ONE of the most well-kent faces in and around Largs has been honoured by the Queen for his amazing work during the coronavirus pandemic.

Willie Brown this week told the News that he 'was just doing his job' when he mobilised his family delivery business to make sure nobody was left without supplies as lockdown hit earlier this year.

The 60-year-old was given the British Empire Medal on Her Majesty's birthday honours list announced on Friday.

Willie is one of the most recognisable faces in the area, delivering milk and newspapers to Largs, Millport, Inverkip and West Kilbride.

He said: "I found out after receiving an email from the Cabinet Office. It was a complete shock, I just said 'wow' and sat down.

"Of course I am chuffed. This is a family business and we will celebrate our 50th anniversary next month. The honour was a lovely surprise and has given us all a lift during a difficult time.

"I have been washing milk bottles since I was ten and that was when I started working for the business. Little did I think 50 years on I would receive such an honour for just doing my job."

Willie and wife Marjory run the business with sons Liam, 24, and Nairn, who turns 20 this week. Their daughter Carys also helps on the administrative side of the firm.

Willie added: "We have six delivery drivers and nine milk boys, so it is very much a team effort. This award is for them as much as me.

"When the pandemic started we had a decision to make. Should we stay at home and join the furlough scheme or should we try and provide a service to the community. We decided to do the latter and the phone started ringing off the hook. Everyone wanted deliveries and it was then we realised that we had a very important role to play for our community."

W&J Brown suddenly found themselves delivering milk, newspapers and groceries to 1,100 homes and businesses a week - and they are still helping those shielding and at risk from the virus with regular drop offs.

Willie told how was moved by a phone call from one of his customers last week.

He said: "She told me that she wanted to thank me and the staff. The lady said that the young boys who do deliveries are probably too young to appreciate it, but what they are doing is saving lives. That really hit home and made me so proud of everyone involved."

Willie and Marjory took over the company from his parents William and Janet. Willie's grandfather William Crawford also provided milk deliveries in the town, meaning their local link now spans four generations.

The coronavirus pandemic is not the first time the firm have come to the rescue.

When the Beast from the East hit, Willie and his staff would set their alarms for a 2.30am start and walk to the most badly hit areas to make sure deliveries were still carried out.

Willie explained: "The Beast from the East was something else, but lockdown has been on a par.

"At the start of the pandemic, the phone was ringing non-stop. We could be fielding 30 calls in an hour at its peak.

"We set up an online method for people to contact us with what they needed and from there tried to make sure nobody went without."

Arrangements for receiving the Royal honour are different this year because of Covid-19 situation and it will be presented to Willie by the Lord Lieutenant at an Ayrshire ceremony, likely to be held at Dumfries House in Cumnock.

Willie added: "I would like to say a sincere thank you to everyone who has messaged, texted emailed or phoned us since the news broke. On entering Cafe Renard and the CalMac office I even received a round of applause, which was lovely.

"All I do is deliver milk, it is the team who deserve the plaudits. We are just a small link in the chain and we couldn't operate without the help of our suppliers.

"I'm thrilled to get the medal, but I've just tried to do my job."

Willie has also been involved in a lot of fundraising activities over the years including raising cash for the local Boys' Brigade.

Praise has been heaped on Willie from shops and local businesses, including Nardini's at the Moorings co-owner Claudio Nardini.

He summed up the general feeling locally when he said: "Not all heroes wear capes, some drive milk floats! Congratulations Willie Brown."