Former rugby pro who lost his leg calls for town stalwart to be given ‘Freedom of Honiton’

PUBLISHED: 15:34 27 June 2019 | UPDATED: 09:15 01 July 2019

Carol Gilson.

Carol Gilson.


A former rugby pro who lost his leg to sepsis says the woman who restored independence to his life should receive the ‘freedom of Honiton’.

Stephen Hannay.Stephen Hannay.

Steve Hannay, who used to play for Brighouse Rangers near Halifax, said he could have spiralled into depression following life-changing surgery in July last year.

However, thanks to the Joe Gilson Mobility Scheme, run by Honiton stalwart Carol Gilson, Mr Hannay was able to live an independent life.

Mr Hannay said: "I have been in and out of hospital for the last three-and-a-half years.

"I had a blot clot in my left leg, and then I got an ulcer."

Kim Booth receives a four-wheeled walker from Carol Gilson.Kim Booth receives a four-wheeled walker from Carol Gilson.

Surgeons carried out a bypass on Mr Hannay's leg, which saw its condition improve.

However, three weeks later, disaster struck when the 69-year-old contracted sepsis.

He said: "I ended up losing my leg. At that time, I was struggling.

"I had a career playing rugby and I have been a single dad for near on 25 years, so I was 'Mr Independent'. Suddenly, I'm sitting in hospital with one leg feeling really down and not knowing how I am going to cope."

Sally Dulls (left) is presented with the scooter by Carol Gilson.Sally Dulls (left) is presented with the scooter by Carol Gilson.

Mr Hannay soon got in contact with Ms Gilson through his daughter Claire, and hasn't looked back since.

He said: "Carol said she had a mobile scooter coming in.

"At the time, I did not even know she did this charity work.

"When I came out of hospital, the scooter was there waiting for me. It gave me my independence back, I was a free spirit.

"Carol is a blessing for this town. Without her, I think I would have ended up with depression."

Mr Hannay is facing a fresh challenge, as an ulcer has appeared on his right leg.

However, he said feels less fazed this time as he knows whatever happens, he will retain his independence thanks to his mobility scooter.

He added: "I think Carol deserves the freedom of Honiton - and I think the council should do something about it if such an award doesn't exist."

Ms Gilson's scheme donates mobility aids to people in need.

So far, the scheme has given away more than 4,000 aids.

Ms Gilson's work has been commended by both Honiton Town Council and further afield.

She was made 'Citizen of the Year' in 2015, and was recently made recipient of a British Empire Medal from the Queen.

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