TWO Saddleworth men who raised more than £3.5 million for charity have become Honorary Freemen of the Borough of Oldham.
Kevin Sinfield MBE and Frank Rothwell join a select list of people to have received the accolade including Sir Winston Churchill, composer Sir William Walton and Olympic Games gold medallist Nicola White.
Rugby League great Kevin from Grasscroft ran seven marathons in seven days in December 2020 for Motor Neurone Disease Association and for former Leeds Rhinos teammate Rob Burrow, who was diagnosed with the condition in 2019. His monetary effort for MND currently stands at £2.7 million.
A few weeks after the 40-year-old sportsman finished his marathon effort, Greenfield-based Frank embarked on an even longer journey.
In 56 days, Frank, 70, became the oldest man to row unaided across the Atlantic. His herculean 3,000 miles feat raised awareness and more than £1 million for Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Frank, who owns Chadderton-based Manchester Cabins, has also gone above and beyond for his hometown.
He supports many organisations and good causes and last year donated £30,000 to Action Together to help the charity continue its vital work supporting the Oldham community throughout the pandemic.
“This is a great honour for me to receive the same accolade as Sir William Walton, Sir Norman Stoller, Sir Winston Churchill and other esteemed Oldhamers,” Frank said.
“It is an award which permanently puts your name on the board in the council chamber.
“My daughter Su said, ‘You now stand shoulder to shoulder with the legend that is Kevin Sinfield’.
“My son Luke told me: ‘It is normal for parents to be proud of children rather than the reverse. I am proud of you dad’.”
Frank added: “I am not sure if the award is in acknowledgment of my rowing solo across the Atlantic Ocean and raising over £1.1 million pounds for Alzheimer’s Research UK, which is a charity that all mankind will benefit from, or for the half-a-million pounds that my wife Judith and I donated to Mahdlo, the dancing troupes of Oldham and the new hydrotherapy pool at Kingfisher School.”
On his accolade Sinfield said: “I don’t exactly know what it means at the moment but it is really nice. Someone says it means the sheep can go through the centre of the town!
“The support and kind wishes and some of the things that came off the back of 7 in 7 have been incredible.
“But I would have been more than happy to raise that £77,000 and raised awareness. It was never about getting rewards.
“It was trying to help a mate and now trying to help an army of people connected with MND.”
Cllr Sean Fielding, OMBC council leader, said: “Kevin and Frank are truly inspirational, and we were cheering them on every step of the way.
“In a terrible year they did something really positive and brought people together with their remarkable efforts to simply do whatever it takes to help others.
“We’re not sure we can top the title of ‘Sir Kev’ but we hope the Freedom of the Borough demonstrates to Kevin and Frank that we are really proud to call them Oldhamers.”
The Freedom of the Borough is the highest accolade that the council can bestow.
Rarely awarded, it is given to local people who have, in the opinion of the council, rendered eminent services to the Borough.
Only 24 people have been given the title since 1909 – the last being Olympic gold medallist Nicola White MBE in 2016.
The honour will be bestowed on Kevin and Frank at a formal ceremony later in the year when restrictions allow.
• The title of Honorary Alderman has been given to John Dillon for ‘eminent service’ to Oldham Council.
John, 43, retired from politics and the Liberal Democrat Party in May 2015 as one of the longest serving members, with 29 years of service to his credit.
John served as Mayor of Oldham in 2000-01 and finished as a Crompton councillor.