IT'S been a bumper crop in Gwent in this year's New Year Honours list, with community  figures from across the region applauded for their dedication.

Among those to be recognised in the New Year Honours is Wales’ chief medical officer Dr Frank Atherton, who has been knighted, along with Olympic boxing gold medallist Lauren Price, of Hengoed, who has been awarded an MBE.

Others to receive top honours include former vice-chancellor of the University of South Wales (USW) Professor Julie Lydon, who has been made a Dame for services to higher education.

Professor Lydon, of Stroud in Gloucestershire, retired as USE vice-chancellor in September after 15 years at the university – and 11 as vice-chancellor and chief executive.

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She also oversaw the creation of the USW in 2013 following the merger of the former University of Glamorgan and University of Wales, Newport.

During her time at the university, Professor Lydon was the chairwoman of Universities Wales from 2017 to 2021, and sat on the boards of Universities UK, University Alliance and the National Council for Universities and Businesses.

Upon receiving the news, she said: “I am humbled to receive this award which plays tribute to the entire body of USW staff and students.

“Welsh universities have really pulled together during the Covid-19 pandemic, I’m proud of my contribution to this collaborative effort.”

Her successor at USW, Dr Ben Calvert, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Julie has been recognised for her outstanding contribution to the higher education sector.

“As Wales’s first female vice-chancellor, Julie has been a true inspiration to many. This award is a fitting recognition of her leadership, vision, and contribution to the whole higher education sector.

“On behalf of everyone at USW, I’d like to express our warmest congratulations to Julie for this richly deserved honour.”

Professor Lydon was previously awarded an OBE for services to higher education in Wales in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2014.

Also made a Dame is chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency Dr Jenny Harries, of Monmouth, who has been awarded the accolade for services to health.

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She previously served on the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and brings a wealth of public health knowledge and expertise gained from working in the NHS and local government at local, regional and national levels.

She played central roles in the UK’s response to coronavirus, Ebola, Zika, monkeypox, MERS and the Novichok attacks.

Dr Harries has also worked in policy, evaluation and clinical roles in places as varied as Pakistan, Albania, India and New Zealand.

Elsewhere, Ingrid Wilson, of Newport, has been awarded an MBE for services to community cohesion, race equality and global education.

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© Photography by Maryam Wahid

Ms Wilson has long since been a presence in the city, giving up her time to help people in deprived communities.

The 75-year-old has worked tirelessly over the last 40 years, even continuing after her retirement from teaching in 1995.

Most of her activity has been associated with Community House Eton Road, a multi-purpose community centre and charity in Newport, and national charity One World Week, and also ran the Intercultural Development Education and Arts Services for a number of years.

Speaking to the Argus, Ms Wilson said: “I feel very emotional. There are so many others who I feel are quite deserving. I work with so many wonderful people who are all doing good things.

“We are all human beings together. Once you know about something, you can’t just walk away if you are in a position to do something about it.

“My grandmother came to the UK in 1910 at the age of 16, and I once had an asylum seeker tell me that the fact that I’m the grandchild of a refugee gave him hope that he could have children in this country.

“Like many others my age, I was the first person in my family to go to university, and I was given the tools to do what I do – to help and give people a voice.”

Also awarded an MBE is Professor Euan Hails, a consultant nurse within the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board in Gwent with responsibility for leading and developing nursing and health professionals and developing and leading clinical practice that is psychologically and research-based.

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Professor Hails has spent a career helping those in need, leading the development of the national Early Intervention Psychosis (EIP) services across Wales and has been recognised for services to children and young people’s mental health in Wales.

The 55-year-old spent time working for the in Hywel Dda University Health Board, before his current position in Gwent’s health board. He also leads Adverse Drug Reaction within Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), while also serving as an honorary associate professor at the school of medicine at Swansea University and working as a visiting professor at USW.

Speaking to the Argus, Professor Hails, of Swansea, said: “It’s a surprise, an unexpected surprise. I’m honoured. It’s quite nice to be thought of.

“I trained as a nurse in the 80s, I qualified in 1987. I specialise in helping children and young people.

“I think I was drawn to this field through my own experiences, having a family myself.

“Longer term, my grandfather was a mental health nurse, and my mother was a mental health social worker, and this was a large influence, visiting the sites where they used to work growing up.

“It’s good to see children’s mental health and the work surrounding it being recognised.”

Simon Lee, from Monmouthshire, has been awarded an MBE for services to sport and wellbeing. Mr Lee is the chief executive of the Civil Service Sports Council Group (CSSC), an organisation which supports more than 140,000 civil servants across the UK to lead healthier lives.

South Wales Argus: Simon Lee MBE.Simon Lee MBE.

He said: “When I joined CSSC just under 10 years ago, I joined an organisation that was bursting at the seams with potential, with an incredibly dedicated team of staff who were committed to improving the lives of our civil servants and public sector employees and their families.

"This award recognises the dedication and passion that our staff and volunteers have shown, day in, day out, over many years, in providing vital wellbeing support and services to our members all over the UK. Their work has never been more important than it is today.”

Among those awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) is Gerald Beaumont (known as Ged), of Usk, who has been recognised for services to people with disabilities in Wales.

