Cockburnspath’s first lady receives BEM

Jean Virtue celebrating her British Empire Award with her family
Jean Virtue celebrating her British Empire Award with her family

Cockburnspath’s go-to person, Jean (Jane) Virtue was honoured at council headquarters this week when she was presented with the British Empire Medal.

Jean was awarded the medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in the summer and the Lord Lieutenant of Berwickshire, Jeanna Swan, made the presentation to her at a special ceremony at Scottish Borders Council offices which was attended by Jean’s family.

Cockburnspath residents all know that if you need a favour, information, a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear, or some coffee morning baking - it’s Jean you go to. And when it comes to community involvement it would probably be an easier job to list the organisations in Cockburnspath that Jean doesn’t belong to!

President of Cockburnspath SWRI for 17 years; member of the flower show “for ever”; member of Cockburnspath Community Council; member of the Marshall Brown Trust; the Congregational Board; the village hall committee; area organiser for Christian Aid, Poppy Scotland; village Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee celebrations; the Wednesday Club for the over 60s; and so the list goes on, and on, and on.

For Jean, who has lived all her life in the village, community work is her hobby.

“I do it because I want to do it and it’s like a hobby to me,” said 71 year old Jean, who was shocked when she received the letter telling her of her award.

“I had a good cry to myself. It was such a shock and completely out of the blue and what’s made it so special is the feedback from colleagues and members of the public has been tremendous.”

This isn’t the first time that Jean’s community spirit has been recognised; she was a runner-up in the Sunday Post’s Local Heroes competition and for many in Cockburnspath she will always be their winner when it comes to local heroes.

When people move into the village Jean puts a welcome to the community card in their letter box; she has keys for a number of neighbours and can be called out at all times of the night; she is the first port of call for many neighbours and admits that her oven is “never off”, baking for coffee mornings and community events.

“I have been chair of the SWRI for 17 years and was on the committee for a lot of years before that. I was only going to be chair for a year or two! But everything I do I am happy to do it.”

Whether it’s planting daffodils on Cockburnspath roundabout, organising jubilee medals for every child in the village, with their name on it, caring for her neighbours or organising for the chimney sweep to visit homes in the village (even though she doesn’t have an open fire herself any more) it’s Jean that her family and the entire village depends on.

What better reason for awarding anyone the BEM.