Jul 4 2011 By Ian Proctor
EMINENT scientist and former Harrow County School for Boys pupil Sir Paul Nurse is to be given the freedom of Harrow.
The geneticist, Nobel Prize winner and president of the Royal Society will gain the rare accolade provided the conferment is approved by a two-thirds vote of the full Harrow Council on Thursday.
If so, he will be handed a special scroll and casket by the Mayor of Harrow, Councillor Mrinal Choudhury, at a dinner to be held in October to celebrate Harrow High School and its predecessors' centenary.
Sir Paul said: “I am delighted to be granted the Freedom of the Borough of Harrow. While I grew up in Wembley, my years at Harrow County School for Boys are fondly remembered and I am honoured to receive this accolade from Harrow Council.”
The 62-year-old, who was raised in Neasden, will be become the first citizen to be bestowed with the title – which is purely ceremonial and does not bring any right or privileges - since athlete Sir Roger Bannister in 2004.
Paul Gamble, headteacher at Harrow High School, said: “In the school’s centenary year, it is a tremendous honour to have one of our most eminent former pupils granted the Freedom of the Borough. Sir Paul is arguably Britain’s most important scientist and we are delighted the council is set to recognise his enormous influence.”
Sir Paul and Sir Roger follow in the footsteps of arguably Britain's most famous statesman, the Old Harrovian and wartime Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill. He became the first person to have this honour when he was made a freeman posthumously in 1955, the year after Harrow was incorporated as a borough.
Four men were recognised in 1968: Ernest Amor, factory manager-turned-chairman of Kodak; Charles Jordan, former alderman and Mayor of Harrow; former councillor William Allen, who was the first Labour Mayor of Harrow in 1961/62, and G Francis Telfer, a local alderman in the 1920s and 1930s.
It was not for another nine years, until 1977, that councillors decided to award the freedom again. This time it was Sir Horace Cutler, ex-Harrow councillor and Mayor of Harrow, leader of both Middlesex County Council and Greater London Council, and coincidentally a former Harrow County School for Boys pupil.
George Gange, the first Labour councillor on Harrow Council's forerunner, Wealdstone Urban District Council, was similarly honoured.
It is not only individuals who can be recognised since in 1983 a number of local Territorial Army units were honoured - five years later the RAF Stations at Stanmore Park and Bentley Priory received the freedom of the borough to mark both the 50th anniversary of Stanmore Park Station and the imminent 50th anniversary of the roles played by both Stations in the Battle of Britain in 1940.
The Christ Church, Roxeth, and Harrow Company of the Church Lads’ and Church Girls’ Brigade (CORR), an Anglican uniformed youth organisation, was honoured in October 1994 to mark 100 years of continuous service in Harrow.
In 1996, councillors awarded freedom to the Harrow Branch of the Royal British Legion to commemorate its 75th anniversary and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the incorporation of the borough of Harrow in 2004, Sir Roger Bannister – the first athlete to run a sub-four minute mile – was handed the scroll and casket.
Sir Paul with therefore become the 12th recipient of the award later this year, carrying on a tradition that the civic tribute is used to celebrate a landmark historic achievement.
Harrow Council leader Councillor Bill Stephenson (Labour), said: “We are delighted to recognise Sir Paul’s immense contribution to science and medicine. His seminal research has deepened our understanding of cell growth and development, breaking new ground in cancer research and treatment, a subject close to many of our hearts.
“In the year Harrow High celebrates its centenary, it is a fitting tribute that we recognise one of the school’s most famous pupils.”
Councillor Susan Hall, leader of the Conservative opposition group on Harrow Council, said: “It is a rare honour to be granted the Freedom of Harrow. Sir Paul fully deserves to join a prestigious list of freemen, including Sir Winston Churchill and Sir Roger Bannister. I hope his achievements continue to inspire the next generation of Harrow High pupils as the school celebrates 100 years of education.”