For most people, spending 30 years with their local Mountain Rescue Team is no stroll in the park. But for one Mossley man, it’s just like playing golf! That’s why he has been recognised in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
51-year-old Mick Nield has been awarded an MBE for services to Mountain Rescue and to the community in Greater Manchester.
Mick, a self-employed builder, first volunteered with Oldham Mountain Rescue Team in 1988 and spent 25 years as Team Leader. He stepped down from that role last year but is still involved with the team as Chairman.
He said he was humbled by the honour. “The letter had been sat on the side for a couple of days; I’d not seen it,” he said. “It was marked ‘Cabinet Office’ and I thought ‘What the hell is this?’
“I had to read it twice; it was such a shock! It’s a privilege and an honour and I’m humbled.”
Mick will travel down to Buckingham Palace to collect his MBE in the coming months with his wife, Trisha, and two daughters, Georgia and Robin.
Speaking about why he joined the team thirty years ago, Mick said: “Mountain Rescue is a voluntary organisation and it was about putting something back into the sport that I was involved in. I was an adventure scout and then an adventure scout leader.
“A couple of the other leaders used to be in the team at some point. One day I decided to go up and see what it was about, and I’m still involved thirty years later! You put in what you can. It’s a hobby at the end of the day. It’s just like playing golf to me.”
Mick’s first job was quite the baptism of fire, as OMRT were called in to help with the search after the Lockerbie bombing.
“Lockerbie happened just before Christmas and as the search areas got bigger, they realised it went over the east coast,” Mick recalled. “The seven teams in the Peak District were called into the search. We went up to the east side of the county and were based at Bellingham. We were given areas to search. There was a lot of stuff found; we were finding body parts, passports, ID cards but we helped each other through it.”
It’s that unity and camaraderie that Mick says is the biggest reason he has volunteered with OMRT for so long. “It’s the team and the mates; it’s one big family,” he said. “Oldham team has got something special. It’s like football teams; people always joke that their team is better than the other and it’s the same with mountain rescue teams!
“I’d pitch our team in any competition but we are top class at looking after each other. The comradeship that we have is second to none and that’s what makes people stay.”
It’s not just each other that OMRT draw support from. The team has seen an increase in profile and public support over the past thirty years. Mick said: “Over the years, the support from the public has been brilliant. The community round here feel like the team are theirs. We’ve just had an open day for our new operational base and the numbers that turned up were fantastic.”
Mick has seen big changes in his three decades with the Mountain Rescue Team in technology, equipment and an increase in callouts. But he says the biggest change has been the added bureaucracy. “There is a lot of paperwork,” Mick said.
“In the past we did a job, went to the pub and that was that. Now, there are reams and reams of paperwork. Once the Team Leader has done a job, he’s got to get all that paperwork in and have it prepared in case we’re summoned to a coroner’s inquest or something like that. You’ve got to ensure everything is in place.”
Mick has spent the past decade with Bob, the search dog he trained from a puppy. Bob is ten this week and is due to retire, but Mick is already working with a new search dog, Dave.
And while there’s sure to be more changes for Oldham Mountain Rescue Team over the next decade, Mick says the royal honour won’t change him. He said: “It’s surreal. I don’t think I’ll be one of them using the three initials after my name; I’m Mick, that’s it!
“I’m Mick the builder, with Bob and Dave! I’m humbled but I can’t emphasis enough that I wouldn’t have done it for so long if it hadn’t have been for the lads in the team.”