Honour joy

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A Deeside man has told the Piper how it was “big surprise” to be awarded a prestigious accolade in the New Year Honours.

Ernest Sangster, 83, has received a British Empire Medal (BEM) in recognition of his voluntary service to the local community at Banchory.

Mr Sangster is well known for his affiliation to the Banchory branch of the Royal British Legion of Scotland and for his work as a guide at Crathes Castle since retiring from the Legion in 1995.

In 2011, he won a battle to stop traffic on London’s Tower Bridge on Armistice Day, by raising the road as a mark of respect. Mr Sangster, who served as a RAF Mechanic from 1947-1950, was then asked to take the controls to open and lower the bascules to honour those who have fallen while serving their country.

The BEM - sometimes called the “working class” gong - was scrapped in 1993 but revived by David Cameron last year to recognise “the dedication and hard work so many provide to their communities”.

Unlike other honours, the BEM is not awarded by the Queen or Prince of Wales but by Lord-Lieutenants, who are the representatives of the Crown for each county in the UK.

Mr Sangster, who lives in Burnett Road with wife Maureen, said it came as a shock when he heard he had been recognised in the New Year list.

“It came as a big surprise and was very unexpected,” he said. “It is a great honour, just like it was when I was asked to raise the bridge.

“I have been working since I was 12, from doing paper rounds to working as a butcher on Banchory High Street and, of course, my many years at the Legion.

“I’d like to thank everyone that I’ve worked with throughout the years – they have all been extremely kind to me.”

Mr Sangster also paid tribute to his three children and two grandchildren for their support. His grandson Thomas has starred in a number of successful films, including Love Actually and Nanny McPhee, while granddaughter Ava is a successful florist in London.

Westhill Olympian Tim Baillie was awarded an MBE in the Honours list for his historic gold medal in London during the summer.

The 33-year-old won the canoe slalom C2 event with partner Etienne Stott. It was Great Britain’s first gold in the event with Aberdeen’s David Florence and his partner Richard Hounslow taking silver.

Provost of Aberdeenshire, Councillor Jill Webster congratulated those recognised.

She said: “I would like to offer my congratulations to all those from Aberdeenshire who have been included in the New Years Honours List.

“As well as congratulating the Olympians who made it such a special summer, it is also right that the honours list recognised the many people who make a difference to their local community but who often go unnoticed. I will be writing to all those from the shire who received an award to congratulate them.”