A NORTH Ayrshire grandfather has spoken of his shock after being made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List after his work for an Irvine secondary school.

Walter Smith, 75, was given the honour for services to youth enterprise and education having worked for the last 12 years on a voluntary basis both for the Prince’s Trust and Greenwood Academy.

His work has seen him directly mentor hundreds of young people and support almost 450 new businesses in Ayrshire alone.

Walter also works extensively with Largs Academy, advising on small businesses and start-ups and honing pupils’ entrepreneurial skills.

He told how it was a ‘real surprise’ when his honour was announced.

He said: “When you receive an email from the Cabinet Office, your first inclination is ‘oh what is this about...’ This came as a complete shock but a very welcome surprise. “I don’t have a clue who nominated me, but hopefully some day I will find out and thank them.”

Walter has lived in Glen Avenue in Largs for almost 50 years with his wife Maggie, who is a school invigilator and worked in the Cancer Research shop in Largs.

They have two grown up children, Avril and Neil, and two grandchildren. Walter worked in IBM in Greenock for 34 years in development, manufacturing, technology and finance, as well as spending five years with the company in the United States and four in France. Now his expertise benefits school children throughout the district.

He said: “I worked in IBM until 2001 and I retired from there and set up my own business consultancy, which I ran for about ten years.

“I was contacted by Young Enterprise Scotland about doing some volunteering and first got involved in the Princes Trust in 2008, helping on funding panels for start-ups and working as a business mentor and business coach.”

A government initiative set up in 2015 by the Wood Commission to help improve employability also sought Walter’s involvement. He helped set up an Ayrshire branch and through Scottish Government funding has been involved in helping to set up 110 school-run projects since 2015.

He added it brings him ‘great joy’ watching pupils’ confidence grow and helping to equip them with the tools to thrive in the outside world.

He said: “I am no spring chicken but I find it very rewarding to see children who start off being relatively shy and quiet gaining a real boost through developing skills that will help them into work. I have been involved in around 800 start-up projects and mentored around 100 businesses in Ayrshire.”