Hero fundraiser Tom Gilzean closes in on £1 million total

When it comes to charity fundraising, the legendary Tom Gilzean is already one in a million. He never dreamt he'd ever raise such an amount.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 1st September 2018, 6:00 am
Updated Sunday, 2nd September 2018, 2:16 am
Charity fundraiser Tom Gilzean has been collecting money for 22 yeras. Picture: Jon Savage
Charity fundraiser Tom Gilzean has been collecting money for 22 yeras. Picture: Jon Savage

But now the tireless 98-year-old war veteran revealed he is just a whisker away from raising the grand total.

A stunned Tom received the news on Friday.

“I went into the bank today,” he said, “And they said to me: ‘by the way, Tom, you realise you’re nearly there? You’ve got £960,000-odd raised so far’.

“I could not believe it when they told me.”

For the past 22 years, wheelchair-bound Tom has been out collecting in his signature tartan trews seven days a week, come rain or shine.

And now, after more than two decades collecting funds, he’s finally managed to pin down his favourite spot: Primark.

“It’s always incredibly busy,” he explains, “From the moment the doors open, you get them coming in and out.”

Ecstatic at raising such an incredible amount of money, the retired bus driver-turned champion fundraiser says it’s a desire for helping those in need that keeps him going.

He said: “What drives me on is a love for children. I just want to look after them.”

Just last year, Tom managed to raise £30,000 for the Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity.

His latest donation went towards funding the Surgical Day Case waiting area and a discharge lounge for children and their families.

Community Fund raising Manager Sue Diamond said she cannot thank Tom enough for his stellar efforts.

She said: “It’s hard to find enough praise for him really and what he does. He’s such a hero to us, he really is.”

Sue added: “A lot of his funding last year is going to the new hospital and to make it a more fun place for children to come when they are ill.”

In 2015, Tom, whose other charities include the Armed Forces Personnel Recovery Centre and the Edinburgh Taxi Trade Children’s Outing, received the Edinburgh Award, an accolade he described at the time as his “proudest moment”.

Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “In many ways, Tom is the face of Princes Street and to achieve this important milestone will be celebrated across the city.

“He is an example of selfless determination in the face of some adversity, given his physical disability.

“He never fails to bring a smile to the face of residents or holidaymakers who see him daily on Princes Street.

“I wish him well and here’s to the next million.”

In 1919, legendary Portobello-born entertainer Harry Lauder, who had lost a son during the Great War, was given a knighthood for establishing the Harry Lauder Million Pound Fund to help the war injured.

Almost a century on, the stars appear to have aligned. Tom Gilzean’s own million pound fund might just see him earn his own chivalric title next year.