Three honoured in New Year list

OBE and MBEs for locals

THREE locals have received awards in the New Year's Honours List

Falkirk Council chief executive Mary Pitcaithly received an OBE for services to local government; Robert Callahan was given an MBE for services to gymnastics; and Tornado pilot John Cochrane was awarded an MBE for services to the Armed Forces.

MARY PITCAITHLY, pictured top, has been chief executive of Falkirk Council for six years.

Born in Camelon, Mrs Pitcaithly (nee Hall) was educated at Falkirk High School before studying for an Honours degree in Law at Edinburgh University. She joined Falkirk District Council in 1980 as a solicitor having working in the private sector. She was appointed assistant to chief executive Walter Weir in 1995 after spending six years as a depute director of law at the former Falkirk District Council.

When Mrs Pitcaithly (48) took over over from Mr Weir at the end of May 1998, she was the first woman to hold the post of chief executive in one of the 32 Scottish councils and, at 41, one of the youngest appointed to such a senior post.

Mrs Pitcaithly lives with teenage daughter Sarah, a pupil at Falkirk High, in Greenhorn's Well Drive, Falkirk. Mary was married to the late Euan Pitcaithly, chief photographer of The Falkirk Herald, who died in April 2001.

Surprised at receiving the honour, she added: "It is also a reflection on the hard work put in by all Falkirk Council's staff for the services they provide to the residents of the district."

ROBERT CALLAHAN (60), centre, became involved in gymnastics in 1978 when he took his younger son Derek along to Grangemouth Gymnastic Club.

A couple of weeks later, asked by coach Jim Bennie if he would like to assist, he began putting mats out, then began coaching.

He established the Falkirk School of Gymnastics in 1986.

The same year, Robert was the competition organiser of the Commonwealth Championships in Falkirk's Coasters Arena; organised the first Northern European Gymnastics Championships in 1994 and was competition director for the first Commonwealth Youth Games in Edinburgh in 2002.

Derek was twice Scottish champion, British vault champion, and a Commonwealth Games competitor in 1990 and 1994.

Over the past 20 years, Robert has held vice-presidents posts with the Scottish Gymnastic Association and is currently its finance director.

In 1994, Robert (60) took early retirement from Avecia and, together with his wife Jean, ran the Falkirk gym full-time.

Robert and Jean, of Ben-Ann, Park Avenue, Brightons, have two sons, David (36) and Derek (33); and four grandsons, Stuart, Ross, Aaron and Callum.

HIGH-FLYING Squadron Leader John Cochrane (38) was "gobsmacked, and very surprised" to learn he had been awarded the MBE The first John knew about the honour was on December 30 when a high ranking officer phoned him at his posting with the Ministry of Defence in Bristol to congratulate him on his MBE.

Born and bred in Polmont, John joined the RAF 18 years ago and did his initial training at the Cranwell Officers' College.

After passing his navigators training, John began flying Tornado Ground Attack planes at Marham in Norfolk and for the past seven years has been flying out of RAF Lossiemouth as the depute squadron commander of the 617 Dambusters Squadron.

John was based in Saudi Arabia for two years and last year he completed 17 combat missions during the Iraq Gulf War.

His wife Gillian and children Tarn and Robbie live in Comyn Drive, Wallacestone, while his proud parents, Isobel and John Cochrane, live in Airlie Drive, Polmont.

robert.paul@falkirkherald.co.uk