Teacher Tom named as Tweed Forum’s river champion for 2019

Melrose teacher Tom Rawson with the 2019 Tweed Forum river champion award. Photo: Paul Dodds
Melrose teacher Tom Rawson with the 2019 Tweed Forum river champion award. Photo: Paul Dodds

Teacher Tom Rawson’s campaigning to cut plastic litter has earned him an environmental accolade.

Tom, 39, of Melrose, has been named as this year’s Tweed Forum river champion Award.

Tom Rawson being given the 2019 river champion award by forum chairman James Hepburne Scott.

Tom Rawson being given the 2019 river champion award by forum chairman James Hepburne Scott.

He’s worked at St Mary’s School in Melrose for the last three years and led its drive to become Scotland’s first plastic-free school.

He was also behind the school’s 7 Towns 1 River clean-up of the Tweed in April. It saw almost 200 volunteers of all ages collect more than 2.2 tonnes of litter in Peebles, Cardrona, Galashiels, Melrose, St Boswells, Kelso, Coldstream and Berwick.

Tom is now planning to follow that up with an even igger tidy-up called the Great Borders River Clean on Sunday, October 27.

That region-wide event will consist of collecting litter in 20 towns on seven rivers across the Borders.

“We should have 20 Borders towns involved in a synchronised clean on seven different rivers and are calling for volunteers to get down to their local river or stream and help to clear plastic pollution and other litter,” said Tom.

He has also co-ordinated school tree-planting projects at Eddleston, Walkerburn and Earlston to help prevent flooding events, as well as organising the community planting of a First World War centenary avenue from Newstead to Melrose funded by the forum.

Tom said he was delighted to receive recognition for his efforts to keep the Tweed clean, adding: “I am passionate about educating, enthusing and empowering the region’s children to be the future guardians of our environment.

“I want them to feel that their efforts can and do have a positive and significant impact.

“The clean-up events that St Mary’s School has organised are a real team effort, with children and adults from all over the Borders coming together to make a difference.

“Plastic pollution is very much a product of our lifestyles, but we are also the solution to this local and global issue.

“I am delighted that my efforts, those of the staff and pupils at St Mary’s School in Melrose and of schoolchildren across the Borders have been recognised in this way.”

It was Tom’s commitment to tackling plastic pollution that earned him the accolade, said forum chairman James Hepburne Scott, explaining that carrier bags, packaging, microbeads and other plastic pollutants ending up in rivers and seas, harming wildlife and disrupting ecosystems, are as much an issue here as elsewhere.

“Apart from being an eyesore, plastic pollution in our rivers causes serious harm, often killing wildlife and breaking down and entering the food chain where the effects of ingestion are still not fully understood,” said Mr Hepburne Scott.

“As rivers are ultimately bound for the sea, this then becomes a huge global problem.

“Tom’s work in raising awareness of the issue and in galvanising young and old alike across the Borders into taking practical steps to make a difference is hugely important.

“Through this Tweed Forum river champion award, we want to recognise and thank him for his vital contribution in the fight against the harm caused by plastic pollution in the River Tweed and beyond.”

The forum’s river champion is chosen from nominations made by the public and groups involved in the management of the river on both sides of the England-Scotland border and decided by a judging panel.

Tom is the forum’s fourth champion following Frank Turnbull, of Coldstream, in 2016; Jim Sinclair, of Galashiels in 2017; and Eric Hastings, of Drygrange, near Melrose, last year.

For further details of this month’s multiple river clean-up, go to Tom’s Instagram page, @greentweedeco