Tom Gilzean: Prolific charity fundraiser dies at 99

By Angie Brown
BBC Scotland, Edinburgh and East reporter

Image source, Tabby Blades/Edinburgh Children’s Hospital
Image caption,
Tom Gilzean with his Oor Wullie statue in Edinburgh's Princes Street

A 99-year-old war veteran turned charity icon who raised £1m for good causes has died in Edinburgh.

Tom Gilzean was regularly seen with his collecting tin and trademark tartan trousers on Princes Street and the Royal Mile.

He died in veterans' hospital Erskine House in the capital on Monday night following a series of small strokes.

His family said he died still wanting to collect money for charity. He would have been 100 next May.

Oor Wullie statue

Mr Gilzean was honoured with an Oor Wullie statue in his image, as part of the Our Wullie Bucket Trail this summer.

He was outbid when the statue went up for auction, but a local taxi firm stepped in to commission another sculpture.

His son Douglas, 68, who lives in Livingston, told BBC Scotland everyone was welcome at his father's funeral.

He said: "My father lived his life to collect for his charities so when he found himself bed bound after a fall I think he just gave up."

He added: "We are so immensely proud of him. He was an icon for his charity collecting and nobody in the family will be able to fill his shoes."

Gina Clarke, Mr Gilzean's daughter-in-law, said: "We are all very sad. There was only one Tom Gilzean and he will be very much missed."

Image caption,
Tom Gilzean was awarded the Edinburgh Award in 2015

Mr Gilzean received the Edinburgh Award in 2015 and an MBE earlier this year for his prolific charity work.

A bus driver for Lothian Buses he also served with the Royal Engineers from 1938 to 1946 as a despatch rider and in mine clearance.

Edinburgh's Lord Provost, Frank Ross, said: "Tom Gilzean was the star of the Royal Mile and Princes Street.

"Nothing would dampen his spirits or stop him going above and beyond to raise fantastic amounts of money for charity.

"Come rain or come shine, good health and bad, there Tom would be wearing his trademark tartan trousers selflessly shaking his tin for charity. When he was selected to receive the eighth Edinburgh Award, he was the first person to receive it for local charity work and he received more nominations than anybody else.

"He really was an astounding veteran so this Sunday, please wear your poppies with pride. Let's do it for Tam."

Mr Gilzean leaves behind two children. His daughter, Maureen, 72, lives in Spain.

He will be buried at Mount Vernon in Edinburgh beside his late wife Anne.

'Inspirational ambassador'

Roslyn Neely, CEO of Edinburgh Children's Hospital Charity, said: "We are so very sorry to hear the news about Tom Gilzean.

"He was an exceptional and inspirational ambassador of Edinburgh Children's Hospital Charity who dedicated his life to raising funds and awareness for worthy causes.

"Thanks to Tom, the lives of thousands of babies, children, young people and their families in hospital have been transformed - an incredible legacy for a man who was truly one of a kind.

"Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time. We will be forever grateful for his support and for inspiring kindness in so many others."

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