A Peebles rugby stalwart, a Hawick Common Riding legend and a specialist cancer nurse were among this year’s New Year’s Honours list.
Donald Swanson receives the British Empire Medal for almost seven decades’ service to rugby in Peebles; Henry Douglas also receives the BEM, in this case for services to his local community of Bonchester; and Mrs Judith Smith, a Macmillan Nurse Consultant in Cancer and Palliative Care at Borders General Hospital gets the MBE for services to oncology in the region.
Donald told The Southern this week he was delighted to have been recognised for his service to rugby in Peebles, but says it is far more important for the positive publicity it generates for the club he first joined in 1947.
A native of Peebles, or ‘Guiterbluid’, Donald was not long back from military service when he met up with some players from the club and the rest, as they say, is history.
“I got a letter in November informing me I had been rcommended for the BEM, but that I wasn’t to say anything and I didn’t hear anything else until it was confirmed in The Scotsman newspaper,” said Donald.
“Obviously I’m delighted and feel very honoured that my efforts for the club over the years have been recognised and my family are all over the moon, but personally I feel it is more important because it brings extra publicity to Peebles Rugby Club, which is the main thing.”
After being demobbed from the forces, Donald, now 88, joined Peebles RFC committee in 1948, as well as playing for the club’s various teams and going on to become captain in 1954.
“I became secretary not long after I joined the club, basically because I was the only one who had access to a typewriter!” laughed Donald, a retired head postmaster.
During his playing career, Donald played in almost every postion from front row to scrum half: “The only position I never played was stand-off,” he laughed. “In those days the game wasn’t as fast or as brutal as today, so you could get away doing that kind of thing.”
An honorary president of the club and a life member. Donald is still an active member of the committee and looks after certain treasurer’s duties.
A father of four children, with four grandchildren and five great grandchildren, he still swims 20 lengths of the town’s local pool every day.
“I feel still being involved with the club helps keep me young and active, and that’s the key, I think,” he added.
Henry Douglas, of Howahill at Bonchester, is also to receive the BEM, for his service to his local community.
One of the region’s best-known amateur singers, he has given years of service to local organisations and community groups, such as the church and village hall, and his voice has graced many a Hawick Common Riding function and rugby gathering over the decades.
Born into a farming family at Catslackburn in the Yarrow Valley, he is still actively involved in the running of the family farms at Howahill.
“I was delighted when I found out about the honour,” Henry told us. “It came out of the blue, though, and was a bit of a shock. The family are all delighted as well.”
Henry says Bonchester is a great community to be part of: “It’s a super place to live - it’s somewhere where everyone always rallies round to help each other.
“Saying that, I’m also very proud to be from Catslackburn, to have been born in the Yarrow Valley as well.”
With three children – including former Southern journalist and television sports presenter Jill – and eight grandchildren, there were plenty of people to help celebrate news of Henry’s BEM.
And he also paid tribute to Donald Swanson: “I was delighted to hear Donald had also been honoured – that is thoroughly deserved for his tremendous service to his local rugby club.”
NHS Borders cancer nurse Judith Smith has been awarded with an MBE for her significant achievement and outstanding service to the Borders community through her role firstly, as Macmillan haematology/oncology clinical nurse specialist, then as Macmillan nurse consultant in cancer and palliative care within NHS Borders.
Judith, from Galashiels, started her nursing career as a staff nurse in the Royal Infirmary at Edinburgh 30 years ago, before eventually moving back to the Borders in 1990. Since 1998 she has been involved with the development of cancer services in NHS Borders. In particular, she has challenged traditional models of care and championed the development of a nurse-led chemotherapy service in the Borders Macmillan Centre which now treats more than 95 per cent of patients locally, saving them the trip to Edinburgh.
Judith commented: “To be awarded this honour has been an overwhelming experience. I was shocked when I received the letter, thinking initially it was for jury service.”
Judith was keen to point out that cancer care is provided for patients, not just in specialist areas by specialist teams, but right across community and hospital settings by a huge variety of teams and people.
“I see it as a team award which reflects the hard work and commitment of so many people past and present as well as NHS Borders’ commitment to cancer care,” she said.
“I consider myself very lucky to have worked with many dedicated people over the years, but in particular the late Drs George Stockdill and Lillian Matheson, both of whom worked hard to lay the foundations for delivery of specialist cancer and chemotherapy services within NHS Borders.
“I hope in some way I have been able to build on their achievements.”
NHS Borders chairman, John Raine, congratulated Judith, calling her an “extraordinary” person.
“Judith has been working with NHS Borders for 24 years and is an exceptionally kind and caring person,” said Mr Raine. “She has dedicated her life to nursing and this accolade demonstrates her commitment to person centred care. She is a treasure to NHS Borders.”