New Year’s Honours List: Fylde coast stalwarts honoured by The Queen

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Two Fylde coast stalwarts of the charity dedicated to saving lives at sea are among the recipients of awards in the New Year’s Honours List.


Dorothy Charnley, 89, who has run the RNLI shop at Blackpool for more than 20 years and continues to play a very active part, is awarded the British Empire Medal for services to the RNLI and charity,as is David Forshaw, 74, deputy launching authority (DLA) and press officer for the RNLI at Lytham and St Annes, who has been a volunteer for 37 years.

The BEM is also awarded to Rev Dr Susan Salt, a curate of the Church of England Blackburn Diocese Fellside Team Ministry, who is recognised after returning to the frontline at Blackpool Victora Hospital during the height of the pandemic in 2020.

Meanwhile, Dr Sheila Kanani, 39, from St Annes, who is education, outreach and diversity manager for the Royal Astronomical Society, is awarded the MBE for services to astronomy and to diversity in physics.

Dorothy Charnley BEM at the RNLI shop in Blackpool

Dorothy Charnley BEM at the RNLI shop in Blackpool

Kevin McGee. former chief executive of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, now in charge of the Trusts in East Lancashire and Preston, is awarded an OBE for services to the NHS, while Wendy Casson, lately Head Teacher, Educational Diversity, Blackpool is awarded an MBE for services to education.

Dorothy, of Ribble Road, Blackpool, joined the RNLI in 1998 following seven years in India where she was a teacher.

During her time at the site on Central Promenade, she has helped create an education centre there, enabling thousands of people to find out more about water safety and the RNLI’s lifesaving service.

She has mentored, trained and managed more than 100 volunteers, personally volunteered for more than 4,000 days in the shop and led her team to more than £1m for the Institution.

David Forshaw BEM at the RNLI boathouse in St Annes

David Forshaw BEM at the RNLI boathouse in St Annes

During the Covid pandemic, Dorothy ensured the six shops in the region were all in regular contact, sharing her expertise and helping through the stock transfer of popular items.

She has supported two new shop managers who have been appointed in the last 12 months and used lockdown as a time to actively recruit new volunteers and ensure the shop’s readiness for re-opening with the easing of restrictions.

Dorothy has also turned her skills to supporting the station in other ways, working closely with the Lifeboat Press Officer to promote the ‘Blackpool Appeal’ in 2020, to fund a new D-Class Lifeboat, reaching the £52,000 target on schedule.

She said: “I really couldn’t believe it when I got the letter to say I was to receive the BEM – my first thought was that it was a scam – you can’t be too careful.

Rev Dr Susan Salt BEM

Rev Dr Susan Salt BEM

“But I’m absolutely delighted. I think its is important to do all I can for the RNLI – it’s such an important cause in seaside communities such as ours and entirely reliant on donations and bequests.

“The aim has been to make the shop some where people want to come and look inside and I thoroughly enjoy doing what I can to help such a vital charity.”

David is number two to the lifeboat operations manager at Lytham and St Annes and contributes to operational, leadership, fundraising and administrative activities.

He has served no fewer than four lifeboat operations managers, six coxswains and the crews of five classes of all-weather lifeboat during his time at the station and in his role as DLA, he has established working practices and operating procedures that ensure his team of shore crew are fully equipped to deal with the launch and recovery of the lifeboat, sometimes several miles from a safe haven themselves while under inhospitable weather conditions.

Dr Sheila Kanani MBE

Dr Sheila Kanani MBE

As well as making a significant contribution to the RNLI’s profile in his press officer role, David has been a key contributor to the many fundraising successes at Lytham and St Annes, including the Shannon appeal which raised £300,000 towards the cost of the station’s current lifeboat, Barbara Anne.

During the pandemic he supported the local fundraising branches to find alternative ways of raising funds through initiatives such as transitioning the annual Leg-it for Lytham fun run into a month-long event run by individuals at a time of their choice.

He directly supported the fundraising branch in raising more than £100,000 in 2020 and was instrumental in establishing the Lytham Lifeboat Museum which ran for 10 years under RNLI management before being transferred into the care of Lytham Heritage.

David is an active member of the Lifeboat Enthusiasts’ Society and he continues to welcome visitors to the station and give talks to local groups, always donating his fee to the RNLI.

