Legendary Edinburgh fundraiser Tom Gilzean, 99, receives MBE in Queen’s Birthday Honours

As a raft of Scots are recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, fundraising legend Tom Gilzean has received an MBE for his services to charity after raising more than £1 million.

Friday, 7th June 2019, 10:30 pm
Updated Friday, 7th June 2019, 11:30 pm
Tom Gilzean pictured in 2018 with Amy Russell and Ollie Snape, community fundraisers for Edinburgh Sick Kids. Pic: Jon Savage.
Tom Gilzean pictured in 2018 with Amy Russell and Ollie Snape, community fundraisers for Edinburgh Sick Kids. Pic: Jon Savage.

The indefatigable war veteran and former bus driver, now 99 years old, has become a prominent and loved figure on Princes Street sporting his tartan trews and numerous medals he’s received over a lifetime of services during war and peace. “I’m very humbled to accept such an award” Tom said. “I never in the world would have expected to raise a million. Very humbled.”

The proceeds of Tom’s fundraising over 24 years has gone to such causes as the Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity and the Erskine care home for veterans. After suffering a fall in his Prestonfield home last year he has been in care at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary. Despite being unable to maintain his routine of seven days fundraising a week, Tom has continued from the hospital foyer, bringing in over £2000 this year alone.

With the help of his physiotherapist Murray Fotheringham, Tom regularly makes his way down to the reception to carry on the good work. “I sit there and I shout “open your hearts for the Sick Kids hospital! That’s my war cry now,” he chuckled.

Tom Gilzean. Pic: Greg Macvean

Tom received the news of his MBE on his way back from a service to commemorate the D-Day landings, held at the French Consulate on Thursday. A former Royal Engineer, Tom helped in the liberation of France and the Netherlands in 1944-45.

And not content to rest after reaching the £1 million milestone, Tom hopes to continue gathering funds for the new Royal Hospital for Sick Children due to open on July 15.

Fiona Anderson of Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “He’s a hero to us and watching him collect is a masterclass. Tom’s hard work and everybody’s donations have made that possible.”

Despite no longer being able to fundraise on his old patch, Tom will still have a presence after being recreated for the Oor Wullie’s Big Bucket Trail where his sculpture will stand throughout summer.

And potentially adding to his gongs, Tom has also been nominated for Fundraiser of the Year at the Evening News Local Hero awards 2019, to be announced on June 21.

Gina Clarke, Tom’s “guid daughter” and partner of 39 years to his son Douglas, said the family were “elated”.

“His charity work is his life and he’s worked so hard to achieve what he’s done for the Children’s Hospital and others. Myself and Douglas are so proud of him as are all the family,” she added.

Also honoured was Scottish cancer charity chief executive Laura Lee who has been made a Dame, recognising her work as CEO of cancer charity Maggie’s, the first of which was built in Edinburgh.

Recognised for excellence across fields including law, health and sport are a host of talented Edinburgers. Awarded a CBE are Lucy Juckes, for services to Education and Literacy; Professor Hector Macqueen, for services to Legal Scholarship; Colin Robertson, for services to Exports and the Bus and Coach Manufacturing Sector and David Strang, for services to Law and Order.

Prof Catherine Amos, for services to Public Health, Brian Duffin, for services to the UK Pensions Industry; Kenneth Hughes, for parliamentary service; Boyd McAdam, for services to Young People and Prof Dorothy Miell, for services to Higher Education and Psychology have been honoured with a OBE.

Shireen Chambers, for services to Forestry; Jacqueline Dankworth, for services to Music; Dr Jane Haley, for services to Scientific Engagement and Education and Lesley Logan, for services to Healthcare and Organ Donation have been honoured with an MBE. And Lynn Simpson has been given a BEM for services to Trampolining.