Inspirational Edinburgh war veteran and legendary fundraiser, Tom Gilzean, dies aged 99

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His selfless acts of generosity have seen him become a treasured Edinburgh institution raising more than a million for charities.

A prominent and well-loved figure known for sporting his tartan trews on iconic locations like Princes Street, he is an unmistakable sight in the Capital relentlessly asking for donations from locals and visitors alike come rain or shine.

Inspirational Edinburgh war veteran and legendary fundraiser, Tom Gilzean, dies aged 99

Inspirational Edinburgh war veteran and legendary fundraiser, Tom Gilzean, dies aged 99

But the legendary fundraiser and war veteran, Tom Gilzean, has sadly passed away aged 99.

Passed away with family...

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

He will be buried at Mount Vernon in Edinburgh beside his wife Anne who died 19 years ago.

A statue depicting the relentless fundraiser was also on display throughout the summer at his favourite spot on Princes Street, outside Marks & Spencer as part of the Oor Wullie Big Bucket Trail.

A statue depicting the relentless fundraiser was also on display throughout the summer at his favourite spot on Princes Street, outside Marks & Spencer as part of the Oor Wullie Big Bucket Trail.

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

He leaves behind two children.

His son, Douglas Gilzean told the BBC: "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.

"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."

He will be buried at Mount Vernon in Edinburgh beside his wife Anne who died nine years ago.

He will be buried at Mount Vernon in Edinburgh beside his wife Anne who died nine years ago.

Lifelong charity supporter

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

His childhood was spent playing in the Old Town with friends, particularly in the Lawnmarket, exploring areas such as Brodie’s Close.

A lifelong charity supporter, in the 1920s and 1930s he would help out at the Royal Infirmary Parade along Princes Street and walked the length of the street collecting cash to help pay for hospitals and doctors long before the NHS.

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.

During his time there he helped in the liberation of France and the Netherlands.

He met his wife Anne in 1944 while out dancing in Edinburgh and also worked as a bus driver.

He and his wife were married for 55 years until she passed away from cancer in 2000.

Tom then took to the streets of Edinburgh to stave off depression and began raising money for causes such as the Edinburgh Children's Hospital Charity and the Erskine care home for veterans.

Honoured for charity work and philanthropy

Known for wearing his numerous medals with pride, his honours include the 1939-1945 Star, the Africa Star, the Burma Star, the France and Germany Star, the Defence Medal and the Victory Medal.

He also has a 30th Armoured Corps medal earned during Operation Market Garden.

2015 saw him become 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.

In June this year he received an MBE for his services to charity after raising more than £1 million for charity.

Tom’s Oor Wullie Statue

A statue depicting the relentless fundraiser was also on display throughout the summer at his favourite spot on Princes Street, outside Marks & Spencer as part of the Oor Wullie Big Bucket Trail.

The sculpture was sold to a Scottish couple in Cyprus for £13,000 at auction, while the Gilzean family were outbid following a crowd fundraiser which raised £7,000 to buy the statue so it could be kept on display in Edinburgh.

However, not all was lost as a second life-sized Oor Wullie sculpture of Tom Gilzean will be created and gifted to the family.

Frank Ross, Edinburgh’s Lord Provost 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. 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.”