Reporter Sheila Gow honoured by the Queen
DEDICATION to local newspapers in a career that has spanned more than four decades has earned our very own Sheila Gow an MBE.
Mrs Gow, who writes for the East Grinstead Courier and Observer, was included on the New Year's Honours list for her services to journalism.
Speaking of the moment she found out she was to receive the honour, Mrs Gow said: "I thought 'why me?'. There must be hundreds of journalists who have done what I have done."
The mother-of-two started her career as a trainee reporter on the Tonbridge edition of the Kent and Sussex Courier and has worked on many of the group's titles throughout her career including a 20 year stint in Edenbridge.
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She said: "I spent 20 years as reporter in chief in Edenbridge. They were 20 of the best years I had."
Mrs Gow's interest in reporting started at a very young age.
"I have always wanted to be a journalist," she said.
"When I was still at school I suddenly had the urge to work on a newspaper.
"I just loved everything about newspapers, how you get a glimmer of a story and dig and dig until you have all the information."
The former Tunbridge Wells Grammar School student has seen many changes in the industry since starting out.
She said: "I think the biggest change has been from hot metal to computers and the advances in technology in general."
Mrs Gow has covered many memorable stories in her time, from a flood which devastated Tonbridge's town centre in 1968 to the chaos caused by an unexploded bomb in Lingfield in 2002.
But perhaps one of the biggest stories in her career was the Cowden train crash in 1994 which claimed the lives of five people and left many more injured.
After hearing emergency sirens while walking near her home in Fordcombe, Mrs Gow was the first journalist on the scene.
Although her career has been dedicated to the Courier Media Group and local titles, Mrs Gow was offered opportunities to work in the national media.
She said: "The main reason for staying with the Courier was because of my family. My family has always come first.
"But I have had the best of both worlds. I have always done a job that I loved and been there for my family whenever they have needed me."
She added: "Local papers give tremendous service to the community which I think sadly is very often undervalued."
Mrs Gow has yet to find out when she will visit Buckingham Palace to collect her award, which also recognises her work as an NVQ assessor for trainee journalists.