Ballymoney Independent Gateway Club Leader and former Primary School Principle, Mr Stanley Lee, has received an MBE as part of this year’s Queens Birthday Honours list.
Mr Lee a retired Principal, formally of Rasharkin Primary School and current leader of the Ballymoney Independent Gateway Club – for which it is his association with that has resulted in him receiving an MBE for services to people with learning difficulties.
Beginning his teaching career at Rasharkin Primary School in 1975, Mr Lee became a well liked & respected figure at the School and within the wider community.
Speaking to the Ballymoney Bubble about receiving the news, Stanley said: “It came as an email and I thought it was a scam. I will never be any nearer than binning it than I was. It could have just been in the bin.
After realizing that the email was indeed true Stanley described himself as feeling “gobsmacked”when he found out he’d received an MBE saying: “I feel very much honoured that I’ve been the one that has been chosen, for there are so many that are deserving of it.”
Asked was it difficult keeping the secret, he simply said: “My wife already knew of my nomination so I kept it just within my family.”
Stanley hinted that his wife had already knew of his nomination and he suspects that his nomination may have been down to two ladies of a walking club he is involved in. “The two ladies I suspect of nominating myself apparently have been working on this for two years.”
Involved with Gateway for 45 years since 1976, Stanley paid tribute to the late Isa & James McComb whom he knew as a young teenager whilst still at Dalriada when James would offer him a summer job doing a “few wee things around the shed” where he also got to know their children including Junior who had learning difficulties.
Stanley recalls it was Junior who convinced him to get involved with Gateway: “He harped on at me about coming to Gateway and eventually I started going away back in 1976, then based in the old assembly hall in Dalriada.”
After 45 years with Gateway, Stanley hinted at retirement, telling us: “I am 74 this year and I think I’ve done my stint”, but thankfully not just yet saying: “I just first need someone to take over.”
North Antrim MLA, Mervyn Storey congratulate Stanley saying: “I can think of no one more deserving to receive recognition in The Queens Honours than Mr Stanley Lee.
“Stanley has given outstanding service to his local community and further afield. As a school teacher in Rasharkin he was very popular. Parents were assured that while under his control the children were not only being given a very good education but also a role model for them to emulate.
“His work with young people went beyond the classroom as for many years he was involved with Ballymoney Gateway Club. Indeed it was his foresight that saw the establishment of the Club, to enhance the lives of those with physical and learning difficulties. Here Stanley gave undivided devotion to all the members of the club.
“As a public representative I on many occasions saw at first hand the dedication to service that Stanley gave to his local community in Ballymoney. Irrespective of class colour or creed he was tireless in the way that he devoted his time and talents in improving the lives of others.
“In every aspect of his life Stanley was committed to the service of others, in school, in Gateway, in his local Church were he served as Clerk of Session in Garryduff Presbyterian Church for many years.”
Local Councillors have paid tribute to Stanley, with Alderman John Finlay saying: “I am delighted that Mr Stanley Lee, leader of Ballymoney Independent Gateway Club, has been awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
“The Gateway Club provides an excellent service to those who have learning disabilities, and it helps in so many ways to improve their quality of life. Stanley first became involved in the work in the 1970s, first as a helper and since as club leader. He is a key figure in the club and, while his total dedication is already well appreciated by many of us, it is timely and appropriate that it is now being recognised by Her Majesty The Queen. Many congratulations Stanley – your award is richly deserved”.
Councillor Darryl Wilson spoke of his shock at Stanley Lee receiving his MBE saying: “Stanley doesn’t deserve an MBE, Stanley deserves a KNIGHTHOOD.”
Mr Wilson went on to say: “I’ve known Stanley for many, many years now. Stanley was well respected for his decades of work in our School system including a successful spell as a principal in one of our local schools, but for me, Stanley is best known for his tireless, selfless and relentless work with Ballymoney Gateway Club.
“His dedication and devotion to the members of the Gateway Club is glaringly obvious when you experience the love that the members have for Stanley, which is reciprocated tenfold by this gentleman.
“Stanley’s enthusiasm for helping others is no doubt fuelled by his deep Christian faith. A truly humble man, a selfless man, a true Christian man, a non-judgmental man and an unsung superhero in our local community.
“I have no doubt that Stanley will dedicate this accolade to those who helped and assisted in his efforts over the last 5 decades. A man I’m proud to call my friend.
“Stanley, Well done, and well deserved. (it’ll be Sir Stanley next time!)”
Stanley concluded by thanking the many volunteers, supporters and member – past and present – of the Gateway Club. “As far as I am concerned, when I am accepting this MBE its not really for myself, it’s for Ballymoney Gateway Club. The helpers I have are second to none, they all go the extra mile.”
“They have been amazing. I’ve asked them for a lot and anything that has been asked of them, they couldn’t have given any more.”
As far as the members go, speaking with fondness Stanley said: “They’re very loveable. What you see is what you get, if they have anything against you out it comes. I’ve really enjoyed my time with them.”