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Medal for Maggie as her achievements are recognised by the Queen

Maggie Shapland

Maggie Shapland

Press release issued: 22 January 2013

A long-serving member of staff at the University of Bristol has been presented with a British Empire Medal - a special accolade bestowed on her by the Queen – in recognition of her work to preserve the history and heritage of Clifton.

Maggie Shapland was singled out in the Queen’s birthday honours last June for her involvement with the Clifton and Hotwells Improvement Society and role in the ongoing refurbishment of the Clifton Rocks Railway.

She was among six Bristol residents who received their medals from Mary Prior, the Lord Lieutenant of Bristol, at Merchants’ Hall.

Maggie, who arrived with her family in her treasured Lanchester classic car, said: “It was a lovely, personable ceremony. We all had tea and cake afterwards and chatted to each other and everyone was made to feel special, especially when the Lord Lieutenant talked to everyone’s guests too. I was very taken aback when I found out I’d been awarded the medal and feel very privileged indeed.”

The British Empire Medal (BEM) was established in 1917 for people not of rank. Unlike the OBE and MBE, which are awarded personally by the Queen or Prince of Wales, the BEM is awarded by a local lord lieutenant. John Major scrapped it in 1993 but David Cameron announced its reinstatement last year, saying he wanted to ensure people involved in voluntary work are properly recognised.

Around 300 people are expected to be awarded one each year and will be invited to attend a Buckingham Palace garden party.

Maggie, who has worked in IT Services for 40 years and is due to retire next month, has been awarded the gong for services to conservation and heritage in Clifton. The 66-year-old has been heavily involved with Clifton and Hotwells Improvement Society for the past decade, campaigning for the best features of the area to be preserved and for amenities to be improved.

She has also been instrumental in the ongoing refurbishment of the Clifton Rocks Railway, which began in 2005. The project has since uncovered the fascinating history of the railway built into the Avon Gorge, uncovering many artifacts from its use during the Second World War when it a night time air raid shelter and used by the BBC as a top secret transmitting station.

Two other long-standing members of staff were awarded British Empire Medals and collected them from Lady Gass, Lord Lieutenant of Somerset, in Taunton’s County Hall last November.

Dave Skelhorne, 70, has worked at the University for 17 years and was awarded the medal in recognition of his services to heritage buildings and higher education. Dave retired four years ago but wanted to remain working part-time, such was his love of the job.

He’s been responsible for maintaining many of the University’s historic buildings and has been instrumental in establishing the popular tours of the Wills Memorial Building which have raised over £10,000 for charity.

Geoff Davies began working at the University 35 years ago as the farm manager at Langford, where the Veterinary School is based. He received the BEM for services to veterinary education.