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Thursday, August 19, 1999 Published at 20:59 GMT 21:59 UK


Protest Freeman herds sheep over Tower Bridge

One man and his sheep: Protest on 'rights'

It was sight to bemuse even the most street-wise Londoner.

Tourists and passers by stared in disbelief as 60-year-old Jef Smith, wearing farmers' clothes and carrying a rake, led his sheep across Tower Bridge.

But Clover, an eight-year-old Jacob's Cross, and Little Man, a six-month-old crossbreed had every right to be there.

Mr Smith, a Freeman of the City of London, was exercising an ancient permission to herd sheep across the bridge, to make a point about the powers of older citizens.

[ image: The colourful trio were watched by police]
The colourful trio were watched by police
He said: "I want to draw attention to people's rights, and particularly to rights that citizens may have forgotten that they have or which have been eroded.

"In particular I want to make a stand for older people whose rights are continuously being eroded."

Mr Smith, of Muswell Hill, London, is retiring from his post as general manager of Counsel and Care for the Elderly, to become its fund-raising manager.

The former City of London Social Services director, said he had always wanted to herd sheep across the bridge since he was made a Freeman in 1975.

He said reaching a mature age should be an opportunity for older people to assert their rights and fulfil their ambitions.

'Technically' not a right

The wacky stunt was given last minute permission from the City of London Police.

But the Corporation of London said the right to herd sheep across its four bridges, Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge and Southwark Bridge, no longer applied because there were no livestock markets in the City.

A police spokesman said: "Although technically this right does not exist in common law now, a common sense approach was taken to allow the event to go ahead."

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