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The Rt Reverend Bishop Brian Noble, Bishop of Shrewsbury

Doctor of Theology 

The Rt Rev Bishop Brian Noble spent six years at Ushaw College in Durham, where he studied Philosophy and Theology. In 1960 he was ordained Priest for the Diocese of Lancaster where he served as Curate at churches in Preston and Maryport before being appointed as Catholic Chaplain at Lancaster University in 1972.

In 1980 he took became Lecturer in Theology and Liturgy at Beda Pontifical College in Rome, returning to the UK in 1987 when he was Parish Priest at St Benedict’s, Whitehaven and Rural Dean of West Cumbria. He was made Canon of Lancaster Cathedral in 1994 and a year later was consecrated Bishop of Shrewsbury.

Among his considerable achievements, His Grace’s work contributed directly to the creation of two inter-faith schools in Macclesfield and Runcorn. Always a great supporter of the University of Chester, he has also actively encouraged the work of Catholic Chaplain, Father Paul Shaw of St Werburgh.

Tim Firth

Doctor of Letters

Born in Chester, and having lived in Cheshire all his life, Tim Firth is a true home-grown talent. Schooled in Warrington, he attended the University of Cambridge where he became involved in student drama, writing and touring with Cambridge Footlights.

After graduation he was commissioned by Alan Ayckbourn to write Man of Letters, which led to his first West End play Neville’s Island. His stage, TV and film work, including Our House, The Flint Street Nativity, Money for Nothing, All Quiet on the Preston Front and Confessions of a Shopaholic will be familiar to many. But he is probably best known for his award-winning film Calendar Girls starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, the stage version of which has raised thousands of pounds for Leukaemia Research.

John Caley

Master of Science

Douglas-born John Caley’s long career in nursing began in 1955 when he entered Nobles Hospital in the Isle of Man as an assistant nurse. He moved to Walton Hospital, Liverpool, in 1962 and entered Queen Elizabeth College, University of London in 1964 to study a diploma in Theory and Practice of Nurse Education and Training.

Having returned to Walton to teach he was appointed Principal Tutor in 1969 managing the General Nursing School in Chester and in 1973 became Director of Nurse Education in Warrington. He has worked for the Joint Board of Clinical Nursing Studies, the National Board for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting and Mersey Regional Health Authority and regularly contributed to the Department of Health’s regional reviews.

Having devoted much time to help move nursing and midwifery training from the NHS into higher education, he has been a Visiting Fellow at the University for the past seven years. Now retired, he works closely with adults with learning disabilities, and has been Director, Trustee and, most recently, Chairman of the charity Chester Link.

Shane Flynn

Doctor of Business Administration

A business graduate, Sligo-born Shane Flynn is a founder and Managing Director of USA-based equity firm Cordja. Prior to this, however, he spent 17 years working for MBNA – most notably as Senior Vice Chairman of MBNA America, Chief Executive Officer of MBNA Europe and as a member of MBNA’s executive committee.

In 2008, he was appointed Chairman of the economic development organisation Chester Renaissance, where for two years he has chaired the private and public sector partnership that oversees new developments in the city centre.

A keen fisherman and sailor, Shane Flynn sits on the Board of Trustees of St Anne’s Episcopal School in Middletown, Delaware, is a Trustee Emeritus of Maine Public Broadcasting Network and has been named Leitrim Person of the Tear and Rotary Club Paul Harris Fellows in recognition of his community and charitable work.

John Price MBE

Master of Science

John Price served on Chester City Council for over 40 years and received an MBE for services to Local Government in 2005. For much of his career he was also a paid officer for the Post Office Engineering Union and had a lifelong and on-going active commitment to trade unionism.

For three years, 1974-77, he served simultaneously on Chester City Council and Cheshire County Council. He was Leader of the Council during a joint cabinet with the Liberals and was Lord Mayor of Chester in 1989.

In 1990 he was instrumental in establishing the Chester International Links Association and was Founding Chair, only retiring last year. He became a member of the Local Government Twinning Committee and Executive Chair and President of the Walled Town Friendship Committee which represents 700 walled towns around Europe.

The Rt Honourable Lord Hoyle JP

Doctor of Letters 

Lord Hoyle was elected Labour MP for Nelson and Colne from 1974 – 1979. Two years later he successfully stood for Warrington and when constituency boundaries were redrawn in 1983 Doug became MP for Warrington North and retained the seat until 1997. He and his wife Pauline took a particular interest in the health services in and around Warrington.