His wife Sue, a former teacher, is chairman of the Lytham Heritage Society and David said of his BEM award: “I’m just pleased for the family and grateful for all the support from Sue and everyone and proud for the station, all the crew and everyone who contributes to the service dedicated to saving lives at sea.”

Rev Dr Susan Salt, with decades of medical experience before joining the ministry, worked for nearly three months in the chaplaincy at Blackpool Victoria Hospital at the height of the pandemic.

Kevin McGee OBE

Kevin McGee OBE

She focussed much of her time on supporting the Intensive Care Unit, ministering to patients and fellow clinicians, after receiving a plea to return from the NHS.

At the time of her return to the medical frontline, she was also a member of the Blackburn Diocese Coronavirus Task Group, chaired by the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Rev Philip North, which is managing the Diocesan response to coronavirus. Susan continues to support the group to this day as the pandemic continues.

Susan spent more than 30 years as a physician before becoming a deacon and then a Priest in Blackburn Diocese in 2019/20. She was medical director of the Fylde Coast’s Trinity Hospice from 2007 to 2019.

She made the decision to rejoin the team at Blackpool Teaching Hospital, where she had previously, and very recently, worked as a palliative medicine consultant, with the aim of treating victims of the virus and supporting the staff working under very difficult conditions in the first stages of the pandemic.

News about the honour came on November 26, although had to be kept quiet until now. Susan said: “It was a double pleasure as I heard on the same day as my daughter’s 22nd birthday.”

Explaining what her role at the Blackpool Victoria Hospital from April 2020 involved, she said: “I helped with the clinical work of tending to very seriously ill patients and ended up supporting the hospital chaplaincy and the ICU staff by acting as a sounding board for their anxieties and issues in that terribly difficult time.

“When the email came from the General Medical Council asking for former doctors to go back in and help, I thought and prayed long and hard. There was a nagging voice saying ‘you could and you should…’.

“I felt I could not leave my former colleagues and the brave staff of the hospital struggling to cope with what was a dreadful and challenging situation. So, I asked my parish priest, Rev. Stephen Cooper and Bishop Philip to support my decision to go back, which they did straightaway.”

To protect her family and friends Susan went to live in hospital accommodation for the duration of her work in Blackpool.

While there, she was instrumental in setting up a bereavement support service for the hospital trust, putting together a series of bereavement support boxes for staff in all wards looking after the desperately ill, and providing mobile phones for all wards in the hospital.

That helped staff to support victims’ families as more patients died from Covid at the height of the first wave.

Susan explained: “I was able to combine my work as a priest with my work at the hospital, giving support and counselling to bereaved relatives on the telephone. It was dreadful – so many deeply upset and traumatised family members unable to be there in person as their loved ones passed away.”

Gradually Susan helped to re-establish a rhythm and a coping structure for the chaplaincy and her clinical colleagues at the hospital and, as the numbers of severely ill and dying began to go down in June 2020, she left Blackpool and returned to her parish.

Reflecting on the pandemic, Susan said: “It has forced us all, whoever we are, to pause in different ways, to consider how we do things differently and look after one another differently.

“For me, I have been so moved by the willingness of people, in many cases complete strangers, to work together for the common good.”

Dr Sheila Kanani, originally from London but now living in St Annes with her husband Jaz and two young children, is the Royal Astronomical Society’s first education, outreach and diversity officer, has partnered with stakeholders such as the National Autistic Society, Girlguiding UK and The Princes Trust and is one of 21 WISE (Women into Science and Engineering) ambassadors.

In 2012, she co-founded the STEMMsisters charity with the aim of connecting, inspiring and empowering people from communities which may not be able to access STEMM (science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine) subjects.

She established a RAS mentoring scheme to support people with barriers to progress including those from areas of socioeconomic deprivation and with mental health issues.

Sheila volunteers on local and national media and presented the BBC’s ‘Wonders of the Moon’ programme and has written five non-fiction books for children.

They include ‘How to be an Astronaut’, which advocates a range of jobs that support space exploration to ages seven to 11 and was shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards 2020.

Prior to Joining RAS, Sheila was a physics teacher and was awarded the 2014 Technology Award in recognition of her commitment to enthuse disengaged students into science.

She won Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement 2020 and she also won Arthur C Clarke Space Achievement Award for Education and Outreach 2020.

She said she was “gobsmacked” at first hearing of her honour. “I was shocked initially and wondered who had nominated me to be honoured for just doing my day job – a job I love and am really passionate about,” she said. “Of course I am  delighted.”