Health and Social Care Staff to receive the Freedom of the Borough

Thursday 23rd August 2018

Health and Social Care Staff to receive the Freedom of the Borough

Borough Crest

The Freedom of the Borough – An Ancient Privilege

The history of the ‘Freedom of the Borough’ stretches back centuries, to the 1600s when to become a ‘Freeman’ was often dependent on your circumstances of birth and conferred certain privileges - Freemen were, for example, often exempt from paying certain tolls or taxes and indeed, under a Borough’s charter, were often the only members of a community entitled to stand for civic office. By the late 19th century, however, a new law redefined the award as a purely honorary title. Nonetheless, it remains the highest honour which a Borough Council can bestow and is, therefore, conferred rarely.

On 1 September 2018, Health and Social Care Staff become the first recipients of the Freedom as bestowed by Ards and North Down Borough Council, following Local Government reorganisation in 2015.  The two merged Councils each had a roll of burgesses featuring individuals who had played a significant role in civic life and organisations such as the RUC, PSNI, NI Prison Service and the RAF who contributed much to respective or both Boroughs.

The Mayor, Councillor Richard Smart, will lead the Council in a formal conferment ceremony in the beautiful surroundings of Bangor Castle’s Walled Gardens.

Those gathered to witness the event will hear the resolution of the Council conferring the Freedom of the Borough upon Health and Social Care Staff and see the hand-illuminated certificate being presented to Mr Hugh McCaughey, Chief Executive of the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, who will receive it on behalf of all Health and Social Care staff, as an official record of the privilege. The certificate and special gifts of oak trees will be accepted by Mr McCaughey, who will also sign the Register of Honorary Burgesses, completing the designation of all Health and Social Care Staff serving in the Borough as Freemen of the Borough of Ards and North Down.  The trees will be planted in health care facilities throughout the Borough as a sustainable and lasting memento.

The ancient privilege translates in modern times to a symbolic expression of honour, esteem and appreciation for an organisation or individual.  Sadly, modern Freemen do not get to exercise the rights enjoyed by their ancient counterparts of marching through the streets of the Borough with ‘bayonets fixed, drums beating, and Colours flying’, nor may they drive their sheep through the Borough’s streets.