Local sports coach, couple of who have fostered 200 children and police chief on Honours List

POLICE chief Peter Mason confessed today he broke the strict code of secrecy around the Queen’s Birthday Honours List ... to tell his dying father about his award.

Saturday, 13th June 2015, 10:00 am
PHOTO : DAVID HURST Chair of Preston's Sir Tom Finney Soccer Centre, Preston Swimming Club and Preston Sports Forum, Peter Mason

The chairman of Preston Sports Forum admitted he blurted out news of his British Empire Medal weeks ago as he sat at dad Donald’s bedside.

“I was so proud I just wanted him to know before he died,” said Peter. “I managed to keep it quiet from everyone else, including my wife.

“But I’m glad I told dad because he passed away just days later.”

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Peter, a senior officer with British Transport Police, receives the BEM for services to amateur sport.

The 54-year-old, who chairs the Sir Tom Finney Preston Soccer Development Centre, the city’s Sports Forum and Preston Swimming Club, is one of a host of deserving Lancashire citizens on the list of honours made public today.

Amongst the others are a couple who have fostered more than 200 children, an aerospace chief, two rural broadband pioneers, a company boss, a university tutor and two women involved in community cohesion.

Peter set up the football centre in 1999 and it now provides coaching for around 100 youngsters on a weekly basis. It also provides disability football sessions and training for aspiring coaches.

In 2002 he joined the committee of Preston Swimming Club and became its chairman a year later. In 13 years at the helm he has transformed the club into one of the most successful in the North West. He has also been chairman of the Preston Sports Forum since 2004.

“This award isn’t about me, it’s about all the great people who make my job the easiest of all. I’m only able to do what I do because of the coaches and volunteers – they have the hardest jobs.

“I’m very proud and I feel really privileged to get this award. I get such enjoyment from seeing the kids develop through sport. As a police officer I suppose it’s about the diversionary aspect of getting kids off the streets.”

Nigel Whitehead, group managing director of programmes and support at BAE Systems, is awarded the CBE for services to vocational education and skills.

Mr Whitehead, who lives in Leyland, has sections of the business which deliver over £6bn turnover predominantly in UK defence, but also in international markets. He is also a member of the Apprentice Ambassador Network and chairman of the UK Council for Electronic Business.

Lancashire Constabulary’s Chief Supt Irene Curtis, who lives in Clitheroe, is awarded the OBE for services to policing.

Chief Supt Curtis, who is the national president of the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales, has served in Preston, Chorley and South Ribble during her time with the county’s force.

Malaysia-born Sam Moi Chan, chair of the Hua Xien Chinese Society in Lancaster and Morecambe, gets the MBE for her voluntary work in community cohesion.

Ms Chan, 61, came to the UK in 1979 and lived in Manchester’s Chinatown until she moved to Morecambe in 1988. She now devotes much of her spare time to helping the Chinese community in North Lancashire.

“There are around 3,000 Chinese people in this area and that doesn’t include those who are at the university,” she said.

“I just love helping people. I do my best. It is very rewarding work. This award is a big surprise and a tremendous honour.”

Internet expert Professor Barry Forde, the man responsible for the IT and network system at Lancaster University, is awarded the MBE for services to superfast broadband in rural communities.

He has spent years designing, building and operating high performance networks and is repsonsible for a system which provides connectivity to more than 1,000 schools and public sector services across Lancashire and Cumbria.

Christine Conder, from Wray near Lancaster, also gets the MBE for services to superfast broadband in rural communities. Mrs Conder works alongside Professor Forde on the management team of Broadband for Rural North (B4RN) and has campaigned for superfast broadband in Wray for 13 years.

Wallcoverings company boss Andrew Graham, of Clitheroe, whose father helped found the Graham and Brown firm in Blackburn back in 1946, is also awarded the MBE for manufacturing and voluntary service to young people in Lancashire.

Husband and wife Christine and Harold Gregoire, who are in their sixties and live in Carnforth, both receive the MBE after fostering more than 200 children over the past 29 years.

Mrs Gregoire said: “What a shock when we got the letter saying we were getting an award. It’s not something you expect when you start out fostering children. Seeing all those lovely youngsters growing up is reward enough.

“We have just enjoyed it, really enjoyed it. I had four children of my own and then I started child-minding. It all went from there.

“Some of it is upsetting, but it is mostly a joy. Many have kept in touch and our extended family is huge. We are still fostering and I suppose we will continue until we feel like we can no longer do it.”

Harsha Yashwant Kumar Shukla, chair of the Lancaster and Morecambe Hindu Society, gets the MBE for services to interfaith relations.

Mrs Sukla is a governor at Lancaster and Morecambe College and also chair of Lancaster District Communities Together Group. She has spent a decade passionately promoting the integration of the Hindu community into the life of the Lancaster district.

“I’m really touched that people generously thought I was worthy of such a huge honour,” she said.

“But this is all thanks to all the people who have helped us every step of the way to get to where we are today.

“I was at Buckingham Palace at the end of May for a garden party and saw the Queen. Now this is the cherry on the cake. I’m very excited.”

Suzanne Chambers, who works as a partnership headteacher tutor at the University of Cumbria in Lancashire, is awarded the MBE for services to education.

Nationally, Michael Bond, 89, author of the Paddington Bear stories, has been awarded a CBE, actor Eddie Redmayne will receive an OBE as will singer Michael Ball.