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Portglenone street cleaner Stephen Burns honoured in New Year 2023 Honours List

Image: PA

Well-known local man Stephen Burns has been recognised with a British Empire Medal in the New Year Honours List for his services to the community as a street cleaner in Portglenone.


An employee of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council for over two decades, 56-year-old Stephen has worked at keeping streets of the village and the country roads clean and tidy, and has gained the respect of the rural community who have described him as a 'gentleman'.



In a social media post in the Photos of Portglenone group, the commenter said:


"He (Stephen) will be in town from very early morning to after lunchtime, and in the afternoon of each weekday he will clean out the country roads of the village. With his little yellow cart Stephen goes about the village drawing very little attention to himself... what an excellent job he does."


Other members of the group showed their appreciation for Stephen saying:


"My grandson, when he was 5, said that Steven was the most important person in Portglenone."



"Such a hard worker, and always a friendly word for everyone. Our community are so lucky to have him!"


"Stephen is the hardest and most dedicated street cleaner in the country. Portglenone would not be the same without him. Well done Stephen."


"Quite honestly if anyone ever deserves an award it’s Stephen. We only see the his work on Main Street - he is in the estates and other nooks and crannies we don’t see. Lovely, modest, honest man."


"He is the hardest working man in the country. Seen him scraping the joints in the paving with a nail on a stick. Legend."


Speaking to PA, Stephen said:


“I don’t know anything about how these things work. I just go and do my work every day.


“About a month ago, a fellow rang me around lunchtime. He told me about this award and I thought he was pulling my leg.


“I told him I would mention it to some other people and he said to me I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone. I thought that sounded a bit suspicious.


“He told me there was a letter to come about it. They couldn’t email it to me because I don’t have an email address.




“So, I phoned my boss and he told me that it was real and then the letter eventually came.”


He added: “I do the main street in Portglenone, all the roads, in around the housing estates. I clean it all up.


“You earn your money at this time of the year when it is cold, but I always thank the Lord every morning that I have my health and I love this kind of work.


“I’ve got to know lots of people through my work. There are people waving at me all the time and tooting their horn and sometimes I don’t know who they are at all.


“I suppose I’m in the public eye all the time.


“The job has not changed that much and that is the way I like it.


“I would do a lot of cleaning up, lifting litter, clearing away the weeds, I do all the wee things that maybe other people wouldn’t do. I would always try to go the extra mile. I always want to do a good day’s work.”


The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Alderman Noel Williams, has congratulated all those recognised in the New Year Honours list, including Stephen. He said:


“A heartfelt well done to all those who received this highly prestigious accolade.


“It is wonderful to see so many locals recognised, and in particular I am absolutely delighted for Council employee Stephen Burns.


“Stephen is an excellent ambassador for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and he is deeply valued by the community in Portglenone where he does such sterling work.



“As Mayor, I congratulate him on behalf of Council and thank him for his dedication and commitment to our Borough.


“We are blessed with so many people and organisations that go above and beyond in Mid and East Antrim, and the New Year Honours are a fitting tribute to their tireless efforts.


“Well done again to all those awarded and thank you for all that you do.”

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