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Locals included in New Year Honours

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Locals included in New Year Honours thumbnailIris Crawford BEM

A RECORD number of locals from Mid-Ulster, Tyrone and Fermanagh have been included in Her Majesty The Queen's New Year Honours List.

A former member of the UDR who now dedicates her time to helping fellow ex-service members has spoken of her "delight" at being awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM).

Iris Crawford, from Aughnacloy, is Project Co-Ordinator with the South and East Tyrone Welfare Group, based in Moygashel, and has received her award in the Queen's New Years Honours List for services to the community in South and East Tyrone.

And Iris says she considers the award to be not just for her, but for all those involved with the group.

Speaking to the Courier, Iris said: "I'm shocked but absolutely delighted, not for me but for the group.

"It's a great honour and I do feel very privileged, but I'm only one of a team and I would like to carry it on behalf of the organisation."

The South and East Tyrone Welfare Group was formed in July 2007, just four months after Iris left the UDR, having joined it as an 18-year-old in 1976.

Consisting of ex-service members, either from the Police, UDR and Royal Irish Regiment (RIR), the group provides services such as counselling and complementary therapies, as well as operating a drop-in centre.

Iris told the Courier: "Some members have issues with post-traumatic stress disorder or alcohol or drugs and they don't want to put their head above the parapet because of who they are.

"A few of us got together and said we would take it forward and little did we know there was such a need out there and our service is being used on a daily basis."

Iris was first informed she was being put forward for the BEM a month ago, but says she spoke to nobody about it, not even her family, talking about it for the first time with the Courier.

And she says she is delighted the work of the group has been recognised.

Cookstown man Desmond Gordon received the BEM for services to the community in Mid-Ulster.

The BEM is awarded for meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown and Mr Gordon told the Courier he was surprised to receive the honour.

"I received a letter from the Cabinet Office - it was a bit of a shock," the 58-year-old told the Courier.

"I've been secretary of the Friends of the Somme Mid-Ulster branch since it formed in September 1994 so I suppose it has something to do with that!"

Desmond, or Dessie as he is known, has been instrumental in organising the group's annual trip to France for over 20 years as well as regular trips throughout the UK and Ireland for an average membership of 130 people.

Guest speakers have included individuals from London's National Army Museum and Sunday Times journalist Kevin Myers.

"We accept all parts of our history," he explained.

It's a long way from humble beginnings in Cookstown's Blue Circle Social Club, with help from the Somme Association and Dessie is most proud of their War dead database.

Over the last three years, the group has worked to establish a database for those killed during World War 1 and World War 2 from Cookstown, Dungannon and Magherafelt and from Swatragh to Fivemiletown.

"It covers 1,500 names and is free to use for research for schools, groups or individuals," Dessie proudly told the Courier.

Dessie is already making plans for next year's trips and is looking forward to the group's January meeting.

"I'm not so sure there'll be a speech!" he quipped. "We have a great group of workers and volunteers.

"Everyone is treated equal and I'm humbled and proud to receive it on behalf of the group."

Other BEM recipients include Mr William Robert Andrew Wilson from Trillick, who received his award for services to the community in Counties Tyrone and Fermanagh; Miss Jean Elizabeth Beatrice Patterson for services to the community in Seskinore and Miss Anna Christina Maud Hamilton for voluntary service to organ music and the community in Tyrone.

Mrs Brenda Mary Corry received the BEM for services to the community in County Tyrone; Mr James Gamble received the BEM for services to charitable fundraising in County Fermanagh; Mrs Ethel Oldcroft received the BEM for voluntary services to Older People in County Fermanagh and Mrs Ann Orr received the BEM for services to the Agriculture Industry and the Rural Community in County Fermanagh.

Michael Patrick McAlister, the Deputy Director and Head of Curriculum and Business Development at South West College, which has campuses in Dungannon, Cookstown, Omagh and Enniskillen, received an MBE for services to further education in Northern Ireland.

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