Gentleman James McClean honoured for services to people with Parkinson’s in Co Antrim
Ballymena man James McClean was honoured this week with an MBE at an investiture ceremony held by King Charles III at Buckingham Palace, on Tuesday March 14th.
A well-known former deputy mayor, James was honoured with the Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) award in Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth's Birthday Honours List in 2022, for services to people with Parkinson's in County Antrim.
James is the Chairman of Ballymena and District Branch of Parkinson’s UK, and has been involved with the national charity for 22 years, having first becoming aware of the charity back when he worked for the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. During a seminar at Twickenham House in Ballymena in 2001, various charities were present and gave out information about their work, including The Parkinson’s Disease Society.
Talking to Love Ballymena last year, James explained:
“I spoke to them about Parkinson’s and following discussions with Parkinson’s UK (PUK) in the HQ London, I was asked to help with the formation of group for PUK in Ballymena, along with five other persons including my wife Anna (who agreed to be Secretary).
“I was keen to get involved because Anna herself had recently been diagnosed Parkinson’s Disease.”
On the 9 February 2000, at the age of 50 years old, James’ beloved Anna received her diagnosis.
“Over the next two years she continued to work but eventually she had to retire on health grounds,” James continued. “She was treated by a Consultant Neurologist who was very kind and encouraging and who prescribed medication which helped with mobility and alleviated other symptoms of Parkinson’s, but gradually her condition deteriorated and became much worse.
“When Anna’s speech and swallow was effected, and she became very frail, she was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital In Belfast with a very severe chest infection. The consultants, doctors, nurses and all the ancillary staff in the RVH were excellent and did all they could to keep Anna alive.
“Sadly, after nine weeks in hospital her condition became much worse and she passed away on 31 October 2016.”
During this very painful and challenging time, James came to fully understand the worth and appreciate the value of support he received from his own family circle, his faith family at High Kirk Church, and from the members of the Ballymena and District Branch PUK.
Following Anna’s death, James thought to resign from his role with the Ballymena PUK Branch, but with some strong encouragement from the members, he was persuaded to continue as chairman.
Asked why he continues with his work in the charity’s Ballymena Branch, James responded:
“I simply enjoy helping people, and especially people who have Parkinson’s.
“My vision for the Branch is that it will provide a safe place for members to meet and make friends, share experiences and encourage one and another to lead normal and purposeful lives.”
Commenting on James' special recognition last year, the then Mayor of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, Councillor William McCaughey, said:
“I am delighted that former Deputy Mayor of Ballymena James McClean has been awarded. I've known James personally for many years and I cannot think of anyone more worthy of receiving this honour from Her Majesty.
“James truly is one of life’s gentlemen and has dedicated so much of his time to serving his community.
“He is a fantastic ambassador for Ballymena, and a tireless advocate for efforts to raise awareness of and combat Parkinson’s disease - a cause extremely close to his heart.
“This award is fitting recognition of his own selflessness and desire to help others.”