Girl Guides leader joins Sue Bruce on Honours list

Alison Purkins. Guide Leader, who has been awarded a BEM for services to Guiding in Edinburgh.
Alison Purkins. Guide Leader, who has been awarded a BEM for services to Guiding in Edinburgh.
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Queen’s New Year’s list recognises public service champions, volunteers, academics and a host of unsung heroes

A VETERAN of the Girl Guides, a world-famous horticulturist, and the chief executive of Edinburgh City Council are among the Lothian figureheads to be bestowed honours in the Queen’s New Year’s list.

Sue Bruce. Picture: Julie Bull

Sue Bruce. Picture: Julie Bull

Seasoned charity stalwarts and public service champions – including volunteers, academics and former social workers – are recognised for lifelong contributions to their communities and feature heavily on the list.

Commonwealth Games judo hero Euan Burton earns an MBE following his gold medal in Glasgow, while the director of Festivals Edinburgh, Faith Liddell, also receives the 

The Capital’s top civil servant, Sue Bruce, has been given a damehood after nearly 40 years in local government.

A string of the city’s unsung heroes are in line for a British Empire Medal (BEM) for selfless charity and volunteer work.

After marshalling a Girl Guide troupe for 45 years, retired school teacher Alison Purkins, 67, has been handed a BEM for her lifelong devotion to the movement.

Mrs Purkins grew up in Blackhall and was a member of the 27A Edinburgh Guide company – based at Reid Memorial Church – before being appointed an assistant in 1967. She held this post for five years before being elevated to company leader where she volunteered for another four decades.

“I’m a bit disbelieving, to be honest,” she said. “I was totally surprised when I read the letter. It didn’t seem real.

“I haven’t told anyone yet, except by husband. It’s a tremendous compliment that anyone thought to nominate me.”

Mrs Purkins said she felt compelled to continue her association with the Guides in order to give younger generations the chance to experience the same outdoor pursuits she enjoyed as a child.

She said: “As a company, when I joined, it had a very good tradition of camping, going every summer, and we’ve carried that on.

“We might be the only group in Edinburgh that has its own equipment and camps every year, for a week.

“I think that’s a fantastic opportunity for the kids, to get away from the TV and become more self-reliant.”

Edinburgh University professor Bill Whyte, 65 – who arrived in East Lothian from the west of Scotland to become a social worker – is being awarded a CBE for a career devoted to improving youth justice.

Prof Whyte has spent the past ten years working alongside social workers in the field, collecting data to prevent young people from entering the criminal justice system.

He said: “It’s quite 
gratifying to have your work acknowledged, so that’s greatly appreciated. It’s a positive for the university.

“You hear it said often, but the truth is I couldn’t do my job if it wasn’t for the hundreds of practitioners who are out there every day, putting it on the line, working with really difficult kids and families, in difficult circumstances, on behalf of the community.”

A renowned horticulturist who helped turn the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh into a leading attraction and centre for plant science is being awarded an OBE for services to horticulture and education.

Dr David Rae, who retired as director of horticulture in October after 36 years, became the first horticulturist to be made a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh earlier this year.

He is credited with expanding the garden’s educational programme, turning it into a “living museum” where extensive research is carried out, as well as a popular attraction.

While most recipients have had to keep the secret from loved ones, a North Berwick woman who will receive an MBE for her charity work has been able to share her joy with her mother, who also appears on the New Year’s Honours list.

Mairi O’Keefe, from North Berwick, has been awarded an MBE for services to people with disabilities at the same time as her 93-year old mother, Catriona MacKinnon, from the Hebridean island of Eriskay, who is honoured with a BEM for services to the Gaelic language and ­culture.

Mrs O’Keefe, chief executive of North Berwick’s Leuchie House – which provides respite breaks for victims of long-term degenerative conditions and their families – said: “It makes it even more special to share this honour at the same time as my mother. I only told her that I was to receive an MBE on Christmas Day, she was overjoyed that we would get to share in it. ­

Mrs O’Keefe added that she was looking forward to celebrating with residents of Leuchie House “more than 
anything”. Mrs MacKinnon splits her time between Eriskay and Edinburgh, where the grandmother of seven teaches gaelic at Nelson Hall Community Centre.

One of the highest titles that can be lavished upon a British citizen – a damehood – goes to Ms Bruce, the city council chief executive credited with transforming the fortunes of the city’s crisis-hit tram project.

Ms Bruce said the announcement that she would become a dame left her “speechless”.

“You don’t ever think about or expect this,” she said. “It’s completely out of the blue. You have to keep it a secret for three or four weeks. I’m in my 39th year of being a local government public servant and I’ve worked in a lot of places across Scotland.

“I started out as a youth worker in 1976, and at that time I didn’t have a grand plan, I never thought of being a chief executive, but now I’ve been a chief executive three times over.

“I think it’s a privilege to be in public service, because you have the potential, with the elected members and with your teams, to help people go about their daily lives.”

Officially she will be known as Dame Sue Bruce, but said she will not be adopting any new-found airs or graces around City Chambers.

Ms Bruce said: “I’m not normally speechless, but I’m almost speechless today.

“I will use the title in formal settings, and I obviously have total respect for the honour that’s being conferred, but in my daily life I will just be same old me.

“I wouldn’t expect people in the office to be referring to me as Dame – they can still call me Sue.”

She added: “Something I’ve held quite closely all the way through my life are the values that my parents gave me, which include integrity and humility. When you’re bestowed with an honour like this, it’s important to keep your humility.”

Lord Provost Donald Wilson said: “Sue has successfully tackled some key challenges during her time as chief executive and has achieved real progress for the council.

