Sir Cliff stars in nostalgia Birthday Honours

STEPHEN GOODWIN

The Birthday Honours List published today has about it a strong sense of prime ministerial nostalgia with awards for sporting heroes and household names from the 1950s.

Among the knighthoods is one for Christopher Chataway, now chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority, but in John Major's youth a top middle-distance runner. Singer Cliff Richard, who gets a knighthood for charity work, may not have been a star of the period - aged 54, he is two years older than Mr Major - but his cheery family entertainer image and VE Day rendition of "Congratulations" to the Queen Mother outside Buckingham Palace put him in that wholesome company.

The comedian Norman Wisdom, who was packing cinemas at the time, gets an OBE, and so does Ian Allan, whose ABC guides were essential to every trainspotter. The former Manchester United goalkeeper and 1958 Munich air disaster survivor Harry Gregg gets an MBE.

The Prime Minister, with his enduring vision of Britain as a country of "long shadows on county grounds and warm beer", will also approve of the knighthood for Everton Weekes, a star of the West Indies cricket team in those halcyon days, though his prestigious KCMG is on the separate Barbados list.

Boy's Own-type endeavour is recognised with an OBE for Robert Swan, the only man to have walked to both the North and South Poles, and a knighthood for the yachtsman Robin Knox-Johnston. Wilfred Thesiger, the author and explorer, gets a knighthood (KBE) in the Overseas List.

Rob Andrew, the England rugby union player whose 40-metre drop goal clinched last weekend's game against Australia, is awarded an MBE while Bill McLaren, the BBC's chief rugby commentator, gets an OBE.

Mr Major's list contains 1,055 names, of whom 32 per cent - 341 - are women, matching the all-time record of last New Year. Nominations from the public continue to pour in to Downing Street. Some 3,200 names have been put forward since December, taking the total nominated since Mr Major opened up the process two years ago to more than 14,000. One-third of today's names have travelled this route.

The four new life peers include two churchmen - the Most Rev Robin Eames, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, and the Most Rev John Habgood, the outgoing Archbishop of York. They are joined by Sir James Blyth, deputy chairman and chief executive of Boots, and Sir John Cuckney, chairman of the Orion Publishing Group, perhaps better remembered as chairman of Westland Helicopters during the political crisis of the 1980s.

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