Devon shines bright in the New Year Honours list

Ben Fox
Ben Fox

In what would otherwise be a year best forgotten, Devon has shown it continues to harbour some of the United Kingdom’s most special talent.

From contributors in film and culture to those involved in education, agriculture and charities, Devonians born and bred, as well as those who choose to make the county their home, have been recognised for their domestic and international achievements.

One such person recognised is Torridge and West Devon MP, Sir Geoffrey Cox QC (pictured). The former attorney general has received a knighthood for ‘parliamentary and political service’.

Commenting on the award, Mr Cox said: “It was a great privilege to serve as Her Majesty’s Attorney General and Advocate General of Northern Ireland, particularly at a time so critical to the nation’s future, and I am honoured to receive a knighthood for that service.”

He has served as the MP for Torridge and West Devon since May 2005, and served as Attorney General between July 2018 and February 2020, during one of the most difficult periods in British political history.
Another knighthood went to further education commissioner Richard Atkins, who is due to step down early in the new year. He said it recognised the ‘importance and success of all further education and sixth form colleges across our country, as well as my own contributions’.

“I have worked in the college sector for 40 years now and have hugely enjoyed working with staff, students and governors. Colleges can, and do, transform the life chances and career opportunities for their learners; both young people and adults.

‘They are anchor, civic institutions, which enable social and economic mobility for many. Today I am thinking of all of the staff and governors with whom I have worked, and who have helped my professional development as well as about the huge challenges which colleges will face this coming term. I am confident that they will respond as magnificently as they have done since last March.”

For his ‘exceptional and sustained contribution as an icon of British cinematography and a world-renowned contributor to films and culture’, Roger Deakins has also become a Sir. Mr Deakins, who was born in Torquay, was honoured to mark a glittering career in which he won two Oscars and five BAFTAs for an illustrious roll call of credits that includes Blade Runner 2049, True Grit, No Country for Old Men, and the James Bond feature Skyfall.

Despite the critical acclaim of his films, Deakins had received 13 nominations at the Oscars – the first in 1994 for The Shawshank Redemption – but no wins.

He finally won the coveted statuette in 2018 for Blade Runner 2049, returning to the ceremony’s stage in 2020 to collect a gong for the film 1917.
This was many years after he was turned down by the National Film School.

In the sporting world, Exeter Chiefs’ Director of Rugby Rob Baxter and club captain Joe Simmonds received a CBE and MBE respectively for achieving the domestic and European double last season, just a decade after the Chiefs secured promotion into the English top flight for the first time.

“I couldn’t quite work out if it was real or whether it was spam or someone having bit of a prank!” Baxter said. “It turned up by email and not in an official letter. You download it, read it and check who it has been emailed from with a Google search! I was sat there with my wife, both of us in a slightly bemused state. My family are delighted. There’s a bit of surprise. My wife and my family are my biggest supporters. They said ‘well done, well deserved’.

‘There’s a little bit of embarrassment on my
end that I was the guy with the award on the back of the journey the rugby club have had. I see it as a fantastic honour but while I’m the guy who tends to pick up the accolades, I know an awful lot of people have worked extremely hard at the rugby club to make us successful.

‘It started a long time ago and has involved a lot of people. My overriding emotion is to thank them because their dedication and hard work needs recognising.”

Plymouth’s Sharron Robbie also received an MBE for services to apprenticeships and to skills, as part of her role as Managing Director, Devon and Cornwall Training Providers Network.

“So many other people who deserve recognition. I feel very humbled and privileged,” she said. “Teamwork and collaboration have been key this year to our success as TPN so thank you for all your support during such a challenging year!”

In one of the worst years for those in public service, a dedicated police worker from Exmouth has been made an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours. Staff Officer Lindy Woodage has been awarded the accolade for her work supporting the UK in times of crisis over many years, as well as during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel privileged to work for the police service, love what I do, and it is a great honour to be recognised,” Lindy said. “Behind every individual who receives an honour there is a whole team of people. I couldn’t do my job without the amazing people I work with.”

