Amazing Grace Friar awarded British Empire Medal in Queen's New Year's honours

A 98-year-old woman who still regularly volunteers has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s New Year’s honours.

Friday, 27th December 2019, 10:30 pm
Updated Friday, 27th December 2019, 10:30 pm
Grace Friar, a volunteer at Harvestfield in Berwick, has been awarded a BEM.

Grace Friar, from Berwick, receives the honour for her services to the community over more than half a century.

For seven years she has volunteered for the Salvation Army’s Harvestfield Furniture Project where she sorts, mends, prices, and displays second hand clothes as well as serving customers.

She helps customers with altering or mending their own clothes whether purchased from the project or not and has also, on occasions, bought vulnerable and needy customers clothing, using her own money.

Grace Friar as a young woman. Picture by Jane Coltman

In typically modest fashion, Grace says she doesn’t know why she deserves such recognition.

“I’m overwhelmed by it,” she said. “I never thought I had done anything special.”

Grace joined the Women's Royal Naval Service in 1940 at the age of 18 where she was stationed at a naval hospital.

In 1950 she began doing voluntary work in her spare time from her job as a furniture upholsterer.

Lieutenant Andrew Manley at the Salvation Army Harvestfield Furniture Project in Berwick presents Grace Friar with some of her old photographs in 2018. Picture by Jane Coltman

Her fondness for the Salvation Army was sparked during her time as a Wren when she had to transport a patient home to Derby. There was an air raid and the Salvation Army took them in and looked after them.

After her husband, John, died, Grace went along to a coffee morning at the Salvation Army community church in Berwick.

They were short of staff so she volunteered to help out and has been involved ever since.

She has also collected funds for the Royal British Legion for over 60 years.

“If this encourages other people to do some volunteering work I’d be delighted,” she said.

Her efforts were also recognised with a lifetime achievement award from the North Northumberland Voluntary Forum in 2017.

The photographs were in Grace’s handbag and purse which were stolen from her Tweedmouth home.

Although those were never recovered, ITV Border came up trumps. They had scanned some of Grace’s photos for a film they were making about her voluntary work and they were able to reproduce them.