Dungannon man Tommy Conlon was “totally amazed” to have been awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s birthday honours list for services to the environment and angling.
The Tyrone Times correspondent has been writing for the paper since it was founded in 1994, and has credited both this title and the Tyrone Courier for making the award possible.
“I came from the top of Ann Street, where when you put the light out at night there was mice and cockroaches running about the floor,” he explained.
“The water tap was outside the house and the toilet was outside the house - and that’s the background I came from and that’s what I want known.
“I had no education - and the papers gave me an education - were it not for them this would not have been possible today,” he said.
Dubbed “the unofficial environmental protector of the flora and fauna of the waterways and lakes for the counties of Tyrone, Fermanagh, Armagh and Derry”, 80-year-old Tommy said he is aware some people will not approve of the award.
But added: “My family made the decision for me because they were that happy.
“I thank the people wholeheartedly that put my name forward for it.
“When I lifted that letter of David Cameron’s I was totally amazed, but I want to make it clear that anything I did, I didn’t do it for rewards,” he added.
“I did it for the good of the environment, fishing and angling.
“Some people would take the wrong way because of the reward that it is,” he said adding that he was happy to accept the BEM because it recognises the environmental work that has been his life - “and the reward only adds to it”.
Now he says people are calling him “Sir Tommy”.