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Awards and Recognitions


A Chat with Shirley Clegg

(PUK Harrogate Membership Secretary)

about her MBE award and her special day at Windsor Castle 

I asked Shirley without preamble, to confirm her MBE was awarded officially for her services to prisoners.

Impertinent WHYs and WHAT FORs soon followed, only to be responded in kind but with poise, class and patience in that the award came as something of a surprise.


A humbling experience and an immense privilege to be recognised in this way, attributing the award to her role as a volunteer Official Prison Visitor (OPV) and her modest assertion that all she does, is to chat with prisoners.


There is chat and there is CHAT. Whilst Shirley may describe what she does as “chat”, I was interested to delve a bit deeper about the importance to prisoners of official prison visitors, and why such a service might be recognised with the award of MBE.


Shirley explained that she has visited some prisoners who rarely, if ever, have visits from friends or family members.  As an official prison visitor, she is sometimes the only contact a prisoner has with the outside world.

Her regular visits as an OPV and her 'chats' to prisoners are completely confidential and independent of the prison authority.


Over a period of 3 decades, working in sometimes challenging circumstances, chatting informally can make a difference in the rehabilitation of many inmates, preparing some of these arguably marginalised people in society for life after prison.


Shirley's definition of “chat” in this context is so disproportionally understated in terms of social values, the contribution to society and the expertise she brings to the table to the prison services. The modesty of this lady speaks volumes about Shirley Clegg MBE.


Her achievement is deservedly recognised by the award of MBE. And celebrate her achievement she did. She did it her way when she was invited to receive her MBE in person at Windsor Castle on 30th November 2021.


Shirley’s account of the day: 


It was a splendid day.  The day was made extra special as my children, Timothy and Hilary, came with me, though only Hilary could come and witness the investiture because only one guest is allowed.  My only regret is that Don my husband wasn't here with me. He would have been very proud.

We travelled together as a family to Windsor the day before and stayed in a nice, centrally-located hotel. It was fun to travel together, with Timothy behind the wheel, making good time down the motorway, in plenty of time for dinner.  We indulged in some good Italian food that evening, with a glass of champagne as an aperitif, wine with the dinner, and a nightcap back at the hotel before bed!

The morning of the big day, we were driven by my son up the Long Walk, a very long, straight road through the Windsor Great Park up to the gates of Windsor Castle.  At the gates we were met by a minibus which took us into the quadrangle of the Windsor Castle itself.

Like mother like daughter, completely out of character of the Cleggs, the excitement got the better of us both, and we just had to spend a Royal penny before making our way to the Royal Apartments. The ladies’ cloakrooms were very smart with a bowl of flowers and plenty of mirrors and seats for those last minute checks of outfits, hair and make-up.

The whole morning worked like clockwork.  There were many attendants to show us the way, and explain what we needed to do, including some in formal military dress.  We were allocated a specific room for a briefing, and after waiting with a few other people for a short while, an immaculately-dressed, uniformed man, came in to address us. He told us that we would receive our honours from the Princess Royal, Princess Anne and explained the process.  Amongst other things, he explained the etiquette of how to bow or curtsy when greeting the Princess Royal during the ceremony. The curtsy delivered by this gentleman was a particularly delightful sight to behold.


Before we knew it, we were led to a Chamber attended by the Yeomen of the Guard.  There was an chamber orchestra playing classical music, in one corner of the room.


When my turn came, I did a discreet bow and had a brief chat with Princess Anne who surprisingly remembered me from previous meetings. I received my MBE Insignia and walked backwards two steps without any assistance (Thanks Vicki). After the formalities, there was an opportunity for photos in the lovely sunny quadrangle. Then we were taken by minibus down to another entrance next to St George’s chapel.  


My son came to collect us and we went for a celebratory champagne lunch at the Sir Christopher Wren hotel, by the river.  We were able to watch the swans on the river, and also some young rowers out training, before heading back to our hotel for a rest.  In the evening we had a lovely meal at a local French restaurant, followed by a good night’s sleep, before heading home to Yorkshire the next morning, after what was a very good family day out.


A day I will never forget.


(Mrs. K.S. Clegg, MBE)

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