Castleford-born man is given the freedom of London

Clive Johnson (right)  receives the Freedom of London Award.
Clive Johnson (right) receives the Freedom of London Award.

First came Florence Nightingale, Franklin D Roosevelt and Nelson Mandela, but now Castleford-born Clive Johnson can also legally drive his sheep across London Bridge and carry a naked sword in public.

For the 60-year-old West Yorkshireman joins a list of distinguished people to receive the coveted Freedom of the City of London Award.

Houses of Parliament in London.

Houses of Parliament in London.

As well as a who’s who of famous folk, it comes with a bizarre set of privileges which stem from the 1200s when the award was first introduced.

However, it is still considered a huge honour and Mr Johnson, who works at a London health and safety firm, admitted he was shocked at his invite to the prestigious Guildhall.

He explained: “I work with the police and other stakeholders in London, I think it came about from my contributions to that.

“You don’t get to know who nominates you but I had to go for an interview. It went well, I had to gen up on the award.

“I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect, but it wasn’t as daunting as I’d first thought. It was amazing to be told a few weeks later that I was getting the award.

“I had to bow and swear an oath, it was all very regal but I’m very proud, especially coming from Yorkshire.”

Brought up in Carleton before spending 22 years in the RAF, he moved into health and safety and became group head for security at Landsec, whose property folio boasts J32 and Xscape. He even works with the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO).

Despite spending most of his working days in the capital, he still commutes from his home in Doncaster.

As a ‘freeman’ Mr Johnson now has a number of rights afforded to him. As well as driving sheep and carrying a sword, he can also choose to be hanged by a silken rope if ever convicted of a capital crime and even be exempt from arrest if found to be drunk and incapable. With the award rooted in the Dark Ages, these privileges are now obviously just symbolic.

“Driving sheep is the one that most people associate with it,” laughed Mr Johnson, “there’s lots of other privileges that go with it, although it won’t let me get away with congestion charges.”