A Fife couple’s 40-year effort to support amateur dramatics has earned them a spot on the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
Ron and Norma Nicol from Leslie have both been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to amateur drama and the community of Glenrothes in an unusual double.
The couple, who were both professional actors, set up the Newcastle Community Players at a Glenrothes primary school in 1978, which later blossomed to become Glenrothes Theatre Company which is still based at Rothes Halls four decades later.
Ron admitted he initially thought someone was playing a joke on him when he was called a week ago to confirm the honour.
“I really thought it was someone pulling my leg when I got the call,” said Ron, an award winning playwright who has had more than 600 stages productions of his work across the globe.
“The award was totally unexpected but especially pleasing to be recognised with such a prestigious honour together as we first met whilst working together and have worked alongside each other ever since.
“As well as nurturing the next generation of young actors, drama and acting is a wonderful way of fostering confidence in young people.
“It helps build confidence as well as giving them experiences and skills for all sorts of situations in later life.
“It’s all about offering support and we certainly wouldn’t have been able to achieve anything like as much without the support all these years from a great many people.”
Human trafficking research
Meanwhile Dr Chris Lusk, head of special projects at the University of St Andrews, has been awarded an MBE.
Dr Lusk has been recognised for her dual role working with other universities to set up a research network for human trafficking across Scotland and leading the university’s coronavirus rapid response team.
Dr Lusk also created a “one stop shop” for assistance at the university, a student health hub at the community hospital and an emergency out-of-hours service, whilst working with others to develop a student placement project in Zambia.
She has regularly been called upon to offer consultancy on student support to other universities, but her personal caseload has continued to be in the area of abuse survivor support.
Dr Lusk said: “This award is a testament of work done by amazing teams of people it has been my privilege to work with.
“People who have always gone the extra mile, working nights, weekends, never complaining, just determined to get the job done.”
Former DC Thomson employee
Former DC Thomson employee, Morna Barron from Monifeith has been awarded an MBE for her work in the arts.
Morna’s work featured regularly in the Sunday Post as well as on the Cathy and Claire pages in the much-loved Jackie magazine.
At just 16 years old, she discovered her passion for performing at her father’s amateur dramatic group.
She eventually became the chairwoman and currently serves as national secretary at the age of 74.
Her efforts in the creative industry have helped shaped the lives of countless children across Scotland.
Now living in Fordoun, Morna said: “I’ve seen lots of young people who are really shy or really quiet suddenly come alive on stage when they’re pretending to be someone else.
“It gives them so much confidence as they are going out into the world, particularly job interviews.
“It gives them so much confidence to know they can do their best.”
Elsewhere in Tayside and Fife
Others from across Tayside and Fife recognised by the Queen include Kenneth Muir, from Ladybank, Fife who receives a CBE for services to education particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
Crieff business woman, Georgie Delaney, founder of The Great Outdoor Gym Company, has been awarded an MBE for services to international trade.
His company has achieved more than £30m in sales since it was formed in 2007, around 30% of it overseas.
Order of the British Empire Medals (BEM) have been given to Annie Guthrie from Dundee for her services to Alcoholics Anonymous during the pandemic, Jane Cepok, recognised for her work with the Riding for the Disabled Association, Pony Club and equestrian sport, and Pamela McDiarmid, for services to Marie Curie Nurses and the community in Aberfeldy.
Meanwhile, Brian Ewing, director of the Institute of Sport and Exercise at Dundee University, has been awarded an OBE for services to sport and higher education.
David Gray, head of biology and professor of translational biology at Dundee University’s drug discovery unit, was awarded an OBE for delivery of testing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He was a key player in launching Scotland’s central Covid-19 testing centre.
The University of Glasgow based facility was created in April 2020 and has processed more than 13 million tests.
Colleague, Jason Swedlow, professor of quantitative cell biology in the School of Life Sciences, was “dumbfounded” to receive an honorary OBE for his work in the field of biological imaging.
His pioneering research has been used throughout the UK and around the world.
Professor Swedlow said: “I have been privileged to work with extremely talented, passionate colleagues at Dundee and with the global community of imaging scientists, who have come together to build a powerful, entirely new scientific community in just a few years.
“Bioimaging is about building a platform of imaging with a variety of applications, which is incredibly important normally, but particularly so in a world where vaccines are being developed.”
Poets, singers and scientists honoured
Nationally, the world of showbiz, literature and sport also had royal recognition.
Poet Lemn Sissay said he is honoured to receive an OBE for his services to literature and charity.
Sissay has spoken of his experience of child abuse in the care system throughout his creative works.
His one-man show Something Dark detailed being given up as a baby by his Ethiopian mother in the 1960s and renamed Norman Greenwood.
He only found out his real name at the age of 18.
The writer, who was the official poet of the 2012 London Olympics, said: “I’m chuffed to bits.
If I could say to my 17-year-old self or my 25-year-old self, in 2021 you will receive an OBE, I just would not believe it.”
Royal ‘shout’ for Lulu
Singer Lulu, 72, was thrilled to be awarded a CBE for her career spanning six decades.
The musician shot to fame aged only 15 for her cover of the Isley Brother’s “Shout”.
She was recognised for her services to music, entertainment and charity.
Veteran football manager David Jeffrey was “humbled” to receive an MBE on the honours list.
The 58-year-old played for the Manchester United reserves team before forging a career as a manager for teams such as Linfield and Ballymena United.
He later went on to train as a social worker while still managing the teams.
The latest Queen’s Birthday Honours list sees some 1,129 people being acknowledged. 47 recipients have connections to Scotland.
The list features a number of scientists and volunteers who supported the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.