Belfast train enthusiast Matthew Wilson has won “Young Volunteer of the Year” at the annual ceremony of the Heritage Railway Association. Matthew who is 23 years old, is a volunteer at Whitehead Railway Museum. Despite being diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (autism), he never lets this get in his way.
Matthew has become a well-respected team member and he is regularly complimented by Museum guests and colleagues for his ability to conduct enjoyable guided tours at Whitehead Railway Museum as well as being a friendly and charismatic steward.
The recently introduced Lord Faulkner Young Volunteer of the Year prize is to give nationwide recognition to a young person who is taking on the responsibility for driving various schemes within railway preservation forward.
Lord Faulkner, the HRA President, who sponsored the award, commented it was vital that the wider railway heritage movement cherished its young volunteers. He said: “Many of those enthusiasts who founded the railway preservation movement are now past retirement age and it is important that we look to the future and harness the talents of the next generation. There was vast competition for this award from some of the leading railways in Britain but I am pleased to say that Matthew was a worthy winner.”
Speaking on his success Matthew said: “I am delighted to have received the award but this would not have happened without the support, encouragement and leadership of the team at Whitehead.”
Matthew’s dad David and mum Ellen who accompanied him to the awards evening in Birmingham on Saturday said: “Matthew does not let this disability prevent him from pursuing his love of steam trains. He is a proud volunteer at Whitehead Railway Museum and gets considerable enjoyment and satisfaction from carrying out his duties as a tour guide.”
General Manager of Whitehead Railway Museum, Siobhan Dillon said, “We are delighted to have Matthew as part of our team. We have guests visit us from around the world who often compliment Matthew’s enthusiasm for steam trains. We are very proud of his successes and to be recognised at National level is extra special. Congratulations Matthew!”