THE region's unsung heroes joined the likes of Andy Murray, Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Ken Dodd in receiving awards for their dedication and service in the New Year's Honours list.

While knighthoods for the likes of World No1 tennis player Murray and Olympic gold medallist Farah stole the headlines nationally, the awards to those closer to home will mean just as much to the recipients and their families.

Former Redcar Labour MP and now Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird was made a Dame for her services to women and equality, while there were OBEs for former Darlington Building Society chief executive Peter Rowley, for services to sports administration and Naseem Khan, managing director of the Jennings Motor Group, for services to the economy and charity.

MBEs were awarded to Newcastle Eagles larger-than-life basketball coach Fab Flournoy and Bishop Barrington School head Jackie Gent.

Full details and the stories behind them below:

Equality receives a boost with award, says Dame Vera Baird

The Northern Echo: Redcar MP Vera Baird

NORTHUMBRIA’S Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird believes her dame-hood in the New Year Honours, “gives the cause of equality a boost”.

The former Redcar MP was delighted to be made a dame, “for services to women and equality”.

A successful barrister in her younger days, she was made a QC in 2000, before being elected Labour MP for Redcar, in 2001.
She went on to be appointed solicitor-general in Gordon Brown’s Government.

In 2012, she was elected as Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Northumbria and was re-elected to the post in 2016.

Ms Baird, 66, originally from Oldham, Lancashire, and who now lives in Newcastle, said: “This was very delightful and surprising news.

“I am particularly pleased that the award specifically refers to services to the cause of women and equality, recognising that gender equality is desirable for the country and for everyone in it.

“There have been great advances, but there is still more to do.

“It is important we also continue addressing other forms of equality, across race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and the other protected strands in the Equality Act 2010, which I helped to take through Parliament, as solicitor-general.”

Much of her career has been focused on civil liberties issues, especially relating to gender equality.

As a barrister, she successfully defended the four women charged with criminal damage after a Hawk aircraft destined for Indonesia was wrecked with hammers at a BAE Systems plant.

She also acted for miners arrested during the 1984/85 dispute and is among those high profile voices calling for an inquiry into events at the Orgreave coking plant, in South Yorkshire, when police cavalry-charged picketing strikers.

Ms Baird also represented Emma Humphreys, whose murder conviction was reduced to manslaughter in 1995, in a case about the implications of the law of provocation for battered women who kill their violent partners.

She was also chair of the Fawcett Commission on Women and the Criminal Justice System from 2002 until she became a Government minister.

Ms Baird said: “I have been a longstanding equality campaigner, as a lawyer, an MP, a Government Minister and now as Police and Crime Commissioner, in particular tackling the significant interference with human rights caused by violence against women and girls, still rife in our society.

“Many others have worked equally hard and our greatest task ahead is fundamentally to change the culture so that no such violence is ever acceptable and those who perpetrate it are rejected.”

She added: “I feel truly proud to receive this honour, and see it as giving the cause of equality a boost. I would like to thank all the many people who have supported, helped and encouraged me over the years. We must continue to work together to achieve the equality we are fighting for.”

Her PCC website states that, Ms Baird, who was widowed in 1979, her interests include travel, reading, running, and Poppy, her rehomed Bedlington Terrier.

Sport at the heart of OBE honour for Peter Rowley

The Northern Echo: Social Diary at Peter Barron's leaving reception. Jo Kelly and Peter Rowley.Picture: TOM BANKS

AN unsung hero of grassroots sports has seen his dedication to developing local talent and organising events has been rewarded with an OBE.

Peter Rowley, from Darlington, above right, was recognised for services to Sports Administration after spending years on the Sport England board until he stepped down in June this year.

The lifelong, keen sportsman has been left overwhelmed and honoured by the award.

Mr Rowley, who retired as the chief executive of the Darlington Building Society in 2009, was one of the key figures in the creation of The Northern Echo’s Local Heroes Awards night that recognises talent from across the North East.

