Sunderland and Durham stalwarts make Queen’s New Year honours list

Sonia Ritchie-Park who has been awarded the BEM for her work with the unemployed.
Sonia Ritchie-Park who has been awarded the BEM for her work with the unemployed.
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SIX people from Wearside and County Durham are celebrating being honoured by the Queen today.

Nick Hurn, executive headteacher at St Robert of Newminster Catholic School has been awarded the OBE, Order of the British Empire, for his services to education and Albert Whiting, a founder trustee and treasurer of Sunderland Sports Fund, has been given the MBE, Member of the British Empire.

BEM winner John Richardson and wide Anne.

BEM winner John Richardson and wide Anne.

Also honoured in the New Year’s Honours List are Sonia Ritchie-Park, 34, and Durham’s John Richardson, 67, who both received the British Empire Medal.

Mr Hurn, who lives in Washington, who is also head of Cardinal Hume Catholic School in Gateshead and a former head of St Wilfrids RC College in South Tyneside, began teaching in 1985 and is a national leader in education and an inspector for Ofsted.

Mr Whiting, who lives in Whitley Bay, was awarded for 40 years of voluntary work, including 17 years with Sunderland Sports Fund, a charitable trust fund which raises money to provide financial aid for the city’s talented young sports people.

Sonia, of Grangetown, has been recognised for her work training residents at the Salvation Army Swan Lodge hostel in High Street West.

Nick Hurn, executive headteacher at St Robert of Newminster RC School.

Nick Hurn, executive headteacher at St Robert of Newminster RC School.

A former winner of the Sunderland Echo Portfolio Business Awards Special Community award, she decided to develop a training scheme to help homeless people make the move from hostel accommodation into their own homes.

The Tenancy Award has now received official accreditation and Sonia’s work has seen Swan Lodge become a centre of excellence for training and learning for homeless people.

The qualification has been recognised by Sunderland Council, which has agreed to move people completing the course up the housing waiting list.

“I have known for two or three weeks but I don’t know who nominated me,” she said.

“I was just shocked – I really didn’t believe it at first, to be honest. It is one of those things you never expect to happen to you.”

Now all she has to do is work out who gets to go the presentation with her – mum Christine or husband Stephen.

John, of Pity Me in Durham, has been honoured for his charity fund-raising.

He has completed the Great North Run 32 times, raising more than £25,000 for a host of North East charities, including Grace House and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead.

John initially thought he was the subject of a practical joke when the letter informing him of his award arrived. He and wife Anne were invited to a Buckingham Palace garden party in honour of his charitable work earlier this year.

“I have known for about a month,” he said.

“I was surprised – I thought it was a wind-up.”

“My wife rang from home to ask did I need to tell her something – she had opened the envelope.”

Veteran angler Sam Harris, of Old Shotton, County Durham, landed his biggest catch yet after being awarded an MBE.

Mr Harris, 82, said Harris he thought it was a wind-up when he received a letter telling him he had been recognised by The Queen six weeks ago.

His award is in recognition of his services to recreational sea angling.

He said: “It has been a long six weeks since I got the letter. I thought somebody was playing a joke on me when I read it, but I’m absolutely chuffed to bits to be recognised in this way.”

Peterlee man George Ritchie, formerly senior vice president for Sembcorp UK, has been given the same honour for services to apprenticeships in the chemical and process industries.