McGuinness recives Freedom of the City

MOTORCYCLE racer John McGuinness became the first sportsman to be given the highest honour that the city of Lancaster can bestow.

John was made an Honorary Freeman of the City in a ceremony at Lancaster Town Hall on Tuesday, in recognition of his achievements in motorsport.

He is the latest to join a roll of honour that goes back more than a century, an achievement that left him overwhelmed.

John said: "I feel so honoured to get this, it's fantastic. I have always given Morecambe and all our area a good mention.

"I will keep on flying the flag for Morecambe and Lancaster – long may it continue."

John told the gathering of councillors, friends and family about how his 16-year career of racing had started, as a child riding a bike at his dad's garage.

"I never would have thought this would have happened when 30 years ago my dad put me on a 50CC and said 'go and rip round the industrial estate'.

"We never gave up and I always believed in myself. I was racing and from week-to-week we were saving up enough money to race.

"All my family and friends helped me out to get me where I am today."

John has competed around the world, but he is most closely associated with the Isle of Man TT.

After two wins at this year's races, the 35-year-old has 13 victories, making him third on the all-time list behind Mike Hailwood and the late Joey Dunlop.

That made him a worthy recipient of the Freedom of the City, said father of the council, Coun Abbott Bryning when he proposed the motion on Tuesday.

He said: "John, we are proud of you, a local man who is master of your own profession and top of your sport. You are a unique and worthy addition to the roll of Honorary Freemen."

Council chief executive Mark Cullinan read out the oath of a Free Citizen which John swore to keep.

He signed the scroll of Honorary Freedom and was awarded a special certificate to mark his new status.

After the ceremony, John signed autographs and posed for photographs before a reception with his friends and family.

Their pride in him was clear, particularly for John's father, also called John. "I am very proud of him. He has been a great son," he said.