The Mayor of Kirklees is to mark Kirklees Council’s 50th anniversary by granting the Freedom of the Borough to three deserving individuals.

Clr Cahal Burke has called an extraordinary meeting of the council on March 20 to agree the honours.

Kirklees Council was founded on April 1 1974 and the Freedom award has only been made six times in its history.

The three recipients are: Mirfield-born Hollywood actor Sir Patrick Stewart, former Chancellor of the University of Huddersfield; tireless volunteer Joan Gorton, from Dalton, who has been involved with the Huddersfield branch of Epilepsy Action since the mid-1970s; and Poet Laureate and broadcaster Simon Armitage CBE from Marsden.

The council wanted to find ways to commemorate the council’s 50-year milestone while not being seen to be ‘celebrating’ as it grapples with a financial crisis and cuts to public services.

The recipients will be presented with a scroll in a simple, low key ceremony. It is also hoped to engrave their names on a board at Huddersfield Town Hall.

Sir Patrick at the launch of his memoir Make It So with Prof Bob Cryan, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Huddersfield and Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin, and below, Simon Armitage. Joan Gorton is pictured on the main image (top, left) with Mayor of Kirklees Clr Cahal Burke

Clr Burke said: “I felt it was important that the council commemorated the 50th anniversary and there is nothing more fitting than bestowing the Freedom of the Borough.

“We are fortunate that there are many deserving individuals in Kirklees but very few have been recognised in this way.

“Sir Patrick and Simon Armitage have their roots in Kirklees and have achieved great things nationally and internationally while Joan Gorton, now in her 80s, has given a lifetime of service to helping others in our community.”

Only two other individuals have received the Freedom of the Borough. They are former Huddersfield East MP Sir William (Bill) Mallalieu, who was honoured in January 1980, and Dewsbury-born first woman Speaker of the House of Commons Baroness Betty Boothroyd in November 1992.

Also awarded the Freedom were: the 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Volunteers (March 1979); the 122,000 citizens of the French town of Besançon to mark 50 years of twinning with Huddersfield in October 2005; the Yorkshire Regiment in September 2006; and the Rifles Regiment in July 2011.

Council leader Clr Cathy Scott said: “I am delighted we are able to put forward these people for their achievements and the contribution they have made in shining a spotlight on our great borough.”

The 1972 Local Government Act gave borough councils the powers to award the Freedom to “people of distinction and persons who have rendered eminent services” to the borough.

As it’s a relatively modern honour it confers no legal rights though recipients are invariably invited to take part in important ceremonial occasions.

Mrs Gorton and husband Tony contacted the British Epilepsy Association in 1975 after their eldest child Sarah developed the condition and they found there was little or no support.

The couple went on to set up the Huddersfield branch of Epilepsy Action and raised thousands of pounds to support the charity’s work.

The group also sponsored nurses and other staff to go on specialist courses to learn more about epilepsy.