The highest and one of the rarest honours a city can give to one of its residents, was given to David Morrish in Exeter
David Morrish was made a Freeman of the City, in recognition of the 50 years continuous service he had given as a councillor following his recent retirement from Exeter City Council at the May, 2011 elections.
At a special ceremony held in the historic Guildhall, Mr Morrish was sworn in as a Freeman of the City.
The Lord Mayor, Cllr Stella Brock, presented a commemorative scroll and the ceremonial keys to the city to Mr Morrish as a mark of the city’s appreciation for his unstinting support of, and campaigning for, Exeter, since first being elected to the council on 11 May 1961. Over those 50 years, he spent 28 years as a city councillor, as well as 31 years as a county councillor.
Prior to the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, a freeman was a citizen who was entitled to claim exemption from tolls and a share of the profits of his city or borough. To be granted the title of Honorary Freeman is a mark of distinction upon the person whom the Council wishes to honour. Today, the Freedom itself carries no privilege and is purely an honour, it reflects the eminence of the person on whom it is conferred or as recognition of significant and valuable services rendered to the borough by that person.
A number of ancient privileges are associated with the Freedom – although they are more a product of collective memory than of documented evidence. They include the right to herd sheep down the High Street, to go about the city with a drawn sword, and if convicted of a capital offence, to be hung with a silken rope. Other advantages are said to have included the right to avoid being press-ganged, to be buried in the city and to be drunk and disorderly without fear of arrest.
Mr Morrish, whose wife Joan is still an Exeter City Councillor for the St Loyes ward, was delighted at being offered the honour in front of his family and friends, and said that it had been a privilege to have served the city, and in particular the Heavitree area and hoped that he could live up to the honour.