“I’m absolutely astonished and very proud to be honoured for services to sports administration,” he said. “I’m passionate about the power of sport to change people’s lives and involve people from throughout the community.

“Sport, in my humble opinion, is a driving force for good which is why I have been involved in grassroots sport for a very long time.”

The keen runner, who is a member of the Quakers Running Club based in Darlington, enjoys working at grassroots level over the more prestigious elite level.

He said: “The sense of satisfaction from seeing people take part in sporting activities is very important. Sport has the ability to galvanise people and help them to fulfil their potential. It has been an absolute honour to be involved in sport for so long.”

As well as his love for sport, Mr Rowley has been heavily involved in a variety of community projects across the region, including the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, County Durham Training and Enterprise Council, Darlington Citizens Advice Bureau, Northern Arts, Council for Licensed Conveyancers and the Durham Agency Against Crime.

Bishop Barrington head dedicates MBE award to "amazing team"

The Northern Echo: MEET THE HEAD: Jackie Gent head of Bishop Barrington School  Picture:SARAH CALDECOTT

A HEADTEACHER will dedicate her MBE to her “amazing” team.
Jackie Gent, headteacher at Bishop Barrington School in Bishop Auckland, said she was stunned but delighted to feature on the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list. 

And when she found out she had been nominated by her colleagues, the 60-year-old described feeling “truly humbled.”

“It’s overwhelming and very unexpected, as I am very much part of a team,” she said.

“It’s an amazing team, and I’m accepting this award on behalf of everyone I work with. They are all passionate about teaching and this shines through in everything they do.”

Mrs Gent, a grandmother-of-six from Crook, has been awarded an MBE for services to education and the community in County Durham.

Her leadership was rated outstanding by Ofted following the school’s latest inspection in 2013, and she is widely praised for her commitment to her staff, offering support, advice and stretching them into new challenges.

Her many achievements include: setting up Bishop Auckland Youth Theatre to allow residents to enjoy a range of shows; playing an instrumental role in creating the Elite Sports Academy; working with primary schools to help ease the transition into secondary school education; and introducing a reward and sanction system to improve behaviour.

Educating region's youngsters for almost 40 years leads to OBE 

The Northern Echo:

A HEADTEACHER who devoted a career spanning almost 40 years to educating young people has been given an OBE.

Phil Marshall, who set up the new Excelsior Academy in Newcastle in 2007, was recognised in New Year Honours list for her services to education.

Mrs Marshall is credited with transforming educational achievement and life opportunities for thousands of children in the city’s west end during her eight years as principal.

She retired from her post in December 2015 after a teaching career of 38 years.

Mrs Marshall said: “It’s very humbling and rewarding to get such recognition for doing something I’ve enjoyed doing so much.

“The whole Excelsior Academy experience has been fantastic and rewarding enough in itself, so to be recognised nationally for doing that work is surprising and makes me feel very grateful.

“Excelsior Academy is successful because everyone, the children, the parents, the staff, the governors, the whole community, believes in what we are doing.”

Mrs Marshall was previously headteacher of both Sandhill View and Monkwearmouth Secondary Schools in Sunderland, which both improved under her leadership.

Mrs Marshall is still contributing her expertise to help pupils realise their full potential as Laidlaw Schools Trust’s education director, supporting Excelsior and the trust’s other academies Thomas Walling and Atkinson Road Primaries, both in Newcastle, and Academy 360 in Sunderland.

The trust was founded by international businessman Lord Laidlaw, who said: “The award of an OBE to Phil for her services to education is fitting national recognition of her outstanding leadership and dedication shown throughout her career.

“Under her leadership, Excelsior Academy has become one of the top 200 most improved state secondary schools in the UK and one of the highest performing secondary schools or academies in the North-East for attainment and progress.

“More pupils than ever before left Excelsior’s sixth form college this summer to attend the university of their choice and it’s fair to say that Phil and her staff at Excelsior have transformed exam results for pupils in the local area as well as their career and life opportunities.”

