A WORKAHOLIC nurse and a dedicated community worker are the first two nominations for our St George’s Day awards scheme to find Hyndburn’s unsung heroes.

Ann Knight, of Emma Street, Accrington, has racked up an incredible 51 years’ service working tirelessly as a nurse at the Royal Blackburn and Pendle Hospitals.

The NHS Trust hands out long-service awards after 25 years’ employment and widow Ann now has two, an achievement so unique that her award was presented to her in person by Trust bosses at midnight while she was working her gruelling night shift.

Ann, 70, was nominated for the Lifetime Achievement Award by her only daughter Janet Ercan, herself a mental health nurse.

Ann, who has smoked 20 cigarettes a day since her teens but is now trying to give up, cannot recall ever having taken a day off sick in her life.

She has worked continuously, apart from three months off for maternity leave and an enforced short break after turning 60, up to which age she worked full-time.

She also cared for her late husband John up to his death 25 years ago, after he suffered kidney failure.

She now works two nights a week – starting at 8pm and going right through until 7.30am – having moved to Pendle, in addition to one night a week at the Barn Fold Nursing Home in Oswaldtwistle.

Ann said: "I suppose I’m a tough cookie and I’m fortunate to never get that ill and not have to let colleagues down. I just carry on with it and I love the job. I always wanted to go into nursing. I think we are able to help people and make a difference in their lives and contribute what we can. It’s all a team effort."

Ann, who spends her spare time catching up on her sleep, shopping with friends and playing the organ, will retire from the NHS Trust later this year.

Since being moved from Blackburn her daily journey has increased from a 10-minute drive to a one-hour bus journey as she won’t drive on the motorway.

She said: "It is a really physical job and these days we haven’t got the same time to spend with the patients because of all the paperwork. We didn’t have that years ago."

But rather than put her feet up she is hoping to double her hours at the nursing home.

Janet said: "Everybody thinks their mum is the best in the world but she’s done so much for people and the patients absolutely love her."

John Drinkwater, 61, of Lindadale Avenue, Accrington, has been a force to be reckoned with in the Fern Gore community for more than five years.

He has been involved in improvement projects including setting up a wildlife area and organising and completing a land reclamation scheme as well as leading the Fern Gore Residents’ Association.

Mr Drinkwater is also the chairman of governors of St Peter’s CE Primary School and the chairman of Hyndburn Soccer Task Force. He is on the committee of Spring Hill Centre and has run six youth football teams for more than 12 years.

He has been nominated for the People’s Choice Award by his wife Jean, who said: "He never asks for acknowledgement for the community work he does. He strongly believes that if a task is worth doing then someone should step up and do it, but if there are no volunteers he is always willing to put himself forward."

Learning of his nomination, Mr Drinkwater said: "I am very surprised. Over the years many awards like these have come up and I have never been put forward before. I am really pleased."

* WE HAVE joined forces with Hyndburn Council to sponsor the St George’s Day Community Awards, designed to reward those who make a special contribution to the borough.

It could be a stalwart charity worker, a long-standing member of a community or sports organisation or someone who goes the extra mile in their working lives – anyone whose efforts benefit the borough.

The awards will be in two categories: a People’s Choice Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award.

And we are asking you, our readers, to send in your nominations.

The awards scheme will climax with a glittering presentation evening in Accrington Town Hall on the evening of St George’s Day, Thursday 23 April.

The winners in the two public categories, and a third for people nominated by area councils, will receive a suitable memento, and there will be a three-course buffet meal and entertainment.

To nominate someone, just fill in the form in this week's Observer (27 March) with a brief explanation as to why you think he or she is worthy of a community award (please attach a separate sheet if necessary).

Closing date is 11 April, after which a shortlist will be compiled by Councillor Britcliffe, Observer Editor Mervyn Kay and community worker Barbara Sharples.

Those shortlisted will be invited to attend the awards ceremony along with three guests.