Thursday, May 30, 2024


A LOCAL teenager is the youngest person to receive recognition in the 2023 New Year Honours List. Eighteen-year-old Dara McAnulty, the award-winning author, received his BEM (Medallist of the Order of the British Empire) award for services to the environment and to people with autism.

Other local people who feature in the latest New Year Honours List include retired Seaforde nurse Lynn Green, who received a BEM for services to emergency nursing, and Maria Jennings, who received a CBE for services to public health. “I feel incredibly proud and grateful for this honour,” Dara told the Mourne Observer this week. “I rarely feel like my work is actually making a true difference to society, but as the BEM is for meritorious service, it shows that my work is properly serving others and our planet as a whole.”

Annalong resident Dara said, in a post on his Facebook page, that he was “delighted and astonished to be the youngest recipient in the first New Year’s Honours List awarded by King Charles III, a wonderful supporter of nature and young people.” “I believe the recognition encourages other young people that their voices are worthy and will be heard,” he said. “Thank you so much to everyone who has already extended their congratulations! I’m so chuffed! Thank you everyone for the incredible support I’ve been shown over the years. I couldn’t continue my work without the encouragement and positivity I receive from so many – especially my brilliant family!”

Dara, who is in his first year of studying Biological Natural Sciences at Queen’s College, Cambridge, is also a past pupil of Shimna Integrated College in Newcastle, where he helped start the school’s Roots and Shoots Club. Dara is the author of three books: ‘Diary of a Young Naturalist’, ‘Wild Child: A Journey Though Nature’ and ‘A Wild Child’s Book of Birds’.

When he is not writing or studying, Dara says he also enjoys rowing, climbing walls and playing Dungeons and Dragons with his friends at university. Dara has already received a variety of congratulations online for his BEM, including from his publisher MacMillan Children’s Books, who said they are “proud” to publish his books, and from his university’s acting vice-chancellor Dr Anthony Freeling, who said it was “wonderful” to see people associated with the university on the New Year Honours List. Faculty and staff at Shimna Integrated College offered their congratulations too. “Congratulations to Dara on the award of a British Empire Medal in King Charles’ first New Year’s Honours list – no mean feat at the age of 18. It’s a fitting tribute for all of Dara’s environmental campaigning and work on behalf of people with autism,” a spokesperson for the school said. “It caps a fantastic year for Dara, which has included outstanding success in his A Levels and a place at Queen’s College, Cambridge to read Natural Sciences. Well done, Dara. The Shimna community is very proud of you.”

In addition to the BEM, Dara has received a variety of other accolades and awards for his work. Dara received the RSPB Medal in 2019 at the age of 15 for his environmental work and nature advocacy from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. He is also in the 2022 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records for being the youngest ever recipient of the RSPB Medal. Dara won the 2020 Wainwright Prize and a Books are My Bag Readers Award in 2020 in the nonfiction category. Dara was also shortlisted for a Books are My Bag Readers Award in 2021 in the ‘Breakthrough Author’ category. In 2022, Dara received the prestigious ZSL Clarivate Award for Communicating Zoology from the Zoological Society of London for his first book. His second book was shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize for Children’s Nature Writing. He has also received other awards for his conservation work, including a Points of Light Award from 10 Downing Street and awards from the BBC’s ‘Springwatch’ programme and ‘Birdwatch’ magazine.

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