AN elderly ex-soldier who fought off attempts to ban him from collecting for charity on the Royal Mile has netted a record £40,000 in a year – despite missing three weeks when he was in hospital and going on an 11-day cruise.
Veteran Tom Gilzean, 91, was warned last year that he could face legal action if he continued his daily collections after it emerged he did not have the necessary permit.
But after the Evening News stepped in to highlight his plight, council bosses issued him with a special licence to allow him to continue his charitable work.
Mr Gilzean – who stands for three hours at a time at Castlehill with his collection tin – has now revealed he brought in the most money he has ever raised in a single year over the past 12 months – despite his enforced absence.
He has distributed the cash to five local charities and wants to thank the people of Edinburgh – and tourists – for giving so generously.
Mr Gilzean, of Peffermill, said: “This is the most I have raised.
“I was very busy this year and got out as much as I could. I was in hospital for three weeks in April then I went away on holiday for 11 days with my daughter-in-law and son as they took me on a cruise so I missed the whole of April.
“The locals all know me and are all very happy to give me something. It’s a mixture of them and the tourists. I depend a lot on people from Newcastle and the Irish as they are very good.”
Widower Mr Gilzean, who served in the Royal Engineers for 12 years, including fighting in Europe in the Second World War, has given most of the money he raised this year, £25,000, to the Sick Kids Hospital.
He also donated £5000 to the Personnel Recovery Centre at the Erskine home in Gilmerton, £4000 to the Rock Trust homeless charity and £4000 to the Prestonfield Neighbourhood Centre for elderly people. The remaining £2000 will go to Edinburgh’s taxi drivers to help them provide their annual day out to the seaside for children.
Mr Gilzean said: “I wanted everything to be kept in Edinburgh.”
He started collecting five years ago after being contacted by a friend who wanted help raising funds for the Sick Kids Friends Foundation.
Last year, he came into difficulty when new rules were brought in to control street collectors, which would have limited Mr Gilzean to just six days’ collecting a year.
But city leaders agreed to use special powers to grant him a licence to collect as often as he wants.
Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie, who persuaded officials to grant a new year-round licence for Mr Gilzean, said: “He really is a one off and I was delighted to secure that special licence for him.
“He is almost like a permanent fixture on the High Street and is always cheery and has remarkable stamina for a man of his age.
“I don’t know anyone else like Tom. He does Edinburgh proud.”