One of only two Northern Ireland people to be awarded a CBE was Trevor Haslett, the former CEO of NI Water.
The award was in return for his services to the water industry, as well as voluntary work.
He earned a first-class engineering degree back in 1973, but despite finding himself in the midst of the Troubles (and being presented with a chance to work in South Africa), he opted to stay – partly to keep playing rugby for his local clubs.
“I loved rugby,” he said, adding that he had been a member of Cooke and later of Ards RFC.
“It was just that I had a lot of friends locally. And as it turned out a lot of people left South Africa in the early 1990s when trouble set in, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing.”
He worked his way up to the top spot at the service from his arrival as a graduate, and believes he was the first such chief executive to have done so.
In his later years in the service, he recalled how his wife did not see him from one day to the next as he battled with the “big thaw” – as formerly-frozen burst pipes started leaking across the Province in 2010/11, leaving rafts of households dry.
He stepped down as CEO in August, aged 62.
He has also been the local president of charity WaterAid.
The letter announcing his award arrived in November. It bore the official stamp of the cabinet office, and his eagle-eyed wife immediately recognised it for what it was – but waited patiently for six hours until he returned home and opened it himself.
Yesterday he said that despite occasional incidents where things had not gone as planned, the service has improved notably since the day he first arrived.
Mr Haslett, from the Killinchy area, said: “Not only is this (CBE) a great personal and family honour, but it recognises the great commitment of NI Water staff.”