New Year's Honours: Residents across Portsmouth area left shocked and overjoyed at being named in Queen's honours

SURPRISED, honoured and privileged were just some of the reactions of the area's individuals that were named on the Queen's New Year's Honours list today.

Saturday, 29th December 2018, 9:50 am
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 11:10 am
Optometrist Mark Esbester has been honoured in the New Year's Honours list for his voluntary eye care work in Africa. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

Five selfless volunteers and charity leaders from the Portsmouth area will be awarded recognition for their dedication in a variety of fields.

For Waterlooville resident, Mark Esbester, it reflected over a decade of eye care work in Africa.

The 64-year-old, who is set to receive an MBE, has served as a team member, leader and student trainer with Vision Aid Overseas (VAO) for 13 years, and plans to continue to do so for as long as possible.

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Optometrist Mark Esbester has been honoured in the New Year's Honours list for his voluntary eye care work in Africa. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

'It was a complete surprise, I had no idea,' he said.'It is nice but I do feel slightly guilty because there lots of of other volunteers overseas doing amazing work.'

During his time Mr Esbester has undertaken over 20 missions to five countries in Africa and has helped over 3,000 patients with their vision. However, he explained that much of the work has changed.

He said: '˜The thing now is that most of our work is about teaching and training people who are health care workers.

'When I started it was about going out and seeing patients and examining their eyes. We hope now that by training health care workers they can treat people themselves. What we really want to do is make it a sustainable eye care system.'

Optometrist Mark Esbester has been honoured in the New Year's Honours list for his voluntary eye care work in Africa. Pictured near his home in Clanfield Picture: Chris Moorhouse

Mr Esbester first volunteered as part of VEO in 2005 in the Gambia.

He added: 'I had gone out before to volunteer and then a colleague from Winchester phoned up and asked about it. I thought it was a really good thing to do.

'Normally we go with half a dozen people and it tends to be different team members each time. We get a lot of new volunteers each year.

'I was in Ghana in September, and I am going to Sierra Leone in February and Zambia later.

Irene Harman BEM - the seventy nine year old from Gosport in Hampshire has been awarded the BEM in The New Year Honours List for her services as an organist to The Royal Navy

'I hope to do it for many years to come.'

Gosport resident Irene Harman has also vowed to keep doing what earnt her a spot on the honours list.

The 79-year-old is due to be awarded a BEM for her voluntary service as an organist for the Royal Navy.

Irene began playing for the Royal Navy in HMS Dolphin in 1967. When HMS Dolphin closed in 1998, she moved with the congregation to the Royal Hospital, Haslar, which was a much larger church and congregation.

Irene Harman BEM - the seventy nine year old from Gosport in Hampshire has been awarded the BEM in The New Year Honours List for her services as an organist to The Royal Navy

Speaking to The News she said: '˜It felt amazing when I found out I was on the list, but I was a bit shocked. I wasn't expecting it at all.'

'˜HMS Dolphin was my main place. I was there for 32 years. I played for many very important services over the years like the funeral of an admiral and lots of weddings. Those were my busiest years.'

For the past 10 years Irene has served as the organist in HMS Sultan and the reformed independent Naval church that meets once a month in the former Royal Hospital.

Reflecting on her time volunteering for the navy she said: '˜I was 27 or 28 when I first played for the navy. My husband Victor served in the navy, he was based there. The chaplain asked if he knew anybody who could play the organ and he said that I could.

'I was terrified, I really was. I used to play for St Faith's Church in Portsmouth when I was 17 but playing for the Dolphin was a big step up. In those days the church the captain and the admiral would attend.

'I will keep playing for as long as. I'm so grateful that I played for the navy. If I hadn't I might never have met so many fantastic people.'