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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 April 2006, 20:30 GMT 21:30 UK
Sir Tasker given freeman honour
Sir Tasker and the lord mayor with the scroll
The lord mayor said it was a "great honour" to present the scroll
The lifelong achievements of former judge and ex-WRU president Sir Tasker Watkins have been recognised with Cardiff's top honour.

Sir Tasker, 87, who was awarded a Victoria Cross for gallantry in World War II, was made an honorary freeman.

He joins an elite list of Cardiff freemen, including David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela.

He said he would cherish the distinction "for the rest of my days in pride and humility".

Bestowing the honour, lord mayor of Cardiff Freda Salway described Sir Tasker as "one of Wales' most notable citizens".

The freedom of Cardiff is only awarded to people who have contributed "eminent services" to the city.

This is a distinction I shall cherish for the rest of my days in pride and humility
Sir Tasker Watkins

Ms Salway said of Sir Tasker during the ceremony in the city hall: "He is such a wonderful man. If you read his citation you think, 'Why didn't we do this before?'

"He's exceptional, a one-off. He's an exceptionally courteous, gallant gentleman. He is a true gentleman in every sense of the word."

Sir Tasker was born in Nelson in 1918, and was educated at Pontypridd Grammar School.

In 1944, when 25, he was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry while serving with the Welch regiment in Normandy.

When he left the army he was called to the Bar by the Middle Temple.

In 1966, Sir Tasker was counsel for the inquiry into the Aberfan disaster.

The scroll presented to Sir Tasker Watkins
Sir Tasker joins an elite list of individuals awarded the honour

In 1971 he became a High Court Judge, and was also knighted.

Sir Tasker was president of the WRU from 1993 to 2004, making him its second-longest serving president.

He said of his freeman honour: "This is a distinction I shall cherish for the rest of my days in pride and humility."

'Extraordinary privilege'

After the ceremony the former judge said he was "immensely proud".

"It is an extraordinary privilege, and one which makes me feel extremely proud and very pleased that the family have got something to think about after I've gone."

Sir Tasker said working for the council as a barrister would be high on his list of achievements.

He described how he had seen Cardiff overcome the decline of the coal trade to become a diverse and rounded city in the 60 years he has lived there.

And from his years in Welsh rugby, Sir Tasker said despite its recent troubles - including the departure of ex-coach Mike Ruddock - he still sees a bright future for the game.

"One shouldn't get too despondent about it," he said. "We have a great wealth of talent in Wales."

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