Sheffield’s ‘man with the pram’ relives his teenage years in book

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Legendary Sheffield fundraiser John Burkhill has relived his extraordinary life in a charity biography.

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

The following extract focuses on John’s teenage years.

“One of my first jobs was with the coal man Archie Berridge who lived in Attercliffe. “It was really hard work but it kept you fit, and you got plenty of cups of tea.

“I even came up with a new slogan: “In your coal-house don’t scrape and ferridge, get your coal from Archie Berridge!”

“Just before my 17th birthday, Archie said he was sorry but he knew I would have to leave to go in the army soon, and he had the chance of setting on a chap who was exempt from service and looking for a job.

John Burkhill at his book launch. Picture: Andrew Roe

John Burkhill at his book launch. Picture: Andrew Roe

“I got a job at the old Snowite Laundry on Abbeydale Road as a ‘van lad’.

“My van driver at Snowite was a fellow called Tommy Cooper – not the famous comedian! He was a smashing bloke.

“He was also a driving instructor and taught me how to drive the Snowite van.

“It was around this time that I started courting my future wife June. The connection was just there instantly. I hoped that when I was called up to do my national service she would wait for me. She did. Thanks, love.

John Burkhill with the Lord Mayor at his book launch. Picture: Andrew Roe

John Burkhill with the Lord Mayor at his book launch. Picture: Andrew Roe

“I stayed at Snowite Laundry until that fateful day in April 1958 and was posted to Northern Ireland and finally Bovington in Dorset...Then the great day finally arrived: I was demobbed, coming home for good.

“I phoned June and she said she’d meet me at the station. There were five of us demobbed at the same time, so we all got on the train up north together and had a few pints. No, not a few – a lot.

“Bill and Jeff lived in Leicester and I remember saying goodbye to them. Jack lived in Derby.

“I asked him to give me a nudge when we arrived in case I’d nodded off. The next thing I remember is a guard giving me a shove. “Thanks pal,” I said, “Are we at Sheffield?”

“Jack must have forgotten to wake me because I wasn’t at Sheffield – I was at Newcastle.

“It took me ages to get back. “Poor June was waiting at the station; I don’t think she believed me. It wasn’t until a reunion at Barnard Castle some years later that Jack confessed all.”

See Star Retro next Saturday October 22 for the second extract from the book.

‘Distance No Object: Sheffield’s Man with the Pram’ is available from Amazon at £9.99.

Local stockists include

Waterstones – Orchard Square & Meadowhall

Blades Superstore – Bramall Lane

Owls Superstore – Hillsborough

The Moor Market

Sheffield Star

Online at Amazon.co.uk – Search ‘John Burkhill’