Pillars of communities are recognised in Honours List

Simon Furness, left, chairmain of Gunsgreen house in Eyemouth
Simon Furness, left, chairmain of Gunsgreen house in Eyemouth

THERE was a double dose of celebration in Berwickshire at the weekend following the unveiling of the Queen’s Honours List with Eyemouth’s Colonel Simon Furness and Ayton’s Elsie Brown both recognised for their sterling work in their respective communities.

Since leaving the armed forces in 1978 Simon has thrown himself into many projects in Eyemouth, at one point he was a member of 22 committees and a chair of 12.

This number has dropped in recent years but Simon’s enthusiasm definitely hasn’t, making him a prime candidate for an MBE.

He first received word of his homour seven weeks ago and admitted it was quite a big ask to keep it under wraps.

“It was a very pleasant and unexpected surprise when I opened the envelope to find out I’d been awarded an MBE,” he said.

“I’m not entirely sure I managed not to let the cat out of the bag. I told my family last Tuesday and I was just hoping I was still on the list when it was published in the papers at the weekend!”

One of Simon’s first major commitments in Eyemouth was becoming a member of the town council as the town prepared to mark the centenary of the fishing disaster in 1981.

The establishment of Eyemouth Museum arose from this as Simon and others breathed life into what was then just a vandalised building.

Once the museum was open Simon served on its trust as vice chair and chair for 19 years and was then responsible for the development of another building, chairing the steering group for Swan Court sheltered housing.

He has also been a member of Eyemouth Harbour Trust, the National Trust of Scotland and his dedication to Eyemouth was emphasised when he gifted his family home of Netherbyres to the Leonard Cheshire Disability Association so it could be turned into a care home.

Simon admitted there’s been “ups and downs” with the projects he’s been involved in, none more so than the restoration of Gunsgreen House, which thankfully is continuing to prosper since it’s re-opening two years ago.

He is currently chair of the Gunsgreen House Trust.

Like Simon, Elsie, who was awarded the BEM (British Empire Medal) wasn’t particularly keen to blow her own trumpet but she too has done plenty for Ayton since moving there in 1961.

She has been a long-serving member of the SWRI at both local and county level and was one of the people responsible for giving Ayton its very own bowling green.

“I’ve also got a bit of a reputation for calling in on new families who move to Ayton,” she joked.

“But it’s a great way to to get them involved in things that are going on in the village.

“My honour was for service to the community but to me I just seem to be running around after everybody all the time! It’s probably my family who deserve recognition as I’m always off seeing to other people!”