|Gerry Steinberg MP||Freeman of the City!|
Gerry and Meg beside the plaque in the Town Hall
Gerry Steinberg has been admitted as an Honorary Freeman of the City of Durham.
This is a rarely bestowed honour (the last one was Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1987) and reflects the esteem in which Gerry is held by people of all political persuasions in Durham. Gerry said this was the honour he valued above all others.
The ceremony was carried with all pomp and pageantry at a specially convened meeting of Durham City Council in the historic Town Hall on Thursday 8 December 2005.
The hall was packed with guests as the Mayor's bodyguard led in the procession with the Mayor, Cllr John Lightly in full regalia, followed by the City Council, and Gerry.
The Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham opened the meeting with prayers and then the Mayor called on the Chief Executive, Brian Spears F.I.O.H, to read the notice convening the meeting.
Councillor Maurice Crathorne MBE moved the motion:
"That the Council, being mindful of his service to the community and to the citizens of Durham, hereby admits Gerry Steinberg to be an honorary Freeman of the City of Durham."
Councillor Crathorne outlined Gerry's long service to the city in which he was born and educated and has lived all his life, recounting his time as Leader of the Council and then as Member of Parliament. Included among his achievements for Durham were the building of the Sports Centres around the city, support for local companies, sadly as with Mackays not always successful in the long term, and by careful lobbying of the then Home Secretary, the bringing of the Passport Office and its five hundred jobs to the city.
Gerry in the Market Place before the ceremony with local campaigners Harry Dye and Clare Hepworth
Former MPs Keith Bradley, Gerry and Eric Martlew MP
Councillor Tom Gill seconded the motion and related some anecdotes of Gerry's time in politics in Durham.
Councillor Jeff Lodge also spoke in a similar way to endorse the motion.
The mayor then put the motion to the vote which was carried by the Council unanimously. The Mayor then presented the scroll to Gerry who took the Declaration of an Honorary Freeman and signed the scroll. The Mayor and Gerry with others went to the back of the hall where a commemorative plaque was unveiled.
Gerry then addressed the Council and guests in his usual inimitable, interesting and irreverent style. He had thought his speech making days were over, but he entertained the audience with tales of his time as a councillor in Durham and his encounters with everyone from Durham pitmen to royal princes. He described his travels including when he and David Clelland MP, who was among the guests, met a hapless mugger - armed with a knife - in Israel, whom they chased, caught, disarmed, pinned down and were then advised to shoot! Of course they did not.
He thanked many people for their help over the years, but reserved special thanks for his wife Meg and his children without whose support their often absent husband and father would not have achieved so much.
Gerry was at pains to say that this honour, from his own city, was the most valued because it was the most sincerely offered, without expectation of anything in return - even more so than a peerage he had once declined in order to stay as Member of Parliament for Durham City.
John Cummings MP, Gerry, David Clelland MP
Gerry and Eric Martlew MP in discussion
Proud Grandfather with Jacob, on a day to be proud of.
Throughout the proceedings, the respect for Gerry's straightforward openness and loyalty was evident from all sides of the political debate and considerable affection for the local lad made good.