IN his trademark tartan trews, prolific charity fundraiser Tom Gilzean has become a welcome and much loved part of the city’s landscape.
Today the Evening News can reveal city chiefs are facing mounting calls to honour the war veteran and recognise the amount of good he’s done by awarding him the Freedom of Edinburgh.
It’s easy to see why the still sprightly 93-year-old is the target of such warm affection.
He recently hit a £100,000 fundraising target for the Sick Kids hospital, after donating more than £20,000 to the cause this year alone through his well-known collections on the Royal Mile and Princes Street. The former serviceman, who saw action on the battlefields of Europe during the Second World War, has raised another £20,000 in the last 12 months – making sizable donations to help veterans, OAPs and disabled children.
The Scottish Government’s Veterans Minister, Keith Brown, Mr Gilzean’s local MSP, Jim Eadie, and ex-servicemen and women’s charity Poppyscotland today called on the city to consider handing the pensioner its highest honour.
And Mr Gilzean – who despite his age raises cash in all weathers – said that he would “love” to receive the freedom of his home city, saying it would not just be in recognition of his efforts, but of the people of the Capital who have supported him over the years.
“My family would be delighted and so would I,” he said. “It wouldn’t just be for me, it would be for all the citizens of Edinburgh. But I don’t think they would give it to a commoner.”
According to the council, the ceremonial Freedom of the City award is reserved for those who have “distinguished themselves through their work or efforts” or recognises “the respect and high esteem in which they are held by the people of Edinburgh”.
Mr Brown said while it was a decision for the council, he was “delighted” to back calls to have the Freedom of the City bestowed on Mr Gilzean.
“Tom Gilzean is and has been a tireless and dedicated fundraiser for ex-service and other charities,” he added.
“In raising so much money for good causes he has touched the lives of so many people. He is an example to us all and a credit both to himself and the veterans’ community.”
It was announced last month that Peter Higgs would become the latest person to be granted the honour. Until then, none of those with the Freedom of the City, including royals, Sir Chris Hoy and Aung San Suu Kyi, actually lived in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Southern SNP MSP Jim Eadie described Mr Gilzean, of Peffermill, as an “Edinburgh landmark” and a “great ambassador to the city”.
He added: “As a war hero who has raised tens of thousands of pounds for good causes across the city, I can think of no person more deserving of such an accolade.”
The sentiment was echoed by Poppyscotland chief executive Ian McGregor. He said: “Tom is a remarkable chap who fought for his country and has since devoted his retirement to raising money for local charities. It is heartening to see the esteem in which Tom is held by the people of Edinburgh and giving him this honour could be a fitting way for the city to show its appreciation.”
Lord Provost Donald Wilson heaped praise on the kind-hearted veteran but refused to be drawn on if the award would be made. “We are extremely fortunate in Edinburgh to have so many heroic people willing to give up their time for others and for the good of their community,” he said.