A WOMAN from Grays has been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to music in the Queen’s New Year’s honours.
Sheila Hatcher of Churchill Road, Grays, who turns 65 today, received a letter informing her the role she has played with the Dagenham Girl Pipers for more than half a century has been recognised.
The list of those included in the New Year’s Honours was released on Saturday.
Mrs Hatcher joined the female bagpipe marching group aged 11 in 1958.
She has held every rank of office and learned every discipline, gaining experience that she has continually passed onto new generations of pipers.
The Pipers have travelled the world, performing in the USA, Middle East, Europe and South America.
Mrs Hatcher also visited Singapore in 1967 and trained 30 girls who had never danced or played an instrument before, which after six months led to the creation of the Singapore Girl Pipers.
Under Mrs Hatcher’s leadership, the Dagenham Pipers performed for the Queen at the Royal Variety Show and marched in the Lord Mayor’s Parade.
On opening the letter which was sent by instruction of David Cameron, the prime minister, Mrs Hatcher was shocked.
She said: “It was a complete surprise to me. It’s a great thrill and i’m just amazed and over-joyed.
“I’ve loved every moment of being with the Pipers and i’m still running it.
The girls are fantastic, they’re more like sisters. It’s a lovely feeling.
“I’m very nervous about the ceremony, but I haven’t really had time to think about it!
“I have no idea on the presentation ceremony yet as I have not been told only that it will be announced in the New Years Honours List.
“All I do know is that the official letter says we will also get an invitation to a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace too.”
Mrs Hatcher, who moved to Grays 29 years ago, still attends all of the shows and is an important part of the Dagenham Girl Pipers, who are an institution in the town located just a few miles along the A13 from Thurrock.