first foray abroad on her 50th birthday.

Sandra, who has lived in Glenoe for 25 years, said her late parents George, an engineer, and homemaker Margaret McCowan would have been “blown away” by her award.

She also said she was proud of her achievement for the sake of her husband Ken (63), their children — Rotha (42), Barrie (37) and Aaron (36) — and nine grandchildren.

She said: “Initially it was a great shock. My husband had to take the letter from me because I couldn’t read it through — he thought something was wrong!

“I feel humbled. It couldn’t believe it was really me receiving the award — but it’s a testament to the contribution of the whole support team. Mum and dad passed away years ago but they would’ve been immensely proud.”

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