LEGENDARY Black Country developer and philanthropist Dr Roy Richardson has driven sheep through Sandwell after being made an honorary freeman.

As one of his ceremonial rights as a freeman, the Oldbury businessman immediately took the opportunity to carry out the historic tradition.

The 87-year-old, known across the region as being the man behind the Merry Hill Shopping Centre, received the rare accolade in a ceremony at the Sandwell Council House on Saturday.

Members of his family, business representatives, councillors and dignitaries gave Roy a standing ovation at the ceremony after being introduced by town crier Adrian Holmes.

The Mayor of Sandwell, Councillor Ahmadul Haque, presented Roy with a scroll and badge to mark the first time a business person has been awarded the honour.

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Roy’s a relationship with Sandwell started as a teenager when he and his brother Don – who passed away in 2007 – joined their father in his business based in Dudley Road, Oldbury.

The premises is still family owned and now run by Roy’s three sons.

Roy said: “I feel very proud and privileged to be here. I left school at 14 and went to work for my father, I learnt the lesson of how much money was worth. We've had our ups and downs and more successes than failures.

“I am proud to be a Black Country businessman. I want to thank councillors for unanimously voting me to be the first businessman to have this award.”

Roy said the award meant a lot to him because it was from the local community, adding that it was good for the business community and also for teenagers today to see what can be achieved.

Thanking his family for their support, Roy added: “I am sorry my brother Don is not here today. He played a very big part in making the business a success.”

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Council leader, Cllr Steve Eling, described Roy as an “exceptional person” who had never forgotten his roots in the Black Country and Sandwell.

Cllr Eling said people in Sandwell and the Black Country had “a lot to be thankful for” from the Richardson brothers’ developments, adding: “Roy has changed the face of not only the Black Country but the wider West Midlands and further afield thanks to his success in the development industry.

“Not only is he a great businessman, he’s a real philanthropist. We proudly welcome him as an honorary freeman of Sandwell.”

As well as his business work, Roy helps many charities and causes, with The Richardson Brothers Foundation supporting local and national causes, including Macmillan Care and Support, Guide Dogs, Alzheimer’s Society, the Save the Children Fund and many other charities and sports clubs.