Long-serving councillor, fundraiser and community champion gets MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours

Cllr Caryl Billingham
Cllr Caryl Billingham

A woman who has dedicated herself to her local community for the past 40 years has been awarded an MBE.

Caryl Billingham, from Brackley, has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to the community in her home town.

Councillor Billingham, who was recently elected to be chairman of South Northamptonshire Council for the year, has been a hands-on local and district councillor for 35 years, known for delivering enthusiastic and engaging talks to schoolchildren and constituents. She served on Brackley Town Council for 36 years from 1975 onwards, and was elected Mayor of Brackley in 1979, 1989, 1999, and 2009.

As well as her unpaid mayoral and council work she commits considerable time and effort to charitable causes.

In addition, she is currently chairman of the Brackley United Feoffee Charity and a trustee of both Brackley Cottage Hospital and Thomas Crewe’s Almshouse. She continues to raise funds for Katherine House Hospice and is a member of the committee of the Patients Group at Washington House Surgery. She was a former chairman of Brackley Town Football club. She is still a longstanding member of Brackley Rotary Club and is a trustee of the Homestart Charity.

Councillor Billingham said: “I feel quite emotional about it really.

“I feel proud, I feel honoured, and I think that I’m accepting it more on the behalf of all the people who have helped and supported me in various ways over the many years I’ve been doing these things.

“I could not have done any of it without the help, support and cooperation of family, friends and others.

“I first found out I was to receive the award six weeks ago. And since then I’ve had to keep it to myself.

“It’s been okay – I’ve been counting down the days until I can tell my friends though.

“It’s lovely for Brackley because it gets so few honours and I’ve got Brackley in my heart, and Northamptonshire which also doesn’t get many it seems.

“I don’t do any of this for recognition or awards – I do it to help out other people.”

Councillor Billingham was educated at the High School for Girls in Brackley and then took a degree in modern languages at Coventry University, a course which included spells at the Universities of Toulouse and Granada.

She was brought up in a family business, founded by her great-grand-mother in 1904 and eventually sold by her mother in 1975: a thriving newsagents and tobacconists in a small town where everybody knew everybody else.

Caryl joined the contact lens manufacturing firm of Cantor and Silver, which had relocated from central London, in 1977 as a temp for one month and retired in 2011 as a director after 34 years.