Long serving councillor Leo Taylor ‘flabbergasted’ by British Empire Medal

Coun Robert Taylor from Wingate, Co. Durham, has been awarded a British Empire Medal for Services to the Community.
Coun Robert Taylor from Wingate, Co. Durham, has been awarded a British Empire Medal for Services to the Community.

A LONG-SERVING councillor has spoken of his delight after being awarded a Royal honour.

Wingate councillor Leo Taylor said he was “flabbergasted” when he opened a letter announcing he was being presented with the British Empire Medal (BEM) for his services to the community.

The 72-year-old, who is originally from Willington, County Durham, made Wingate his home 53 years ago after marrying local girl Kathleen.

Coun Taylor said: “I got a letter last month saying I had been awarded the BEM and that I had to keep it confidential until the names were released to the public.

“When I opened the letter I was flabbergasted - you never dream of somebody like myself, just a local person, getting anything like this.

“I’m dead chuffed.”

The letter came during the same week that the former District of Easington councillor and serving parish councillor became Durham County councillor for Wingate during the May local elections.

Coun Taylor became a Wingate parish councillor 22 years ago and he was a District of Easington councillor from 2002 to 2009, being the final chairman on the local authority before the seven district councils were abolished to make way for the current unitary authority.

In addition to his civic roles, Coun Taylor has also been a Wingate Juniors school governor for 20 years, where he has been chair of governors for the past nine years, as well as spending 14 years on the governors board at Wingate Infants, with the past nine years as chairman.

The Labour councillor, who is dad to Sandra Clarke and Jacqueline Devine, is also chairman of Wingate Community Centre, which he has been involved with for 15 years, and he is also secretary at Castle Eden Cricket Club, which he has been connected to since 1965.

“All I do is try and do what I can that’s best for the community,” said Coun Taylor, who is grandad to James and Olivia Devine and Amelia Clarke.

“If you are interested in your community, you just get on with it.

“I never got paid in my life for helping anybody - I don’t want to be paid, I just do it because I’m interested in the community.”

He is also involved with the local Gully House and Charlton House residents’ associations.

The councillor, who was an administrator for ICI for 35 years, said among his proudest achievements was the parish council being able to spend £100,000 on improvements to recreation facilities at Welfare Park.

He said he hopes his new position at county council level would help him to make even further improvements for Wingate.

He anticipates an invitation to a Royal garden party to receive the medal.

It will be his second visit to Buckingham Palace after he previously attended a garden party in his capacity as District of Easington chairman.

Other people to win honours include Tony Robinson, famed for his role as long-suffering Baldrick in the Blackadder series, has been given a knighthood for public and political service.

His co-star Rowan Atkinson, who starred in last year’s Olympics opening ceremony, gets a CBE for services to drama and charity, along with entrepreneur and former Dragon’s Den star Hilary Devey for services to the transport industry and to charity.

MBEs go to singer and broadcaster Aled Jones and singer-songwriter PJ Harvey, as well as Skyfall singer Adele, comedian Rob Brydon; actor, director and playwright David Haig; and Chocolat author Joanne Harris.

Sports presenter Clare Balding, widely praised for her coverage of London’s Olympic and Paralympic Games, gets an OBE for services to broadcasting and journalism, along with Golfer Paul Lawrie.