Barrie and Fiona are both shocked by new year honours

Barrie Forrest.
Barrie Forrest.

A rail campaigner and a college stalwart are among the Borderers to feature in the Queen’s latest new year honours list.

Barrie Forrest, 74, has been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to the community in his home village of Reston.

Fiona McAllan.

Fiona McAllan.

The father of two and grandfather of three, formerly an auction mart foreman in Berwick, has been a member of Reston and Auchencrow Community Council for almost 40 years, acting as chairman and vice-chairman during that time.

He is also an active transport campaigner and has been involved in calls to have Reston’s railway station reopened and safety improvements made to junctions on the A1 near the village.

Mr Forrest, vice-chairman of Rail Action Group East Scotland, was taken aback to be honoured, saying: “It came as a huge surprise to me.

“Obviously, it’s an honour, but there are other people who deserve honours far more than I have ever done.

Major Steven Small.

Major Steven Small.

“It’s nice to be recognised, though, I must admit.”

Borders College admissions officer Fiona McAllan, 58, has been has been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to education.

Mrs McAllan, who lives in Greenlaw with her husband Charlie and has one grown-up son, found it so difficult to believe she was getting a medal that she burned her original letter from the Cabinet Office.

“When I got the letter, I thought it was a scam and a wind-up so I chucked it in the fire,” she said.

“After that, they phoned my work, but I was on holiday.

“We have lots of pranks and a good working relationship in the office, so when my workmates passed on the message, I thought they were having me on.

“I was overwhelmed. I’m just doing my work and it just seems strange.”

As an admin student at the college’s Duns campus herself over 25 years ago, Fiona was invited to take up a job firstly covering maternity leave in the student records department, before moving into admissions at the Galashiels campus, where she has worked since 1992.

In the past 24 years she has dealt with almost every full-time application, processing and arranging interviews before giving future students their acceptance details.

Now preparing to retire in 15 months’ time, Fiona added that this recognition creates a fitting finish to her career at Borders College.

She said: “I have always said I’ll go when I’m 60.

“I think youngsters can relate more to younger people, although when I see the comments from all the students on Facebook, I think maybe they do still like me.

“But we have lots that we would like to do in our retirement.”

She added: “I am truly humbled to have been awarded a BEM and see it as recognition for all those who work in a support role at Borders College.”

A Borders College spokesperson added: “I’m not at all surprised that Fiona has been given this award.

“Fiona’s dedication to her job goes beyond what is expected of an admissions officer, and we all offer her our warmest congratulations.”

Completing the list of the region’s honours is Major Steven Small from Duns, made an MBE for services to piping and traditional music.

Others Scots honoured included the UK’s oldest ice-cream man, 94-year-old Adam Kelly, who has been awarded a BEM for services to business and the community in his home town of Galashiels.

Rhona Elliot, 64 this Sunday, has been made a Member of the British Empire for services to horse racing and her charity work for fellow multiple sclerosis sufferers.

Mrs Elliot, of Jedburgh, founded the MS Borders Racing Club in 2004 and has raised more than £120,000 since then.

Fellow charity champion Jane Bannerman, 77, from Hawick, has been given a BEM for services to community health care.

She has been a staunch supporter of children’s charity Action Medical Research for over 40 years and is a founder member of its Hawick committee.

Scottish Secretary and Borders MP David Mundell congratulated the country’s recipients of honours, saying: “Scotland’s honours recipients are superb ambassadors for Scotland.

“They truly deserve their recognition today, and I congratulate each and every one of them.

“It is right that we recognise the unsung heroes of our communities.

“The length and breadth of Scotland, an army of volunteers shows unstinting dedication, commitment and compassion week in, week out. “These awards mark that hard work and selflessness.”

Celebrities given honours include rock star Ray Davies, actors Mark Rylance and Naomie Harris, tennis champion Andy Murray and athletes Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis-Hill.