Aldeburgh Scallop artist Maggi Hambling among Suffolk Day medal recipients
- Credit: SARAH LUCY BROWN
Award recipients from Suffolk spoke of being "overwhelmed" at being honoured for their outstanding contributions in their various fields of work as part of celebrations for Suffolk Day.
An internationally-renowned artist and a breeder of the famous Suffolk Punch horse were among five "truly exceptional" people to receive the county’s highest honour at a ceremony at Framlingham Castle.
Maggi Hambling CBE, who is famous for her Scallop artwork on Aldeburgh beach, and Punch breeder Nigel Oakley were joined by volunteer Boshor Ali, businessman James Buckle and orthopaedic surgeon Dame Clare Marx in receiving the Suffolk Medal.
The honour was launched in March 2019 to champion the exceptional contributions of people in Suffolk and nominations are made by the general public and decided upon by a panel of county leaders.
The Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, Clare, Countess of Euston, presented the medals, which were designed by Maggi Hambling.
She said: “We are honouring people who have made an enormous difference, not just to the county, but also the wider world. It is a great honour for me to present this medal to these very worthy recipients.”
Before the presentations began, students from Framlingham’s Thomas Mills High School read out the Suffolk Day proclamation celebrating the county and some of its famous residents.
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Mr Ali was recognised for his work building community cohesion and addressing the needs of thousands of people in Suffolk regardless of their faith or ethnic origin as secretary of the Shajalal Mosque and Islamic Centre in Ipswich.
Upon receiving his award, he said: “Actually, I don’t know what to say. As you know, I have been doing it for quite a long time, but I didn’t think I had done enough to deserve this prestigious award. I am overwhelmed and so grateful to everybody who has supported me over the last 30 years.”
He added it made "a lot of difference" to know that your work was acknowledged.
Mr Buckle, who is a farmer and philanthropist, was honoured for his work as chairman of Suffolk Community Foundation, which supports thousands of projects being delivered by the county’s charities and community groups.
He said he was "incredibly embarrassed" to receive the investiture, adding: “You spend your life fiddling around and trying to make things better and you hope that it is making things better, so to receive one of these awards gives you encouragement to think that maybe it is making things better.”
Maggi was recognised as an artist, campaigner and philanthropist and joked in her acceptance speech that "it was very nice to have the award back again".
She also reflected on some of the controversy surrounding the Scallop artwork, which was initially criticised by national newspaper The Daily Telegraph, but now receives more positive reviews as one of the main "things to be done".
She also sparked laughter among the gathered crowd by reflecting on the different uses for the installation, which included eating fish and chips on it.
“It is very user-friendly,” she quipped.
Dame Clare, a former medical leader at Ipswich Hospital, received the award for her work mentoring and inspiring young people to join the medical profession.
She said: “It has been such a privilege to have worked and lived in Suffolk all these years and today is a particularly joyous day.”
Mr Oakley’s lifelong passion has been to fight for the survival of the Suffolk Punch breed, starting from a smallholding at Withersfield before moving to Rede Hall Farm Park at Bury St Edmunds, where he increased his stock to 16 and produced a further 59 foals.
He said his family "came first, but the Suffolk horse came second" and he reflected on the "wonderful life" he had with the horses and how privileged he was to live in the county.
“It is a wonderful day for the county. There is a lot to be said for the people of Suffolk and God willing, there will be many more of these days to come,” he added.