Two loyal servants of Croydon have been honoured with the Freedom of the Borough.
Monday night’s council meeting in the Town Hall agreed to bestow the honour on the Reverend Canon Colin Boswell and Colonel Ian McRobbie to mark the years of work both have devoted to Croydon and its communities.
During his years as the Vicar of Croydon, from 1996 to 2016, Father Colin was a patron or trustee of a number of local charities, the chaplain to the Mayor of Croydon and also to the Whitgift Foundation, which has responsibility for three schools (Whitgift, Trinity and Old Palace) and three homes for the elderly (Whitgift Almshouses, Wilhelmina House and Whitgift House).
He once said: “Being a priest isn’t really something you do, it’s something you are, that’s an important distinction, because it’s not just a job, it’s what you are rather than what you do, so you’re never not a priest, really.”
As Vicar of Croydon he regularly conducted the annual Remembrance Sunday service, and the annual civic service attended by the Mayor of Croydon, and members of the council and the judiciary.
In 2011 he oversaw the redesignation of Croydon Parish Church to Croydon Minster; and in March 2014 he conducted a service in the presence of the Princess Royal to mark the 400th anniversary of the Whitgift Foundation’s Founder’s Day services.
In the summer of 2014, Fr Colin joined fellow clergy and members of the congregation in sleeping rough for one night to raise money for the minster’s community fund. The aim was to raise £30,000 to enable it to carry on its work in providing a food bank, shelter for the homeless, counselling for those affected by drugs and alcohol, education and activities for young people, and meeting places for the elderly.
Fr Colin enjoys reading, the theatre, music and dog-walking. He is unmarried, but is blessed with a very large number of Godchildren. He supports many children through Action Aid, and is a keen believer in animal rights.
On receiving the Freedom of the Borough, he said: “Ever since I came to Croydon, I’ve been treated with friendship and respect by this council. I value that greatly and feel I shall remain a part of Croydon even though I’m no longer based here.
“I loved being in Croydon for 21 years; I loved being the Vicar of Croydon; and I loved Croydon Minster. I’d like to thank you for allowing me to still feel part of the place.”
Colonel Ian McRobbie was appointed Croydon’s Representative Deputy Lieutenant in 1995 on the recommendation of his predecessor, Colonel Douglas McLelland.
As the Queen’s Representative Deputy Lieutenant of Croydon, Col McRobbie leads on the armed forces meetings that the council supports as part of the Military Community Covenant. He also represents Her Majesty on Remembrance Sunday, Armistice Day, and on civic visits to Croydon’s Dutch twin town, Arnhem.
In June 2012, he helped Croydon become the first London borough to host an Armed Forces Week to support service men and women, and played a major part in the setting up of the borough’s Military Community Covenant.
His most high-profile duty is to arrange and accompany royal visits. In July 2002, he coordinated the south London leg of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee tour, which saw Her Majesty and Prince Philip visit the Brit School and Addington Palace. More recently, he accompanied, in 2011 and 2012, visits by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall; and, in 2014, the Earl of Wessex.
Married, with a grown daughter, he is a serving trustee of a number of charities and, in addition, chairs a group involved in raising funds to provide minibuses for disadvantaged children. He is also heavily involved in the You partnership (Youth Organisations in Uniform), working with young people affiliated to organisations such as the police, the fire brigade and cadet groups.
When he can find time, he enjoys a round of golf.
Addressing the council, Colonel McRobbie praised his wife of 50 years, and his family, for the support they had provided, allowing him to carry out his work as the Queen’s representative in Croydon.
He added: “I’m truly grateful for the great honour the council has conferred on me today.”
Councillor Tony Newman, leader of the council
“Nobody is more deserving of receiving this prestigious honour than Canon Boswell and Colonel McRobbie.
“Over the past 20 years, they’ve worked tirelessly and selflessly in their respective roles for the people of Croydon. Few in the borough will not have been touched by the endeavours of one, or both, of them, whether in their official roles as Vicar of Croydon and Deputy Lieutenant of Croydon, or in the quiet way they’ve gone about their other, less well-publicised tasks for any number of charities and community-based organisations.
“Fr Colin has gone on to pastures new, where others will, doubtless, benefit from his hard work and caring nature; Colonel McRobbie continues to be associated with Croydon, and we look forward to many more years’ working with him.
“Their contributions to public service in Croydon are immense, and the Freedom of the Borough is richly deserved.”