Wokingham's finest rewarded in New Year's HonoursBy Jon Nurse
January 04, 2013
An Olympic gold medallist, a borough councillor, a community campaigner and a newsagent are among those to be honoured. JON NURSE, NATASHA ADKINS and BECKY BARNES report.
Olympic heroine Anna Watkins’ golden year finished in style as she was named on The Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.
Gold medallist Anna has been made an MBE for services to rowing and says the announcement is a ‘lovely surprise’.
“It’s not something you think about when you’re racing,” Anna, 29, said. “It gives you knowledge that what we do has an impact beyond the rowing lake.
“It’s lovely for me and also for the family. Mum and Dad are very excited. I don’t know if I’ll be able to take anyone with me [to Buckingham Palace], but it would be lovely to take Mum.”
Rower Anna, who lives near Wokingham town centre, powered to double sculls victory with Katherine Grainger to secure Great Britain’s sixth gold of the Games.
“Often Olympic gold medallists do receive honours but there were so many this year I wasn’t sure,” Anna added. “I think people will be happy to see a lot of the athletes recognised this year.”
The rower admitted when a letter marked ‘Confidential’ dropped through the front door of her home her first thought was it could be an invitation to speak at an event.
“I didn’t expect it to be that!” she said. “In the summer we’d had some ‘well done’ letters from various MPs and the Prime Minister. This is a lovely surprise.”
A man who worked at Broadmoor Hospital has received a British Empire Medal in the New Year’s Honours list.
Anthony Hopkins, from Sandhurst, was rewarded for services to nursing for working as associate director of day care services at the hospital in Kentigern Drive, Crowthorne.
A West London Mental Health Trust spokesman said Mr Hopkins has retired from his Broadmoor role.
A village society co-founder who gave almost three decades of service to Wokingham borough has been recognised in the Queen’s New Year Honours.
Former borough mayor Annette Drake will receive the British Empire Medal for public and voluntary service to the community in Wokingham.
The ex-borough councillor is also a founder and president of Hurst Village Society and a governor at St Nicholas CE Primary School in Hurst.
“I was dumbfounded when I saw the letter,” she said. “It came from the Cabinet Office and I had to read it twice before it dawned on me I was being honoured. I’m delighted, absolutely delighted and humbled.”
Mrs Drake, who is in her 70s, has two sons and four grandchildren and moved to Rose Street last year after living in Hurst for 45 years.
“I’m so grateful that I’ve spent these years since 1983 looking after the village of Hurst and they kept voting for me every four years,” she said. “They were a lovely crowd to represent.”
Mrs Drake will be honoured at a ceremony in the region and will be invited to the Queen’s summer garden party at Buckingham Palace in July.
After representing Hurst for 29 years Mrs Drake decided not to stand for re-election last spring.
“I thought it was time it should pass to the next generation,” she said.
A community servant has been named in the New Year’s Honours list for her tireless work helping small businesses struggling with the tax system.
Sue Balchin, 72, of Barkham Road, will be made an MBE for services to the community in Berkshire.
For 26 years she worked with Berkshire, South Oxfordshire, North Hampshire and Middlesex’s General Commissioner, who heard disputes between HM Revenue & Customs and taxpayers.
“I knew people weren’t villains and shouldn’t be treated as such,” Mrs Balchin said. She was spurred on to devote time to the cause and paid her own travel to visit divisions across the country to get them working together after she was widowed nearly two decades ago.
“I was one of the few prepared to put in the time to improve the situation,” Mrs Balchin added. “I got a lot of out it which is true of anything in charitable or voluntary work.”
Mrs Balchin was also the first woman to join Wokingham Lions 16 years ago and received a Civic Award for her service in 1998.
The grandmother, who has lived in Wokingham since 1947, said of her honour: “It came as a complete shock. I had just had my hip re-replaced – it was a very opportune moment.”