Southend charity worker receives borough’s highest honour

A tireless charity worker who is battling motor neurone disease has been awarded Southend’s highest honour, after receiving the Freedom of the Borough.

Garry Lowen has worked with countless charities, serving as chairman of the Southend Carnival Association, as a Rotarian, and as chairman of successive mayoral charity committees, raising thousands of pounds.

Mr Lowen, who is also owner of the Gleneagles Hotel in Westcliff and a long-standing supporter of the Southend Conservatives, is terminally ill. But he proudly attended an award ceremony led by Southend mayor Margaret Borton at the Civic Centre.

After receiving the honour, Mr Lowen, 63, said: “I’m humbled to be awarded this status.

“Colleagues have always remarked to me that if they cut me in half I would have Southend running through me like a stick of rock. This adds to that stick of rock.

Little did I know that as a schoolboy growing up in this wonderful town that I would be here today with this wonderful honour.

“I’m not sure what privileges being a freeman entails but in London you can drive sheep over the London Bridge. Perhaps as we become a city, perhaps we can start a tradition of driving some sheep down the pier.”

He added: “My values have always been that no person is an island and you shouldn’t take from the community, you should give back to ensure it continues to grow.

“The city status awarded in honour of my good friend, the late Sir David Amess, gives the opportunity for this city to grow beyond my wildest dreams.”

Ian Gilbert, Labour leader of the council, said: “I’ve known Garry as somebody who has been deeply involved on committees to charities in the town, and in all my deal – ings with him he has been a ceaseless advocate for this town. Over the years he’s made a great contribution to our civic life.”

Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative group, added: “Garry I have known for a while, but not everyone will know the sterling work he did with the Southend Conservatives. What we also shouldn’t fail to recognised his passion for Southend through the work he did with the carnival and various other charities.”

Former Labour councillor David Norman was granted Freedom of the Borough, the last time this award will be handed out before Southend becomes a city.

It is the 59th Freedom of the Borough to be awarded in Southend.

Accepting the status, Mr Norman said: “I can honestly say that nothing is more rewarding than serv – ing your community as a local councillor and I’ve been honoured to do so in my beloved town of Southend.

“I would like to pass on one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned.

Always treat your political opponents with respect.

“Treat them not as the enemy but as someone who has a different view.”

Former Conservative council leader Nigel Holdcroft and veteran Conservative councillor Ian Robertson were each awarded the title of Honorary Alder – man.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter