Freeman John leads Sean and his Clarets sheep across London Bridge

Sean the Sheep and his woolly Turf Moor cohorts were led across London Bridge when former Clarets director John Sullivan exercised his right as a newly made Freeman of the City of London.

Mr Sullivan (72) had in March been given the prestigious honour in recognition of his many years’ involvement with the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme and the St John Ambulance.

And the retired businessman wasted no time in exercising one of his ancients rights associated with the honour – leading sheep across London Bridge.

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Mr Sullivan said: “It was a fantastic occasion, and I made sure there was a strong Burnley feel to my participation.

“I wore my Clarets scarf and named the seven sheep in my control Sean, Claret, Blue, Turf, Moor, Long and Side.

“Sean was obviously the dominant sheep of my little herd and he ably helped me to lead them across the bridge. There was no bleating or complaining.

“However, there was quite a big crowd of onlookers and my scarf was at first mistaken for a West Ham United one. When I told them it was Burnley, I was greeted to chants of baa baa Burnley. It was all great fun.

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“I was very proud to represent Burnley in such an old tradition.”

Indeed, he is rightly proud as the honour is one that has been bestowed upon some of the world’s most famous people throughout history.

The granting of the Honorary Freedom of the City of London is extremely rare and only generally awarded to royalty, heads of state or to figures of genuine global standing.

He joins a long list of luminaries to be made Freemen including Sir Winston Churchill, Princess Diana, Nelson Mandela, Morgan Freeman, Bill Gates and fellow Burnley old boy, the actor Sir Ian McKellen.

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Several American Presidents as well as leading figures from science, literature and the arts have also been recipients.

The first historically to be so honoured was William Pitt the Elder in 1757.

Mr Sullivan’s service to the St John Ambulance has in the past saw him made a Commander of the Order of St John. In 2012, he also received the Order of the Polar Star for his contribution to Mongolian sport and youth development programmes in his role as president of the Commonwealth Judo Association.

He added: “Another concession granted to Freeman is that if I ever have the misfortune to be hanged it can be done with a silken chord. I will do my best not to exercise that right.”

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