Unsung heroes and JK Rowling honoured by Queen

Jacqueline Cairnie
Jacqueline Cairnie
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A CHARITY shop volunteer and a children’s worker of nearly 40 years have joined big names such as JK Rowling and Billy Connolly as the Queen’s Birthday Honours list was officially unveiled.

Unsung heroes across Edinburgh and the Lothians have been given special recognition as the Order of the British Empire celebrates a landmark 100 years.

Fiona Russell

Fiona Russell

One of the top honours has gone to Edinburgh-based writer JK Rowling, who becomes a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour in light of her services to literature and philanthropy.

The author – whose Harry Potter books have sold millions of copies all over the world – adds the accolade to an OBE which she received in 2001.

Comedy legend Billy Connolly is to receive a knighthood, while Judy Murray – whose son Andy was knighted in the New Year Honours – is to receive an OBE for her work to grow tennis and for encouraging more women into sport.

But it’s not just celebrities who have earned recognition as a host of community stalwarts were awarded gongs for their tireless efforts.

JK Rowling

JK Rowling

Among them is 62-year-old Jacqueline Cairnie, who has been awarded MBE status for services to vulnerable children and their families in the east of Edinburgh.

Heading up Greendykes Early Years Centre, Mrs Cairnie is due to celebrate 40 years’ service for the city council’s childcare division in just a matter of months.

Mrs Cairnie, who lives in Willowbrae with her husband Brian, said she was “shocked” when she opened the all-important letter as she was looking after her two grandsons aged 16 and 11 – who she then had to swear to secrecy.

She said: “I’m very surprised and honoured to receive an award for a job I have loved doing for the last 40 years.

“It’s a job that I’m very passionate about and one of the things that’s important to me is supporting the children and families in the community and just ensuring that [they] are accessing the best quality of early learning childcare.

“I’m very humbled as well because it’s not just about myself, it’s about all the people who work with me and support the children.”

Having grown up in Meadowfield, Mrs Cairnie attended Parsons Green Primary School followed by Portobello High before embarking on nursing training at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

It was during her time at the RIE that Mrs Cairnie decided she wanted to work with people of all ages.

With two degrees to her name – one in social work and another in childhood studies – Mrs Cairnie also spent time at Willowbrae House day-care centre before moving to Greendykes.

She said: “We are a place for the families to come that is safe, welcoming and a place for them to learn and develop and move forward in their life.

“It’s been my passion for many years – I have always worked with children and families. I love my family and love my job and will continue to do so until I retire.”

Charity shop volunteer Fiona Russell, 65, is to become a Medallist of the Order of the British Empire (BEM) for services to charity in Edinburgh.

Mrs Russell spends two days a week at Capability Scotland’s Morningside outlet, where she has volunteered for 24 years.

Born in Joppa, Mrs Russell also volunteered at the charity Scope during a stint in south London with husband Ian, who she met while studying at Edinburgh University.

Describing her accolade as “completely out of the blue”, she added: “It was a very nice surprise.

“I don’t think I’d stay 24 years if I didn’t enjoy it – they are a very nice team. I’m honoured to be getting it, it’s something special.

“You meet all sorts of people in Morningside – everybody in the universe goes to a charity shop. People donate a lot and are very kind.”

Two gongs have been dished out to staff at Edinburgh Napier University, with an MBE going to war poets collection curator Catherine Walker for services to education, heritage and public engagement.

Her colleague William Buchanan, professor of computing and director at the Centre for Networking, Security and Distributed Systems, receives a CBE for services to cyber security.

Also on the list is Mel Young, co-founder of the Big Issue in Scotland and founder of the Homeless World Cup. Mr Young is receiving an MBE for services to sport and social entrepreneurship.

He said: “I am truly humbled by this award. I accept it, not for myself, but on behalf of the countless people who work and volunteer in sport, recognising the transformational impact it can have on lives, here in Scotland and right across the globe.

“I firmly believe in the power of sport, in its ability to help instil leadership and teamwork among our children and young people, allow people to lead happier, healthier lives and to promote social cohesion.”

Another recipient comes in the form of Edinburgh chef Tommy Miah, who founded the International Indian Chef of the Year Competition more than 25 years ago. Mr Miah also earns MBE status.

An MBE also goes to Professor Richard Lyon, a consultant in emergency medicine at the Royal Infirmary, for services to emergency healthcare. Prof Lyon said he was “humbled” by the honour.

florence.snead@jpress.co.uk