In 1997 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Hoyle of Warrington in the County of Cheshire. He has been a member of the Labour Party National Executive and Parliamentary Labour Party Parliamentary Committee. He was Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party from 1992 to 1997 and a member of the Shadow Cabinet. He spent two years on the front bench in the House of Lords as Government Spokesperson for Defence; Home Office and Agriculture and was a Government Whip.

He was made a Freeman of the City of Gibraltar in 2004 for his support for self-determination for the people of Gibraltar, and in 2010 was awarded the Gibraltar Medallion of Honour. He also received the title Freeman of Warrington in 2005.

Lord Hoyle has also been appointed to the Lord’s Taverners – the all-party cricket club. He was also Deputy Chair of the all-party Rugby League Group. He has a long involvement with Warrington Wolves Rugby League Football Club where he was Chair for 10 years before becoming President in 2009.

Eric Plenderleath

Master of Arts

Eric served with Tarvin Parish Council for over 26 years working to establish the Tarvin Community Centre in 1974, and remained on the committee for 20 years. He was elected to Chester City Council to represent Tarvin in 1987 and remained an elected member for 22 years.

In 2007 he was Executive Member for the Culture and Community portfolio, and took keen interest in Heritage and Leisure and International Relations. He was also Chairman of Chester International Links Association.

He was Deputy Lord Mayor from 1998 – 99, and Lord Mayor from 1999 until 2000. He retired from local government in 2009. He was made an Alderman of Chester that year, and was also granted the Freedom of the City.

For seven years he was District Commissioner for the Scouts, and is currently Vice President of Chester District Scouts Association, and Vice Chair of the Gang Show Business Committee. He also sat on the Board of the Gateway Theatre in Chester for 18 years and was Deputy Chair of the Board of Chester Performs. He was also a member of North West Arts from 1996 – 1999 and again from 2007 to 2008.

Matthew Kelly

Doctor of Letters

Actor David Kelly, better known to the public by his stage name Matthew Kelly, qualified as teacher from Manchester Polytechnic and has enjoyed success as an actor and television presenter.

In 1991 he took over from Bruce Forsyth to present You Bet and then became presenter of Stars in their Eyes and for six of the 11 years he spent on the programme, Matthew was enrolled as a part time student with the Open University, graduating in Psychology.

During 2003, while still presenting, he appeared as Lenny in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men on stage in London and achieved a Lawrence Olivier Award for Best Actor. Earlier this year he replaced Simon Callow to play Pozzo to Ian McKellen’s Estragon in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

He is also President of the NeuroMuscular centre in Winsford, a charity co-founded 20 years ago by his wife Sarah, who retired as its Director around five years ago. Each year the charity hosts a Spirit of Christmas Carol Service in Chester Cathedral, which Matthew leads.

Willie Carson OBE

Doctor of Science

Willie Carson was British Champion Jockey five times; he won 17 British Classic races, and passed the 100 winner mark in a single season on 23 occasions, for a total of 3,828 wins.

He is particularly associated with riding the contrasting race horses Nashwan and Dayjur and in 1989 he rode 13 group one winners, a feat which has only been bettered once. He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1983 for his services to horse racing. He only retired from competitive racing in 1996.

In a parallel career Willie Carson has been buying and breeding horses since the 1960s and in 1980 he took over the Minster House Stud at Ampney Crucis near Cirencester. He remains the only jockey to have ridden a horse that he bred, Mister Son, to victory in the St Leger Stakes in 1988.

He has appeared on two series of A Question of Sport and remains a regular presenter and pundit for BBC Racing. He was also Chairman of Swindon Town from 2001 until 2007. Until very recently he had a sustained involvement with Children’s Charity Cloud Nine in Cheltenham.

David Rowlands

Master of Science

David started farming in partnership with his parents at the family farm in Mickle Trafford. He now farms in partnership with his son and daughter and the 240 acre Grange Farm is home to a herd of rare breed beef which is sold directly from the farm to the consumer. The farm joined the High Level Stewardship scheme in 2007 and encourages wildlife, contains a permissive Right of Way, and hosts farm visits.

He became a Parish Councillor in Mickle Trafford and District in 1976, and was also member and Chair of nearby Elton Parish Council. He represented the Elton Ward as a Chester City Councillor from 1979 until 1990 and again from 1991 until 1995, becoming a Cheshire County Councillor in 1997 and remaining in post until 2009 when the district councils were replaced by the two new unitary authorities.

David became a Governor at Upton High School in 1990, subsequently taking the role of Chair of Governors for a 12 year period until 2007. He has been a Governor at West Cheshire College for almost four years, and last year he became Chair of Governors at St Oswald Primary School in Mollington. He was also Executive Member for Education at Cheshire County Council from 2001 – 2009. He has also been a member of court at the Universities of both Liverpool and Salford and Chair of the Oldfield Educational Trust.

