A BORDERS mum has been named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list after organising crucial volunteers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sophie Hamilton, who set up the Peebles COVID-19 Mutual Support Group, is in line for a British Empire Medal.

The support group helped to provide meals, medicine and comfort to vulnerable residents in the town during lockdown.

Ms Hamilton, a mum of four, said news of her award came as a “total shock”.

"That someone had thought to nominate me came as a total surprise,” she said, adding: "I didn't think I was worthy of something like that."

Ms Hamilton, who also works as a community firefighter at Peebles Fire Station, said the last 12 months have been a “busy time”. Last November, she responded to the high school fire and then in March she launched the support group.

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On the support group, she said: "We've been hugely busy – we had to respond really quickly."

And she explained she could not have done any of the work alone.

"It has to be said this was a team effort," she said. "I may have started it, but I couldn't have done it without the team – they all deserve to be recognised."

Ms Hamilton added that although the support group has paused some of its operations, including the phone line, volunteers remain active.

"We're still here if anything happens," Ms Hamilton said.

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When she first created the group, Ms Hamilton used Facebook to put out a request for volunteers and supporters.

Within a week, the group's page had more than 3,000 members and around 350 volunteers had signed up.

"It was really positive seeing a quick response," she said. "I think it really rekindled a sense of community spirit in the town.

"Not that we were lacking community spirit before, but the group helped focus it. People banded together."

As well as receiving support from the local community, Ms Hamilton said her family have backed her work with the support group.

"My children and family have been really supportive," she said. "They didn't realise how much work it was at first but they really support me."

Helping others is something which Ms Hamilton brings to all she does, and contributed to her decision to become a firefighter eight years ago.

She said: "I want to help people – that's what I like to do.

"I want to be the person to help people in a physical or practical way if they're going through something awful.

"[Being a firefighter] can be a physical battle but I wouldn't change a thing."

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Ms Hamilton was also part of the first appliance to reach Peebles High School last November during the fire which caused extensive damage to the school.

"It was a huge incident to deal with," Ms Hamilton said. "We got to the gym hall and the building was glowing.

"We had to get out as the ceiling came in.

"My training kicked in but I had the additional worry having not spoken to my two children at the school to know they were OK."

When the news of her award was made public last week, Ms Hamilton was on a training course with Peebles Fire Station, but she was met with a celebration when she got home.

"We had a mini celebration,” she said. "I came home to flowers and balloons and my parents were at the door."

Ms Hamilton’s BEM citation reads “for services to the community in Peebles during COVID-19”.

Other Borderers featured in the list include:

  • Rick Kenney (Galashiels), president of the Commonwealth Judo Association, for services to judo (OBE)
  • Stephen Winyard (Peebles), chairman of Stobo, for services to business and the community in Peeblesshire (MBE)
  • Peter Stevenson (Selkirk), chief policy advisor for Compassion in World Farming, for services to farm animal welfare (OBE)
  • Alexander Simpson Hogg (Eddleston), chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, for services to gamekeeping in Scotland (MBE)
  • Caroline Brophy-Parkin (Hawick) for services to the community during COVID-19 (MBE)
  • Graham Wilson (Jedburgh), Police Scotland special constable, for services to law and order in the Scottish Borders (BEM)
  • Sharon McKendrick (Coldstream), store manager at Morrisons, for services to the community during COVID-19 (BEM)