Awards have also been handed out to those who grew up here, such as a prison governor who has been awarded an OBE. Neil Thomas, 40, who grew up on Dartmoor, was given the award for services to the prison and probation service, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under Neil’s watch, as the governor at Stocken Prison in Stretton, not a single inmate of the more than 1,000 there have tested positive for coronavirus disease – despite up to a third of the staff testing positive at any one time, including Neil himself earlier in the year. Neil, who took on the role at Stocken in January 2017, said 2020 had been ‘the hardest year of my life’ but said taking early action in the fight against coronavirus disease had protected not just the prison but the community of Rutland.

“I feel a huge weight of responsibility. If there’s a big outbreak at Stocken it will create a significant issue for the community and affect the numbers for Rutland. There’s been a huge effort at the prison to keep the numbers down and the fact that not a single prisoner has tested positive is a huge testament to my team here.”

Herewith, the full list of Devon recipients:


Richard James ATKINS CBE
Lately Further Education Commissioner, Department for Education; for services to further education; Exeter

The Right Honourable Charles Geoffrey COX QC MP, Member of Parliament for Torridge and West Devon; for parliamentary and political service; Tavistock

Roger DEAKINS CBE, Cinematographer
recognised for his exceptional and sustained contribution as an icon of British cinematography and a world-renowned contributor to films and culture.

Commanders of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)

Principal, Exeter College; for services to education; Exeter
Neil Edward Michael THOMAS
Governor, HM Prison Stocken; for services to HM Prison and Probation Service, particularly during the COVID-19 response; Rutland

Professor Andrew Stuart THOMPSON
Lately Executive Chair, Arts and Humanities Research Council; for services to research;

Officers of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)

Robert Edward John BAXTER
Director of Rugby, Exeter Chiefs; for services to rugby union football; Exeter

Director of Public Affairs and Living Seas, Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts; for services to marine conservation; Plymouth

June Miriam PALMER
Headteacher, Mayfield School, Torquay;
for services to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities; Brixham

Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)

James Michael FORD
Lately foster carer, Plymouth Fostering Services;
for services to fostering; Plymouth

Valerie Teresa FORD
Lately foster carer, Plymouth Fostering Services;
for services to fostering; Plymouth

For services to voluntary fundraising; Barnstaple

Emma Margaret MORRIS
Chief Executive Officer, Stop Abuse For Everyone;
for services to victims of abuse and to charity;
West Hill

Christopher George PHILLIPS
Voluntary pastoral worker, Dame Agnes Weston’s Royal Charity for the Naval Service; for voluntary service to the Royal Navy; Ivybridge

Sharron ROBBIE Managing Director, Devon and Cornwall Training Providers Network; for services to apprenticeships and to skills; Plymouth
Captain, Exeter Chiefs; for services to rugby union football; Exeter

For services to agriculture; Salterton

Karen Hazel WILLIAMS
Foster carer, Plymouth City Council; for services to fostering; Plymouth

Staff Officer, Devon and Cornwall Police; for services to policing and to civil contingency planning, particularly during the COVID-19 response; Exmouth
Irvine Alan WORTHINGTON Founder, Triangle of Care; for services to mental health patients and their carers; Sidmouth

Medallists of the Order of the British Empire (BEM)

Jennifer BLISS
For voluntary service to the Topsham Museum, South Devon; Exeter

Programme Co-ordinator, Science, South Devon College; for services to education; Kingskerswell

Peter John HOSKING
Founder and President, Torbay Prostate Support Association; for services to people with prostate cancer; Paignton

Rachel Mary NICHOLS
For voluntary service to the Topsham Museum, South Devon; Exeter

Christina PEACOCK
For services to boxing; Plymouth

Specialist Team Member, Environment Agency;
for services to prostate cancer awareness;

For services to the community in Newton Abbot;
Newton Abbot

James Michael ZUPPINGER
Trustee, RMA – The Royal Marines Charity;
for services to the Royal Marines during COVID-19; Exmouth

Local Life