Hemsby Postmaster’s award

AFTER taking over a family-run business half a century ago, the hard work of a Hemsby sub-postmaster has been recognised nationally.

Owen Church, who took over control of the village’s post office in 1964 from his parents, was “for once, lost for words” after being given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Federation of Retail Newsagents. The honour follows a distinguished career during which the 68-year-old rose through the ranks to become the organisation’s president.

It also comes just a year after long-standing friend and Great Yarmouth newsagent Ralph Childs received the same award.

Owen said: “I was supposed to just be giving an award to a young man for being news deliverer of the year in Skipton, who couldn’t make it to the award, when they said ‘by the way, you’ve won an award too’. I was gobsmacked, to be honest.”

After being a regional representative, Owen moved onto the national committee before taking on the top position in 1995, in which he oversaw a team of 130 staff.

And unable to make it down to the glitzy ceremony because of an imminent hip replacement, his video acceptance speech was beamed out to the hundreds attending.

However, it has always been his time spent serving local customers, rather than the high profile and power of the top roles, that has appealed to him most.

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Owen runs the Hemsby Post Office alongside a newsagents in Potter Heigham, with wife Liz and daughter Claire Stewart-Jacks.

He told The Mercury: “It’s the pleasure of doing it and feeling you can do something to help someone that has kept me in the job. There have been so many good times over the years, but things have really changed with the big supermarkets.

“You’ve got to give a good service at sensible prices to keep going. Most important is getting to know your customers in a way that supermarkets can’t.”

However, a bit of stiff competition and much-deserved recognition is unlikely to herald the end of this sub-postmaster’s career. “I’ve always tried to stick to the idea of if you help someone they will help you, and I have no plans to retire,” he added.