A FORMER soldier has raised £40,000 for charity – after defying mean-spirited council officials who tried to force him to stop his collections.
Edinburgh council – already under fire today for wasting £6,500 on team building exercises – threatened to prosecute Tom Gilzean last year.
The 91-year-old, who has manned his post for five years, was told by official that he did not have a permit to carry out his daily collections on the city’s Royal Mile.
But a public outrage led officials to issue the Veteran, who stands on Castlehill for three hours every day, with a special permit allowing him to continue his collections.
Mr Gilzean reached the staggering target despite missing three weeks while being treated in hospital and another 11 days while he was on a cruise.
He said the figure, which has been split between five different charities, was the highest he had managed in a single year.
Mr Gilzean, who lives in the Peffermill area of the city, said: “This is the most I have raised.
“I was very busy this year and got out as much as I could. I was in hospital for three weeks in April and then I went away on holiday for 11 days with my daughter-in-law and son as they took me on a cruise, so I missed the whole of April.
“The locals all know me and are all very happy to give me something. It’s a mixture of them and the tourists. I depend a lot on people from Newcastle and the Irish as they are very good.”
Most of the money, around £25,000, has been donated to the Sick Kid’s Hospital.
Mr Gilzean, who served for 12 years in the Royal Engineers, fighting campaigns in Europe and during World War 2, has also given £5000 to the Personnel Recovery Centre at the Erskine home, which cares for veterans, £4000 to homeless charity Rock Trust and £4000 to the Prestonfield Neighbourhood Centre for the elderly.
The remaining £2000 will help the city’s taxi drivers fund their annual seaside trip for children.
Mr Gilzean added: “I wanted everything to be kept in Edinburgh”
The pensioner began his daily collections after a friend asked for help in raising money for the Sick Kids Friends Foundation.
But council bosses introduced a new rules to control street collectors which would have forced him to cut his collections to just six days a year.
However officials later used special powers to grant him a licence to collect whenever he wants.
Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie, who was instrumental in getting the special dispensation for Mr Gilzean, said: “He really is a one off and I was delighted to secure that special licence for him.
“He is almost like a permanent feature on the High Street and is always cheery and has remarkable stamina for a man of his age.
“I don’t know anyone else like Tom. He does Edinburgh proud.”
Earlier this week the council were criticized for spending thousands of pounds on staff trips to promote team bonding.
They forked out £850 to send 30 employees on a treasure hunt, while £4000 was spent on two trips to the Cairngorms.