Sheffield’s ‘pram man' John Burkhill issues defiant message amid coronavirus pandemic

“Everyone in Sheffield will come together and we will beat it - there is no doubt about that.”

Saturday, 21st March 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Monday, 23rd March 2020, 4:26 pm

That is the defiant message of Sheffield’s beloved ‘man with the pram’ John Burkhill, as the city faces up to one of its biggest challenges.

Over the last four decades, John has raised more than £750,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support, and hopes soon to reach the million-pound mark.

But because of the coronavirus crisis, for the time being, he has reluctantly stopped his fundraising on strict orders of Macmillan headquarters.

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Nevertheless, he has promised his supporters he will be out on the streets of the Steel City again as soon as possible, and told them to ‘keep safe’ in the meantime.

He said: “I feel fine and I don’t want to stop - but they say I am in an ‘at-risk’ category so they want me to stop for a while.

“I am disappointed because there are a lot of people I’d like to see. They have become friends and will be looking forward to seeing me. I was meant to be in Hillsborough today.

“So I want to apologise to all the people who will be missing me - but I will be back.”

John, who is now 81, said some events he had organised - such as a planned fundraising trip on the five steepest hills in Sheffield - would now have to be postponed.

He also said he was sad he would not get the chance to run in the Sheffield Half Marathon later this month, after it was postponed until September earlier this week.

John has become famous in Sheffield over the past 40 years for his extraordinary fundraising efforts, all completed with his trademark green wig and brightly-coloured shopping trolley.

Earlier this year he was given the freedom of the city at a ceremony at the Town Hall and there is a long-running campaign to have him named a Sheffield legend on the city’s ‘walk of fame’.

In 2013, he was also presented the British Empire Medal by Her Majesty the Queen and last year won a Pride of Britain award.