Shirley Clegg MBE

The life & times of Shirley Clegg, MBE.

I was born in Bury in Lancashire, and came to Harrogate in North Yorkshire with my husband when he started his first job here, at ICI in the 1950s.We liked Harrogate a lot and stayed here apart from a two year secondment in Pakistan – quite an adventure. When ICI closed we spent time in Richmond and then Howden in East Yorkshire and on retirement we came back to be amongst many old friends in Harrogate.

I’ve had many interests over the years, including flower arranging, which I was very involved in whilst my children were at school, supporting Parkinsons UK and church committee work. I have always enjoyed committee work and have been on regional and national committees for both the Flower arranging world and the NAOPV, and been on Deanery Synod and Diocesan Synod for the Church of England.

It was whilst living in Howden that the Curate told me about prison visiting and asked if I might be interested. A couple of years later he had his own parishes and had become a part-time chaplain at HMP Full Sutton. He encouraged me to apply to become a prison visitor and after a lengthy process which included security vetting I joined the team of Official Prison Visitors and the rest is history. I have been going regularly to visit inmates there and have seen many people during the last 27 years. Prisoners are all offered a visitor when they first come into prison. Some have family who visit but they can also have a visitor if they wish and that is where the Official Prison Visitors come in. You are told who you will be visiting – many times they get moved on and often at short notice, so then you are allocated a different prisoner to visit.

I have met some splendid men at Full Sutton over the years and I have always found it interesting. Their ages have ranged from the early 20s upwards. I have never asked any of the people I visit what they have done or why they’re in prison. My view is that I go there as their guest and if they want, they can tell me, but I have never asked them, it is not any of my business.

You find some things are quite challenging and there is little you can do to help. If they are ill I cannot do anything but if I have any concerns about someone, I can pass on my concerns to the Liaison Officer for prison visitors who can check if they are OK. More often than not the Liaison Officer is one of the chaplains. Prison visitors are there to take a bit of the outside in and have a chat and perhaps buy a coffee, crisps or biscuits.

I was very surprised indeed to get the letter telling me of the MBE.I must say that I was not sure whether it was a hoax. When I contacted the honours and appointments service I said this and it is apparently a reaction that many people have. It had never occurred to me that my prison visiting would be recognised in this way. Now that I have got over the initial surprise, I feel very excited and privileged to have been given this honour.