Downing Street honour for Whalley flood heroes

Kellie  Hughes (second from left) with Gillian Darbyshire (fourth from left) with (left to right) Mags Twist of Whalley Lions, Caz Morton, President of Accrington Lions and Whalley Lions President Neil Martin.
Kellie Hughes (second from left) with Gillian Darbyshire (fourth from left) with (left to right) Mags Twist of Whalley Lions, Caz Morton, President of Accrington Lions and Whalley Lions President Neil Martin.

Two women, who swept in to help when Boxing Day floods devastated their village, were invited to Number 10 Downing Street this week to be thanked personally by the Prime Minister.

Mrs Gillian Darbyshire, who is president of Whalley and District Lions, and hair salon owner Kellie Hughes, travelled to the capital on Monday for the reception hosted by David Cameron.

Gillian, who owns DSM Chartered Accountants, said: “The letter came out of the blue, it was a complete surprise and I never expected anything like this.

“It will be a great opportunity to let the Prime Minister know how the people of Whalley pulled together as a community to help each other in such terrible circumstances.

“It will give the village recognition and a real boost I hope.’’

Gillian and her colleagues helped to transform Whalley Village Hall into a crisis and help centre for the families whose homes were flooded out during the disaster.

She also helped to rally volunteers for a clean-up operation that lasted for days after torrential rain caused the River Calder to burst its banks and flooded Whalley and Billington.

In the aftermath, Gillian then helped many vulnerable and elderly residents, whose homes had been ruined, to apply for flood grants.

The work is still continuing now as the Lions have organised a series of fund-raising events to help victims replace items they lost in the floods.

Kellie became a force to be reckoned with when disaster struck, organising clean-up operations across the area and gathering supplies of food, water and clothing to take round to people who had not left their homes.

Kellie also the hit the headlines when she left her Whalley salon and went out into the street to divert traffic in King Street after it was hit by flash floods days a few days before Christmas.

The village is now setting up its own flood action group to work with agencies across the North-West, including the Environment Agency, to make sure proper defences and an action plan is in place if the worst happens again.