A COUPLE who have dedicated their lives to helping others at home and abroad have been shortlisted for the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award 2013.

The Very Reverend Dr John and Mary Miller, from Castlemilk in Glasgow, are in the final three being considered for the award, which is supported by South Ayrshire Council and EventScotland and part of Scotland's Winter Festivals, which celebrate our nation's rich culture and heritage.

The award recognises a group or individual who has saved, improved or enriched the lives of others or society as a whole, through personal self-sacrifice, selfless service or "hands-on" charitable work.

Winners receive the equivalent of 1759 guineas – a sum which signifies the year of the Bard's birth and the coinage then in circulation – as well as an award handcrafted in Scotland.

For 36 years, John served the people of Castlemilk as minister while Mary founded the well-known Jeely Piece Club.

In 2007, they moved to Zimbabwe to work with HIV/Aids victims and help work towards peacebuilding. In 2008, John became only the second living person to have a Glasgow school named after him.

He said: "We feel excited and humbled to be nominated, although feel we scarcely deserve it for what have been very happy and fulfilling years living and working with people who have shown us the true meaning of humanity. We feel very lucky indeed."

Forty-two nominations were received for the award.

Selkirk-based Margaret Mills MBE, project worker with Children 1st, and the late Khalil Dale MBE, who worked in war zones helping injured people, are also on the shortlist.

David Anderson, chief executive of South Ayrshire Council, who chairs the judging panel, said: "Choosing only three to make the final shortlist was extremely difficult as every nominee would have been a worthy finalist and winner.

"These are four extraordinary people who epitomise all that a humanitarian should be and we now have the unenviable task of selecting just one finalist to become the recipient of the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award 2013."

The winner will be named at a ceremony in the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway on Saturday, January 26.

stef.lach@ heraldandtimes.co.uk