CLYDEBANK’S beloved Sister Rita Dawson was officially made a Freeman of West Dunbartonshire at the same time she received her MBE award.

The chief executive of St Margaret of Scotland Hospice was honoured at a special ceremony on Thursday, December 10 where she became one of only a handful of people to receive the highest honour West Dunbartonshire Council can bestow on one of its citizens.

Provost Douglas McAllister presented Sister Rita with a freeman’s ticket - a decorative scroll - to mark her admission to that office.

It was a double celebration for the woman from Tipperary as she was also presented with her MBE medal that was announced as part of the Queen’s Special Honours list earlier this year. Again amongst a select few, Sister Rita was awarded the MBE despite hailing from the Republic of Ireland – a country outsideoutwith the Commonwealth. 

Sister Rita said: “I am delighted to have been made a Freeman of West Dunbartonshire, in addition to receiving the Honour of an MBE from Her Majesty, the Queen.

“It was a wonderful ceremony in the town hall, a wonderfully relaxed night for my family, the Sisters, board of directors and staff, and all the hospice supporters who have given so much to help the hospice over the years. I am grateful to West Dunbartonshire Council for all their support for the hospice and myself over the years – and for rewarding me with this recognition which I share with all those who support the hospice and help it to continue in its work for those who need it.” 

Since joining the hospice in 1986, Sister Rita has helped to raise the millions of pounds needed every year to keep the 58-bed hospice open. The qualified nurse has also overseen the construction of a second floor and the introduction of high-dependency beds for the elderly, as well as a hydrotherapy pool and a hospice restaurant.

She now leads an organisation with well over 150 staff that is open to everyone and offers services including counselling and outpatient facilities as well as end of life care for people with a wide range of medical needs.

Councillors unanimously voted to admit Sister Rita as a Freeman of West Dunbartonshire after a motion was put forward by councillor Marie McNair earlier this year.

She said: “Sister Rita is a remarkable woman. This award is fully deserved and long overdue.

“I know from first-hand experience the high regard that the people of West Dunbartonshire have for Sister Rita Dawson, and all who work at the hospice. It is therefore a fitting tribute that this event takes place in the 65th anniversary of the hospice’s formation in Clydebank.”

Michael Gregory, Lord Lieutenant for Dunbartonshire, and who presented Sister Rita with her MBE, said: “This is a really significant moment in West Dunbartonshire’s history ‒ as far as I am aware, it is the first time ever that an individual has been made a freeman and received an MBE at the same ceremony. 

“These two prestigious honours are testament to Sister Rita’s decades of selfless dedication to looking after people in need of complex and emotionally challenging care. It was my privilege to be part of this recognition of her fantastic work.”