Life of Brian as Hawick legion stalwart earns honour

Brian McLeod with his wife, brothers, sisters and their partners.
Brian McLeod with his wife, brothers, sisters and their partners.

A former military man awarded a British Empire Medal for overseeing the revitalisation of Hawick’s Royal British Legion Scotland branch was presented with that honour this week.

Brian McLeod was given his medal by Gerald Maitland-Carew, lord-lieutenant of Roxburgh, Ettrick and Lauderdale at a ceremony in Newtown on Monday.

The honour, announced in June, recognises the 69-year-old’s work as convener of the branch’s Poppy Appeal committee and later as its branch secretary and treasurer.

He helped increase the number of Poppy Appeal volunteers from a handful to the current 45, boosting the amount raised from £2,500 in 2002, when he took over the role, to £10,000 in 2013.

As secretary, he has also increased branch membership from 10 to 55 and helped reinvigorate the branch, based at Hawick Ex-Servicemen’s Club, in Teviot Crescent.

He also helps to arrange the annual Armistice Day parades in the town, train branch standard bearers and offer advice to the local detachment of the Army Cadet Force.

Brian assists in the organisation of area functions and national pensions committee activities too.

The father-of-two is a devoted legion member and epitomises its motto of ‘service not self.

Brian, who lives in Hawick with wife Marilyn, said: “I have no idea who the individual or individuals were who nominated me. If someone thought I was worthy of this honour, it would have been bad manners not to accept it.

“This is an honour not just for me but for the Poppy Appeal volunteers. It is an honour for the legion as a whole and for my family and the people of Hawick who have supported me in this work.”

Brian’s capacity for hard work and discipline was instilled during 26 years as a member of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, rising to the rank of colour sergeant serving across the world, including Hong Kong and the jungles of Borneo.

After returning to civvy street, he took on a variety jobs, including caretaker, roofer and administration officer with the Scottish Association of Mental Health.

He often suffered from dizzy spells, though, and also spent periods of time unemployed.

It was 14 years ago that he began to devote his energies to helping the legion, of which he had always been a loyal supporter.

Brian, whose late father also served with the Borderers, said: “I missed military life. It’s that mucking-in spirit and looking after everybody’s back. There was great comradeship.”

He added: “When I took over the Poppy Appeal, I promised to get to it and increase the number of volunteers, and I have been able to do that. This award is truly a great honour.”

Brian wasn’t the only Borderer to receive a BEM at this week’s ceremony.

He was joined by Jessica Troughton, honoured for her services to the community of Stow.

Captain Maitland-Carew said: “It was an honour to present British Empire Medals to two individuals who have contributed so much to their local communities.”

“Both Jessica and Brian are shining examples of hard-working, caring Borderers who can be seen as an inspiration to everyone in our area.”