Wirral charity receives The King’s Award for Voluntary Service

Wirral charity the Friends of Flaybrick has received The King’s Award for Voluntary Service (KAVS).

It is the highest award that a local voluntary group can receive in the UK, and it is equivalent to an MBE. The Friends of Flaybrick is one of 262 local charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups from across the country to receive the prestigious award this year.

QAVS, as it was originally named, was created in 2002 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. Following his coming to the throne last year, King Charles III emphasised his desire to continue the award. Representatives of the Friends of Flaybrick will receive the KAVS crystal and certificate from Mark Blundell who is the Lord-Lieutenant of Merseyside and the King’s representative in the county, early in 2024.

The Friends of Flaybrick was established in 1993 by John Moffat, who today works as the secretary of the group, with the intent of bringing Flaybrick Memorial Gardens back into the community, and members and volunteers have worked hard ever since to achieve that aim.

Originally named Birkenhead Cemetery upon its establishment in May 1864, and then renamed Flaybrick Cemetery in 1955, the Friends succeeded in getting the site redesignated to Flaybrick Memorial Gardens in 1995.

In 2004, the Friends secured Flaybrick’s status as a Significant Cemetery in Europe, and in 2010 it became part of the European Cemeteries Route.

In more recent years, major works have taken place to partially restore the ruined chapels after Wirral Council was able to secure matched grant funding from Historic England.

The memorial gardens is the final resting place of more than 100,000 people. Many of those buried there are well-known public figures from Birkenhead’s history including Charles Thompson, Mary Ann Mercer, who was both the first female mayor and the first socialist mayor of Birkenhead, and William Jackson, a former railway entrepreneur and Liberal Member of Parliament who, alongside John Laird, is considered one of the most influential of all of Birkenhead’s founding fathers.

Flaybrick also contains the war graves of more than 220 Commonwealth service personnel of both world wars.

Upon learning of the Friends of Flaybrick’s success, Chair of the group, Rob Dolphin, said, “It is my great joy and honour to accept the award on behalf of our charity. We have such a wonderful, hard-working group of volunteers with a range of skills and abilities.

“This award gives true recognition to all members and volunteers, both past and present.

“I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of the group, to say thank you to the people of Wirral and beyond who support us in all weathers and attend our guided walks, services of remembrance and open days in great numbers.”

The Friends of Flaybrick has also placed on record its thanks to their patron Lord Field of Birkenhead, who served as the town’s Member of Parliament from 1979 to 2019, and who sponsored the charity’s bid for the award.

The charity also expressed thanks to Councillor George Davies, former Mayor of Wirral, and prominent local historian Elizabeth Davey, both of whom provided letters of endorsement. You can find out more information about the Friends of Flaybrick via their website www.flaybrick.org

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