Sir Ranulph Fiennes names modest East End OAP Tom Gleed Britain’s ‘greenest tenant’
PUBLISHED: 10:30 24 October 2014 | UPDATED: 13:10 31 October 2014
Retired East End boilermaker-welder Tom Gleed is the greenest tenant in Britain—that’s official.
He was declared ‘Green Tenant of the Year’ by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, one of the world’s greatest living explorers.
The modest grandfather from Poplar’s Teviot Estate beat off competition from 100 other nominations from all over the country to take the title for transforming a community space into a thriving, sustainable garden.
But the accolade took the modest 69-year-old pensioner by surprise at the Chartered Institute of Housing awards.
“I was totally in shock,” Tom admitted afterwards. “They had to call my name out twice—I was stuck to my seat.
“Things like this don’t normally happen to people round here, so winning a national award is something I’ll always remember.”
Some 500 VIPs and guests were packed in the prestigious Lancaster Hotel awards night to cheer Tom as he was named UK’s ‘top tenant’.
His award was decided by a public vote first reported in the East London Advertiser when he found himself shortlisted in September.
It was a thank-you from the people of Poplar for all his work on his neighbouring Brownfield housing estate, such as digging out a wildlife pond and building “a palatial chicken coop” for 10 rescued battery hens.
“We had chickens when I grew up in Poplar High Street,” he recalls. “I love the thought that we saved these ex-battery birds.”
He was nominated for the award by Poplar Harca housing association which runs Brownfield Estate.
“I don’t like being at the forefront like this,” he shyly admits. “I just get on with it.
“I’m here every day, New Year, Christmas, and just enjoy it.”
The father-of-three grown-up children, whose own balcony garden on the Teviot Estate won first prize at last year’s ‘Tower Hamlets in Bloom’ contest, spent his working life refitting naval and other vessels, often finding himself aboard making repairs while at sea.
His last major job at Graving Dock at Millwall, on the Isle of Dogs, was refitting helicopter landing platforms on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s original Sir Galahad support ship in 1977, which was later sunk in the 1981 Falklands conflict—all Tom’s work destroyed in an instant by an Argentine Exocet missile!
“I was very upset when I heard Sir Galahad went down,” he remembers. “We spent months fitting out that ship. It was a big contract.”
Now he takes on a different battle—to keep the Brownfield Estate next to the Blackwall Tunnel green, to everyone’s delight who voted for him.