Basketball star feeling 'Fab' after award of MBE

The Northern Echo:

BASKETBALL star Fabulous Flournoy has been has been honoured for services to sport and the community in the North-East.

The 43-year-old player and head coach with the Newcastle Eagles has been given an MBE.

Mr Flournoy, who lives in Gateshead, was born in New York and had a disadvantaged upbringing, but used basketball as an opportunity to attend a college before winning a contract to play in England. 

Mr Flournoy is the most successful player-coach in the history of British basketball, having led the Newcastle Eagles to 18 separate trophy victories since 2005, including six league titles in nine years. 

He combined the dual roles of player and head coach, something virtually unheard of in basketball. 

He said: “I was very surprised when I got the phone call. It is very humbling.

“I still do not know what I have done to deserve it, but I would like to thank everyone in my life who have made receiving this award possible, especially the people of the North-East.” 

Mr Flournoy has on four occasions been voted the British basketball league coach of the year. 

In 2006, he led the England basketball team in Sydney, returning home with a bronze medal. 

As the head-player and coach of the Newcastle Eagles, he has ensured that they are extremely active in the North-East community with projects such as Hoops4Health which teaches healthy living to 12,000 schoolchildren every year as well as promoting other schemes.

He has also spent time in Young Offender’s Institutes seeking to communicate with the inmates as to their choices in life and using his own experiences to illustrate them as well as completing speaking engagements for homeless charities.

Elsewhere, Professor Peter Andrew Heasman has received the British Empire Medal for services to providing ethical review and support to researchers

The 60-year-old, from Shotley Bridge, in County Durham, has been a volunteer member of NHS Research Ethics Committees for more than 18 years. 

Since 2000, he has chaired the Newcastle and North Tyneside Committee and after ten years’ service moved on to chair the York Committee. 

His professional role is Professor of Periodontology at the University of Newcastle with research interests in the pathogenesis of periodontal diseases, risk factors for periodontal diseases, clinical trial design, research ethics of pharmacological treatments for periodontal diseases, and the benefits of smoking cessation. 

Joanna May Smith, 51, from Houghton-le-Spring, has been awarded an MBE for services to offender support.

Her commitment as a volunteer for the Samaritans over last 13 years has resulted in her leading and delivering a programme to offenders in significant prisons in the area, including HMP Durham, Low Newton and Frankland.

The scheme provides support and counselling making the prison environment safer for both offenders and prison staff alike. 

She is the voluntary Deputy Director for Prison Services within the Samaritans for the North East region and is currently acting director. 

Her citation said: “Her exemplary voluntary service has made her an outstanding ambassador for the Samaritans, volunteers in general and females in particular.

“It is this commitment and drive which has given her the opportunity to deliver an innovative project within the prison environment.”

County's Olympic heroes rewarded for their dedication

The Northern Echo: HOME: Paralympic gold medalist Laurence Whiteley is given a hero's welcome as he returns toTees Rowing Club, Stockton. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT.

NORTH Yorkshire’s Olympic heroes have found their names on the New Year’s Honours list. 

Northallerton para-rower Laurence Whiteley, above, who won the trunk-arms mixed double scull at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, has been awarded an MBE.

Laurence, a member of Tees Rowing Club in Stockton, had only been rowing with partner Lauren Rowles for a year when they brought back gold from the Rio Paralympics.

The 25-year-old credited his place on the podium to his time training under coach Greg Beswick at Tees Rowing Club.

A former pupil of Hurworth House and Polam Hall schools, he began rowing in 2012 at the North-East rowing club after wanting a change from disability swimming. 

He had initially taken up swimming to aid his rehabilitation after suffering an aggressive form of bone cancer which caused lasting damage to his leg.

Also to receive an MBE was diver Jack Laugher, from Ripon, for services to diving. 

The former Ripon Grammar School pupil and diving partner Chris Mears won gold in the 3m synchronised springboard diving contest, becoming Great Britain’s first Olympic diving gold medal winner in Rio.

