Two Borderers awarded British Empire Medals in the summer were presented with their honours in front of their proud families and friends at a ceremony this week.
Jessica’s honour was for services to her community in Stow where over the years she has influenced generations of people through her work as a Red Cross trainer, a member of the wind farm panel, secretary of the community council and as a playgroup leader.
Most recently, her volunteering efforts have made a difference to pensioners living in the community as her lunch club, set up in 2002, now has over 30 members attending weekly or fortnightly.
Working with a team of volunteers, Jessica co-ordinates lifts for those living in the rural community to join in the friendly lunches held in the village health centre.
Jessica also organises a volunteer driving scheme to take elderly patients to both the health centre and the Borders General Hospital at Melrose for appointments while her work with the Gala Water History and Heritage Association also sees her volunteer each month recording the memories and stories of the older people in the village.
Jessica commented: “Lots of people might like to do all the things I do but have to go out to work every day.
“I am very fortunate that I can do all of these things.” Now semi-retired, having worked with children most of her life, Jessica has lived in the Gala Water area for over 46 years first working at Heriot playgroup before moving to Fountainhall and then on to Stow.
Joined by her husaband Michael, daughter Sarah and grandsons Callum and Adam she was delighted to accept her medal in front of her invited friends and guests.
She explained: “They have all beeen wonderful.
“The nicest thing about it all is that it was people in the community who nominated me so it’s nice to know they see what I do as worthwhile.
“I tried to invite people from all of the things I am involved in to the ceremony and I was really glad that they all wanted to come and support me.
“I have been tremendously supported and encouraged by everyone and have thoroughly enjoyed the whole occasion. “The council did us proud, and it was a lovely joint evening for both myself and Brian.”
Former military man Brian McLeod’s medal recognised his work as convener of the branch’s Poppy Appeal committee and later as its branch secretary and treasurer.
The 69-year-old has helped increase the number of Poppy Appeal volunteers from a handful to the current 45, boosting the amount raised from £2,500 in 2002, when he took over the role, to £10,000 in 2013.
As secretary, he has also increased branch membership from 10 to 55 and helped reinvigorate the branch, based at Hawick Ex-Servicemen’s Club, in Teviot Crescent.
He also helps to arrange the annual Armistice Day parades in the town, train branch standard bearers and offer advice to the local detachment of the Army Cadet Force.
Brian assists in the organisation of area functions and national pensions committee activities too.
The father-of-two is a devoted legion member and epitomises its motto of ‘service not self.
Brian, who lives in Hawick with wife Marilyn, said: “I have no idea who the individual or individuals were who nominated me. If someone thought I was worthy of this honour, it would have been bad manners not to accept it.
“This is an honour not just for me but for the Poppy Appeal volunteers. It is an honour for the legion as a whole and for my family and the people of Hawick who have supported me in this work.”
Brian’s capacity for hard work and discipline was instilled during 26 years as a member of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, rising to the rank of colour sergeant serving across the world, including Hong Kong and the jungles of Borneo.
After returning to civvy street, he took on a variety jobs, including caretaker, roofer and administration officer with the Scottish Association of Mental Health.
He often suffered from dizzy spells, though, and also spent periods of time unemployed.
It was 14 years ago that he began to devote his energies to helping the legion, of which he had always been a loyal supporter.
Brian, whose late father also served with the Borderers, said: “I missed military life. It’s that mucking-in spirit and looking after everybody’s back. There was great comradeship.”
He added: “When I took over the Poppy Appeal, I promised to get to it and increase the number of volunteers, and I have been able to do that. This award is truly a great honour.”
Captain Maitland-Carew said: “It was an honour to present British Empire Medals to two individuals who have contributed so much to their local communities.”
“Both Jessica and Brian are shining examples of hard-working, caring Borderers who can be seen as an inspiration to everyone in our area.”