A DEDICATED Greenock granddad has become the first person to receive a special award in recognition of his commitment to Greenock and District Sea Cadet Corps.

Inspirational pensioner Michael O'Connor MBE says that the organisation changed his life when he first joined up 65 years ago.

Now the hard-working 78-year-old of Balloch Road has been presented with the first gold badge.

Michael said: "It was a surprise to me especially as I was the only person picked out of 420 units."

Mr O'Connor joined the Greenock Sea Cadets back in 1953 and has not looked back since.

He said: "I was encouraged to join in 1953 by my probation officer.

"I was going down the wrong path but the sea cadets changed my life."

At the age of 15 Michael had been desperate to join the Navy but was not allowed to sign up on medical grounds.

He added: "I loved ships and I was hell bent on getting into the Royal Navy.

"But that didn't happen as I had a stomach ulcer.

"I was told there was no way I was getting on a ship.

"It was a big disappointment.

"I used to fall asleep every night dreaming of HMS Belfast."

Despite this disappointment, Michael threw himself into the sea cadets.

As an adult he was the commanding officer before becoming the chairman of the unit management trust.

In 1996, Michael, who is a former shipwright and Scott Lithgow safety officer, was presented with an MBE by the Queen in recognition to of his service to the movement.

Jim Hearl, who is the current commanding officer for the Greenock and District Sea Cadet Corps, says Michael is a huge asset to the local organisation.

He said: "Michael was the only recipient of this out of the whole of the Northern area.

"This award is for his 24 years of service to the unit management committee.

"The sea cadets is a very big part of Michael's life."