Doctor and midwife among those honoured in New Year’s Honours List

Vera Kelso MBE.
Vera Kelso MBE.

A LEADING Dungannon midwife who has championed the health of babies and their mums for decades, and a local GP whose career has seen him conduct an autopsy on the famous Egyptian mummy at the Ulster Museum, are among four people from the area who have been recognised in the New Year’s Honours List.

Vera Kelso and Moy GP, Dr Gerry Millar, were awarded the MBE along with Jennifer Eitel, Chair of the Board of Governors with Dungannon Nursery and Sperrinview Special Schools, and Kenneth Sharkey, local farmer and member of the Livestock and Meat Commission.

The commitment of Ethel McIvor, Leader of the Lollipop Playgroup in Donaghmore, to the development of early years education, meanwhile, was honoured with the British Empire Medal (BEM).

Speaking to the Tyrone Times about the honour, Vera Kelso described how the award was “the icing on the cake” following her recent retirement from midwifery.

After beginning her career at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, Vera worked for 25 years as a community midwife in the Dungannon area, where she became known for her promotion of breastfeeding as well as encouraging local mothers to make donations to Milk Banks to help premature and sick babies.

On the subject of her MBE, Vera said: “I have been absolutely thrilled! I keep saying to everybody that I’ve also been very emotional so there have been plenty of tears!

“It is just so nice for my work to be recognised. I have had a very fulfilling career and have only recently retired, so it has certainly been the icing on the cake to receive this honour.”

Vera described as a “real privilege” being able to care for countless mums and babies in the Dungannon area during the course of her career, adding: “I absolutely loved my job, because when a girl takes home her baby, especially for the first time, it’s a bit daunting, so it was lovely to go in and support them and encourage them.

“I still meet many of the mums when I’m out shopping, in fact some of the babies I visited are now having babies of their own! My own daughters refuse to come to the supermarket with me now because they say it always takes so long as I usually bump into someone I know!

“I am thoroughly enjoying my retirement and the announcement of the MBE has just been overwhelming. It was a total surprise to me; I arrived home one day to find the letter and between laughing and crying, I didn’t know what to do!

“And of course, I couldn’t share my good news with anyone so I had to keep it all a secret. I would really like to accept the award on behalf of my work colleagues, they have all been really great to work with. We had a great time.”

Vera and her family are now looking forward to enjoying a memorable day to Buckingham Palace within the next five months, when she will be presented with her prestigious honour.

Meanwhile, Dr Gerry Millar, a GP who runs a practice in the village of Moy with his wife, has also been honoured for his achievements in the medical profession.

Dr Millar, who in October 2009 conducted an autopsy on the Egyptian mummy, Takabuti, was the first Macmillan facilitator in cancer and palliative care in Northern Ireland and he leads on early cancer diagnosis initiatives through Southern Trust Cancer Services.

He is currently working on projects to help cancer patients and carers with depression as well as a project to boost early detection of mouth cancer.

Dr Millar said of the honour: “The goal of our palliative care efforts is to improve the quality of life, by increasing comfort, promoting dignity and providing a support system to the person who is ill and those close to them.

“I am always deeply impressed by the quiet courage, of all the cancer patients I have met over the years. I feel a great responsibility not to let them and their families face this trial alone. [Receiving the MBE] is a great honour and I am very pleased.”