He has chaired the Cheshire Farm and Wildlife Advisory Group, the Executive Group of the North West Rural Affairs Forum, the Cheshire Rural Recovery Task Force and the Cheshire Rural Charitable Trust. He was Deputy Chair of the Cheshire Branch of the Country, Land and Business Association.

Sue Johnston OBE

Doctor of Letters

Susan Johnston was born in Warrington and started work in a tax office in Liverpool. Interested in acting, she performed with an amateur group in St Helens before joining the Salford Players. She then studied at the Weber Douglas Academy in London.

During the 1970s she worked within the theatre-in-education movement and in the late 1970s she appeared in a variety of television programmes including Coronation Street. She then met Phil Redmond whose brand new company Mersey Television was auditioning for the new soap Brookside and Sue landed the part of Sheila Grant.

Sue has become a national figure appearing in The Royle Family, Jam and Jerusalem, Brassed Off and Goodbye Cruel World amongst others. She has received countless commendations including the British Comedy Awards, BAFTA nominations, Royal Television Awards, Scouseology Awards and an OBE in 2009 for her services to drama. She has supported many charitable causes included the Breakthrough Cancer Campaign, Comic Relief and the Kirsty Howard Appeal.

Professor Phil Redmond CBE

Doctor of Letters

Professor Redmond started his career as a Quantity Surveyor but was determined to succeed as a writer. In 1972 he took the brave step of giving up his post and setting himself a target of six months to achieve a commission. He sold a script for an episode of Doctor in Charge and then received a number of commissions including work as a comedy writer for ABC Television.

In 1978 he developed the school-based series, Grange Hill, which earned him the Writers Guild Best Newcomer and went on to achieve a 30 year run. During the 1980s he set up Mersey Television which went on to become the largest independent television company in the UK, producing such programmes as Hollyoaks and Emmerdale.

In 1989 he was made an Honorary Professor of Media Studies at Liverpool John Moores University. In 1993 he founded the first regional branch of BAFTA – the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Three years later he was appointed Vice Chair of the North West Film Commission, becoming a patron in 1999. He was awarded the CBE in 2004.

He and wife Alexis, who built the company with him, sold Mersey Television in 2005 and in 2006 he joined Liverpool’s Capital of Culture Board later becoming Creative Director. He is Chair, and Alexis a Trustee, of National Museums Liverpool and both are closely involved with the arts, culture and charity including Alder Hey Hospital.

The Rt Reverend Alan Chesters CBE

Doctor of Theology

Reverend Chesters held an ambition for the priesthood from the age of 14. He took a place at St Stephen’s House Theological College in Oxford from 1959 to 1962, simultaneously taking a BA in Theology at St Catherine’s College Oxford, and later his MA. He was ordained at Southwark Cathedral as Deacon in 1962 and Priest in 1963. He became Curate at St Anne’s Wandsworth from 1962 to 1966. In 1966 he became Chaplain and Head of RE at Tiffin School in Kingston.

He was Director of Education for the Diocese of Durham from 1972 until 1985 then Archdeacon of Halifax until 1989. He was consecrated Bishop in York Minster in April 1989 and served as Bishop of Blackburn from 1989 until his retirement in 2003. In retirement he has served as Honorary Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Chester and Diocese of St Asaph. He has been a member of Chapter of Chester Cathedral and the Bishop of Chester’s Honorary Advisor for Rural Affairs. He was a member of General Synod from 1975 until 2003 and a member of the standing committee from 1985 until 1989 and again from 1990 to 1998. 

He was a Church Commissioner for England from 1983 until 1998 and a member of its Board of Governors from 1992 to 1998. He was a member of the House of Lords from 1995 until 2003. He was Governor of St Hild and St. Bede, Durham; a member of Durham County Council Education Committee; Chair of the Higher Education Funding Council for England Committee for Church Colleges; Chair of Governors of St Martin’s College of HE in Lancaster; Chair of Council of St. Stephen’s House, Oxford; President of the Woodard Schools Corporation; Governor of Blackburn College; Governor of Bishops’ Blue Coat High School, Chester; Member of Council of the University of Chester and Chair of the University Council Mission Committee. 

He has been granted Honorary Fellowships at six further Universities and Colleges. He was a member of the Board of the Countryside Commission for England and subsequently of the Countryside Agency Board. He was a member of the national task force during the foot and mouth outbreak and a member of the Rural Affairs Forum for England as well as Chair of the North West Rural Affairs Forum (DEFRA) from 2002 till 2007.