Recognition for selfless Shropshire residents in Queen's Birthday Honours

Some of the county's most selfless community champions have been recognised by the Queen in her Birthday Honours list.

Elizabeth Wilkinson who receives the MBE for her services to dyslexia
Elizabeth Wilkinson who receives the MBE for her services to dyslexia

This year's list includes seven county recipients – all acknowledged for the difference they have made.

An OBE has been awarded to Simon Paul Chesterman QPM – Chief Constable and Chief Executive Officer of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, in recognition of his services to policing, while Telford's Elizabeth Wilkinson, the founder of Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant, receives the MBE for services to people with dyslexia.

Four county residents will receive the British Empire Medal (BEM).

Simon Griffiths

They include 61-year-old Fire service watch manager Simon Griffiths, from Whitchurch, who has served the town for 44 years and Telford & Wrekin Councillor Malcolm Smith who has represented the people of Hadley for more than 50 years.

Kate Phillips

Telford charity founder Kate Phillips also receives the BEM for her work as the founder and volunteer project manager of The Christmas Smile Project, while Graham George Watkins, head coach at Mid Shropshire Wheelers also receives the award For services to Cycling.

Frank Collins

Frank Thomas Collins, a former non-executive chairman of the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Gobowen, Oswestry, has been awarded the MBE.

Chief Constable Chesterman, from Shropshire, is a former West Mercia Police Deputy Chief Constable, and he said he was honoured to have been recognised.

He said: “I am humbled and feel very privileged to have been recognised in Her Majesty’s birthday honours.

“I am fortunate to have spent nearly four decades working with so many incredible people across the police service.

"I have a particular affinity with armed police officers and those that support, train and command them operationally. I am immensely proud of UK armed policing and of the men and women of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the vital work we do in keeping critical national infrastructure and the general public safe."

For Mrs Wilkinson, the award is recognition of a working life dedicated to raising awareness and greater understanding of dyslexia.

The 50-year-old, founded the Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant (DDC) 15 years ago and launched the annual Dyslexia Awards in 2015.

Over the years she has supported thousands of individuals, worked with educators and guided employers across Shropshire and beyond to drive greater awareness and inclusivity in the workplace.

She said: “I am truly flabbergasted to have received this recognition. I keep having to pinch myself. It feels so unreal.

“My entire life has been focused on raising greater awareness and understanding of dyslexia – ensuring that individuals and organisations see the positives rather than the negatives – and for my work to be recognised in this way is such a huge honour.”

Mr Griffiths has been recognised after truly putting his life on the line, and added he "must have done something right" to be awarded the BEM.

Back in 1989 he suffered a life threatening head injury while responding to an emergency during the hurricane-force winds that devastated much of the country.

He said: "It was the storm when the weather forecaster Michael Fish said there wasn't a hurricane on the way.

"We were out on an incident and I was hit so hard by flying debris that it split my helmet in half.

"I was apparently given mouth-to-mouth and went to hospital with a serious head injury but I pulled through."

But he wasn't put off being in the fire service and rejoined after five months off work.

"It is part and parcel of the job," he said. "Our safety systems and awareness are much better now, although it can still be dangerous.

"We will take a risk to save a saveable life, but we won't take a risk to save a building, which we used to."

Mr Griffiths was also in the front line when IRA terrorists hit the Clive Barracks at Tern Hill army base, also in 1989.

"We could see the glow in the sky as we approached and were the fifth pump there," said Mr Griffiths, who is also usually the Whitchurch Remembrance Day bugler.

"We were told that terrorists could still be on the base and they said if we heard gunfire we should hit the ground. I volunteered to go into one of the buildings. Afterwards we learned that they did find an incendiary bomb which would have killed us if it had gone off."

Mr Griffiths said he was "humbled and honoured" to be awarded the BEM for services to the fire service.

He said: "On the 22nd of April we received a letter and I thought it was from the tax office until we noticed it had the Cabinet Office on it.

"My wife Sharon opened it and I got choked up. I was humbled and honoured – it is quite a big award for just doing my job really.

"I knew I was down for the Queen's Fire Service Award but was upgraded, so I must have done something right."

Councillor Malcolm Smith

Labour Councillor Malcolm Smith, who represents Hadley and Leegomery on Telford & Wrekin Council celebrated his 79th birthday on Sunday, and has been recognised for services to local government after being a borough councillor for 54 years and a parish councillor for 58.

"It means an awful lot to receive the honour," said Councillor Smith who lives in Hadley, has been married to Christine for 59 years and has one son, two grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

"I am extremely proud and have always been a Royalist. I have met the Queen four or five times, and even met her for lunch. I met Diana and Princess Margaret. Princess Margaret, the only sibling of the Queen, died in 2002.

"I served as mayor and was a senior delegate with the Association of District Councils."

He added that once he gave the Queen's sister Margaret and cigarette and a cup of tea.

"She asked if I smoked and I did, and she said she could bust a fag."

Councillor Smith has also been a part of a delegation to Japan that was seeking to bring investment from the far east to Telford.

"I got the mayor of a city near Tokyo drunk and he enjoyed it so much that they took a letter of intent," said Councillor Smith.

"The press at the time were critical of us going abroad – until they realised that there was £80 million of investment and it was the start of a lot of investment and jobs from Japan."

Councillor Smith's reaction to the opportunity to retire, put his feet up, and enjoy a nice glass of sherry was: "No, they will have to carry me out in a box. It is also up to the party if they wish to select me.

"And I don't like sherry – I would be happy with a gin and tonic."

Kate Phillips has been recognised for her voluntary service to vulnerable people and their families in Telford and Wrekin.

It is reward for her work as founder and volunteer project manager of The Christmas Smile Project.

"I was really surprised," Kate said. "I got my letter in post and had to read it a few times.

"I am just so grateful for whoever took the time to put me forward and it's a real honour


Speaking about her charity, which is now in its tenth year, Kate added: "Christmas Smile distributes gifts to lonely and disadvantaged people in the Telford area.

"I was volunteering at the Telford Crisis Support Group in 2013 and realised quickly that some families were struggling to put food on the tables for their children.

"If they couldn't afford to put food on the table, there's no way they could give gifts to their children so I asked work colleagues for donations and Christmas Smile was born."

The charity was expanded to help the elderly too and combat loneliness and last year they gave out 10,000 gifts.

"I hope the charity increases empathy within the community as people realise not everyone is in as good a position as they are," she added.

Mr Collins, 66, was chairman of the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital Foundation Trust for seven years before providing support to Bristol NHS Trust.

He said: "I am absolutely delighted with the honour.

"I am both humbled and proud with equal pleasure.

"I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital Foundation Trust and at North Bristol.

"I am still helping with the management of Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin by giving guidance to the Shadow Integrated Care Board until the end of June."

Frank is married to Sally and the couple have one child and one grandchild and live in Warwickshire.

A Telford charity founder hopes being honoured with a BEM in the Queen's Birthday Honours list will inspire more community heroes.

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