Sister of Mercy, headmaster and two professors put East End on Queen’s List

PUBLISHED: 20:28 17 June 2008 | UPDATED: 13:22 05 October 2010

Sister Christine (left) innundated with Xmas gifts for OAPs and (right) Prof Frances Balkwill

Sister Christine (left) innundated with Xmas gifts for OAPs and (right) Prof Frances Balkwill

THE Sister of Mercy who has cared for the elderly and the lonely in London’s East End for 40 years has been named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Sister Christine Frost has been awarded the MBE for 'voluntary service to children, older adults and to the community.' She joins a distinguished list of notables in East London on the royal Honours List who include two professors from Queen Mary College, one of whom has been knighted, a headmaster and a composer

By Gemma Collins and Mike Brooke

THE Sister of Mercy who has cared for the elderly and the lonely in London’s East End for 40 years has been named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Sister Christine Frost has been awarded the MBE for “voluntary service to children, older adults and to the community in Poplar.”

She joins a distinguished list of notables in East London on the royal Honours List who include two professors from Queen Mary College at Mile End, one of whom has been knighted, a headmaster at Bethnal Green and a Special Constable on duty both in the City of London and in Scotland.

Sister Christine is known in the East End throughout Poplar, Limehouse and the Isle of Dogs for her work at Christmas when she distributes meals to the elderly and the lonely.

She orchestrated a blue parcel’ collection in December, persuading big businesses at Canary Wharf to donate gifts and food to distribute in the community for those spending Christmas alone—and was swamped with the response.

Around 140 bags arrived for her at the Docklands Settlement in Millwall, packed with biscuits, tea, sugar, coffee and other treats which she gave out on her annual hot meals’ run. Another 30 bags went to a pensioners’ sheltered housing scheme.

But the 71-year-old member of East London’s Sisters of Mercy holy order was modest about her MBE.

“It is very much an award for the community,” she told the East London Advertiser. “I wouldn’t be here without them.

“I am not doing anything different from what I should be doing.

“I am a Sister, so I am doing what I vow to do. But this is about the community.”

Sister Christine launched Neighbours in Poplar charity in 1968 for older adults’ to meet their East End neighbours and enjoy outings together.

“It was set up after talking to 70-year-olds who were saying there is no community any more,” she recalls.

“That makes me smile, because people are saying the same thing today.

“But now there is a far greater loneliness in communities.”

She added: “If I had a medal I would give it to the grass-root people who still have their East End spirit that makes you smile, despite all the bad things that go on.”

She also helps youngsters in Blackwall and Limehouse through her Splash’ organisation set up 20 years ago, the South Poplar and Limehouse Action for Secure Housing, where teenagers meet up and enjoy summer holidays away from the East End.


Meanwhile, Queen Mary’s College has picked up double honours’ with two of its professors being included in the Queen’s Birthday List.

Prof Nicholas Wald has been knighted for “services to preventive medicine.”

“I’m delighted the work of my colleagues and I has been recognised,” he said. “This will help raise the public profile of preventive medicine.”

He is internationally renowned for his research as director of the university’s Institute of Preventive Medicine, in pioneering antenatal screening for physical defect in babies and has made discoveries in screening for Down’s Syndrome in early pregnancy.

Many of his findings have been adopted by health agencies worldwide. His book, Antenatal and Neonatal Screening, won first prize for best work in public health’ in a national BMA competition seven years ago.

Another professor at Queen Mary’s, Prof Frances Balkwill, received the OBE “for services to science communication to children.”

She has also written 13 children’s science books, including the series Enjoy Your Cells, but is also known for her biology research into ovarian and skin cancer.

“I am surprised and excited by this award,” she admits. “My work in science communication has been helped enormously by some very talented people.”

She runs the Centre of the Cell science at the world-class Blizard research building in Whitechapel for schoolchildren which conveys the wonder and excitement of science and scientific inquiry’ to youngsters. It engages them at an early age in the field of medical science, encouraging them into further and higher education and to consider careers in biomedicine, science and healthcare.


MBEs also went to Mary Burd, from Dalston, formerly director of Therapies at the East London & City Mental Health Trust “for services to healthcare in East London,” to Ena Fry, project manager at Fostering Network “for services to children in care,” and to Peter Josephs, Outpatient clerk at Barts and The London NHS Trust which runs the Royal London Hospital at Whitechapel and London Chest Hospital at Bethnal Green, “for services to healthcare and to the community in East London.”

The Headteacher at Bethnal Green’s Bonner Primary, Martin Tune, has been awarded the CBE “for services to local and national education.”

He knew about his CBE last month, but was sworn to secrecy until he was named in the Queen’s Birthday List at the weekend.

“I got a letter about three weeks ago, but had to keep it to myself,” he admitted. “It was a relief on Saturday when I could finally talk about it.”

Mr Tune, a national consultant on literacy and numeracy schemes, joined the school as deputy head 17 years ago and has since turned it round to become one of East London’s best GCSE-achieving centres from its previously poor record.

CBEs have also gone to composer, musician and music critic Michael Nyman, from Shoreditch, “for services to music,” and to Mark Haysom, Learning & Skills Council chief executive who lives in Limehouse, “for services to education and training.”

Three women in East London have received the OBE, Lorraine Cavanagh from Poplar “for services to the community in East London,” Margaret Knights from South Hackney who works for HM Revenue & Customs in policy and communications, and Rachel Pinter the Headteacher at Hackney’s Jewish Yesodey Hatorah Girls’ school “for services to education in London.”


Two MBEs have been picked up’ by officers in the City of London Police.

Pc Mark Dilliway helped set up an information scheme where elderly and vulnerable people keep next-of-kin details for use by emergency services, which was identified as excellent practice’ by the Chief Executive of Neighbourhood Watch Schemes and spread across the UK.

Mark has also been working each week with Richard Cloudesley School in Old Street, which caters for children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy or Down’s syndrome.

He set up a programme to teach them about the police and staying safe in the community and has even taken them out to learn about road safety and organized a trip to Wood Street police station.

“I was nervous on my first visit to the school, not knowing what to expect,” he recalls.

“But the children were just as keen as other youngsters to learn about the police.”

The Commandant of the City’s Special Constabulary, Ian Miller, was honoured for 35 years’ service both in London and Tayside in Scotland.

The Home Office gave him unique permission to join the Square Mile’s special constabulary while continuing to serve with Tayside. He does street duty every week in the City and every other weekend in Tayside.

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