He also won silver in the men’s 3m springboard.

North Yorkshire Chief Constable honoured for service to policing

The Northern Echo: A NEW ERA: The new chief constable of North Yorkshire, Dave Jones, speaks at a press conference confirming his appointment, watched by police and crime commissioner for North Yorkshire Julia Mulligan

NORTH Yorkshire Police’s Chief Constable, Dave Jones, has been honoured for his service to policing.

The police chief, who took over South Yorkshire Police for several weeks this year following the Hillsborough inquest findings, has been awarded the Queen’s Police Medal (QPM) for Distinguished Service.

Mr Jones, who obtained a Masters Degree in public sector management, began his policing career in 1986 at Greater Manchester Police. 

He held a variety of uniform and CID roles, culminating in his appointment as Head of CID and Temporary Assistant Chief Constable, where he led on counter-terrorism and tackling serious and organised crime.

He went on to work as Assistant Chief Constable at Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI) assuming command of the rural region before taking up his post at North Yorkshire Police in 2013.  

He’s also the National Police Chief’s Council leader for citizens in policing, developing links between communities and police through volunteering.

He said: “This is a great honour, and one that I could not have achieved without the assistance of so many talented and committed officers, staff and colleagues here in North Yorkshire, and throughout my career.

"Like all police officers, I also know our families play an absolutely crucial role in allowing us to do the best job in the world, so I would like to thank all my family – and particularly my four children – for their fantastic support.

"I am extremely proud to be part of the police service, and to be recognised in this way is something very special.”

Businessman who helps forces staff back into work honoured

The Northern Echo:

A DARLINGTON businessman who helps former servicemen back into work has received an MBE for services to business and the community.

Richard Tucker, 58, served for 20 years in the RAF, including in the first Gulf War. Originally from Plymouth, when he came out of the RAF he settled in Darlington, working for Safeway, but in 2006 set up a property management company, based in Newton Aycliffe.

He now looks after 50 properties in Darlington, Bishop Auckland and Durham City, where he manages student accommodation. Out of that grew his Caring Caretaker business which provides handymen for landlords.

Initially, the handymen – many of whom are ex-servicemen – worked on his company’s properties, but now they work for other landlords, including estate agents and the NHS, and they operate across the north.

Over the years, he has helped at least 70 former servicemen find their feet in civvy street.

Mr Tucker, who is married to Pam and has two children and two grandchildren, works with similar organisations like Groundwork North East and Veterans at Ease, and is on the advisory board of the Teesside University School of Science and Engineering.

He is also a committed mason, belonging to three lodges in Darlington, and in 2015 he received the Freedom of the City of London.

“You could have knocked me down with a feather when I opened the letter from the Prime Minister,” he said. “I am extremely proud, pleased and honoured – it is a tremendous acknowledgement.”

'Amazement' at award for Lady Jopling from Thirsk

The Northern Echo:

A WOMAN awarded an MBE for helping transform a charity’s fundraising efforts has expressed her ‘amazement’ at the honour. 

Lady Gail Jopling, from Thirsk, was named in the New Year’s Honours list for her work with the charity Hope and Homes for Children. 

The charity was set up in 1994 when retired British UN Commander, Mark Cook and his wife Caroline visited Bjelave Children’s Institution in Sarajevo. On return to the UK they set up the charity Hope and Homes for Children. 

Their aim was to close down children’s institutions and turn them into systems based on family care by placing them with foster or adoptive families or small family homes.  

Since the charity began, the number of children in institutions in Romania has gone from more than 100,000 to fewer than 8,000. 
The charity now works in nine countries and with governments and organisations including UNICEF.

Lady Jopling has helped the charity generate more than £5m. A support group she has set up in the Vale of York has raised more than £218,000 for the charity. 

Lady Jopling, 80, said: “I’m very honoured, flattered and amazed I should receive this. I’ve just been doing this because I believe in it and saw what a difference it would make.”

