Sheffield’s Man with A Pram enjoys surprise 80th birthday party

Legend is an overused word and its ubiquity has led to it losing its true meaning.

But there is no-one more fitting of the title than Sheffield’s Man With A Pram John Burkhill.

John Burkhill, Sheffield's famous fundraiser 'Man With The Pram' ,at a surprise celebration at Sheffield Town Hall to mark his 80th birthday. Picture: Scott Merrylees

John Burkhill, