North-east people in New Year Honours list

Stonehaven-based Karen Smith has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for her service as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s (RNLI) veteran fundraiser.

Karen, 72, has been involved with Stonehaven RNLI for 39 years and is currently the vice-president, secretary and assistant box secretary.

She has also held the positions of president, vice chairman, committee member, box secretary and several other fundraising staff roles over the years.

She gained promotion from having responsibility for fundraising in a single, small area to having responsibility for bringing in cash support for the entire Grampian and Highland region.

This year, Karen is celebrating her golden wedding anniversary with Ian, who worked as a crew member at Stonehaven RNLI until it closed in 1984.

Karen said: “I was really overwhelmed when I heard I’d been awarded a BEM. I don’t like all the fuss but I’m very proud all the same. I’m looking at it as an award for everyone at the RNLI.

“In particular, all at Stonehaven RNLI, which is celebrating its 60th birthday on January 14.

“I was looking through the 60 years of minutes, counting up all the donations, and it’s come to over £350,000.

“It’s fantastic to have such a generous community supporting the charity.”

John Fowlie has been made an MBE for devoting his time to his community.
John Fowlie has been made an MBE for devoting his time to his community.

John Fowlie, 80, was given a MBE having been an active participant and volunteer in the North-east for more than 60 years.

A teacher by profession, he started his career in 1960 and worked at both Keith Grammar and Buckie High Schools.

Prior to this he served as a National Serviceman in the Parachute Regiment and took part in the airborne landings at Suez in 1956.

While teaching at Keith in 1962 he joined the 3rd Battalion the Gordon Highlanders TA and gained a commission.

Mr Fowlie was invited to serve as a Deputy Lieutenant for Banffshire in 1998 and in 2003 was invited to serve as Vice Lord-Lieutenant before eventually retiring in 2011.

He said: “It’s a great honour. I think it’s normal practice that we’re notified a couple of months early and we were asked not to say anything which of course I didn’t.”

Although he has finally retired, Mr Fowlie has remained extremely active within the Buckie community as a member of the Committee of the Buckie and District Fishing Heritage Centre.

Mr Fowlie said: “I must say, it was quite thrilling.

“I’ve always been very willing to take part in things so it always came quite naturally to me.”

Meanwhile, the founder of the National Autistic Society (NAS) in Ellon has been recognised for her efforts in improving the lives of people living with the condition.

Gail McKeitch, pictured, has been awarded a BEM for services to people with autism and their families in the Queen’s New Years Honours list. In 2008, she established NAS in Ellon and became its volunteer branch officer.

Two years later she identified a gap in local services for teenagers with autism to socialise in a supportive environment and she started the Socialeyes Group for young men and women to explore and develop their social skills.

She has spearheaded the Ellon NAS branch’s involvement in identifying gaps in local autism-friendly service delivery and has also contributed towards a directory of sources of support for children with additional support needs.

Gail said that receiving the honour was “very humbling” and that she was “totally honoured”. Gail, who has three sons, said: It allows me to promote autism on a wider stage.

“Two of my boys have autism and they’re both at different ends of the spectrum.

“There’s a huge gap in public knowledge about autism.

“By receiving this honour and getting the word out, it’s allowing another voice to be heard.”