A LIFETIME of devotion to the care of special needs children earned a royal salute in the Queen's Birthday Honours list for a locally-born teacher who retired at Christmas.

For Audrey Westhead, of Dentons Green Lane, who was head of Chestnut Lodge school, Widnes, was presented with an OBE by the Queen at Buckingham Palace -- and she wasn't even a tiny bit nervous!

"It was a wonderful occasion, and I felt special after attending", said Audrey, a picture of elegance on her big day in matching aquamarine ensemble. "Her Majesty said she had been told of my long career, and I replied that it had been a privilege and pleasure".

Mrs Westhead is married to John, and the couple have three sons, Jonathan, Jed and Ben, and a grand-daughter, Mollie.

She was educated at Rivington Road elementary and Cowley Grammar schools and, after attending Leeds teacher-training college, began teaching in 1957, first in Prescot, then with HM Forces in Germany, Merton Bank and the Hamblett school.

Audrey's dedication was also marked with the award of a ornate lapel pin from the governors of Chestnut Lodge, and she is very appreciative of the help and encouragement she received from everyone at that caring school.