The Highland Council is to bestow the title of Freeman, a prestigious honour which is rarely presented, to two Highland residents in recognition of their outstanding contributions to their communties.
Mr Ronnie M. Watson of Nairn is to be presented with the Freedom of Nairn at a ceremony later in the year and the title of Freedom of the Isle of Skye will be given to Mr John (The Caley) Nicolson from Portree.
Born in Nairn, Mr Watson ran the family greengrocers until he retired recently at the age of 83.
He was first elected as a District Councillor on 6th May 1953. On 9 July 1973 he became Provost of the Royal Burgh of Nairn and was the final Provost when the Royal Burgh of Nairn ceased on 15th May 1975.
Mr Watson was also Nairn’s longest serving Justice of the Peace and was President of the Nairn Pipe Band for more than 30 years.
Provost Liz MacDonald said: “I am delighted that Ronnie has accepted this award which is hugely deserved and we look forward to formally presenting him with the Freedom of Nairn.”
The Highland Council’s Convener and local member, Sandy Park added: “The Nairn Ward Members unanimously felt that Ronnie would be a worthy recipient of the Freedom of Nairn in view of his commitment to the people of Nairn in several roles over a number of years.”
The Councillors for the Eilean a’ Cheò Ward unanimously support the Freedom of the the Isle of Skye being granted to Mr John Nicolson after Portree Community Council nominated him for his outstanding dedication to many facets of community life.
John recently retired from the Portree Community council where he served since its inception over 30 years ago. He also served on the forerunner to the community council, the village council. He was a very informed active participant, with strongly defended opinions on what should be and could be done for Skye and was seen as many to be a fearless defender of any perceived injustice, or of any shoddily completed task, working tirelessly for the people he served as a Community Councillor.
After seeing active service in WWII, he actively served in the British Legion for 25 years, continuing to be involved in the arranging of the Armistice Day programme to this day. He has been a Committee Member of Skye Camanachd, then Chairman, and still repairs shinty sticks for the club. He has served on the Sports Council as Committee Member, Vice-Chair and then Chair for many years. The Highland Games Committee and the Playing Fields Committee also boasted his long-term presence. He has stewarded a host of events from the Pipe Band Festival, the Half Marathon and Skye Week, to name but few and performed duties as Court Officer until he retired when he reached 70.
Now aged 83, John, known locally as “The Caley”, has decided to spend more time supporting his wife at home. His nickname comes from 12 years spent working as barman of the Caledonian Hotel and although he was a school janitor after that for a longer period of time, the nickname has stuck.
Local Councillor Drew Millar said: “John has lived his working and retired years in service to the community. Many people’s lives have been enriched by his stalwart efforts and we are delighted that he will become a Freeman. I am sure all the people he has served so diligently for many years, as well as family, neighbours and friends will want to join us in congratulating him on this great honour.”