THREE leading community figures have taken up rarely offered invitations to join the ranks of the Durham City Freemen

Admission into the freemen’s eight surviving guilds is regulated by a strict criteria thought to date back to 1327.

The last time such a direct approach was made to an “outsider” was more than 35 years ago.

The trio invited to take up the unique offer are former Durham County Council chairman Mac Williams, ex-firefighter Arthur Lockyear and retired teacher and computer specialist Trevor Carter, currently vice-chairman of the Durham Pointers.

The three have all expressed an interest and desire in the development of the freemen and maintaining the guilds’ history and heritage in the changing and challenging times ahead.

Eric Bulmer, chairman of the freemen’s charitable trust and a former chairman of the wardens said: “All three men are passionate about Durham and are currently volunteers involved in promoting other aspects of the city’s history.”

The freemen currently enjoy a modern day record membership of 260 men and women but have, in recent years, struggled to find volunteers to fill management positions.

Mac, started his working life at Dawdon Colliery in 1960 and after attending day and night classes at Sunderland and Durham Colleges he landed a job with Seaham Urban District Council in 1971.

He then moved on to Wear Valley then Durham City Council as health and safety officer.

He became a Durham County Councillor in 2006 representing the Coxhoe ward and was elected chairman of the authority in 2010.

He served as a magistrate for 35 years.

Sixty-seven-year-old Arthur, also brought up in Seaham and now based in Durham, served as an operational fireman in stations in Sunderland, South Tyneside and Gateshead.

While with the fire service he helped organise Remembrance Day parades in Sunderland and since 2014 has played a key role in Durham City’s Remembrance Parade and the Durham Cathedral Festival of Remembrance.

Trevor arrived as a student at Durham University 50 years ago, and never left.

He taught maths and computer studies in three local schools for 20 years and was a head of department before leaving to set up his own IT training business.

For the last five years of his career he worked with the IT advisory service for a local education authority.

After serving as a governor at three different schools he was elected as the region’s representative on the National Governors’ Association and for more than a dozen years has been a member of a Foster Care Panel, interviewing prospective foster carers.

He was a founding member of the local history society in his home village, serving on its’ committee for over 20 years.

Mr Bulmer said: “I am in no doubt they will prove a real asset to our organisation.”