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Former councillor and veterans given freedom of Islington

PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 March 2015

George Durack receiving his Freedom of the borough from Mayor Theresa Debono

George Durack receiving his Freedom of the borough from Mayor Theresa Debono

Archant

The freedom of Islington was bestowed upon two of the borough's finest last week, with the council honouring veterans in a special year for remembering the sacrifices of our armed forces.

Mark Samson of the Islington Veterans Association receiving Freedom of the Borough from Mayor Theresa DebonoMark Samson of the Islington Veterans Association receiving Freedom of the Borough from Mayor Theresa Debono

World War Two veteran, former councillor and tireless campaigner George Durack was made an honorary freeperson in his 91st year and members of the Islington Veteran’s Association (IVA) were also singled out for their “major and unique” contribution to life in the borough.

The ceremonies took place after the Mayor’s Awards, which was held in the Council Chamber at Islington Town Hall so that councillors could unanimously vote through the motions.

Deputy leader of the council Cllr Janet Burgess, who has worked with Mr Durack in her Junction Ward, paid tribute to the 89-year-old who has been chairman of the Islington Pensioners Forum for the last 11 years.

“You’ve touched the lives of tens of thousands of residents over the years and I can’t think of someone who more deserves the award, so congratulations,” she said.

George, who grew up in the old Beaconsfield Buildings in Caledonian Road and worked as a postman in Hampstead for much of his life, said: “Nothing surprised me more than when Richard (Cllr Watts) said ‘can you come into the Mayor’s office’. I thought ‘what on earth have I done’.

“I spent most of my childhood at the Beaconsfield Buildings. At that time the price of one house in Mayfair could have bought the lot but they were a good group of people, they were nice, though they were poor.

“It’s a great honour for the council to step down and recognise someone from the lower echelons – the boy from the buildings has achieved something.”

Cllr Gary Poole said that despite the IVA only forming in 2008, it had already taken on a crucial role in the community.

“It [the IVA] lobbies for and promotes the interests of veterans, working in any way that commemorates the contribution and sometimes sacrifice of those who have served and their families.

“They continue to seek and encourage new members to join, so that they can feel supported and valued – offering friendship and comradeship by spending time together.”

The IVA, which was started by ex-servicemen Fr Jim Kennedy and Col Brian Kay, has continued to increase its contribution to the borough and last year revived the poppy appeal in Islington to mark the centenary of the beginning of the First World War – raising over £13,000.

Accepting the honour, chairman of the IVA Mark Samson, said: “What a surprise to be honoured in such a way.”

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