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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Two well-deserving Ballymena women recognised in King’s Birthday Honours list

Debbie Chestnutt, Project Co-ordinator at Good Morning Ballymena, and Catherine Humphrey, Principal of Groggan Primary School.

Pictured are (L-R) Debbie Chestnutt, Project Co-ordinator at Good Morning Ballymena, and Catherine Humphrey, Principal of Groggan Primary School.

Two worthy Ballymena women are among the many recipients in the UK and across Northern Ireland who have been recognised in this year's King's Birthday Honours list.

The King’s Birthday Honours list recognises the achievements and service of people across the UK, from all walks of life.

Both ladies have described the feelings of shock and disbelief when they discovered that their names were on the first Honours list of the King's reign. Deborah Chestnutt, Project Co-ordinator for Good Morning Ballymena has been recognised as a Medallist of the Order of the British Empire (BEM), while Catherine Humphrey, Principal of Groggan Primary School in Randalstown, has been recognised as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

Deborah Chestnutt, known to most as 'Debbie', has worked at the helm of Good Morning Ballymena for almost 10 years, receiving her BEM for services to older people in County Antrim.

The local organisation is based on the Larne Road and offers a free friendly telephone support service to elderly residents (aged 60 and over) across the wider Ballymena area. Often the service volunteers will be 'someone at the other end of the line' for those who may feel lonely, or who just want a regular friendly voice to talk to, or simply just to listen to them or share a laugh or joke with.

Debbie Chestnutt, Project Co-ordinator at Good Morning Ballymena.

Debbie, Project Co-ordinator at Good Morning Ballymena said:

"I am very privileged to work with a number of volunteers whose dedication and loyalty allows us to telephone around 165 members daily, serving the whole of the Ballymena area seven days a week.

"We are a lifeline to all of our members, some of whom get very little or no contact from their families and friends."

The Good Morning Ballymena team have made an amazing difference to so many lives in the town, and this was especially highlighted during the recent lockdown and coronavirus pandemic. Debbie and her team of volunteers went over and above to help support so many elderley residents.

Finding out about her special recognition in the King's Birthday Honours list, Debbie explained:

"We had just came back from holidays and Peter, my husband, collected the post and handed me the envelope. He jokingly said "Oh you must have got an award," and I laughed!

"I opened it and could not read it as I was in shock, so Peter read it and we were so shocked. I thought 'someone like me from a housing estate in Antrim' doesn't get on the Honours list, especially from The King."

Debbie continued:

"I have been humbled, privileged and most grateful to have a job that I love so much. It is the members and volunteers that make my job so rewarding.

"We are just a big happy family at GMB.

"I love when I phone up our members and they tell me how much they love their phone calls, and all the wee presents that they get throughout the year in their 'Happy Bags'.

"I love going into work everyday and having a laugh with the volunteers, and with the members when they tell you a joke or something funny that has happened to them yesterday or that morning.

"I just love my job."

Catherine Humphrey, Principal of Groggan Primary School pictured with some of the pupils.

Catherine Humphrey, Principal of Groggan Primary School pictured with some of the pupils.

Principal of Groggan Primary School, Catherine Humphrey was awarded a MBE for services to education in Northern Ireland.

Catherine has worked in the field of education for 30 years now but it has been a desire she has known from a very young age, and she knows the positive impact a teacher can have on a child's life.

"I wanted to be a teacher from the age of five, having been inspired by my Primary 2 teacher Elizabeth Green," Catherine told Love Ballymena.

"I started my first teaching post in 1993 with a Primary 3/4 class at Bellaghy Primary School - a small rural school, where I taught for three very happy years."

The County Antrim woman went on to teach in Buick Memorial Primary School, Cullybackey in 1996, where she was promoted to Vice Principal during the 18 years in the village. Recalling her time at Buick, Catherine said:

"I loved the school community and the children and love to hear how the pupils, many of whom now are married with families of their own, are getting on."

Finally in 2014 Catherine moved on to Groggan Primary School, outside Randalstown, where she assumed the position of Principal.

"I am passionate about education, teaching and learning, and developing the whole child. Groggan Primary School is like my second family, we have the best pupils, supportive parents, and hardworking staff who go over and beyond each day for the children.

"I am an advocate for Shared Education and am extremely proud of our partnership with Millquarter Primary School, which has afforded the school community so many opportunities."

Married to Denver, with two boys, Zak and Alex, the passionate principal enjoys the support of her family, who along with her brother Peter, play a very active role in developing the outdoor provision at Groggan.

"The school has grown in many ways over the last few years, both in numbers and physically in size. I am a firm advocate of inclusion and I am immensely proud of what the school has achieved and the provision for our children," added Catherine.

When asked about how she responded when told about her award, the Broughshane woman said:

"I did ask if it was a mistake!

" I am so very humbled that people took the time to nominate me. Keeping the news a secret from my family, friends, school community and great colleagues in other schools has been so very difficult.

"There will be lots of celebrating in school with the children when they all hear."


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