A STATUE of a pitman with a heroic wartime past has been bought by a town which took it to their hearts.
South Hetton brickmaker and Territorial Army member Fred Gilroy was recruited from the village colliery to the Army at the outbreak of the Second World War, serving as a gun aimer in the Royal Artillery before becoming a Regimental Police Officer.
He was among those to help liberate Belsen at the end of the war.
A statue of the veteran, who died three years ago, aged 87, was created by his friend Ray Lonsdale as a showcase of the ironmonger and artist’s work.
He was inspired by stories he was told by Fred, who recalled his experiences at Ray’s workshop.
Ray has said the piece, which weighs about a tonne, is intended as a war memorial and reflects the part played by ordinary people.
Freddie Gilroy and the Belsen Stragglers was taken to Scarborough to spread the word of Ray’s skills and was only due to be in place on the coastal road of North Bay until the middle of this month.
But residents became so fond of the 8ft iron statue, which is attached to a metal bench, they began a campaign to raise the £50,000 needed to buy it.
The calls won the backing of hundreds of people and money was just beginning to be raised when Maureen Robinson, from Scarborough, donated the full amount.
Fred’s nephew, also called Fred, 42, a nurse manager who lives in Barnes, Sunderland, said: “I think it’s fantastic that it’s been saved for the town and that so many people have been moved by it.
“It just seems like it’s struck a chord with people and become loved by so many people.”
Ray, who runs the Two Red Rubber Things workshop, on South Hetton Industrial Estate, said: “I’m delighted and the reaction people have had to it has been great.”
Brian Bennett, Scarborough Borough Council’s head of tourism and culture, said: “It is fantastic that a member of our community has come forward to buy the sculpture and in doing so, has made such a generous gift to the town.
“The council hasn’t yet had a formal approach about the longer term responsibility for the sculpture, but we will of course do everything we can to support this unique attraction.”