Also to receive an MBE was Gillian Palmer, known as Tink Palmer, for services to abused children. She is the founder and chief executive of the Marie Collins Foundation, based in Masham in the Yorkshire Dales. 

With more than 40 years’ experience in social work with the last 25 specialising in child sexual abuse, Prof Palmer established the Marie Collins Foundation in 2011 to meet the needs of children harmed online and helping victims and their families recover.

Stockton businessman honoured for charity work in Pakistan

The Northern Echo: BUSINESS TYCOON:  Nas Khan, who came to Teesside from Pakistan at the age of 14 with no English, launched the multi-million pound Jennings car sale business with showrooms across region – he is on brink of hitting £120,000 target to build new

A SUCCESSFUL businessman, who come to this country as a 14-year-old from his native Pakistan, has been honoured for his charity work and contribution to the economy with an OBE.

Nas Khan, managing director of North-East based Jennings Motor Group, launched the charity, the Emaan Foundation, after the area was destroyed by the flooded Indus river in 2010.

The businessman was determined the clinic would open within a year for the residents of Emaan Village, in Rahim Yar Khan, south of Punjab, in Pakistan.

So far he has raised more than £120,000 for the foundation with the money being used to buy lifesaving water purifiers called Life Straws, sent directly to victims through aid organisation Human Appeal International.

Mr Khan has been involved with the motor industry for decades.

Last year he was the only UK recipient of Ford’s prestigious “2015 Salute to Dealers” award.

Tireless work of Mabel McGurk is recognised with BEM

The Northern Echo:

A PENSIONER who has dedicated her retirement to helping cancer patients has been rewarded for her tireless work.

Mabel McGurk has volunteered at Middlesbrough’s James Cook University Hospital since the Macmillan cancer support and information centre opened its doors in 2006.

The great-grandmother spends one day a week supporting cancer patients as they undergo treatment at the hospital.

The pensioner’s kindness and compassion didn’t go unnoticed at the hospital.

In 2014, to mark her 90th birthday, patients from the chemotherapy unit surprised her with a huge pile of gifts and cards, while fellow volunteers arranged a special celebration event.

Earlier this year, she was one of four volunteers recognised for their incredible ten years of providing advice and guidance to people with cancer.

The 92-year-old was awarded a British Empire Medal for services to terminally ill patients and the community in Middlesbrough.

Stuart Cornwall dedicated years to helping others

The Northern Echo:

A MAN who has dedicated years of his life to helping others has been recognised for his services to children and families.

Stuart Cornwall, who is the chairman of Stockton-based charity A Way Out, the chairman of Spurgeons Child Care, and the chairman of the advisory panel for the Safe Families for Children initiative, was awarded an OBE in this year’s honours list.

Mr Cornwall has been a personal supporter of the Spurgeons Child Care charity for more than 20 years, which delivers projects to support children, young people, their families and communities to find long-lasting solutions to the challenges they face, including poverty, abuse problems, offending, and other social issues.

His working life has been varied including a career path in the Navy and senior appointments in the probation service and the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS).

He joined the Board of Trustees of Spurgeons Child Care in 2008 and has been chairman since 2011. He also serves on the boards of a number of UK-based and international charities.

Mr Cornwall, lives in Stockton with his wife Margaret, where they are members of Stockton Baptist Tabernacle.




Stuart John Cornwell. Chair. A Way Out and Chair, Spurgeons Child Care and Chair of the Advisory Panel, Safe Families for Children. For services to Children and Families. (Stockton)
Naseem Aslam Khan. Managing director. Jennings Motor Group. For services to the Economy and charity. (Stockton on Tees, Durham)
Peter William Rowley. For services to Sports Administration. (Darlington)
Jacqueline Gent. Headteacher, Bishop Barrington School. For services to Education and the community in County Durham. (Crook)
Edwin Charles Stanbridge. Assistant Officer. HM Revenue and Customs. For services to Customer Service and the community in County Durham.


