Four of Hyndburn’s greatest citizens are to be awarded the Freedom of the Borough next week, we can reveal.
Irene Barnes, Winifred Bridges, Leonard Dickinson and Ken Hargreaves will receive their awards at a special Hyndburn council meeting at 2.30pm on Wednesday December 8, followed by the Blessing of the Crib at 4pm.
They will join the ranks of Edward Hill, Alice Horne, Dorothy McGregor and Eunice Whittaker.
Readers of the Accrington Observer submitted the names of the candidates they believe are most worthy of the title.
A judging panel, featuring Observer editor Gareth Tidman, council leader Peter Britcliffe and fellow councillors Miles Parkinson and Brian Roberts, then chose the four from the list of those nominated.
And to mark next year’s Royal Wedding, the panel will unveil a further four people chosen for the honour in the New Year.
Council leader Coun Peter Britcliffe said: "These were very difficult decisions for the panel because of the excellent contribution people have made to the life of the borough. We have decided to name four people who will receive the Freedom of the Borough on December 8 and it is our intention to announce another four people in the New Year."
Observer editor Gareth Tidman said: "The panel had to decide between some excellent candidates.
"We are so grateful to our readers for coming forward in numbers to create such a strong shortlist.
"I am delighted that another four people will receive the honour in the New Year."
n Ken Hargreaves MBE, of Hippings Vale, Oswaldtwistle, is former MP, councillor, Hyndburn mayor and charity patron. He is president of several charities, including Accrington and District Blind Society, Hyndburn Arthritis Care, and DASH. A staunch Catholic, he has been an altar server at St Mary’s Church, Oswaldtwistle, for 63 years and is also a former chairman of Maundy Relief.
Ken, 71, said: "I’m really grateful to receive the Freedom of the Borough and quite honoured really.
"There are so many people who do such good work and it’s a shame that other people can’t get it."
n Irene Barnes, of Durham Drive, Oswaldtwistle, has demonstrated outstanding commitment over 32 years on the committee of Hyndburn Arthritis Group.
Irene, 80, said: "I got really excited when I found out about it. It’s nice to see that someone really appreciates what you are trying to do."
n Winifred (Winnie) Bridges, of Lyndon House, Great Harwood, was nominated for her inspiration in gaining an education late in life. Aged 50, she gained an English degree at Salford University and nine years later an MSc in local history.
She went on to pen two books, teach and become a public speaker on women’s rights.
Winnie, 81, said: "It came as a bit of a shock to find out I had won.
"It was very nice of people to offer me this because I feel that there are a lot of deserving people."
n Leonard Dickinson, of Dill Hall Lane, was a councillor representing Church for 35 years.
He was mayor of Hyndburn from 1986-87 and sat as a magistrate for 11 years.
He continues to devote time to local schools and has been a school governor for 46 years in a row.
Leonard, 76, said: "I’m delighted to get this award. You begin to think when you come off the council after 35 years that people have forgotten you, but I’m pleased that somebody thought of me."