Boston Borough Councillor Richard Austin has had his long service to the community recognised with the award of the British Empire Medal in The Queen’s Birthday Honours.
The British Empire medal is awarded for “hands-on” service to the local community. This could be a long-term charitable or voluntary activity, or one that has made a significant difference to people’s lives in some way.
Quite simply Richard Austin makes things happen. For the past 20 years Richard has selflessly dedicated his life to the promotion and improvement of the community of Wyberton and Boston. His tireless enthusiasm inspires others not only to join him but to give of their best in doing so.
Cllr Austin, who will be 83 on June 14, has, for decades, been the person turned to in the community when something needs doing. He has a reputation for never being afraid to get his hands dirty or knowing a man who can if he cannot.
Richard, brought up on a farm in Derbyshire, arrived in Kirton in 1963 following National Service as an education officer in the RAF. He worked for the Ministry of Agriculture to help farmers increase food production in this country after the war. In 1971 he set up his own successful agricultural consultancy and farm management business, which he ran until his retirement in 2002.
An early taste of voluntary community work came when, as a member of Wyberton PTA, he used his initiative to make a successful case for an additional classroom at Wyberton Primary School. Once it had been built, Richard joined other members of the community in painting it.
He was then the initiator in the production of a book to mark the millennium. The project to publish a history of Wyberton – From the Romans to B&Q. The project began in 1998 and saw Richard assemble a team of writers and researchers. Two thousand books were printed; all were sold and some of the proceeds used to buy a new set of chairs and a sound system for Wyberton Church.
This was rapidly followed by Richard taking a leading role in the practical arrangements for Wyberton’s Millennium celebrations.
After retirement in 2002, Richard became a member of Wyberton Parish Council, where he is still a member. A few years later he became a member of Lincolnshire County Council.
In 2007 Richard became a member of Boston Borough Council, serving as Leader for four years. Richard continues to represent Wyberton on the borough council.
As leader, he was instrumental is setting up a borough-wide team of litter pickers – a scheme which has gone from strength to strength and from which blossomed the borough’s current Community Champions – and championed the annual Big Boston Clean Up, which marked its 12th year this year.
Richard is also a member of Wyberton Parochial Church Council and until recently was a churchwarden, taking on church arrangements when the parish had been without an incumbent vicar. Richard’s voluntary church duties have extended to far more than that, however, including practical tasks such as cleaning out gutters or churchyard maintenance or masterminding fund-raising car boot sales.
The development of Boston Woods Trust and acres of woodland plantings have kept him engaged. He is vice chairman and has been actively involved since its inception in extending Boston’s green belt to the delight of walkers, bird watchers and those who escape the hustle and bustle of modern life.
In the past few years he has helped introduce and develop the Boston UK Marathon (the flattest marathon in the UK); now a hugely successful runner and spectator event. As chairman Richard joins in with all the practical physical tasks as well as the overall organisation.
In 2015 he was made the 481st Mayor of Boston, having been Mayor’s consort the year before when his wife, Alison, a borough and county councillor, was Mayor. They married after Richard proposed to Alison at the top of Boston Stump and have lived in Wyberton for more than 50 years. They have three children and five grandchildren.
Action man Richard celebrated his 80th birthday with a skydive (a present from Alison and the family!), raising £3,000 for his beloved Boston Woods Trust.
Richard’s honour came out of the blue when he opened an envelope from the Palace. He said he felt honoured and humbled.
Proud Alison said: “He is known as the person to get the job done. He has a gift for rallying others to the cause and building teams to tackle challenges. He can be very persuasive and is quite tenacious. He never gives in.”
That tenacity revealed itself when Richard collapsed at home with a stoke but was out of hospital within five days and describing himself as “supercharged” after surgeons improved the arterial flow of blood to his brain.
At that time Richard was working on his current project. He has been a long-time advocate of Boston’s “great past and bright future” and is now leading a team producing another book – “Boston – a small town with a big story” – and at the same time has organised a conference to be held at Blackfriars on Saturday, September 7, about Boston and the foundation of the USA, entitled “An Untold Story – From the Stump to the Statue”. The new book will be launched at this event.
What really makes Richard Austin stand out as a leader in our community is his ability, through his calm and encouraging personality, to inspire and enable others to do many things within their community they would have otherwise lacked the confidence to do, and this helps to build a stronger cohesive community, bringing people together from all walks of life to put Boston on the map.