North West Wales

New Year Honours: Anglesey school caretaker Bob Owen's MBE

A school caretaker from Anglesey has been awarded an MBE in the New Year Honour list.

Robert Owen is recognised for his services to the community at Holyhead, where he has worked at Llanfawr Primary School for 27 years.

He joins others, including Dr Carl Clowes who receives an OBE for his services to the community.

Dr Clowes' Anglesey home is the official consulate for African nation Lesotho.

Mr Owen said he was "shocked and overwhelmed for myself and the school" when he heard of his honour.

He refuses to acknowledge that what he does is above and beyond his role as caretaker, but modestly agrees that it is thanks to him that the school has a minibus.

"We used to take children in cars to cricket matches or swimming or whatever and you always had to organise four or five cars," he said.

"I took some children in my car to a cricket match and on the way back saw a minibus passing me which belonged to another school.

"I said I must have one for ours, and within four weeks there was a minibus in Llanfawr school," he added.

He said getting involved in the community was a "way of life... that's my nature".

Image caption Carl Clowes says he is the 'only diplomat outside the M4 corridor'

"I've been grateful for the opportunity to be a caretaker here and I always try and find out how the pupils do when they leave.

"I'd like to thank everyone who put my name forward and backed me," he added.

Dr Clowes was instrumental in setting up a link between Lesotho - a landlocked country surrounded by South Africa - and Wales.

He said he was happy the work he did had been recognised.

"I've very appreciative of that because it's a link between two countries, it's unique in the world. It's the only example of a country linking with another country."

He said the link had allowed thousands of exchange visits to be made which had enriched people's lives in both countries.

The situation had been formalised by having a consulate in Wales, he said, and Lesotho's queen and queen mother have been on visits to Wales.

"The fact is this is the only diplomatic mission and I'm the only diplomat, if you like, outside of the M4 corridor, It's something I take great pride in."

Susan Bonner, from Benllech, Anglesey, is honoured with an MBE for voluntary service to the North Wales Wildlife Trust.

Hilary Humphreys from Llanrwst, Conwy, receives an MBE for services to education and sport in north Wales.

There are also MBEs for Deborah Roberts from Abergele, the leader of the 8th Llandudno (Gogarth) Rangers, for services to young people in Conwy and Margaret Thomas from Holyhead, Gwynedd for charitable services in Holyhead.

Rowena Thomas-Breese, 51, from Old Colwyn in Conwy is awarded an MBE for her services to disabled swimming and charitable work.

She said she was "embarrassed... I couldn't think what I'd done," when she heard about the award.

'Learn to curtsey'

"It was a big shock when I realised what it was... I'm never usually stuck for words!" she added.

Mrs Thomas-Breese lost her sight in the early 1990s and had a kidney and pancreas transplant in 1996.

Needing something to get her fitness back, she began swimming and playing 10 pin bowling.

She competes in both in British and World Transplant games, and won a gold and silver medal in the British Transplant Games in 2010.

Mrs Thomas-Breese also finds time to visit local schools to promote the Guide Dogs for the Blind and gives talks and fund raises for Transplant Sport UK.

"I haven't heard of when I'll be receiving my award, but what's worrying me now is that I have to learn to curtsey, which isn't easy with my sense of balance... but it's lovely," she added.

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