MBE pride for champ of the deaf and ex-Town footballer

Les Townend and wife Christine at Buckingham Palace
Les Townend and wife Christine at Buckingham Palace

A DEAF man from Hucknall and an ex-Hucknall Town footballer were given the royal seal of approval when they visited Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen and pick up MBEs.

Les Townend, who is a communication support worker for Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust, and Morris Samuels, who uses football in a bid to break down gang troubles in Nottinghamshire, were given the prestigious accolades in the Birthday Honours list last year.

Mr Townend (63) was given the MBE in recognition of his work ‘bridging the communication gap’ between deaf patients and staff in his job at Rampton Hospital -- a secure unit for psychiatric patients near Retford.

Mr Samuels (42), who was a player at Watnall Road in the 1990s, is the driving force behind the groundbreaking Unity education programme that uses sport to quash territorial rivalries that often lead to gun and knife crime.

“It was a very emotional day,” said Mr Townend, who formerly played cricket for Hucknall.

After collecting the MBE, his thoughts turned to his late mum, Joan, who died a year ago. He said: “I wish she could have been there, she would have been very proud.”

As well as meeting the Queen at the ceremony, Mr Samuels also met famous Tour De France record-breaking cyclist Mark Cavendish, who is the newly-crowned BBC Sports Personality Of the Year.

“I was humbled,” said Mr Samuels, whose Unity project was previously closely linked with the set-up at Hucknall Town. “I really appreciate being given this (the MBE) but what I do is not about me.

“It was an amazing experience. The Queen said to me ‘keep doing this, we need discipline in the communities.”

Mr Townend is profoundly deaf and works with the National High Secure Deaf Service (NHSDS) based at Rampton.

He also works with hearing staff to transform written and promotional items into visual materials and translates sign language into English.

Before joining Rampton, he worked for ten years as a deaf instructor in mainstream schools helping families and children aged up to 16.

He then moved to the Royal School for the Deaf in Derby. Les is also associated with the Nottingham Deaf Community Club.

Mr Samuels founded the Unity scheme in 2005 in response to Nottingham’s rocketing problems with gun crime.

It came in the aftermath of the killing of 14-year-old Danielle Beccan, who was shot dead in 2004 in St Ann’s, where Mr Samuels lives.

The aim of Unity was originally to get young people from Nottingham’s inner-city areas of St Ann’s, Radford and The Meadows to play football together. But since then, it has spread across the entire county.

Mr Samuels and his supporters have worked with more than 1,000 11-to-25-year-olds and also provided them with routes into training, employment and education.

OUR PHOTOS show Morris (centre) with some of the Unity players and Les at the Palace with wife Christine