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Markethill family’s pride after learning late Robert Hunter was to receive BEM Honour

Robert Hunter

The family of a Markethill man, who passed away last October, have revealed their pride after it emerged he was to have been awarded a BEM in the King’s Birthday Honours List.

Robert Hunter was a much-loved resident who did so much for the community.

His works, in fact, saw him nominated in 2021 for a People of the Year award.

The Cabinet Office has confirmed that he was to have been awarded the British Empire Medal for Services to the Community.

The father-of-four, along with his wife Eleanor, was a leading light in the local bowling scene for many years.

Indeed, he was also a member of the Markethill Festival Committee, which annually stages a bowling tournament as part of its busy and popular schedule.

During the pandemic, when much of normal life ground to a halt, Robert kept himself busy by taking to the roads and litter-picking as he went, across Markethill and surrounding areas and later far beyond.

Since the 1990s, he was also a keen fundraiser for Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke.

A man with much to offer, a real people person who gave so much and sought little in return, Robert Hunter sadly passed away on October 1, 2023.

The local community turned out to pay their respects to Robert, a father to Robert, Avril, Karen and Raymond, a dear father-in-law to Janice, Allister, David and Larissa and a loving grandfather and great-grandfather.

Indeed, even in his passing, Robert’s family ensured that NI Chest, Heart and Stroke, which he so passionately supported, would be remembered, with donations in lieu to be divided between the charity and Tullyallen Presbyterian Church Building Fund.

As the great and the good were honoured this week, it is only fitting that Robert’s name be included among them, for he too would have featured prominently.

The family have said the intended BEM was a great source of pride to them and they feel it very apt and fitting that he was to have been recognised in this way.

Granddaughter Emma told Armagh I: “We received a letter from the Cabinet Office in London highlighting my grandfather was to be awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to the community in Markethill.

“Unfortunately, as he has passed, the award cannot be accepted on his behalf or printed in the roll as it is a living honour, however the Cabinet Office have given us permission to make it known that he was ‘awarded’ this prestigious honour.”

Indeed, the Cabinet Office have also offered their condolences to the family and commended all that their late father and grandfather did for the town and community he loved so dearly.

The recommendation had been made by the Prime Minister on the advice of the independent Main Honours Committee following an independent assessment process.

The letter had been sent to see if the BEM would have been accepted, but sadly the Hunter family had to inform that Robert had passed away.

The Cabinet Office responded to offer “sincere condolences on the news of the death of your grandfather”.

And the communication added: “Whilst it is unfortunately not possible for your grandfather’s BEM to be awarded – the Order of the British Empire is a living Order in which membership ceases on death – I hope it will bring you some comfort to have confirmation of the high esteem in which he was held.

“He was known for his voluntary commitment with the Markethill Outdoor Bowling Club over many years, and especially as organiser of an annual indoor bowling competition in conjunction with the Markethill Festival, raising tens of thousands of pounds for the NI Chest, Heart and Stroke Association.

“He was also noted for his voluntary litter-picking which encouraged others to be considerate of the environment and benefitted the community as a whole.

“Whilst your grandfather’s name cannot be included in the List that will be published in June because we do not know if he would have accepted the award, if you wish to make people aware that the offer of the BEM was made to him, please do so.”

For that reason, we at Armagh I are delighted to share the news of an award which was to have been made to one so deserving and sincerely hope that it does indeed bring enduring ease and comfort to Robert’s family on the loss of such a remarkable man.

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