THEY have worked tirelessly to improve the lives of thousands of children.

And now Carterton couple Graham and Pauline Evans have each been awarded British Empire Medals in the Queen’s New Year Honours list for their contributions as volunteers.

The grandparents of four together established the Carterton, Witney and District branch of Save the Children in 1973 and have since raised more than £1.2m and helped thousands of children.

Mr Evans, 73, said they were very surprised at the award and added: “It’s just staggering and it came out of the blue. We have just celebrated the branch’s 40th birthday and that was really nice. It is great to be recognised for the money we have helped raise in that time.”

They were among 29 people across Oxfordshire to be named on the New Year’s Honours list to receive various awards from the Queen.

Others in the county include founder of Oxford Philomusica Marios Papadopoulos, who was made an MBE for his services to music in Oxford, and swimming teacher Brian Wiggins from Bicester who will receive a BEM for services to amateur swimming across the county.

Mr and Mrs Evans, who live in Lipscombe Place, Carterton, were among two of nine people who were listed to receive British Empire Medals.

They have taken on various roles within the Save the Children branch, including chairman, vice chairman, secretary and press officer.

Mr Evans said: “I’m glad we decided to set it up all those years ago, as we have managed to raise so much for the cause and it has played a big part in our lives.”

He said he decided to set up the branch when he was a youth officer in West Oxfordshire after a meeting with the area organiser of the charity for Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire and because it had always been his favourite charity.

Since its foundation, the couple – who have two children Sally, 44 and David, 40 – have helped set up the May Day Fair in Carterton, which has run for the last 30 years, and established links with the Williams Formula One team in Grove, leading to the raising of £15,500 from two gala dinners and dances.

Other memorable fundraisers include an antiques auction hosted by BBC expert Jonty Hearnden two years ago.

Mrs Evans, 69, a former primary school teacher at Carterton County Primary School for 23 years, visited Liberia this summer to see how Save the Children improves healthcare and prevents deaths.

She said: “I am bit overwhelmed really. It’s really exciting and I am very surprised. The town has been amazing and I am grateful to the people who have supported us.

“We were told about it in mid-November via a letter from the Cabinet office. We were each given a separate envelope and had to keep the news very quiet. It’s been quite easy as I just put it out of my mind.”

Martin Harris is also awarded a BEM for services to conservation and the community in Horspath, where he has lived for the past 40 years.

He said: “I have been aware of the forthcoming award of this honour for the past month, and I have kept it absolutely confidential. It is really very heart-warming for me to learn that people in Horspath have recommended me for it.”

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  • Simon Mort

Simon Mort, 72, of Abingdon Road, Oxford, has been awarded an OBE for his voluntary work on the Conservative Party Disciplinary Committee.

He said: “It really was a big surprise. I have been in the Conservative Party since 1980 and have been involved in lots of different aspects.

“I am really pleased that David Cameron is being so supportive of those who do voluntary work, and of those who volunteer in a political manner.”