Ruby honoured at 92 for hospice work

Ninety-two-year-old Ruby Parkes reads the letter informing her of the honour Ninety-two-year-old Ruby Parkes reads the letter informing her of the honour

The oldest recipient on Northern Ireland's New Years Honours list is 92-year-old Ruby Parkes from Belfast's Doagh Road.

She's a sprightly pensioner, a warm and engaging woman in whose kitchen sits the apple tarts she prepared that morning for a bake sale.

It's her lifetime of charity fundraising that earned Ruby the MBE, and in particular, her work for the hospice with which she has a special affinity.

Ruby's daughter Valerie was just 20 when she was diagnosed with a tumour in her kidney.

She was being treated in hospital but wanted to come home and this at a time when end-of-life care was unheard of.

Ruby brought Valerie home to die, and her experience over the next seven weeks impressed upon her the need for families in a similar situation to have as much support as possible.

"I thought, there should be something to help people with this, just the doctor came," she says.

When the hospice opened, Ruby began crocheting blankets for sale and her fundraising efforts went on from there.

Over the years she has raised thousands of pounds for the hospice and other charities she's been involved in for 60 years.

Ruby says she was "shocked" to be given the MBE and when she received the letter from the Cabinet Office in the autumn, she thought "someone was taking the hand out of me".

"I've been doing things for a long time and I just thought it was my duty to do it," she said.

Now Ruby has a big day to look forward to her trip to Buckingham Palace in the spring.

"I'm sure it'll be a big occasion. When I was young I used to sing about inviting the Queen to tea," she said.

"I used to have this wee rhyme and little did I think that at one time I would go to see the Queen."

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