HE'S the lifesaving lock keeper who's won plaudits for rescuing people from the treacherous Thames.

But yesterday, Abingdon's Richard Hawkins was crowned the best in the country at hospitality.

Mr Hawkins and his 77-year-old assistant keeper Frank Jordan were yesterday presented with the British Marine Inland Boating association's Lock Keeper of the Year award.

The title, awarded by the group's Hotel Boat section, aims to champion the most welcoming, helpful and knowledgeable keepers in the country.

The prize was presented yesterday by Gordon and Dorenda Horry, owners of hotel boat Kailani, which they brought into the lock for the ceremony.

Mr Horry said: "All the hotel boat crews who nominated Richard and Frank described how they are always friendly, polite and extremely helpful, however busy the lock is with boats and visitors.

"Richard's quick thinking has even helped save lives."

Last April Mr Hawkins, who lives at the lock with girlfriend Lizzie Spokes, was pottering around the house when he heard cries for help.

Rushing to the window he saw three men flailing in the water next to an upturned rowing boat.

He threw rope to the men and hauled them out before ringing an ambulance, only for a fourth man who had hauled himself out separately to collapse and go into cardiac arrest.

Mr Hawkins started giving CPR until paramedics arrived.

The 29-year-old, who has worked at Abingdon Lock for five years, also rescued two people during the February 2014 floods across Oxfordshire.

He said of his award: "I'm slightly embarrassed to be honest. I'm sure there are people on this river who deserve it more than me, but it is a nice pat on the back for everyone who I work with."

Mr Jordan, meanwhile, said the award belonged entirely to Mr Hawkins.

The great-grandfather of one and retired garage worker who lives in Abingdon, said: "Richard Hawkins is a top-notch bloke, he is at the top of the ladder.

"If anyone deserves the award he does: he is a brilliant man to work with and to work for."