Professor Peter Andrew Heasman. Volunteer Member. NHS Research Ethics Committees. For services to Providing Ethical Review and Support to Researchers. (Shotley Bridge)
Mabel Louise McGurk. For services to Terminally Ill Patients and the community in Middlesbrough (Teesside). 
Hazel Margery Whitehead. For services to the community in Ingleton. County Durham. (Darlington)



The Right Reverend James Stuart Jones. For services to Bereaved Families and Justice (Hillsborough). (Malton)


Angela MacDonald. Director, DWP Operations, Department for Work and Pensions. For services to Welfare Reform. (York)


Dr Helen Mary Crews. Formerly director. Animal and Plant Health Agency. For services to Plant and Bee Health and voluntary services to the community in York. (North Yorkshire)
Lt Col Andrew Stuart Garner, MBE. The Yorkshire Regiment
Clive Reginald Martin. Formerly director. Clinks. For services to Offenders and their Families. (York, North Yorkshire)
James Henry Newman. Formerly Chair. Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership Board. For services to Business the Economy and charity in Yorkshire. (York, East Riding of Yorkshire)
Avtar Singh Purewal. Regional head of Learning and Skills. HM Prison Service Yorkshire. For services to Prisoners.


David Edward Cussons. For services to Agriculture and Rural Communities in North Yorkshire particularly through the Ryedale Agricultural Show. (York)
Iestyn Davies. Classical Countertenor. For services to Music. (York)
Sylvia Marian Evason. Joint Founder, Jennyruth Workshop, Ripon, Yorkshire. For services to People with Learning Difficulties in Yorkshire. (Ripon)
Terry Jones. Founder. i-D Fashion Magazine. For services to Fashion and Popular Culture. (Thirsk)
Jack David Laugher. For services to Diving. (Ripon, North Yorkshire)
Max Bertram Mills. School Volunteer. St. John Fisher Catholic High School Harrogate. For services to Education. (Knaresborough, North Yorkshire)
Walter Ivor Pattison. For services to Disabled People in North East England. (Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire)
Laurence Whiteley. For services to Rowing. (Northallerton, North Yorkshire)



Trudi Jeannette Abadi. Manager. National Confidential Unit North of England, National Crime Agency. For services to Law and Order. (North Yorkshire)
Michelle Beckett. For services to Disadvantaged People in the UK and Abroad. (Harrogate, North Yorkshire)
Jennifer Carswell Hildyard. For services to the community in York. North Yorkshire. (North Yorkshire)
Mabel Louise McGurk. For services to Terminally Ill Patients and the community in Middlesbrough. Teesside. (Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire)


David Graham Jones. Chief Constable. North Yorkshire Police.




Vera Baird. Northumbria Police and Crime commissioner. For services to Women and Equality. (Newcastle)


Ian Norman Dodds. Senior Policy Adviser. Cabinet Office. For services to Civil Society and Community Action in the North East of England. (Gateshead)
Professor Mary Elizabeth Dunning. Formerly Governor. Tyne Metropolitan College. For services to Further and Higher Education and the Community in the North-East of England. (Whitley Bay)
Mrs Philomena Margaret Marshall. Education director and Trustee, Laidlaw Schools Trust and lately Executive Principal, Excelsior Academy, Newcastle. For services to Education. (Belfast)
Ailsa Margaret Rutter. Director, Fresh Smokefree North East. For services to Tobacco Control. (Tyne and Wear)


Tracey Booth. Chair of Governors, Churchill Community College, Wallsend, Tyne and Wear. For services to Education. (Wallsend)
Fabulous Flournoy. For services to British Basketball and the community in the North East. (Gateshead)
Christopher Denys Matthews. For voluntary service to the community particularly Young People in Tyneside. (Newcastle)
Joanna May Smith. Deputy director for Prisons. North East England Samaritans. For services to Offender Support. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Matthew James Wylie. For services to Swimming. (Washington)