A 68-year-old north Northumberland man has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for his half-century of service to rugby.
Danny Hodgson, who lives at Bilton, has been involved with the sport at all levels in Alnwick, across Northumberland and beyond for almost 50 years.
He also set up a charity in 2000 – Northumberland Wooden Spoon (NWS) – which has raised £500,000 in the years since.
Speaking to the Gazette, Mr Hodgson said that he was ‘delighted, overwhelmed and absolutely thrilled’ when he found out that he was to receive the honour – one of just six in the North East.
“I didn’t expect it,” he said. “The thought that people have gone to the trouble of nominating me, I found it quite amazing.
“Our sport doesn’t get recognition that often, unless you win a World Cup, so I’m absolutely thrilled.
“I’m from Alnwick and I’ve been with Alnwick pretty much all my life.
“I’m an amateur and the game’s been very good to me in terms of friendships, in terms of the places I have been and in terms of the memories I’m left with.”
The BEM citation explains that Mr Hodgson ‘has made a massive and sustained contribution to rugby throughout Northumberland for almost 50 years as a player, coach, committee member, referee, senior team selector, chairman and president.
‘He played the game at county level, and was involved in coaching and refereeing at his local club, Alnwick RFC, where he was chairman of selectors and a committee member for 35 years.
‘He has spread his love of the game across his county through the charity, the Northumberland Wooden Spoon (NWS), which he founded in 2000 and served as its chairman.
‘Over the last 11 years, the charity has completed an annual charitable project each year, raising over £500,000 in total.
‘The majority of the funds raised have been donated to disabled and disadvantaged local children, with a substantial contribution going to the Percy Hedley Foundation Specialist Centre for Disabled Sports.
‘In 2003, the charity held a three-day cycle ride around the county and raised enough to secure the purchase of a minibus for the Hexham Priory School.
‘The NWS has donated funds to 12 local rugby clubs enabling them to install ramps, stairlifts and other facilities to improve disabled access’.
The BEM is awarded for meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown. It was introduced in 1922 to replace the previous Medal of the Order of the British Empire.
People who are awarded the honour can carry the BEM title after their name and it is divided into civil and military medals, like with an OBE.
The BEM was awarded in the UK until 1992 when it was rested, but the honour was resurrected in 2012 in time for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.