WHEN Jim Hewitt visited Blackbird Leys for the first time 30 years ago, he said he “fell in love” with the place.

And now the 67-year-old has been made an MBE for his endless work on the estate he loves.

The former teacher has helped run the Blackbird Leys Credit Union for 20 years and worked as a community worker with the local church.

He has been named on the New Year’s Honours list for “services to financial inclusion in Oxfordshire and to the local community”.

Last night he said: “I was so surprised when I found out. But everything I’m getting it for has involved a lot of people working very hard over a lot of years.”

Mr Hewitt, orginally from Perth in Australia, came to the UK in the 1970s.

But after a summer’s day wander into Blackbird Leys, he decided to give up his job for a greater cause.

He said: “I came for a stroll up to the Leys when I first moved to Oxford, before I’d heard any kind of nasty stories. I thought to myself ‘what a lovely area’. I got such a good impression that I moved here and I’ve never lost that impression.”

Mr Hewitt became a full-time community worker with the Holy Family Church in Cuddesdon Way.

His work has involved working with organisations like the Agnes Smith Advice Centre and running the Blackbird Leys festival. And the Blackbird Leys Credit Union has been a financial lifeline for the community for 20 years, handing out loans to residents.

He has also supported Oxford’s East Timorese community, compiling a 6,000-word dictionary last year to help them learn English.

Meanwhile, a grandfather who has raised more than £400,000 for charity said he “burst with shock” when he discovered he’d been honoured with an MBE.

Trevor Cowlett, 79, from Kennington, has spent 50 years singing Christmas carols to fellow villagers, raising cash for children at a special needs school.

He has also arranged hundreds of choir concerts over 38 years and taught music to thousands of students from his own home.

The grandfather-of-three was made an MBE for services to music in Oxford.

He said: “I was absolutely shocked. I had no idea – nothing could have been further from my thoughts.

“I burst with shock and told my son before I’d even thought about what I was doing.”

He said his wife Brenda, who died in 1995, would also “have been proud” to see him recognised at Buckingham Palace.

Mr Cowlett, a private music tutor, currently teaches more than 100 students each fortnight on an array of instruments.

He is also musical director for the Kennington and District United Church Choir, which has raised more than £350,000 for Penhurst School in Chipping Norton with concerts over the past three decades.

He chose to support Penhurst School after visiting it when his own children, David, Peter and Mary, were young.

He said: “I just decided I wanted to do something for them. And so here we are.”

For 50 years, Mr Cowlett also never missed a moment of the carol singing he organised each year in Kennington but sadly this year, kidney failure left the grandfather on dialysis and unable to go out as usual.

He said: “But I know the others still went out. It’s such a great cause and it’s tradition now.

“It’s fantastic that people are still so generous.”

A MAN who dedicated 40 years to regenerating Shipton-under-Wychwood has been made an MBE.

Malcolm Cochrane, 73, was instrumental in the creation of a playground, community hall and social groups for youngsters and the elderly in the village, served on Shipton-under-Wychwood Parish council for 40 years – 12 as chairman – and was Vice Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire for 10 years from 1999.

Mr Cochrane, of High Street, said: “I am absolutely thrilled but I am sure there are others in the village who could have been chosen. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been around the longest.”

He added: “I am proud of all my achievements but I am most proud of the village.”

Mr Cochrane, who used to run an educational model building firm, said he was now taking a step back from community work to spend time with his family.

A MUCH-PUBLISHED and openly gay theological historian said his knighthood was a salute to beleaguered academic departments.

Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, who fronted the BBC’s A History of Christianity, will be awarded a Knights Bachelor as part of the New Year’s Honours list.

The North Oxford resident, who was “surprised and delighted” by the award, said the Church of England still mattered in Britain but it “has got to realise that same-sex relationships are nothing to worry about”.

Prof MacCulloch, a fellow of St Cross College and Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University, was ordained as a deacon but declined ordination to the priesthood in 1987 due to the Church of England’s attitudes to homosexuality.

Speaking about his knighthood, the 60-year-old said: “I think any award like this is a recognition of the fact that, as someone who works in religious history, that it’s important and has been recognised as such, that it’s a worthwhile thing to do.

“That’s what really pleases me. It’s giving a salute to the university departments, which frankly have a very low morale at the moment.”

PROFESSOR Diana Woodhouse said she was surprised to be given an OBE after being a “thorn in the side” of ministers.

The former Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at Oxford Brookes University has specialised in research into ministerial accountability.

Her recommendations on the line between ministers blaming staff and taking ultimate responsibility for a scandal have been taken up in part by a Commons committee.

The Chipping Norton resident, 67, said: “I think I have definitely been a thorn in the side of ministers. It is surprising really.”

Jonathan Flint, chief executive of Oxford Instruments based in Tubney Woods, near Abingdon, becomes a CBE for services to business and science.

Father-of-two Mr Flint, 50, who lives in Marcham, was appointed to his position in April 2005 when the company had made a £900,000 loss, forcing it to close its Eynsham plant and shed hundreds of jobs.

The following year he instigated a five-year plan and last month the company reported pre-tax profits of £18.7m, up 76 per cent for the six months to September 30, and the company’s share price has soared in the last year.

He said: “I am absolutely delighted to accept this honour. It is a recognition of the key role science businesses have in supporting the UK economy.”

John Huddleston, formerly knowledge leader and project director at Harwell environmental consultancy AEA Technology, is made an MBE for service to the environment.

Mr Huddleston, 59, started working at Harwell in 1974. For the past 11 years he advised the Government on climate change agreements with industry which have helped firms improve energy efficiency and cut carbon emissions.

Earlier this year the father of two, who lives in Radley, left AEA Technology to concentrate on developing his passion as a silversmith, although he continues to work as a freelance environmental consultant to companies.

He said: “I was amazed and delighted to hear of the honour. It was a real surprise.”

Round-up of the remaining Oxfordshire people named in the New Year’s honours CBE Helena Bonham Carter For services to drama.

Keith Budgen Formerly south east regional director, HM Courts and Tribunals Service, Ministry of Justice.

Professor Lionel Tarassenko Chairman of Electrical Engineering, University of Oxford. For services to engineering.

OBE Neil Bruce Executive director and chief operating officer, AMEC plc. For services to engineering.

Helen Ellis Publicist. For services to Publishing.

MBE Doreen Hobbs For services to the community in Watlington.

Timothy Stimpson Facilities manager. For services to Oxfordshire County Council.

Prof Robert Walker Member of social security advisory committee. For services to social policy research.