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Mr Beaumont, 62, has improved the lives of hundreds of disabled people across Wales since 2007 through his fundraising efforts, handyman help, fitness and wellbeing support, and logistical efforts In 2017 and 2018, he helped raise more than £40,000 by organising and taking part in Tour De Cymru’s, leading 12 amateur cyclists on a 350-mile journey over four days to every Leonard Cheshire service across Wales.

He finished at the Geraint Thomas Velodrome in Newport.

Some of the money that was fundraised has gone towards establishing a ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ for the Disabled, which has grown year on year and recently been awarded National Lottery funding.

Prior to joining care provider Leonard Cheshire, Mr Beaumont had fundraised for other charities - raising in excess of £60,000 over 40 years.

In the opening months of the Covid-19 pandemic he transported PPE supplies, at times through the night, across Wales, to ensure frontline staff had access to PPE when they needed it most.

He marked the 75th anniversary of VE Day by cycling 180 miles in circuits around the local caravan park, dressed as a World War II Lancaster Bomber.

His 12-hour effort raised nearly £2,000 towards limiting the impact of loneliness and isolation amongst disabled people.

The money has purchased essential IT equipment which have enabled care home residents to stay connected with their loved ones.

Also awarded a BEM is Derek Warren, of Caldicot, who has been recognised for services to young adults in South Wales.

Mr Warren, 68, is a Warrant Officer for No.1 Welsh Wing of the Air Training Corps, where he has served as a Cadet Force Adult Volunteer since 1969.

Since 1987, he has served as the Wing Warrant Officer, where he is responsible for the maintenance of discipline and standards of drill, dress and deportment for around 160 new recruits annually. Over the years he has worked with more than 6,000 cadets.

As part of his role, Mr Warren established training courses for cadets and volunteers, and has personally supported around 120 residential camps.

“It’s just what we do,” he said. “We do what we have to do for the young people.

“It’s been quite a journey. The main thing is when you see young people coming in at about 13 sometimes not knowing what they want to do, and they leave at 18 as young adults.

“The people you work with in the same organisation, they are so supportive. You make friends, and it’s nice to have people you can go to if you need.”

When asked how he felt when he heard the news, Mr Warren said: “I was unsure to start with but then overjoyed and elated.”

Another to receive a BEM is Catherine Spiller, of Newport, who has been given the honour for services to the Reserves and Cadets Forces and the community in Monmouth.

Ms Spiller, 53, is deputy head of estates for the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association Wales, meaning she looks after management of the facilities and deals with all the funding for the works that are required.

She has been working for the estates for the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association Wales since she left school in 1984 – a period of almost 40 years.

Ms Spiller says she enjoys her work and has lost none of her enthusiasm over the years.

She has stepped in numerous times to deliver changed over the past 15 years when there was no department head.

During the first lockdown, she worked to improve the Army Reserve and Cadet Training Centre accommodation for use by the servicemen and women who were aiding during the pandemic – all from her dining room table.

However, she was keen to play down her role, saying: “It was a bit of a strange time as it was for everybody across the country.

“I just had to get on with it really.”

Despite her exemplary work, Ms Spiller was shocked to hear she was receiving the BEM.

Ms Spiller said: “I was surprised to be honest, but I'm delighted.

“What can I say, it's quite an honour and I am delighted to receive it.”

Abergavenny councillor Maureen Powell, who is 84-years-old, has also been awarded a BEM for political service.

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The Castle ward councillor was first elected to Monmouthshire County Council in 2008.

In the past 12 months, Cllr Powell has attended 43 of 44 council meetings, sitting on a range of different committees.

She previously served as chairwoman of Monmouthshire council in 2012 and 2017, and as mayor of Abergavenny.

Cllr Powell said she was ‘astonished’ when she found out that she had been awarded the British Empire Medal.

“It came as a surprise to me, but at the same time I feel very honoured,” she said.

“I spend so much of my time supporting other people and I try to answer all of the calls my constituents make to me.

“If I can’t solve it myself, I pass it to the department that can.”

Cllr Powell said she “very rarely” misses any council meetings, sitting on committees including planning, children and young people select, adult select and chairing the North Monmouthshire Area committee.

She is also a governor at King Henry VIII School and volunteers at a range of community events.

“I’ve always been very pleased to work with other people,” said Cllr Powell, who intends to stand in May’s council elections.

“Obviously everything doesn’t always go smooth, but I’ve found being a councillor very rewarding.

“I love helping people and doing things.”

Also receiving an honour was Dr Neil Rhys Wooding, of Newport, who was made a CBE for services to social justice, equality, and the community in Wales.

Congratulating those who have received honours, Welsh secretary Simon Hart said: “I am once again inspired by the stories of the many people from across Wales who have deservedly been recognised on the New Year Honours list.

“During an extremely challenging year, these recipients have continued to make outstanding contributions to communities all over Wales.

“It is fantastic to see Welsh recipients from a wide range of backgrounds being recognised. I am thrilled that their commitment to their communities, sport and health services have been commended.

“I would like to congratulate all the worthy recipients and thank them for their invaluable work.”