Legendary fundraiser Tom Gilzean celebrates 98th birthday

Tom Gilzean is 98 on Saturday
Tom Gilzean is 98 on Saturday
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OLD soldier and champion fundraiser Tom Gilzean is celebrating his 98th birthday today.

The Second World War veteran can be seen most days shaking his collecting tin on Princes Street, raising a total of £55,000 last year.

Staff from Marks & Spencer, including manager Rob Young, took the chance to surprise him with a birthday cake yesterday to mark the occasion.

Tom said: “Everything I get goes to charity. I go to the bank every day and hand my takings over.”

His latest total was actually down from the £60,000 he raised the previous year.

“I couldn’t get so much this last year because it snowed so much and I couldn’t get out. I tried very hard.”

Tom divides the cash he collects among a variety of good causes, with the biggest slice going to the Sick Kids Friends Foundation, now renamed the Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity (ECHC). He handed them £30,000 last year, taking the total over the past decade to £187,760.

ECHC community fundraising manager Sue Diamond said: “He’s incredible - and to do that over the time he has done it is amazing.

“People sometimes phone up saying ‘Do you know he’s out in the cold?’ and I’ll say ‘Have you tried stopping him?’ He’s a force of nature, there’s no holding him back.”

She said Tom was a great ambassador. “He is an incredible supporter, he makes such a difference to what we do.

“We try to make sure Tom’s money goes to where it’s needed most at the time.

“He has helped us pay for one of the waiting areas in the new hospital when it opens - an area for parents and children to wait while they’re in hospital.”

Tom also gave £10,000 each last year to veterans charity Erskine and the annual Edinburgh Taxi Trade Children’s Outing.

And there was £5000 for the Prestonfield Neighbourhood Project, which provides advice and care to older people in the community.

Tom has had links with the group for 26 years. Project co-ordinator Linda Wright said: “He was a regular member of the art group producing many wonderful art works which he usually gave away.

“Since Tom started his fundraising for charities he has been very generous in making donations to the project and to date has gifted £25,000 which has been used to support our work for older people.

Tom has no plans to retire from his fundraising. “I’m working as hard as I can - it keeps me going.”

And he thanked those who put money in his tin. “I love Edinburgh and I love the people of Edinburgh - they do so much.”