CALENDAR Girl Angela Knowles whose first husband inspired the original version of the famous Pirelli-style calendar depicting semi-naked members of Rylstone and District WI, has been made an MBE in the Queen's New Year's honours.

Mrs Knowles, from Linton, was part of an original 11-strong line-up of women who brought out the alternative calendar for the start of the millennium to raise money for leukaemia research - now called Bloodwise.

It was inspired by her first husband, John Baker, who was suffering from non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

In a stroke of genius, fellow WI member Tricia Stewart suggested the alternative calender to raise money for research.

Sadly, John died before the calendar was completed, but he was aware of it and had given it his blessing. He also told the 'girls' they wouldn't go through with it.

Mrs Knowles, 74, said: "I was truly surprised when I opened the envelope announcing the award. I said I can't believe this. I was really taken aback and so thrilled.

"My family was delighted and so were the other Calendar Girls when I told them. This is really for them too. It's been a real team effort.

"It's 20 years ago now and such a lot has happened in that time. There has been a film (Calendar Girls, made by Bueno Vista), a musical and stage play." Mrs Knowles worked alongside Gary Barlow and Tim Firth to turn the story into the hit West End musical: 'Calendar Girls: The Musical'.

She added: "There is talk of the musical being taken to America next year. It is only an idea, but it means there is still hope it will make it to Broadway which for me will be the icing on the cake. We have our fingers crossed.

"So much progress has been made towards treatment of blood cancers since our calendar launched. At the start, nine out of 10 children diagnosed with leukaemia would not survive. Today, nine out of 10 live and one day, through the continued research that is going on, everyone will get better. Even people who are suffering from what John had are going into remission for much longer.

"I'm proud that what we have done has helped in some small part towards this."

The story of the Calendar Girls has been well documented.

The launch at the Devonshire Arms, in Cracoe, in April 1999 proved to be a real media scrum which put the women on the world stage.

Concern the group wouldn't manage to sell the 1,000 copies they had had printed was unfounded as 56,000 copies flew off the presses. To date the money raised is upwards of £6 million.

Mrs Knowles was a trustee of Bloodwise from 2006 to 2013 and is now honorary president.

She was also given an honorary doctorate at the University of Bradford and the University of Sheffield.

A 20th anniversary calendar which was rumoured may have been on the cards for the coming year did not materialise.

Asked about a future follow-up, Mrs Knowles said: "You never know."