Billy is 2013 Duns Citizen of the Year

Citizen of the Year Billy O'Brian in Duns Market Square
Citizen of the Year Billy O'Brian in Duns Market Square

The Duns community has come together at the end of the Summer Festival to name Billy O’Brien as Citizen of the Year for 2013.

Billy, 55, is a Dinger born and bred, who is regularly involved in community events of all kinds.

All year round, he can be found amongst the volunteers helping deck out halls, or preparing for Reiver’s Week or the Jim Clark Rally.

Billy modestly plays down his role in town events: “I’m just one of those guys who are on the end of the phone, really,” he said.

“There are plenty of us, all pitching in. You just do a bit here and there, helping to put up and take down Christmas lights and things like that.

“Then eventually you’re just kind of known as one of those who will help.”

Billy said he had an inkling that he might be up for the award, “but it still came as a bit of a surprise. A very pleasant surprise.”

Duns was voting all last week, with voting slips available around the town and online.

Billy has been involved in many of the town’s notable events over the years, including ‘Countdown 2000’, the Millenium street party, which was followed up with a tenth anniversary party in the town square in 2010.

He was also one of a group of Duns men who achieved the unique feat of driving a house around Scotland.

“That was great fun,” he recalls, “we built this house, with a verandah and everything, around a Land Rover, and set off. We raised more than £11,000 for CHAS, a children’s hospice charity. The folk of Duns were great with that, sponsoring each brick in the house.

“I always remember what Doug Redpath senior said once.

“There was talk of what the town should be doing with itself. He got up and told us all: ‘There’s nothing in Duns to bring people. There’s no abbeys, and no woollen mills. To fill Duns with folk, you’ve got to put things on yourself.’

“Those words always stayed with me. It’s still true.

“You don’t want - nobody wants - Duns to become a place that the bus just drives through.

“And it’s not, as you’ve seen this year again with the Reiver’s Week, filling the place with folk, and you’ll see again with the Summer Show.”

Billy’s wife, Shona, chips in: “Hopefully things can continue, because it’s become such a ritual over time. And there are some good young lads coming up into it.”

“Aye,” Billy agrees, “and it’s up to us older ones to help them join in. Duns is unique. I think you see that when you look around the summer festivals and all the different rideouts.

“It’s worth it, completely. It’s my labour of passion.”

Billy will be presented with his award - a newly designed trophy - at a Rotary dinner this week.