A COOKSTOWN man has lifted the title of National Standard Bearer, having taken top place in the UK at the competition in Wales.
Norman Espie, a member of Cookstown Royal British Legion, secured first place in the national competition in Llandudno recently.
And it’s a double celebration as Cookstown teenager Steven Parke has become the National Junior Standard Bearer. The Cookstown branch of the Royal British Legion now holds the Senior and Junior Standard Bearer titles.
Norman is no stranger to success, having become the Northern Ireland Standard Bearer in 2008 and the runner-up at province level in the two years following.
In 2011 Norman won the Northern Ireland competition and went on to national level in England where he was placed third.
In 2012 and 2013 Norman clung on to his title in Northern Ireland, and at national level, he became Deputy National Standard Bearer in 2012. He said it was a great honour as this enabled him to take the National Standard on his duties to Thiepval on July 11 and to the Battle of the Somme and the Ulster Tower.
This year, Norman will attend the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, London, as well as parades and church services around Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
He said he wanted to thank Derek Riddell from Cookstown, a previous RBL Standard Bearer for 30 years who trained him. And he also expressed his thanks to Sheila Thompson from Antrim who was a Northern Ireland Standard Bearer for the women’s section.
“Without the help of my family, this journey would have been more difficult,” he added.
Sixteen-year-old Steven Parke joined the Cookstown branch as a youth member in May 2012 and started training for the Northern Ireland Youth competition held in September of that year which he won.
Following his win at the N. Ireland Youth competition, he then went on to win the National Youth event held in Nottingham in April. And from there, it was on to the National Conference in May in Llandudno to receive the National Youth Standard, along with Norman.
Steven will also be attending the Festival of Remembrance in Belfast and London.
He said he has enjoyed his year with the Legion and looks forward to attending the various functions.
Ulster Unionist MLA Sandra Overend said she wanted to congratulate Norman and Steven.
“The commitment and enthusiasm that Norman and Steven have displayed is a credit to the Royal British Legion in Cookstown, and I hope that this unparalleled success can continue,” she said.