War veteran devastated after Remembrance Sunday snub

A war veteran was left devastated after being snubbed on Remembrance Sunday when trying to lay a wreath.
Tom Gilzean has been collecting money for local charities fro many years. Picture: Jon SavageTom Gilzean has been collecting money for local charities fro many years. Picture: Jon Savage
Tom Gilzean has been collecting money for local charities fro many years. Picture: Jon Savage

Renowned charity fundraiser Tom Gilzean, 97, expected to lay his wreath at the Stone of Remembrance at the annual remembrance ceremony at the City Chambers.

However Tom, who braves all weathers in his trademark tartan trousers to fundraise for the charity on the streets of the Capital, was turned away by the Royal British Legion Scotland for not being on a list.

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He said: “I was told I couldn’t go in because I wasn’t on the list. I have never had to do that before and it was the shock of my life. I lay a wreath every year and I couldn’t believe they turned me away in such a cold manner. The things I’ve done for charity in this city. I was really angry and upset.”

More than 100 wreaths were laid at the poignant service, organised by Legion Scotland, to remember those who have fallen in conflicts.

Remembrance Sunday means a lot to Tom, whose brother Douglas died at the age of 18 while serving in the Royal Navy.

Tom was a Legion Scotland member for ten years and missed last year’s service due to breaking his spine after falling down stairs in a freak accident.

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The war veteran tripped and fell in his home while making his way to the bank to deposit £700 worth of coins and loose change.

He said: “I wanted to make up for what I missed last year. I was gutted to miss the service and I wanted to go this year and lay the wreath and remember my brother.”

Tom has raised more than half a million pounds for charities over the past 17 years, including for Edinburgh 
Children’s Hospital Charity (ECHC) and the British Red Cross. The selfless fundraiser claims he was also told that he couldn’t raise money for all four of his chosen charities and he was unable to see the ceremony.

The formidable charity collector, who has an Edinburgh Award for his outstanding contribution to the city, has vowed to continue fundraising with his trusty tins and will try to lay a wreath again next year.

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He said: “I have four licences to collect for four charities and I have been collecting for the past 17 years. I’ve had people asking me where I was and they were shocked when I told them what happened. I will keep fundraising until the day I die.”

A spokesman for Legion Scotland said: “We are really sorry to hear that Tom did not feel that he had the level of involvement in the National 
Service of Remembrance on Sunday that he felt he should.

“The wreath-laying component of the service is split into two parts. Those involved in this part are invited as representatives of their organisations rather than as individuals. Immediately following the benediction, members of the public are then invited forward to lay wreaths. As a veteran and someone who works so tirelessly for the benefit of others, we’ll be in touch with Tom directly to ensure he doesn’t feel excluded in the future.

“We will also discuss the setting aside of a designated area that can be used for members of the public with disabilities.”