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Freedom of John O’Groats conferred on John Green

11th December 2013

Photograph of Freedom of John O’Groats conferred on John Green

The freedom of the most northerly community in Great Britain – John O’Groats – has been bestowed by The Highland Council on former Highland Councillor and local resident of John O’Groats Mr John Houston Green.

Tributes were paid to Mr Green at a ceremony held at John O’Groats Village Hall on Tuesday evening (10 December 2013). At the same time, Mr Green formally opened the refurbished hall.

The decision to award the freedom came after a number of organisations and businesses in the John O’ Groats area wrote to The Highland Council requesting the council consider conferring the Freedom of John O’Groats on Mr Green.

Mr Green served on the former Caithness District Council for many years before representing North Caithness on The Highland Council from 1995 – 2007. He remains active as the Chairman of Dunnet and Canisbay Community Council.

Councillor Jimmy Gray, Convener of The Highland Council, who hails from Thurso, presented Mr Green with his freedom scroll and paid tribute to Mr Green, a lifetime friend.

Councillor Gray said: “John will go down in history as the first Freeman of John O’Groats and no one could be more appropriate. We often do try to find appropriate ways of marking contributions made by individuals and sometimes we do not quite succeed but, in this instance, the title and the award really do encapsulate all we would wish it to. Few, if any right across the UK, would not have heard of John O’Groats, so to be awarded the title Freeman and the first ever does bring with it added significance and I am sure that given a choice John would not have wanted anywhere else either.”

He concluded: “John’s commitment and vision has allowed him to make a huge contribution to the wellbeing of this part of Caithness, the wider county and the Highlands generally. He clearly identified the importance of jobs with decent pay, the importance of decent housing, good sports facilities good connectivity by road, sea and air and the major contribution that strong political leadership can bring in delivering these essentials that contribute to a strong community.”

Photo
Highland council convenor Jimmy Gray and John Houston Green

Highland Convenor Jimmy Gray's speech in full from the presentation night -

I genuinely could not be more delighted to be here tonight as Convener of Highland Council to bestow this award on John Green.

John will go down in history as the first Freeman of John O’Groats and no one could be more appropriate. We often do try to find appropriate ways of marking contributions made by individuals and sometimes we do not quite succeed but in this instance, the title and the award really does encapsulate all we would wish it to. Few if any right across the UK would not have heard of John O’Groats, so the be awarded the title Freeman and the first ever does have does bring with added significant and I am sure that given a choice John would not have wanted anywhere else either.

I have known John for more years that I would want to remember, right back from our young days when we were contemporaries growing up in the sixties here in Caithness. I was trying to remember when I first met him but then there were dances in what now seems every nook and cranny across Caithness, all with live bands. Thurso Town Hall, Legion, Viewfirth, BB Hall, The village halls in Halkirk, Castletown, Dunnet, Canisbay, Wick Assembly Rooms, all you needed was a lift, then overloading was not a problem and you always put as many as you physically could in a car or better still a van, it was nothing to see 10 or 12 coming out of a van at the front of the hall. Sometimes if you were lucky and you had checked E’ Groat in time there was a free bus, the entrance fee and a half cutter in your back pocket and the world was your oyster. That was the era that John and I and all our contemporaries in and around Caithness grew up in.

I continued to bump into John over the years since our youth as interests often brought us together. John, like I came from a staunch Labour Party family with strong links into the crofting community in Caithness. We also had an involvement in the Trade Union movement in common, having both been shop stewards in the Engineering Union.

This is the first time that such an award has been made and marks his major contribution to community activities dating back almost 4 decades, while he served as an elected Councillor representing the wider NE Caithness area ... the most Northerly council ward on the British mainland ... for over 30 years, firstly on Caithness District Council, with its h.q. in Wick and, on its abolition, on the single-tier Highland Council.

John’s community interests have been many and varied, one of which has been sport and in particular football and right from his teenage years he has been connected with the local teams. Starting first with Canisbay Pentland and then John O’ Groats FC The District Council had a 'sports' remit and John was able to persuade his fellow-Councillors to build and maintain municipal football pitches at first Dunnet and then John O'Groats, now home to two of the County's most successful amateur sides Pentland United and its younger offspring John O'Groats FC.

Pentland United became the most successful team in the history of Highlands & Islands Amateur cup but are often run close by JOG FC . There is no doubt that the improved facilities that the teams now play on have contributed substantially to the overall improvement in the standard of football played by these two teams. Along with this improved status on the football pitch has come growth and an improved confidence generally within these communities and the recognition that these areas can compete in anything they set their minds to.

Living on the shores of the Pentland Firth, John has also had a very strong identity with the sea and the harbours in the area. He successfully promoted the concept of a combined inshore creel fishing and passenger ferry quay at what became John O'Groats harbour in the early 1970s , including canvassing successfully to attract the first-ever European (then EEC) grant to come to the Highlands & Islands for its construction by Caithness CC.

He has also been closely connected to and instrumental in the harbour developments at Gills Bay and is still the Secretary/Treasurer of Gills Harbour Ltd, (GHL) the community-owned facility successor to two earlier bodies, which promoted economic development for Canisbay, with spin-offs for a much wider area including the rest of Caithness, Inverness etc.

John has also had a wider tourism remit serving as the long-term Chairman of Caithness Tourist Board, being regularly voted into that position by small-business members across the county.

John and I worked very closely together on his last spell on Highland Council where he was greatly respected for knowledge, ability and commitment, not only to the people in his ward and Caithness but also to the wider Highlands

John remains active as the Chairman of Dunnet & Canisbay Community Council.

John’s commitment and vision has allowed him to make a huge contribution to the wellbeing of this part of Caithness, the wider County and the Highlands generally. He clearly identified the importance of jobs with decent pay, the importance of decent housing, good sports facilities good connectivity by road, sea and air and the major contribution that strong political leadership can bring in delivering these essentials that contribute to a strong community.

Ladies and gentlemen I started by saying what a genuine pleasure and delight it has been for me to be here tonight and I will conclude by congratulating and conferring on John Houston Green the title of Freeman of John O’Groats

 

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