A ‘pillar of the community’ who spent 30 years cleaning his home town for free armed with his trusty wheelbarrow was back on duty – just months after he was nearly beaten to death.
Selfless Gilbert Wilton, 81, has cleaned the streets for more than three decades trimming hedges and grass and clearing up rubbish from paths, roads, beaches and beauty spots.
Retired farmer Gilbert heads out with his wheelbarrow, garden tools and broom everyday to pick up discarded litter and debris and spruce up local parks and gardens.
Gilbert – known as the ‘Wheelbarrow Man’ – is so popular local residents set up a Facebook page dedicated to him with over 1,600 members.
The Facebook page set up in his honour states: ”Gilbert Wilton aka ‘Wheelbarrow man’ is a legend and Newquay loves him for maintaining our streets.”
But last year Gilbert was left fighting for his life after he was beaten with an iron bar during a bungled burglary at his home by drug addict Gary Mallett (corr), 40.
Gilbert, of Newquay, Cornwall, was violently beaten and left with several fractured ribs, and deep cuts to his face, skull, ears and forearms.
Mallett fled empty-handed and has since been jailed for the brutal assault and Gilbert, who is not paid for his work, is now back cleaning the streets.
Gilbert, a bachelor, who is now to be honoured by the council and says he bears no grudge against his attacker.
He said: ”It doesn’t matter anymore – it’s all over and done with and I have forgiven him more or less.
”The sentence is enough, there haven’t been any lasting injuries, and life is back to normal.
”I’m back doing what I love and no one is going to stop me – I like to take pride in my home town. More people should do the same. I’m still bloody fighting.”
Gilbert was attacked last June by Mallett who bludgeoned him with a 42-inch long, three-inch thick iron bar while demanding money.
Mallett has previous convictions for drugs and alcohol-related offences and was jailed for nine years after he pleaded guilty to GBH with intent at Truro Crown Court on Monday.
Newquay residents have dubbed Gilbert a ”hero” and a ”legend” and say they are ”delighted” to see him back on patrol.
Neighbour Mary Eggleton said: ”He is a lovely neighbour and a very kind man. He’s done so much for this town.
”Its so good to see him back to himself and back to being busy. He didn’t deserve what happened to him.”
Gilbert has now been given an award for his time spent serving the town.
Newquay Town Residents’ Association chairman Dave Sleeman said: ”Gilbert has done a lot for this town and I think it is about time that he is rewarded for that.
”We are hopefully going to have a chat with him and see what he would like as part of the award, maybe some nice new gardening tools.”