Pair’s delight at making New Year’s Honours list

Colin Pyrah OBE
Colin Pyrah OBE
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A VIKING village-designing director and an 81-year-old ballet dancer have received awards in the Queen’s New Year’s honours.

Beck Hole resident Colin Pyrah, who designed the Jorvik Viking Centre, received an OBE for services to the UK heritage industry, while Whitby resident Barbara Benson-Smith was made an MBE for her services to dance and charity.

The  Benson Stage Academy,Ballet exam success left to right Hannah Whelan,Teacher Barbara Benson ,Christina Severn .Picture Richard Ponter 113629c

The Benson Stage Academy,Ballet exam success left to right Hannah Whelan,Teacher Barbara Benson ,Christina Severn .Picture Richard Ponter 113629c

The 81-year-old ballet teacher, who runs the Benson Stage Academy, is still performing and will play the Pearly Queen in a production of Me and My Girl at Whitby Pavilion in May.

She said: “I’m very honoured.

“I’ve done all my life what I have truly enjoyed, teaching children to dance, and I’m very grateful.

“I would like to dedicate it to my late husband, he was my rock.”

Mrs Benson-Smith’s husband was former Whitby mayor John Smith.

Throughout her years running the stage academy, Mrs Benson-Smith has raised thousands of pounds for charities such as the NSPCC and has trained many artists who have gone on to bigger things, such as Downton Abbey actress Joanne Froggatt and The History Boys actor Sam Barnett.

Meanwhile, Mr Pyrah (67) confessed to being so overwhelmed he “started to blub” when he discovered he was to be awarded an OBE.

He added that at first he believed he was the victim of a practical joke.

He told the Whitby Gazette: “My immediate reaction was that one of my industry friends was making a spoof call to me, but then I soon realised that it was all quite genuine.

“The Prime Minister’s office explained that the original letter must have got lost in the post, and he therefore asked me over the phone whether it would be agreeable to me, and whether I would be prepared to accept the award.

“My response was a very emotional ‘gosh, yes please!’”

l Check out Friday’s Gazette for a more in-depth chat with Whitby’s honoured residents.