Not surprisingly, there was a bit of an air of uncertainty over organising the event – not through any lack of effort and enthusiasm from Martyn Jones, who took the lead, ably assisted by George Pike and Tony Bishop – but because the arrangements at the library were subject to change, and let’s be honest, nobody really knew how many members, friends and invited dignitaries would attend. Angela Pike, LOS Secretary, did a great job with publicity, using posters in favourite spots like the Pennington Flash hides, and alerting local newspapers and media.
Wayne Reedman at the Library seemed to be everywhere and made things easy as various exhibitors began to arrive. There was a buzz, a sense of expectation. Early on, the arrival of the team from Wild Wings was a highlight, as sizeable containers looking like money safe boxes were carried upstairs, each bearing warnings that they contained live birds. Soon, beautiful Tawny and Barn Owls, a sleek Peregrine Falcon and a magnificent and rather haughty Goshawk were settling onto perches in the Derby Room.
The much-anticipated hour of 11 o’clock saw the presentation of the award to our Chairman, David Shallcross, on behalf of LOS, by a Deputy Lieutenant of Manchester, Steve McGuirk. This took place in front of what was by now a full crowd of members, friends and dignitaries including MP’s James Grundy (Leigh) and Chris Green (Bolton West), the Mayor of Wigan, Cllr Yvonne Klieve, escorted by the Borough Cadet, Megan Lawrence, the Deputy Leader of Wigan Council, Cllr Keith Cunliffe, Cllr Fred Walker, Cllr Susan Greensmith, Lady Joy Smith (another Deputy Lieutenant, who mentored us through the award process), Mrs Elizabeth Haworth who actually made the nomination for us, former MP and friend of LOS, Jo Platt, and Mr James Winterbottom, Director of Digital, Leisure and Wellbeing at Wigan Council. It was a pleasure to see our friends who wrote supporting letters for our award: Alderman Susan Loudon, Mrs Avis Freeman, and Mr John Preston. (Mr John O’Neill also wrote on our behalf but was unable to attend.)
In a sign of the times, David Shallcross invited people to wear masks while we were standing close together for the big event. Steve McGuirk explained the nature of the Queen’s Award and read out the citation he had written in putting forward LOS for consideration at the Palace. He emphasised how much more we are than an ornithological society, especially our historic role in environmental conservation, long before it “became fashionable”. “This is an impressive group of volunteers.
Responding to the Chairman’s invitation to say a few words, Dave Wilson assured us that it was right to feel a little sentimental and emotional, looking back over the society’s history, but then reminded us that perhaps the most significant stage still lies ahead of us: what we will leave for future generations. Not one of us is likely ever again to hear the call of a Cuckoo in our locality. So many species are on the “downward slide”. He encouraged us to use our votes and our influence to protect our local green spaces. “They might look rough” – but they are havens for declining species such as Skylark, Lapwing and Partridge.
To say now that everyone went off and enjoyed the exhibits, and our special guests and exhibitors partook of a very pleasant buffet, makes the rest of the day sound a bit of an anticlimax. Not at all! New visitors kept coming, allowing families and children particularly to enjoy the wonderful live birds, and the enthusiastic explanations by their handlers from Wild Wings.
We are so grateful to everyone who gave their time to make the event such a success, and of course especially to mastermind Martyn, along with George and Tony, whose organisation created something which was both a re-launch after the restrictions of the pandemic, and an ideal way to mark the award. It was an unforgettable day in so many ways, coming after many months of restrictions and isolation during the pandemic, and helping to give all of us a sense of hope and a new resolve to value, record and conserve our remarkably diverse local environment.
|British Trust for Ornithology||Nick Hilton|
|Greater Manchester Ecology Unit||Steve Atkins|
|Natural England||Jenny Griggs|
|Wild Wings Birds of Prey||Ian Middleton and Carol Rose|
|Bolton, Bury and Wigan Swifts||Louise Bentley and Lynn Sedgwick|
|Lowton Hedgehog Rescue||Irene Thomson|
|Leigh Rotary Club||Dave Jones|
|Lancashire Wildlife Trust (Bickershaw)||Matthew Freeman|
|Leigh Community Art Group||Dianne Harrison|
|St. Thomas’s Primary Children||Mrs K. Chambers and Ms. Lauren Taylor|
|Pennington Flash Volunteers||Shaun Murphy and Kevin Forde|
|Karen Markham||(Local Artist)|
|Jennifer Doyle||(Local children’s author)|
|Martyn Jones||(UK Bird Photography)|
|Dave Wilson||(Founder Member/Historian)|
David Boardman recorded the event in photos, and refreshments were served by Angela Pike, Pat Bishop, Anne and Hazel Johnson and Jean Richardson.