Long-serving councillor granted freedom of the borough

Michael Jeal with his freedom of the borough of Great Yarmouth scroll

Michael Jeal with his freedom of the borough of Great Yarmouth scroll - Credit: James Bass

A councillor who has dedicated more than 35 years fighting on behalf of the people of Great Yarmouth has been granted a special honour.

Michael Jeal was presented with the honorary freedom of the borough of Great Yarmouth on Thursday night at the town hall.

Mr Jeal was granted the title at a specially called for meeting of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, where the Labour councillor has served since 1986 representing the Nelson ward.

He was presented his freedom of the borough scroll in front of councillors, family, friends and the great and good of the borough.

The scroll said Mr Jeal should be presented with the honour "in recognition of the eminent valuable services rendered to the people of the borough of Great Yarmouth over a period of 36 years by Michael Thomas Jeal".

An emotional Mr Jeal told the gathering: "You don't know how much this means to me. I am really, really proud to have it."

Mr Jeal has been mayor of the borough three times, had been a fireman for 30 years in Gorleston and Great Yarmouth and works for the charity Furnishaid, which redistributes furniture and household appliances to families in the area.

Michael Jeal - the Mayor of Great Yarmouth. Picture: Liz Coates

A flashback to when Michael Jeal was mayor - Credit: Archant

Paying tribute to Mr Jeal was fellow Labour Nelson ward councillor and friend Kerry Robinson Payne.

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She said he fought fiercely for the residents of the town, always went out of his way to help people and was a generous man.

Ms Robinson Payne added: "If only there were more Michaels in the world."

Council leader Carl Smith proposed the motion to grant Mr Jeal the honorary freedom on the borough.

He said Mr Jeal thoroughly deserved the honour for his services to the community and he had served the council with distinction and earned great respect from a wider spectrum than the council.

The ceremony also saw the council hand out its first freeman of the borough badges to Mr Jeal and past holders of the titles,  Brian Walker, the Royal British Legion, Gorleston Lifeboat and Hemsby Lifeboat and the Winterton 901 Troop Marine Cadets, which had also provided a guard of honour at the town hall. 

Freedom of the borough

The earliest freeman of the borough of Great Yarmouth on record was John Fraunceys of Caister, who was granted the title in 1312.

Before the Municipal Corporations Reform Act of 1835 only freemen could take part in the running of the town.

They were exempt from town levy customs dues and only they could be permitted to act as traders and craftsman and vote in parliamentary elections.

The freedom of the borough could be granted by birth or apprenticeship.

Sons of freeman and apprentices of freeman could claim the right to be admitted. On admission they swore an oath of loyalty to the king and town.

They had to promise not to counterfeit the king's seal or coin, maintain the good customs of the town and report any traitor, spy, thief or evil-doer in their midst. 

The last admission to the title of freeman of the borough under the rules of birth and apprenticeship was in 1892.