Fundraisers Mike and Sheila honoured as Tweeddale Citizens of the Year

Tweeddale Citizens of the Year Mike and Sheila Stark in Peebles.
Tweeddale Citizens of the Year Mike and Sheila Stark in Peebles.

A Borders couple which dedicates their retirement to supporting PoppyScotland has been named joint Tweeddale Citizens of the Year.

Mike and Sheila Stark raised more than £100,000 for the forces charity in 15 years and last week were recognised for that contribution in their home town of Peebles.

Between them they ensure each of the 20 memorials, spread across the Tweeddale’s 15 parishes, has a new wreath every November.

They also hand out around 160 collection tins each year, and last year raised £3,000 for the PoppyScotland appeal while ensuring every school in the Peeblesshire area was offered commemorative centenary poppies.

Those deeds are special for Mike, 83, as his grandfather was killed in France in September 1915, and Sheila, 82, because her grandmother lost a son in the conflict on the last day of the war in 1918.

Mike, originally from Somerset, has been Poppy Scotland’s area organise for Peebleshire since 2002 and cleans the town’s war memorial regularly.

He said: “It was a huge surprise.

“When we moved to Peebles about 40 years ago we got started with PoppyScotland and just kept going.

“Sheila’s uncle died in Iraq in July 1918.

“Because of that Sheila’s grandmother would take her to the war memorial every remembrance Sunday from when she was about two years old.

“If the weather was bad they would both listen instead to it on the crackly radio. 
“Everywhere we have been she has been involved in remembrance.”

Mike’s career with the Forestry Commission first brought the couple to the Scottish Borders.

They lived in Bonchester Bridge before he was transferred to Glentress and they set up home in Peebles.

The couple, who have a son, daughter and three grandchildren, are the first husband and wife pairing to be presented with the Tweeddale Citizen of the Year award.

Sheila, originally from Devon, added: “When the envelope arrive I thought it looked like our council tax was going up.

“We read it three times before we realised it was meant for us. It was a wonderful surprise.

“It has been lovely going up the town and everybody is saying congratulations and some of them we don’t even know.

“It’s something we started and we just get on with it. It keeps us busy but it’s what we like to do.”

The Tweeddale Citizen of the Year award has been handed out annually since the turn of the century to reward community service and achievements.

The couple were joined by friends and family and the Lord Lieutenant of Tweeddale, Hew Strachan, at the ceremony last week.

Scottish Borders Council’s depute convener, Kelso councillor Tom Weatherston, presented the award.

He said: “Mike and Sheila Stark are two very worthy winners who were nominated because of their massive contribution to community life in Peebles.

“They have dedicated themselves to working tirelessly for Poppy Scotland and up until 2017 had raised over £100,000, which is a remarkable achievement.

“They were instrumental in the Tommy Silhouettes project which they installed near the war memorial plus all the hard work with the Armed forces, the local pipe band and the 15 poppy wreaths for all the parishes in Tweeddale.

“Mike and Sheila are great examples of how volunteers can make a massive difference in a community and it is fantastic that their hard work is being recognised.”