June Butler, secretary to the dioceses of Connor and Down & Dromore, was a guest at Buckingham Palace just before Christmas where she received her MBE from HRH Prince Charles.
June, who was named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for contribution to electoral services in Northern Ireland, was joined by her husband Kevin and daughters Rebecca, Hannah and Kirsty.
June and Kevin flew to London on December 16, just hours before heavy snow blanketed Northern Ireland, blocking roads and closing the airports.
Next morning they were outside the Palace waiting to be admitted for the service of investiture. After a short, chilly, period of queuing the Butler family was admitted through the front gates, across the courtyard and into the Palace, where June and others receiving awards were whisked away, and their families led to their seats in the grand ballroom.
“The Palace was decorated for Christmas and it was absolutely gorgeous,” June said. “Every bauble on the Christmas trees was in the shape of a gold crown. They were beautiful.”
June had an hour to meet and mingle with the other 118 awardees, who included some familiar faces like racing supremo David Coulthard and athlete Chrissie Wellington. During this time videos of previous investitures were played so the award recipients got a flavour of what was to come, and ideas on how – and how not – to curtsey or bow!
After instruction on where to stand, they were taken in groups of 20 into the ballroom where music played in a back gallery and proud families awaited. In turn June stepped up to Prince Charles and executed a suitable curtsey.
“The Prince talked to everyone. I was very impressed with his skill at moving from one subject to another. He asked me about running elections in Northern Ireland, how long I had been doing it for, and my experience of working with politicians.
“He asked if I still worked in the electoral field and I told him I was with the Church of Ireland. He commented that that must not be as challenging and I told him I could not entirely agree with that, it has its moments!”
After the Prince pinned on June’s MBE she was able to relax and watch the rest of the investitures from a seat in the ballroom.
Afterwards the awardees went into the courtyard for photographs. “The snow was coming down thickly and was blown horizontal by the wind. It was freezing and in some of our family photos the girls look quite blue, but the official photographer managed to take some very acceptable pictures,” said June.
June’s day continued with afternoon tea with the family at the Ritz, and an evening enjoying Handel’s Messiah with husband Kevin in the Royal Albert Hall.
“It was really superb, a very memorable day,” said June afterwards. And although the weather threw everyone’s travel plans into chaos, all family members made it home for Christmas Day!
June, who lives in Saintfield, succeeded Neill Wilson as diocesan secretary last year after working for the Electoral Office of Northern Ireland for more than 22 years, nine of those as Assistant Chief Electoral Officer.