Alex Townsend, best know as the Computer Bus Man, has been awarded a BEM in the New Year’s Honours List.

Mr Townsend is joined by islanders Colin Leather and Bernadette Williams who were both made MBEs and former Ballakermeen student Kimberley Rogers, who has also been awarded a BEM.

Computer Bus Man

Alex Townsend has been awarded the BEM for services to education in the Isle of Man. In the 1990s, he came up with the innovation of converting a single-decker bus into a mobile classroom to teach the island’s primary school children about creative use of computers. With the support of Manx Telecom and the gov, the Computerbus was launched in 1998, led by Mr Townsend until 2020. 

Described by an Apple spokesperson as ‘stroke of brilliance’, Mr Townsend and the Computerbus helped tens of thousands of Manx pupils learn critical ICT skills, including design work, filmmaking and code, and have led the island’s young people into creative careers all over the world. 

In 2014, in celebration of 30 years since the first Apple Mac was released, Mr Townsend was recognised alongside 29 other ‘pioneers’ across a range of backgrounds and industries, who had made a ‘profound impact’ in the field of computing.

Serving Your Community

Colin Leather has dedicated the majority of his life to Castletown, striving to improve the town for its residents.  As one of the island’s longest standing chairmen, he has been Chairman of the Castletown Commissioners on six occasions, and was also Secretary of Castletown Festival for 30 years. 

On behalf of the Castletown Chamber of Trade and Commerce, he managed the Castletown Markets, held in Castletown Market Square from 1979 to 2011 and is always passionately promoting and helping businesses relocate to Castletown.  For 20 years he has helped to raise funds for the Southern 100 Club and has not been deterred by his own serious illnesses.

His drive and commitment have seen the transformation of the Market Square from a car park into a community space, which has made a difference for visitors as well as residents.  For his long service to the community of Castletown, Colin Leather is made an MBE.

Service to the Island

In her work for the Royal British Legion (RBL) and Tynwald, Bernadette Williams has represented the Isle of Man, both on-island and in Great Britain, for nearly 40 years.  She was a member of the RBL Women’s Section from 1983 to 1995, and has been a Standard Bearer for the Isle of Man County and North West Region and won the Great Britain Standard Bearer title for five consecutive years.

She has been Standard Bearer for numerous state occasions, and throughout this time, she has taken the time to train junior Standard Bearers to her exacting standard, some of whom have emulated her success.  On retiring from ceremonial duties with the Royal British Legion, she was appointed Sword Bearer for Tynwald, a duty she has carried out for 25 years. The Queen has made Mrs Williams an MBE for long service to the Isle of Man and the Royal British Legion.

Educators

As well as islanders picking up honours, we were made aware of another Manx woman who has been honoured this year.

Ex-Ballakermeen High School student, and former Manx resident, has also received the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the New Year’s Honours List. Kimberley Rogers (nee Lowe) has been recognised for services to her community in Oldham, through the Real Education Empowering Lives Community Interest Company (REEL CIC), providing activities, experiences and personal development.

Originally formed to break down barriers to education, training, and employment, Kim recognised the social threats of Covid-19, and led the community support providing help to in excess of 1,500 people, through the provision of emergency clothing, essential baby and homeware, engagement with the elderly and vulnerable to reduce social isolation, together with food distribution initiatives. REEL CIC also received the Prime Minister Points of Light award in August 2021. Alongside her volunteer work, Kim is employed by the Salvation Army.

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