A HELENSBURGH man has been presented with a prestigious award by the Rotary movement – despite never having been a member of a Rotary club in his life.

Bill Freeland was presented with a Paul Harris Fellowship by the Rotary Club of Allander in recognition of his work with the community payback service, previously known as community service, across Helensburgh and Dunbartonshire.

The award of a Paul Harris Fellowship places Bill in some pretty prestigious company; previous recipients of the award, presented by Rotary clubs across the world, include US president Jimmy Carter, Russian president Boris Yeltsin and former UN secretary general Javier Perez de Cuellar.

Bill applied successfully for a post as a community service supervisor in the mid-1990s after a long career in the police, and later became the co-ordinator for the scheme throughout Helensburgh, Lomond, Dumbarton, the Vale of Leven, Clydebank, Bearsden and Milngavie.

That more senior role meant it was Bill's responsibility to source and organise work placements for people across the area who were given community payback orders as a punishment for their criminal offending – often as a direct alternative to a prison sentence.

He said: “I knew nothing about the award before the ceremony – I've never been a Rotary member and I really knew nothing about Rotary at all.

“I didn't realise the significance of the award until I searched for it online the next morning – and when I saw the list of previous winners of the award I was pretty shocked!”

After leaving the police on health grounds, Bill worked with the community payback service ffrom 1997 until July this year, when he retired shortly after his 75th birthday.

“I'd gone in to hospital for a cataract operation as a result of a police injury and caught an infection while I was in hospital,” he continued.

“It didn't clear up, and eventually I said to the police just to sign me off and I'd go and look for a job.

“I went to the labour exchange for the first time in my life and saw a card saying 'community service supervisor required', and I thought that would be ideal.

“In 2004 they asked me to take on the co-ordinator's post, and that was me until I turned 75 in May, when I thought it was time to retire.”

The group's projects in Helensburgh during Bill's time in charge included work in the Duchess Wood, on the Ardencaple playing fields, at Old Luss Road for the Helensburgh and District Access Trust, and for the Helensburgh Heritage Trust on the memorial cairn at the top of Glen Fruin.

More recently Bill organised sessions working on the James Street community garden towards the end of last year as part of the area's transformation into a new community asset.

The role also offered Bill an alternative perspective on the criminal justice system following his long career in the police.

“I've no doubt it made a difference to some people's offending patterns,” he continued.

“I found people responded to things in different ways – if you gave them good, practical work with a clear outcome they responded well to what they were asked to do.

“Organising work for groups which were ill-equipped to do it themselves was rewarding – for example we created a garden in Dumbarton for people with Alzheimer's disease, and organising that was a bit of a challenge.

“We were asked to help design it, and the end result was quite gratifying.”

Bill also said he believed the presentation of the Rotary movement's top award was a reflection not on him personally but on all the work done by his team over the years.

“This is a reflection on all the supervisors I've worked with,” he said. “I only gave the directions. I have the greatest of respect for these guys who work so hard on the ground – this is a reflection on them as much as on anything I did.”