IT is an honour she never believed would be bestowed upon her.

But last night Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Dame Mary Fagan, was left overwhelmed when she was given the Freedom of Southampton in recognition of her tireless work with charities and community groups.

More than 100 people, including mayors from across Hampshire, witnessed the historic moment at St Mary’s Church.

Presenting Dame Mary with the freedom of the city, the mayor of Southampton, Cllr Derek Burke, said there was “no one more deserving”.

He added that the vote by city councillors to give her the honour was unanimous, something which, he joked, was very unusual at the council.

Appointed as the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire in 1994, her role is to be responsible for arrangements made during royal visits to the county.

After receiving the honour, Dame Mary said: “I am totally overwhelmed by the honour.

“Over the past 19 years as Lord Lieutenant I have always enjoyed my visits to your city. There have been many changes but I know that it is the people of Southampton who make your city special.

“Thank you for the honour you have done me this evening and in return I shall try my best to serve the people of Southampton to the best of my ability.”

The honour means that Dame Mary has the keys to the city and can enjoy a number of privileges, such as walking her sheep through the Bargate.

However, she made the congregation laugh when she asked the mayor: “Can I park anywhere I like?”