It’s an honour many people have heard of, few understand and fewer still usually receive.
Well, until that is all 7,000 plus employees at Wearside’s Nissan car plant were granted the accolade from Sunderland City Council.
In a rare show of cross-party unity, councillors of all political persuasions have agreed to make the staff freemen and women of the city in recognition of their “sterling efforts in securing the future production of the next generation Qashqai and X-Trail”.
So what does the title allow recipients to do?
The first privilege which usually springs to mind is the right to stampede cattle through their local town or city centre.
This dates back centuries to when certain traders were granted exemptions from charges for bringing their livestock to market.
Should we therefore expect extended traffic tailbacks along Fawcett Street and Holmside on match days and over the Christmas shopping period?
If the truth be known, there is nothing in local government legislation anymore which says that freeman can bring their flocks and herds to town.
In fact, as the council itself admits, there is nothing at all in print which says what recipients can or cannot do.
The award is now seen more as a symbolic title in honour of the recipients’ efforts in a particular field.
For example, previous Sunderland sons and daughters to be granted the title include Black Cats legendary goalkeeper Jimmy Montgomery, former player, caretaker manager and chairman Niall Quinn and retired BBC war correspondent Kate Adie.
Perhaps the closest we have seen to the revival of the old tradition and its liberties came this July when the 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, known as the North East Gunners, marched through the city centre.
So with the 21st Century legislation covering the honour a little vague, what do you think it should entitle recipients to here in Sunderland?
How about a seat in the directors’ box at the Stadium of Light?
Given that there are now 7,000 new members of this exclusive club, Sunderland owner Ellis Short may have to sanction another extension to the ground.
Maybe exemption from the increasing number of town centre parking permit zones might be a more realistic idea?
Following the introduction of restrictions in and around the Tunstall Road and Worcester Terrace areas, workers and shoppers now have far fewer spots where they can leave their cars all day for free.
We’ll know this one has been approved if we suddenly see 7,000 Nissans dotted around town.