Royal honours for hat-trick of heroes

Stan Cook MBE''.
Stan Cook MBE''.

A TRIO of local community servants have been rewarded in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Michael Lees, of Morpeth, has been awarded the OBE, while Ponteland residents Stanley Cooke and Robin Ramsay have both received the MBE.

Mr Lees’ honour comes after a 31-year career in the prison service that saw him work in eight prisons, four of which as Governor.

Originally from Kielder, his first post in 1979 took him to Wormwood Scrubs in London.

He moved to Bristol as Assistant Governor, later joining Garth in Lancashire as Head of Security, Kirklevington Grange in Teesside as Governor, Holme House in Teesside as Deputy Governor, Castington Young Offenders’ Institution as Governor, and returning to Holme House as Governor.

His final position brought him back to Northumberland as Governor of Acklington from 2006 until his retirement 15 months ago.

The 56-year-old said: “I was surprised to receive the letter about my OBE because I have been retired for so long, but obviously I’m extremely proud. It brings a nice end to a 31-year career in the prison service.

“It is nice to get it personally, but I hope the people who worked with me will share in the recognition. I have always been one for teamwork, rather than individual honour.

“I have loved the work. When I was young I never had any drive to do any particular job, but I found my way into the prison service and I would do the same again.”

Mr Lees will attend Buckingham Palace for the investiture in the next six months, accompanied by his wife Fiona, son Richard, who is following in his father’s footsteps as a prison officer at Wormwood Scrubs, and Richard’s fiancee Gil.

“The family are delighted for me, but this also recognises their support because I have been a Governor or Deputy Governor for the last 20 years and have always been on call 24 hours a day so there have been sacrifices and disruptions to normal family life,” added Mr Lees.

“It is a good job, but it can be a difficult job at times.”

Mr Cooke was awarded the MBE for voluntary service to carers and people with special needs.

The former engineer became involved in care organisations through his son James, who is autistic and has learning disabilities.

Mr Cooke was Chairman of Governors of Collingwood School in the 1990s, joined some of the earliest carers’ forums, was a member of the Learning Disability Partnership Board, and helped to form Carers Northumberland, which he still chairs today.

He has worked for Gateshead Citizens’ Advice Bureau and was Chief Executive of Disability North from 2002 to 2004.

The 64-year-old said: “I was very surprised when I got the letter. I had no idea something like this was happening, it was completely unexpected.

“My wife Sandy and I will be going to the Palace to receive the award. Although I have got the MBE, all of the things I have done over the years I wouldn’t have been able to do without the support of my wife.

“It was through working with my son that I experienced a lot of things that I felt could easily be improved upon.

“The senior people in the NHS and social services are good people and they are doing their best, it is the system that needs to be looked at. I wanted to constructively help in some way, not just criticise what was not right, but see what I could do to improve things.”

He added: “James is in supported accommodation now and I think if he had still been living with us I just wouldn’t have had the time to do what I’m doing.

“I’m very conscious of the fact that lots of carers in Northumberland are caring 24/7. They put their lives on hold so they really need to be recognised in this award as well. They are the people who really deserve the medals.

“I’m fortunate that I have had the freedom to be able to do something to help.

“A lot of things have been achieved in Northumberland and really it is because of the work of a lot of people. I would like to pay tribute to all the people in Carers Northumberland and all the staff in the NHS. They are a great team.”

Former Ponteland Mayor Robin Ramsay has been awarded the MBE for services to the community.

Coun Ramsay retired last month after four years as the village’s civic head, saying he was proud of Ponteland Town Council’s achievements, such as introducing new community events and installing a new park entrance, children’s play park and CCTV.

He was delighted to receive news of his honour.

“I was really quite surprised because I didn’t realise it was all going on in the background. When I saw the envelope from the Cabinet Office I thought maybe I’d got a response to one of our letters to David Cameron,” he said.

“I feel very pleased because I think it is recognition also of the hard work the council has put in over the past few years — it has done a lot for the community here. It’s nice that other people have looked at what we have been doing here and think it is worthy of recognition.

“I’m pleased at what we have achieved over the last four years.”

Ponteland Mayor Peter Cowey said: “Robin Ramsay’s MBE is a most fitting and well-deserved honour.

“He has worked tirelessly for many years to promote and improve Ponteland for the benefit of its residents.

“I am sure I speak for the whole of Ponteland when I say many congratulations and thank you.

“The whole town council would also like to congratulate Stanley Cooke for his MBE.”