Harrogate's winners on what it's like to win an award in Queen's Birthday Honours

Four Harrogate district residents have been named in the latest birthday honours from the Queen. The list includes Tewit Youth Band stalwart Colin Gibbs, businessman Christopher Bentley and volunteers Philip Graham and Shirley Clegg. Graham Chalmers looks at some of the stories behind them.

Friday, 16th October 2020, 12:41 pm
Harrogate's Colin Gibbs, president of Tewit Youth Band who has been awarded an MBE for voluntary service to young people. (Picture Gerard Binks)

Colin Gibbs (Harrogate): BEM

Colin Gibbs, president of Tewit Youth Band was awarded a British Empire Medal in the honours last week, and said: “This will be dedicated to all the members of Tewit Youth Band, past and present, plus all the musical directors, parents, sponsors and patrons who have supported the band through thick and thin over the years.

Harrogate's Shirley Clegg who has been awarded an MBE for services to prisoners for nearly three decades. (Picture Gerard Binks)

“Without you we would not be in the position we are today with around 100 young members.”

Mr Gibbs, who has not only done so much to support and encourage young musical talent in Harrogate, but has also steered the Tewit Youth Band to success in the National Brass Band Championships, said he was “proud to have been involved with the band for 39 years and president for 29 years”.

Dennis Richards, former headmaster at St Aidan's CE High School and a Harrogate Advertiser columnist, paid his own tribute to Mr Gibbs and his well-deserved royal honour.

Mr Richards writes:

Tributes from around the area have poured in to greet the announcement of the BEM, awarded to Colin Gibbs, long serving President of the Tewit Band Organisation.

Political leaders, school leaders and all the past musical directors of the band expressed their delight at the award.

Martin Hall, the band's current musical director said, “All of us, past and present members, parents, sponsors and friends of Tewit, know how richly Colin deserves this honour.

"He has been the driving force behind the band’s phenomenal track record of success for almost 40 years. His commitment is legendary.”

In all that time he has seldom missed a Wednesday evening rehearsal, and spent hours organising concerts, functions, fund-raising and committee meetings.

In recent years Tewit has been the key player in developing Harrogate’s brass band reputation across the world.

Colin has overseen the planning of overseas tours to twin towns, Bagneres de Luchon in France and Barrie in Canada with a visit to Montecatini planned before the onset of Covid.

All of it taken on, says current Mayor of Harrogate, Stuart Martin, “with a quiet, gentle, but incredibly persuasive demeanour.”

Often known as the Tewit Youth Band, today that is something of a misnomer. With a range of bands within the organisation, across every age group, over 100 musicians are able to represent Tewit on a regular basis.

Covid has played havoc with the band’s commitments, but up until March this year, a Tewit Band could be seen and heard at the International Youth Music Festival, supporting a Mayoral inauguration and closely involved in all the town’s Remembrance activities.

Such is the popularity of Tewit, and the enjoyment of its participants, the newly-created open-age Tewit Silver Band has allowed participants to continue well beyond the age of 18.

Sir Thomas Ingilby accompanied the Band to Barrie. “Colin has a record of commitment second to none. He is an integral part of our community. I am delighted for him”.

Mr Gibbs is only one of four residents in the Harrogate district to receive an award in this year’s list which was postponed from June in order to include people such as medical workers and fundraisers, who have helped in the nation’s Covid crisis effort.

The others are

Philip Nesbit Graham: Signalling Volunteer in Knaresborough, Network Rail. MBE for services to the Rail Industry during Covid-19;

Christopher John Bentley: MBE for services to Business and Culture;

Kathleen Shirley Clegg: Formerly Chair, Official Prison Visitor Scheme, HM Prison Full Sutton. MBE for services to Prisoners.

Shirley Clegg (Pannal, Harrogate): MBE

Talking to the Harrogate Advertiser, Shirley Clegg, said: “I was very surprised to get the letter telling me of the MBE. I was not sure whether it was a hoax!

“It had never occurred to me that my prison visiting would be recognised in this way.

“Now that I have got over the initial surprise, I feel very excited and privileged.”

Shirley said: "I was born in Lancashire but came to Harrogate when my husband started his first job here, at ICI in the 1950s.

“We liked Harrogate a lot and stayed here apart from a two year stint in Pakistan – quite an adventure.

“When ICI closed we spent time in Richmond and then Howden in East Yorkshire and on retirement we came back to be amongst many old friends in Harrogate.

"We had a daughter and son who both went to school at Harrogate Grammar School.

“I’ve had many interests over the years, including flower arranging, supporting Parkinsons UK and church committee work.

Shirley Clegg said: “It was whilst living in Howden that the curate told me about prison visiting and asked if I might be interested.

“A couple of years later he had his own parishes and had become a part-time chaplain at HMP Full Sutton.

“He encouraged me to apply to become a prison visitor and after a long process of security checking I joined the team of Official Visitors and the rest is history.

“I have been going regularly to visit inmates there and have seen many people during the last 27 years.

Shirley Clegg said: “Prisoners are all offered a visitor when they first come into prison.

“Some have family who visit but they can also have a visitor if they wish and that is where the Official Prison Visitors come in.

“You are told who you will be visiting – many times they get moved on and often at short notice, so then you are allocated to visit someone else.

Shirley Clegg said: “I have met some splendid men in prison over the years and I have always found it interesting.

“Their ages have ranged from the early 20s upwards.

“I have never asked any of the people I visit what they have done or why they’re in prison. My view is that I go there as their guest and if they want, they can tell me, but I have never asked them, it is not any of my business.

Shirley Clegg said: “You find some things are quite challenging and there is little you can do to help.

“If they are ill I cannot do anything but if I have any concerns about someone, I can pass on my concerns to the Liaison Officer for prison visitors who can check if they are OK.

“More often than not the Liaison Officer is one of the chaplains.

“Prison visitors are there to take a bit of the outside in and have a chat and perhaps buy a coffee, crisps or biscuits.

Shirley Clegg said: "I was very surprised indeed to get the letter telling me of the MBE. I must say that I was not sure whether it was a hoax.

“When I contacted the honours and appointments service I said this and it is apparently a reaction that many people have.

“It had never occurred to me that my prison visiting would be recognised in this way.

“Now that I have got over the initial surprise, I feel very excited and privileged to have been given this honour."

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