THERE will be few more popular names on the Queen’s New Year Honours list than that of Tom Gilzean.
This 92-year-old wonder has raised an astonishing £150,000 for charity after years of shaking his collecting tin on the Royal Mile every day come rain or shine. The striking sight of the former sapper in his full Highland regalia is now a part of Old Town tradition.
Visiting Holyrood Palace to receive his well-earned British Empire Medal from the Queen will not take him far from his usual stomping ground.
But what a difference to the situation he found himself in two years ago when he was needlessly banned from collecting for charity on the Royal Mile due to petty bureaucracy.
It is a marvelous day for Tom to receive the recognition which he has never courted but so thoroughly deserves.
And it is a good one for the rest of us to see officialdom at its best for a change. The Queen’s Honours list always sparks a debate about whether or not the right people get the recognition they deserve. We all marveled at the achievements of the newly-knighted Sir Bradley Wiggins this summer, but has he yet done enough at the age of 32 to earn such a high accolade? That is a debate that, like his bike wheels, will run and run.
There can be no argument with the award handed to Professor Peter Higgs, although many might have expected a knighthood to go with the Nobel Prize he is tipped to pick up next year.
These honours, however, are at their best when they are handed to the people who make a difference to our lives without getting the public thanks they deserve.
That is true of Tom Gilzean and community organiser Mary Anderson of the Broomhouse Centre. It is also true of charity stalwarts Alice Doherty and Rose Ritchie, as well as so many others.
Whether or not you are a supporter of the monarchy, we hope you will agree that their efforts deserve to be honoured by the wider community –and that you will join us in offering congratulations to all of this year’s Lothian recipients.