extract from the new book of Sheffield’s ‘man with the pram’

John Burkhill receives BEM at Sheffield Town Hall
John Burkhill receives BEM at Sheffield Town Hall
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Legendary Sheffield fundraiser John Burkhill has relived his extraordinary life in a charity biography.

Today, The Star publishes the third extract from Distance No Object: Sheffield’s Man with the Pram, as part of a six-week serialisation of the book to raise money for Macmillan.

John with daughter Karen, on her wedding day

John with daughter Karen, on her wedding day

The following extract is from the chapter ‘Peaks and Troughs’ and focuses on John’s tragic loss, which was to become the motivation for his incredible charity work.

‘By the early 1990s, I was very happy. I was out training, June – who had been ill again with the TB she had suffered when she was younger – was getting stronger and I had a nice steady job again and three great kids. We were all very contented; life was really good. But something was to happen that was to knock us all.

Sometime in June, Karen went into the hospital to have a polyp removed from her stomach prior to going on holiday to Greece. That same day, I was called at work; I was out delivering at the time, but Shell’s transport manager George May managed to get hold of me. I was told that I was to go to the hospital as quickly as possible. I assumed there was something wrong with June – it never entered my head that it could be Karen, who had always been as fit as a butcher’s dog.

I arrived to be met by June who was hysterical and crying. It was explained to me that there had been complications with Karen’s operation, and she was on a life support machine. It was devastating. The doctors explained as best they could, but it didn’t sink in, and never will.

John and June on their wedding day

John and June on their wedding day

I asked the doctors what they wanted from me to try and save her – an organ donation, blood transfusion, something like that – but they said: “It’s not as simple as that.” I went up to see her and she was hooked up to a ventilator, which broke my heart. As her next of kin by law, her husband James was left with the decision what to do. Karen died. Myself and my two lads Stuart and Scott were absolutely distraught.

June was in the worst state I had ever seen her; she never got over it. And from that day she went downhill very fast. The doctors diagnosed cancer more or less straight away – another devastating blow for us all.’

‘Distance No Object: Sheffield’s Man with the Pram’ is available from Amazon priced at £9.99. You can also buy your copy at the Sheffield Star shop on York Street, Waterstones, on Orchard Square and at Meadowhall, the Blades Superstore on Bramall Lane and the Owls Superstore at Hillsborough.