TOP honours have gone to Morpeth residents and workers to reward their dedicated community service.
Four people have been recognised in this year’s Morpeth Town Council (MTC) Citation Awards, which celebrate those who have gone the extra mile to provide outstanding service or support to the area.
The winners — Mike Bateman, Willie Hartill, Colin Harvey and Richard Nash — were invited to collect their awards from outgoing Mayor Ken Brown at the council’s annual assembly.
Coun Brown said: “I would like on behalf of the town council to express our total admiration and gratitude to the many, many people who contribute so much to our town.
“We can only single out a deserving few to receive an MTC Citation Award and I’m delighted that we have done so for four such people.”
Mr Bateman was honoured for his outstanding work in the field of athletics with Morpeth Harriers since joining the club in 1972.
He became Secretary in 1975 and has held the position ever since, helping to maintain the Harriers’ position as an internationally respected athletics club.
His work includes dealing with correspondence, team management, event organisation and helping to sort out track and field fixtures.
Recently, he has been instrumental in taking forward plans for a new athletics track at King Edward VI School.
Mr Bateman, a former middle and long distance runner, said: “I’m pleased to be recognised by the local community. I have received one or two awards from the sport of athletics and I was made a life member of the club, but this is the first time I have been given an award like this.
“I have been working for some years to try to get the workload at the club spread across the membership and there is a need for a lot more of the younger members to take some of it on. I’m not complaining, but the more people you can get involved, the better things run.”
Mr Hartill received his award for exceptional service to the town during the severe winter, going far above the duties required of his position as Senior Team Leader of Northumberland County Council’s Neighbourhood Environmental Action Team (NEAT).
Examples of his work included making last minute arrangements for road closures on at least two occasions when the council was let down by other people, managing traffic during snowy weather when the Christmas lights were switched on, working until 2am to clear snow and keep car parks clear for shoppers and maintaining excellent standards of street cleanliness.
He said: “I am extremely pleased to receive this award and would like to thank Morpeth Town Council.
“The achievements are not down to me alone, however, but have only been possible due to the hard work and dedication of all my colleagues on the NEAT team that works out of Morpeth.”
Colin Harvey was nominated for his exceptional service to the environment in his role as Vice-Chairman and Environmental Director of the Greater Morpeth Development Trust and membership of Morpeth Footpaths Society.
He was the lynchpin of the Morpeth Walking Festival when it was set up eight years ago, negotiating with land owners about access, choosing routes and checking them thoroughly.
He has also been a leading figure in the Castles, Woods and Water project to improve local footpaths and provide better access to the environment.
Mr Harvey is yet to pick up his award as he was on holiday in California when they were presented, but he is looking forward to receiving it.
“I was quite surprised really,” he said.
“The walking festival has changed a bit, but many of the walks are the same ones I planned in the early days. The work I started still goes on because it is not just planning the route, but also improving the footpaths.
“The trust has put an enormous amount of money into improving the footpaths and we have just finished the section from Whorral Bank to Bothal, which was the last big section we had to do.”
Richard Nash received his award for outstanding charitable work and unselfish support to many of the town’s organisations, especially the Morpeth Area Partially Sighted Group.
Mr Nash came to Morpeth from Ireland in 1983 and just three years later became the youngest ever President of Morpeth Lions Club.
For the past 25 years he has been a volunteer driver for numerous organisations and has even changed his holiday dates to provide transport for disabled people to attend a function.
He is also known for fundraising.
Mr Nash said: “I’m very pleased and very proud to receive the award, but I don’t really do very much.
“Members of the partially sighted group are mainly elderly people and they don’t see very well so it is a big thing to them if somebody helps them and it is important to them to know who is coming to collect them.
“I get tremendous enjoyment from driving for them. I used to drive the minibus and sometimes had to do two trips to get everyone, but over the years the numbers have dropped off and now I just go around in the car to get them.”
Next year the accolades are in line for a shake-up and will be re-branded as the Morpeth Civic Awards.
Different categories will be established, such as Townsperson of Morpeth, the Mayor’s Award for bravery, Achievement Award for long-term dedication, a Sport Award, Leisure and Culture Award, Business Award and Community Award.
Currently only councillors can nominate recipients, but this will be opened up to the public.
A judging panel made up of senior councillors will recommend the winners to the full council for approval, except for the Community category which will be voted on by the public.
Sponsorship may be sought from local businesses.