Tom Gilzean vows broken back won’t stop charity efforts

Tom Gilzean is hoping to have recovered in time for the Queen's garden party. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Tom Gilzean is hoping to have recovered in time for the Queen's garden party. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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FUNDRAISING legend Tom Gilzean is recovering in hospital after falling down stairs in a freak accident.

The 95-year-old war veteran tripped and fell in his home five weeks ago while making his way to the bank to deposit £700 worth of coins and loose change.

Let the public know I’m still alive. Put it in the paper and ask those millionaires and multi-millionaires to give a little to charity.

Tom Gilzean

But the selfless campaigner, who has raised almost £400,000 for good causes over the years, has vowed nothing will stop him from getting back on the streets with his trusty collection tin.

Speaking to the Evening News from Liberton Hospital, he said: “I broke my spine, cracked my neck bone and cracked my shoulder bone right across – all for the love of ­charity.

“I was carrying £700 worth of cash and small change, coming down the stairs. Then everything went from me, just like that. It took my balance away. I can hardly move or anything.”

A well-known face across the Capital, Mr Gilzean served in the Royal Engineers throughout the Second World War – seeing action in Burma and Africa and picking up a number of plaudits for his bravery.

His war honours include the 1939-45 Star, the Africa Star, the Burma Star, the France and Germany Star, the Defence Medal, and the Victory Medal.

He also has a 30th Armoured Corps medal earned during Operation Market Garden, the Second World War conflict made famous in the movie A Bridge Too Far and featured in the HBO television miniseries Band of Brothers.

The tireless pensioner started fundraising after the death of his wife Anne in 2000, and has since raised almost £160,000 for the Sick Kids Friends Foundation (SKFF) alone.

Recovering in a hospital ward, he said he felt like a Roman centurion in his neck and back brace, joking: “If they give me a shield and a sword, I would be ready to fight for charity.”

And, despite facing weeks of further medical care, he has certainly lost none of his fighting spirit.

He added: “Let the public know I’m still alive. Put it in the paper and ask those millionaires and multi-millionaires to give a little to charity.”

The veteran – who is often seen out in all weathers collecting money for charity and has survived pneumonia four times – hopes to raise £60,000 for SKFF this year alone.

Last year he collected £30,000 for SKFF, £10,000 for Erskine, £10,000 for the Edinburgh Taxi Trade Outing and £5000 for a group that works with older people.

In February, we told how city cab firm Central Taxis paid out £800 to repair Mr Gilzean’s disability scooter after it was worn out by his constant campaigning.

The big-hearted company read about his plight in the Evening News and immediately rushed to the charity stalwart’s aid.

Retired bus driver Mr Gilzean, who is also a diabetic, hopes to be well enough to attend the Queen’s garden party at Holyrood next month.