DOZENS of heroes of the Boxing Day floods were presented with the York & District Medal last night in recognition of their courage and compassion.

The ceremony at York’s Guildhall came almost seven months after rivers including the Ouse, Foss and Wharfe burst their banks, causing devastating damage to hundreds of properties and livelihoods, particularly in York and Tadcaster.

The Lord Mayor of York, Cllr Dave Taylor, handed specially-designed commemorative medallions in velvet-lined boxes to individuals and organisations who stepped up to the plate and came to the rescue of those affected.

Recipients included mountain rescue organisations, soldiers, Christian and Muslim groups, medics, councillors and many ordinary members of the public who collected, sorted, stored and delivered aid, helped clean up the mess, served food and drink to victims and their rescuers and helped restore victims’ shattered morale.

The Press teamed up with City of York Council earlier this year to launch the medal scheme, with support from York-based mutual healthcare provider, Benenden.

Perry Austin-Clarke, editor of The Press, said last night that many stories of genuine suffering and distress had emerged after the floods, but so too had stories of someone coming to help the victims, in “a real community effort to support and protect those who were hit far more badly by the floods and their aftermath."

He said: "It occurred to us, as we discussed the best way to draw out those stories, that those people who helped – in no matter how large or small a way, or how far they travelled to do so – should receive some thanks and official recognition.”

He said the medal scheme had led to some ‘truly amazing stories of voluntary support for others in distress - a truly heart-warming array of stories to make the people of York and Tadcaster and the surrounding district feel genuinely proud of living in such a generous and giving community.”

The Lord Mayor said the ceremony had heard some ‘wonderful’ stories’ and there had been a great effort from many people after the floods, not just the medal recipients. “At times like these, people pull together with generosity,” he said.

Council leader Cllr David Carr said there had been comfort in the ‘sea of misery’ after the floods. “Humanity raised its collective spirit and expressed itself in a great outpouring of assistance, whether that was from the emergency services and the armed forces; the many volunteers, both those here in York and those who came from far and wide, the practical support and donations from community groups and businesses and the many council staff who went far above the call of duty in supporting others.”

He said he wanted to say a special thank you to everyone.

  • See The Press on Saturday for a souvenir supplement with photographs from the ceremony.