At the end of a tough year that was dominated by the coronavirus pandemic there was cause for celebration in St Albans as two community figures were honoured as part of The Queen’s New Year Honours List.
Stephen De Silva was awarded an MBE for his services to heritage, whilst Ian Plaistowe, chairman of The Abbeyfield Society was awarded an OBE for his services to elderly care and education.
After moving to St Albans in 1979 to work as a teacher Stephen De Silva MBE discovered a love for the historic St Albans Cathedral and has been a volunteer at the cathedral ever since, taking great pride in his position as chairman of the guides.
Stephen spoke to StAlbansNews about his MBE which came as a pleasant surprise to him towards the end of last year.
He said: “I don’t know exactly who nominated me but I have some ideas. I think the main reason behind my nomination was that in the previous five years I’ve been chairing a committee to oversee a whole new permanent exhibition at the cathedral.
“It’s part of our heritage lottery fund application, I was overseeing something called the interpretation committee and it was a really great experience.”
In addition to his position as chairman, Stephen has dedicated much of his life working as a tour guide at the cathedral after arriving to St Albans in 1979.
He said: “I’ve been a guide at the cathedral for about 40 years now so I suspect someone thought it was quite a nice anniversary.
“I still love it, it’s the that I’ve been doing my whole time at the cathedral, it’s just been such a lovely thing.
“You meet so many interesting new people, you get asked all kinds of questions which most of the time you know the answers to but sometimes you go away puzzled. It’s an extra little challenge as a new pair of eyes sees things you don’t see.”
Ian Plaistowe OBE is chairman of The Abbeyfield Society which helps manage the direction of the Abbeyfield charity who provide housing for older people across the UK and internationally.
In his position as chairman which he has held since 2015, Ian has undertaken some challenging tasks such as encouraging a stronger relationship between The Abbeyfield Society and its more than 160 member societies, building trust with international members and travelling around the UK and overseas to meet residents, trustees, staff and volunteers.
Upon receiving his OBE, Ian said he was absolutely delighted and sent out a special thank you to everyone who he has worked with for the past 14 years.
He said: “I am delighted and humbled to receive this great honour, which I accept on behalf of my fellow trustees, our fantastic staff and volunteer teams, and all of our residents, who are the reasons we are here.
“I have greatly enjoyed my 14 years with Abbeyfield and look forward to being part of the Abbeyfield Family for many years to come.”
Chief executive David McCullough said that Ian has displayed an amazing commitment to the Abbeyfield Family.
He said: “Since I have known him and for years beforehand Ian has done far above and beyond the call of duty displaying outstanding commitment and leadership on behalf of thousands of residents staff and staff in the Abbeyfield Family.
“Abbeyfield owes a huge debt of gratitude to Ian for his energy, wisdom and invaluable experience, which he shares generously in service of our charity’s current and future success. I know that Ian would not have sought this honour but I am delighted that his voluntary service has been recognised.”