Sunderland honours trio with Freedom of the City

FREEDOM: The conferment of the Honorary Freedom of the City of Sunderland, left Sir Peter Vardy DL, Sir Bob Murray CBE and John Mawston.

FREEDOM: The conferment of the Honorary Freedom of the City of Sunderland, left Sir Peter Vardy DL, Sir Bob Murray CBE and John Mawston.

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THREE men who have spent their lives serving Sunderland have been given Freedom of the City.

Former Black Cats chairman Sir Bob Murray, motoring magnate Sir Peter Vardy and long-serving councillor John Mawston were honoured for their “outstanding contributions” to Wearside, after being nominated by Sunderland City Council.

Council leader Paul Watson said: “We’re delighted to recognise the efforts of these three whose commitment, confidence and support has made a massive contribution to Sunderland’s development.”

He said they had been “tireless in their support of schools, businesses, community projects and charities, to name but a few, and are a real credit to us all”.

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Sir Bob was nominated for his outstanding contributions to football, education and charitable causes.

The former Black Cats chairman, who left school at 15 with one O-Level in maths, said: “This is quite an emotional day for me because of my heritage and there’s no greater privilege than to be recognised by your own.

“My debut at Roker Park was when I was nine. When I joined the club had reached rock bottom and it was a really bad era for the club.”

Sir Bob, who is a life honorary president of Sunderland AFC, quipped: “I never realised that if I knocked down Roker Park I would get the Freedom of the City.”

Car magnate Sir Peter was nominated in recognition of his outstanding contributions to business and education.

He said: “This is a great honour and a very emotional day for me.

“I was privileged to be born and raised by a fantastic family in Houghton, which is a common denominator with all three of us.

“Houghton has been a tremendous base for me. It’s where me and my family grew up and where the business started.”

Mr Mawston, who was described as an “inspiration”, “remarkable” and “passionate”, was nominated for his tireless work in Houghton and beyond.

His commitment to the city during his 48 years as a councillor also saw him drive forward culture and leisure across Sunderland.

And his work with Houghton Feast over the years has led to him earning the title of “Mr Houghton Feast”.

Mr Mawston was elected to Houghton Urban District Council in 1954. He retired as Shiney Row ward councillor in 2002.

He said: “It’s a great pleasure to receive this. I look back on the Houghton Feast and this one has been such a success because people have wanted to participate in it and that’s what it’s all about.”

The Freedom of the City ceremony was held at Sunderland Civic Centre yesterday.

This is the third time individuals have been given the honour since Sunderland gained city status in 1992.

In 2006, Dr Ram Bannerjee, Sir Tom Cowie and Denise Robertson were honoured, followed by Lord Puttnam of Queensgate in 2007.

Other freedom holders include 4 Regiment Royal Artillery, the crew of HMS Ocean and 3 Rifles, successors to the Durham Light Infantry, and Sunderland-born journalist Kate Adie.

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