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Queen to honor advocate for the disabled

BLACKBURN, England — Brian Holliday of the Blackburn Ward, Preston England Stake, has been recognized in the Queen's Birthday Honors List as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). The award, the second highest of the Order of the British Empire, is for his services to people with disabilities.

Brian Holliday, a convert from Blackburn, Lancashire, England, has spent more than a decade promoting the rights of people with disabilities despite having to deal with several personal set-backs himself.
Brian Holliday, a convert from Blackburn, Lancashire, England, has spent more than a decade promoting the rights of people with disabilities despite having to deal with several personal set-backs himself. Photo: Photo by David M. W. Pickup

Having disabilities himself, Brother Holliday, 53, is no stranger to adversity. At age 16, he was seriously injured in a road traffic accident when an automobile knocked him from his bicycle. Having sustained brain injury, he spent three months in a coma. His father was told that there was little chance of recovery and that he would need great strength to pull out of the coma. When he regained consciousness there was doubt as to what mental ability would remain.

"I was told that I could be left a cabbage, but I didn't understand what that meant," Brother Holliday said. Even when he regained his physical strength, doctors told him he would never be able to work again. He refused to give up. He managed to find employment as a laborer, but four years after the accident, at age 20, he started to suffer frequent epileptic seizures. Brother Holliday said at that stage he was depressed and seriously wondered whether life was worth living, but still sought out specialist medical advice.

A brain scan revealed that he still had a "bruise" on the brain from the cycle accident, but there was a chance it would eventually heal. He determined not to give in. With medication to alleviate the symptoms, the seizures ceased some 17 years ago.

Further disaster struck Brother Holliday, however, when he contracted meningitis at age 31. "It was touch and go," he said. He was given only a 50/50 chance of survival but, once again, pulled through. While he was in the hospital, it was discovered that the cycle accident had left him with a twisted spine, but it was then too late to do anything about it. The twisted spine resulted in his being two inches shorter than he would have been otherwise.

About 17 years ago, Brother Holliday gained employment as a laborer with Remploy, a government-sponsored employer of the disabled. The next year, the works union representative left and Brother Holliday allowed his name to be put forward. To his surprise, he was appointed. He embarked on a side-line career promoting the rights of people with disabilities. Over the past 14 years, Brother Holliday has traveled about the country, speaking at many conferences on the protection of the disabled against discrimination in the workplace. He rose in rank in his employment to become a supervisor and now trains others with disabilities to work to their capacity.

Unemployed men and women with all levels of disabilities are granted a 12-month training placement with Remploy. The firm and the union then find the successful trainees permanent outside employment. Even after they have left Remploy, the union keeps an interest in them, helping them achieve happy, fulfilled lives.

Nearly 17 years ago, Brother Holliday met and married the former Sandra Lane. They have two children, Gareth, 16, and Kenneth, 13. The family were taught by missionaries and joined the Church in 1988.

Brother Holliday not only helps others in his work and union responsibilities, but also through his Church callings. He has previously served as a stake missionary, ward mission leader, executive secretary, and now serves as Valiant adviser in the Primary. He also serves as a governor of a state-run school for children with disabilities.

Of the Member of the British Empire Award, he said, "It was a complete surprise." He had been told that his employers had nominated him for an award, but he thought it was just a friendly joke. Then one day before the recent general election a letter arrived, marked from the Prime Minister's Office. Brother Holliday was leaving for a conference. Thinking the envelope contained some electioneering material, he wasn't going to bother opening it, until his wife persuaded him to do so. He was shocked to read that the letter was from the Prime Minister, informing him that his name had been put forward for the Queen's Birthday Honors List.

He said that he had to think about it carefully for a while, but eventually decided that he would accept the award. The honor entitles Brother Holliday to display the initials "MBE" after his name.

In the few weeks since the award was announced, Brother Holliday has been asked many times if being "Brian Holliday, MBE" will change him. "No," he says, "I will just keep on doing the same things."

His employers are delighted and Brother Holliday has received congratulations from many sources. And the honors continue to flow in. The week of July 30, he was awarded a certificate of merit for his services to the union over the years.

Brother Holliday is due to receive his award from the queen or another member of the royal family on Nov. 16 at Buckingham Palace. He and his wife will stay overnight in London for the ceremony. A shy man, Brother Holliday said he is apprehensive about meeting the queen. "I'm still trembling," he said. "It's like waiting to see the dentist!"

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