Edinburgh remembers legendary charity fundraiser Tom Gilzean on what would have been his 100th birthday

The charity fundraising hero would have turned 100 on 12 May 2020.
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Friends and supporters of legendary Edinburgh fundraiser Tom Gilzean are being invited to share their memories to commemorate what would have been his 100th birthday.

The decorated war veteran sadly died in November aged 99, having raised more than £1 million for good causes during his colourful lifetime.

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Tom became an iconic figure to both locals and tourists alike, and even had an Oor Wullie painted statue of him as a fixture in front of his fundraising spot outside Marks & Spencer on Princes Street.

Tom Gilzean would have turned 100 todayTom Gilzean would have turned 100 today
Tom Gilzean would have turned 100 today

Come rain or shine, he could be found on Princes Street or the Royal Mile, wearing his trademark tartan trews and shaking his collection cans to raise funds for Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity (ECHC).

When asked why he fundraised 365 days a year in all weathers, Tom would simply say “I just want to help the children.”

Tom was born in Edinburgh's Southside, but spent most of his life on Morrison Street.

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He served in the Second World War as a Sapper in the army and landed in France in October 1944 as a member of 30 Armoured Corps Royal Engineers.

Tom's chosen charity was Edinburgh Children's Hospital CharityTom's chosen charity was Edinburgh Children's Hospital Charity
Tom's chosen charity was Edinburgh Children's Hospital Charity

Tom met his late wife Anne while working as a bus driver in the Capital in 1944.

In 2015 he became the eighth recipient to be honoured with the coveted Edinburgh Award, following in the footsteps of the likes of Ian Rankin, JK Rowling and Sir Chris Hoy - but he was the first to be honoured for charity work and philanthropy.

An impression of Tom's handprints has been immortalised on a flagstone outside the City Chambers alongside those of previous Edinburgh Award recipients.

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Now, Tom’s charity ECHC is asking those who knew and supported him to share their remembrances and to make a donation in his memory to continue his legacy of supporting the Sick Kids hospital.

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The charity had originally planned a number of events to honour Tom on his 100th birthday, including a 5km fundraising walk around Holyrood Park, all of which have unfortunately been postponed due to lockdown measures.

Rachel Baxter, director of fundraising and marketing at ECHC, said: “Tom was an exceptional and inspirational ambassador of ECHC and we are immensely proud and privileged to have been Tom’s chosen charity.

“Thanks to him, we have been able to transform the lives of thousands of babies, children, young people and their families visiting the Sick Kids hospital – an incredible legacy for a man who was truly one of a kind.

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“The team at ECHC had planned a host of events to remember Tom, but sadly lockdown is preventing such public celebrations of the life of such an extraordinary man. We don’t want to let his incredible contribution to Edinburgh life slip by unnoticed though.

“This is why we are asking his supporters to share their memories and messages with us and, if possible, to make a donation in his name to support children in hospital and ensure his legacy lives on.”

Memories and messages can be emailed in to [email protected], shared to ECHC’s Facebook and Twitter channels: @echcharity or messages can be left when making a donation.

Those wishing to make a donation to Tom’s Fund to help keep his memory alive can donate here.

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