David O’Connor, 80, was one of six people to receive the honour at a special investiture ceremony at Alnwick Castle by the Duchess of Northumberland, in her capacity as the Queen’s Lord Lieutenant for the county.
For over 15 years, David offered his services voluntarily to the Holy Island community.
The island was in need of a community hall fit for the 21st century. Having been a warden of the National Nature Reserve for many years, he volunteered as a member of the Holy Island trustees with the task of replacing the village hall, built in 1930.
In 2000, he took over as secretary of the committee set up to help raise funds for the new hall. With great dedication, he inspired the local people to raise money; he also approached the lottery heritage fund, government bodies and charitable institutions for funding for the £1million project.
He had, over a period of 15 years, faced up to and succeeded in the daunting challenge of fund-raising, archaeological surveys and digs, planning and construction which he managed successfully, culminating in the opening of the village hall in 2016. Towards the end of the construction period, he was also extremely hands-on, participating in of decorating, window cleaning, grass cutting and finishing trades.
He now manages the day-to-day running of the hall which has been hugely significant for the communal life of the village on Holy Island. Without his total commitment and wholehearted efforts, the project would not have been completed.
The Duchess said: “To receive a British Empire Medal is a fantastic achievement and I am delighted to be able to present these awards.”
She added: “Their determination, hard work and dedication to their communities is truly commendable. They are a credit to Northumberland and an inspiration to us all.”
The British Empire Medal (BEM) was revived in 2012 for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Year after it was disbanded in 1992. It is given to those engaging in voluntary work who have made a ‘hands-on’ contribution to their local community.