“From the outset, she has worked tirelessly, way beyond her role and normal expectations of a chief executive, particularly in relation to charity work and measures to enhance the prospects of children.”

Stage, screen and sports stars gain royal approval

AMONG the 1164 people receiving honours at New Year are famous faces from the world of entertainment, sport and business.

Former Olympian Steve Cram, who won a silver medal at the 1984 Olympics, will earn an CBE while Dame Mary Peters, who won pentathlon gold in the 1972 Olympics, will receive an Order of the Companions of Honour for services to sport and the community.

Stage and screen stars Joan Collins, right, and Kristin Scott Thomas are to be made dames, an honour also bestowed upon designer Mary Quant. James Corden, far right, is handed an OBE.

Entertainer Andy Cameron and Labour MP Anne McGuire are among 150 Scots being honoured.

Scottish writers Ali Smith and Carol Ann Duffy lead representatives of the literary world. Smith, whose novel How To Be Both was shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize, is given a CBE while Duffy, 59, the first female poet laureate in the post’s history, is made a dame.

Bridget McConnell, Glasgow 2014 board member and the chief executive of Glasgow Life, receives a CBE for her services to culture.

Joining her in the CBE category is Gordon Matheson, the leader of Glasgow City Council, while deputy council leader Archie Graham picks up an OBE.

Louise Tait, the Scottish communications secretary for the royal household, is made a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (LVO), which recognises personal service to the monarch.

Mike Cantlay,

the chairman of tourism agency VisitScotland, is also awarded an OBE, as is Bruce Minto, chairman of the board of trustees at National Museums Scotland.

Full list of Lothian winners


Mrs Susan Margaret Bruce. Chief executive, Edinburgh City Council. For services to Local Government in Scotland.


David Fraser Middleton, below. Chief executive, Transport Scotland. For services to the Civil Service and Transport in Scotland. (Edinburgh)

Ms Anne Helen Richards, CVO. Chief Investment Officer, Aberdeen Asset Management plc. For services to the Financial Services Industry and voluntary service. (Edinburgh)

Professor Bill Whyte. Professor of Social Work Studies in Criminal and Youth Justice University of Edinburgh. For services to Youth Justice in Scotland. (Musselburgh)


Ms Faith Liddell, bottom left. Director, Festivals Edinburgh. For services to the Arts. (Edinburgh)

Andrew Brett Milligan. Formerly board member on Technology Strategy Board and head of global strategy, Standard Life Investments. For services to Innovation and the Economy. (Edinburgh)

Bruce Minto. Chairman Board of Trustees, National Museums Scotland. For services to Culture. (Edinburgh)

Ms Francesca Osowska. Director, Commonwealth Games and Sport, Scottish Government. For services to Government and the Commonwealth Games. (Edinburgh)

Dr David Alasdair Hornley Rae, FRSE. Formerly director of Horticulture and Learning, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. For services to Horticulture and Education. (Edinburgh)

Mark Lindsay Sanderson. Formerly head of Major Events Team Office for Security and Counter Terrorism, Home Office. For services to Counter Terrorism. (Edinburgh)

Professor Stephen Gilbert Hillier. Vice-Principal International, University of Edinburgh. For services to international higher education.

Ms (Mary) Louise Macdonald. Chief executive, Young Scot. For services to Young People and the community in Scotland. (Musselburgh)

Martyn John Wade. Lately National Librarian and Chief Executive, National Library of Scotland. For services to Culture in Scotland. (Linlith-gow)


Mrs Frances Ina Hickox. Co-founder, St. Endellion Music Festival. For services to Music in Cornwall. (Edinburgh)

Professor Elisabeth Ann Innes. Principal scientist and director of communications at Moredun Research Institute. For services to Scientific Research and Communication. (Edinburgh)

Ms Carol Betsy Lees Dickson Main. Director, Live Music Now Scotland. For services to Music. (Edinburgh)

Ms Diane Jane McLafferty. Deputy director, Commonwealth Games, Scottish Government. For services to Government and the Commonwealth Games. (Edinburgh)

Euan Burton. Athlete. For services to Judo. (Edinburgh)

Mrs Ellen Muir, below. Headteacher, Pilrig Park School, Edinburgh. For services to Education. (Aviemore)

Professor Nanette Mutrie. Chair, Physical Activity for Health, Edinburgh University. For services to Physical Activity and Health in Schools. (Glasgow)

Mrs Margaret Anne McKinnon Neal. Secretary, Scotland Branch, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. For services to the Scottish Parliament and International Relations. (Edinburgh)

Derek Andrew Bearhop. Head, Games Delivery Team, Scottish Government. For services to Government and the Commonwealth Games. (Musselburgh)

Andrew Lorrain Smith. Lately Justice of the Peace. For public service in Lothian and Borders. (Gorebridge)

Ms Jennifer Lynne McAllister. Education officer, Scottish Seabird Centre. For services to Education. (Musselburgh)

Mrs Mairi Christine O’Keefe. Chief executive, Leuchie House. For services to People with Disabilities. (North Berwick)

Alexander James Pirie For voluntary service in Livingston.


Mrs Alison Margaret Purkins. Guide Leader. For services to Guiding in Edinburgh. (Roslin)

Ms Yvonne Ramsay. Member, Kinsfolkcarers. For services to Kinship Care Families in Edinburgh.

Mrs Dorothea Helena Savi. For services to the Sight Impaired in Edinburgh.

Mrs Sarah Cockburn Simpson. For services to Amateur Dramatics in Edinburgh.

Ms Margaret Ann McCrimmon. Personal secretary, business manager, Sheriffdom of Lothian and Borders, Scottish Government. For services to Law and Order and to charity. (Livingston)