BEM honours awarded to local residents

Wallace Elder.
Wallace Elder.

The New Year’s Honours list has brought recognition to several local residents who are set to receive British Empire Medals.

Among those to have been nominated for an award is Wallace Elder, who has been nominated for a BEM for services to the community in Ahoghill.

Thelma Strange.

Thelma Strange.

Mr Elder is one of the driving forces behind the village’s regeneration and successes in both Ulster in Bloom and Britain in Bloom.

“This award is for the whole team, not just for me,” Mr Elder said.

He added: “It is very humbling to have received this honour but it is very much a team effort with the work we do and it’s a wonderful acknowledgement and recognition of all that we have achieved.”

Also receiving a BEM was Thelma Strange, musical director of Seven Towers Male Voice Choir, who was recognised for her voluntary service to the choir.

Rebekah Durston.

Rebekah Durston.

“I’m absolutely shocked but delighted and it is very kind to have been nominated for this,” Thelma said.

Thelma, who has been involved with the choir since her teenage years, added that the honour was “great recognition” for the choir.

The founder of Ballymena Chamber Orchestra has spoken of her surprise and delight at receiving a BEM in the Queen’s New Year Honours.

Rebekah Durston said she felt privileged to be able to share the honour with the orchestra’s members, as well as staff and pupils at Ballymena Academy where she teaches.

Ernest O'Hara.

Ernest O'Hara.

“This is very much for the entire Ballymena Chamber Orchestra team, all the musicians, the committee members and everyone who works behind the scenes,” Rebekah said.

She added: “I am delighted at being able to share this award with them.

“I also want to thank those who have given their time and support to this venture over the years.”

Originally from London, Rebekah moved to the Ballymena area with her husband William Olphert and their two children.

Rebekah had previously enjoyed a highly successful career as a violinist, performing with many of the UK’s leading orchestras.

On moving to Northern Ireland, she set upon the idea of bringing classical music to the wider community, and established the Ballymena Chamber Orchestra which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year.

Glarryford poultry farmer Ernest O’Hara was awarded a BEM for his services to agriculture and the community in Northern Ireland.

More commonly known in the farming community as Ernie, Mr O’Hara has kept hundreds – if not thousands – of pictures and videos chronicling decades of Northern Ireland’s rural life in his archives.

The pictures date back through 60 years of Glarryford Young Farmers’ Club and also show local weddings, baptisms and agricultural shows. Just last month the club hosted an exhibition of Mr O’Hara’s work.