Kenilworth Rotarian awarded British Empire Medal

Phil Highley, a Kenilworth Rotarian, has been awarded the British Empire Medal in the latest New Year Honours list.''Pictured: Phil Highley NNL-160501-225903009
Phil Highley, a Kenilworth Rotarian, has been awarded the British Empire Medal in the latest New Year Honours list.''Pictured: Phil Highley NNL-160501-225903009

A two-time winner of Kenilworth’s Citizen of the Year award has been honoured with a British Empire Medal after decades of voluntary work in the town’s community.

Philip Highley, 77, has performed voluntary work for several organisations in the town over many years, including Kenilworth Scouts, Kenilworth Rotary, Kenilworth Twinning Association and Talisman Theatre.

It’s nice to be recognised, but it’s not about that. For me, I like to think the world’s a better place from when I got up in the morning.

Philip Highley

Along with winning Kenilworth’s Citizen of the Year award in 2001 and 2009, Philip, a retired financial adviser, organised the Kenilworth Scout and Guides’ annual Gang Show for many years, carried the Olympic Torch during its relay across the country in 2012, and is still a prominent member of Kenilworth Rotary.

He has undertaken several challenges for charity, including embarking on a three-week, 1,200-mile bus journey using only his bus pass, and playing piano for 24 hours at the Waverley Day Centre.

When asked about his thoughts on receiving the medal, he said: “It’s nice to be recognised, but it’s not about that. For me, I like to think the world’s a better place from when I got up in the morning. I also get bored easily.

“I just like being involved in things I suppose. I thought about giving my work up to sit and watch the leaves change colour and drink some wine, but I decided against it.”

Philip got the news of his receiving the medal in November, but the letter was in strict confidence until December 30, meaning he had to keep it a secret from his wife, Kaye, until then.

Kaye had written to the honours committee, who are responsible for awarding BEMs, back in March 2013 to nominate her husband for a medal after many of Philip’s friends at the Talisman Theatre thought his work deserved recognition.

It can take up to 18 months before the committee responds to nominations, so Kaye was eagerly awaiting the post recently.

She said: “We wanted to do something for Philip - he should have got a medal a long time ago really. We got Jeremy Wright to write something supporting his nomination as well.

“We got a phone call about a year ago asking if Phil still does all of his voluntary work, and I said yes. They usually let you know a few months in advance if you are successful, so I started watching the post just in case anything came.

“I remember he disappeared with a letter - I asked him about it and he said it was just something that came for him. I thought it might have been a book for me for Christmas.”

Philip and Kaye have been celebrating since he told her, meaning their Christmas festivities lasted longer than most. Kaye said: “We’ve had a lot of fun since then. All of our friends have pretended to bow to Phil when they see him, and have asked ‘do we have to call you Sir?’”

Philip will be presented with the medal by the Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire, but the date and location has yet to be decided. He is also eligible to attend one of the Queen’s garden parties in the summer.

The BEM was reintroduced in 2012 after a 20-year absence, and is given to people for sustained, local contributions to their communities.