Culver Road volunteer receives MBE

St John’s Ambulance volunteer, Colin Keywood, awarded MBE!

For anyone who’s attended one of the County Cup Finals here at our headquarters in Culver Road, the sight of the St John’s Ambulance team sitting in the stands is nothing new. 

Indeed, if all goes well in a game, their presence goes almost completely unnoticed.

However, one of their number, Colin Keywood, 80, was given the recognition he deserves back in December of last year, when a letter arrived, informing him that he had been put forward to receive an MBE for services to St John’s Ambulance.

“I remember clearly it coming through the letterbox on the 9th of December,” said Colin, “it was incredibly humbling to receive it, and to do so on behalf of St John’s Ambulance.”

Then, after a few months waiting, Colin, his wife Deirdre, and their children Hellen and Richard, made the journey to Buckingham Palace, where the award was presented to him by Princess Ann, the Princess Royal. 

“It meant a lot that it was The Princes Royal because of her connection with St John’s Ambulance, as she’s the Chief Super Intendent for the cadets, so we had quite a chat about the service and I told her how glad I was that it was her presenting the award.”

Colin recently celebrated 65 years of volunteering with St John’s, the service he first joined when he was just 14-years-old.

“I joined the division over in Southwick, but believe it or not, it was because of the St John’s Ambulance Band that I put my name down at first!

“I really wanted to join a band at that age, so I decided to sign-up, but soon after joining I got hooked on the first-aid side of it,” said Colin.

“Back when I joined, St John’s ran the ambulance service in West Sussex, so at 16 I was working on the ambulances.”

Whilst that prospect might have daunted some teenagers, that certainly wasn’t the case for Colin.

“For me, at that age, I was just excited to be able to help, and so I kept doing it up until I was 21, when the ambulance service stopped being overseen by St John’s.

Indeed, during those years working on the ambulances, this would always have to be balanced with Colin’s job, at the time an apprentice upholsterer on the railway in Lancing.

“At times I used to be on the ambulances from 7am until 11am and sometimes, with only 10 minutes to go, we’d get a call to drop someone off at a London hospital, in which case, I’d be dropped off at work on the way still in my uniform!”, said Colin.

As the years went by, Colin would take on a number of different roles within St John’s, including as County Commissioner for seven years, which saw him oversee running all their members in Sussex.

Indeed, through that role alone he was able to meet many characters in the area, “too many to count I can assure you,” said Colin.

Away from his work with the ambulance, Colin’s time was also spent either out on the sports field or watching his beloved Brighton & Hove Albion. 

Indeed, Colin’s passion for the beautiful game was such that he would eventually train to become a referee, eventually making it as a Class 1.

“It started out as just something to do! I’d not been a player, but I had run a youth team with St John’s in the Mid Sussex Sunday League, hence why refereeing crossed my mind as something to get involved in,” said Colin.

“From County League games, to those up in the Isthmian League, to running the line on what is now the Conference League, and finally becoming Chairman of the Brighton Referees Association, my refereeing career is certainly one I look back on with pride.”

Such was his enjoyment of officiating, that after retiring his own cards and whistle, Colin became a referee’s assessor, passing on his experience to the next generation.

“I was lucky enough during my time assessing to be able to see some very impressive officials, such as the likes of Gary Willard and Martin Bodenham both standing out in my mind,” he said.

Yet as important as football was, it was always St John’s that was at the forefront of Colin’s mind, and what makes him such a worthy recipient of the honour.

Congratulations once again Colin, from all of us here at Sussex County FA!

Sussex County FA
T: 01903 753547