North East community champions pick up awards in New Year honours

David Hughes, of  The Grove, Houghton, who has been awarded a MBE for services to charity.
David Hughes, of The Grove, Houghton, who has been awarded a MBE for services to charity.
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Charity champ David Hughes says his MBE in the New Year Honours list is “mind-blowing”.

Two kind-hearted men who have carried out worthwhile work in their local areas will be starting 2016 with awards.

Councillor Billy Hill, of Sunderland Avenue, Horden, who has been awarded a British Empie Medal in the New Years honours list.

Councillor Billy Hill, of Sunderland Avenue, Horden, who has been awarded a British Empie Medal in the New Years honours list.

David Hughes says his MBE in the New Year Honours list is “mind-blowing”.

The 90-year-old widower and former Army sergeant has devoted his life since retirement to raising funds for a number of worthy causes through his writing.

He is now being recognised for his services to charity.

The Houghton great-grandad’s first book was only intended for his family to learn more about his life, telling of the social history of the North East’s co-operative societies.

People say what I do is wonderful but I can’t think of anything better than helping people who are in need.

David Hughes

But it was copied and used by Beamish Museum for its archives.

From there, the former Co-Op chief executive’s talent as a writer blossomed and he was invited to write the biography of Alice Sahhir, a Palestinian Christian who had devoted her life to the orphaned children of the Middle East.

All proceeds from that book have helped the Lazarus Home for Girls and the Jeel Al-Amal Boys Home orphanages in Israel.

Among the other good causes Mr Hughes has supported include Grace
House children’s respite centre in Sunderland, writing a book entitled Special Children.

Now, his most recent book My Son the Enemy, which was inspired by Mr Hughes’ National Service in the 1940s, has helped 
raised an amazing £45,000 to date.

Talented Mr Hughes, whose wife May died in 1999 aged 75, also paints artwork which he then passes on to charities.

“I’ve never personally taken a penny for any of the books I’ve written.

“People say what I do is wonderful but I can’t think of anything better than helping people who are in need. You’ve got to have some kind of motivation in your life. It fills my time and it gets me out of bed in the morning.”

On receiving the award, the dad-of-two, granddad of six and great-grandad of 10, who is also a member of Chester-le-Street Rotary Club, added: “I can’t put it into words how much it means. To be honoured by the Queen is just mind-blowing.

“I’ve been having to keep quiet for the last five or six weeks since the letter with “strictly confidential” arrived, but now I can tell people which is a relief.”

BILLY HILL’S STORY

Community champion Billy Hill hailed in the New Year Honours List has said he will accept his title in tribute to his late wife who helped him as he strived to improve his home village.

Coun Hill, a member of Horden Parish Council for around a decade, has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his “excellent” work for the people of the village and surrounding area.

In addition to a host of projects to better the former pit village, he also helped a veteran of the conflict in Afghanistan who was left struggling to find a home and help after he returned home after suffering serious injuries.

The 69-year-old grandad-of-three has said he will collect his honour with his late wife Valerie in mind after he was nominated by 30 supporters.

Coun Hill said: “It’s just a pity my wife isn’t here to see what has been achieved, and me, a miner’s son getting this award.

“It’s down to her and I will accept my award with her in mind.”

Coun Hill has previously been awarded the Durham County Council Chairman’s Medal in 2008, a certificate of Outstanding Voluntary Effort from the East Durham Area Action Partnership and was recognised in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012.

He has also been praised for his crime prevention efforts after seeking funding from the Accent Foundation and East Durham Homes and a governor’s award from Cotsford Infant School.

OTHER REGIONAL HONOURS

Other local recipients in the New Year’s Honours List include:

CBE

Councillor Simon Antony Henig – leader Durham County Council. For political and public service.

OBE

Nicola Ann Gott –founder and director, SHE’S GOTT IT, Chester-le-Street. For services to Women into Business and Female Entrepreneurship in the North East.

MBE

Jane McClelland – administrative officer, High Net Worth Unit, Washington, HM Revenue and Customs. For services to taxpayers and voluntary service to Cancer Awareness.

John McCree Scott – magistrate, Sunderland. For services to the administration of justice and to the railway community.