Henry’s ‘richly deserved’ honour

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“What an end to my year,” is how Henry Douglas summed up the announcement that he had been included in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.

The ex-Acting Father, renowned local singer and former president of all three of the town’s Common-Riding clubs, was named last week as as a medallist of the Order of the British Empire (BEM) for services to the community in Bonchester. And with the prestigious accolade coming just six months after Mr Douglas became an exemplary Chief Guest at Hawick Common-Riding’s quincentenary celebrations, the retired farmer can certainly say that 2014 was also his special year.

“My year just couldn’t have been any better,” he told the Hawick News. “To be chosen as the Chief Guest was a huge honour and I had the most wonderful experience, then to find out I was receiving a BEM was such a shock, a huge surprise. But I was very, very honoured to have been included.”

Mr Douglas has no idea who put his name forward to be included among the Honours, but after dedicating more than 60 years to his beloved Bonchester countryside, its customs and people, it could be any number of people who have met, and formed a friendship with, the popular 79-year old.

In Hawick, Mr Douglas is best-known for being Acting Father to Cornet Derek Inglis in 1978 and being the official song-singer at the Common-Riding from 1985-2000. He has also taken the helm of the Mosstroopers, the Callants Club and the 1514 Club.

But closer to home at Howahill, he is also a huge part of the local community. From helping to raise £120,000 for the restoration of the village hall, to being an active member of Hobkirk and Southdean Church Kirk Session, as well as driving a bid to raise £22,000 for a spinal bed at Borders General Hospital, the ever-humble Mr Douglas says its impssible not to get involved.

“The whole community really rallies round here,” he stated. “There’s a great group in the village who are always organising parties and outings.”

And alluding to more than 50 years on the local entertainment circuit, he added: “I’ve had great enjoyment from my singing and met some super folk. It’s been a huge part of my life and so different from farming every day.”

The grandfather of eight says he has been overwhelmed by hundreds of phone calls since news of his BEM broke – while wife Aileen, his family John, Jill and Evelyn and eight grandchildren were all “very excited”. Provost Stuart Marshall was first on the phone at 7.30am, and he told the Hawick News: “This couldn’t have gone to a nicer person, I am absolutey delighted for Henry, it is richly deserved.”

But when asked what it is that drives such involvement in the community, Mr Douglas simply stated: “I just like living here. I can stand for hours and look out at the countryside which is different every day with the changing seasons. I have no great desire to live anywhere else.”

And despite Mr Douglas looking after two farms this week while both son John and daughter Evelyn are on holiday, after a year packed with once-in-a-lifetime memories, he hinted he may conisder a “quiet retirement”.

But with the first of nine Burns supper guest spots starting tomorrow night, and a packed calendar from now until October, thankfully, it seems that Henry Douglas is set to serve the community for some time yet.