THEY are the pride of Hungerford and on Monday their unique service to the town was marked.
This year there was a record 17 nominations for the 2014 Freedom of the Town of Hungerford awards.
But in the end, it was Ron Tarry, Robert James and Dr Hugh Pihlens who stepped up to receive the awards from Lt Col Stefan Crossfield of 6 Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) at the Town Hall.
Town mayor Martin Crane, presiding, said the awards were to “recognise the work and service given by so many people” and remarked that “voluntary service is built into the very fabric of the town we love.”
Mr Crane paid tribute to Mr James’ decades of service to the town, particularly to the Town and Manor of Hungerford.
Mr James thanked those who nominated him for the “unique and remarkable award” and said he felt humbled to stand alongside Mr Tarry and Dr Pihlens.
In his acceptance speech Mr James paid particular tribute to Mr Tarry, who served as town mayor twice, once during the tragedy of 1987.
Mr James said: “He showed remarkable leadership and became the voice of Hungerford during the tragedy and its aftermath.”
He added: “He committed himself to dealing with all manner of invasive enquiries from the world’s press and he has continued to do so ever since. He set such a wonderful example.”
Mr James also paid tribute to his mentors at the Town and Manor of Hungerford, to which he has dedicated decades of service, including former clerk John Marshall.
He concluded: “Thanks to those who nominated me for this award - it will be a lifetime’s treasure for me and my family.”
Mr Crane outlined Dr Pihlens’ contributions to civic life, in particular his years as a local GP and in his role as town historian and custodian of the virtual museum.
Dr Pihlens said: “I feel very humbled to be in such wonderful company as these two guys here. I hear there were 17 nominations this year, which is huge. We’re a small town but the fabric is held together by the large number of wonderful volunteers who do so much. I’m genuinely very proud to be a holder of this award. It’s absolutely tremendous and I will treasure it.”
He added: “I love this town and it’s history and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed contributing to it - thank you.”
Of Mr Tarry, Mr Crane said: “Your contribution to this town will go down in history. During the tragedy you showed pride in Hungerford and displayed strength of character and stoicism.”
He also spoke of Mr Tarry “second love” - the town football team.
Mr Tarry, too, spoke of his long standing love of the club of which he is now president.
He was “extremely pleased and honoured to receive this award,” which, he hoped, might allow him to “drive sheep over the bridge or march through the town with fixed bayonet.”