It was a real family occasion as Gordon Speers was presented with the British Empire Medal (BEM), but there was one person missing due to an unavoidable delivery.
Gordon’s daughter Alison gave birth just two days before the ceremony at Hillsborough Castle, with second son Noah weighing in a day early.
Gordon, who was being presented with his award for services to music, said, “She was a bit tearful on the day but as I pointed out, what was happening in her house was much more important.”
Gordon had obtained permission for four people to attend the ceremony with him, rather than the usual three, in case the latest grandchild made an early or late appearance.
In the event, the family, wife Margaret and daughters Caroline McCann and Roslyn Irwin, enjoyed a “super day”.
Gordon was among 27 recipients at the castle to receive an award, with Lord Lieutenant of Armagh, the Earl of Caledon, making the presentation to him.
The 68-year-old has been musical director of Portadown Male Voice Choir for just over 35 years, and before that was a choir member for 15 years.
He has spent 60 years with St Mark’s Church Choir, having started at the age of eight, and has also been musical director of Portadown Ladies’ Choir for the past 23 years.
Said Gordon, “The ceremony took the same form as it does at Buckingham Palace. The same protocol was followed and after the ceremony there was tea and coffee in the drawing room and then they opened the doors out onto the gardens and we had a stroll around.
“The Earl of Caledon commented on my long period of time with the choirs and wonderful service. He was very complimentary and wished me well for many more years to come.”
He added, “It was a super day and my wife and daughters really thought it was something very special that they felt very proud of.”
Gordon has been touched by the messages of support and congratulation he has received since being named in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list. “I have been overwhelmed by the cards and letters from individuals, organisations and politicians,” he said.
And the celebrations aren’t over yet, with Gordon also having been invited to a garden party in Buckingham Palace on June 10. He and wife Margaret are planning to make a holiday of it and spend three nights in London while they are there.
As for his roles in the choirs, he says, “It can be very demanding but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. It has become a way of life.”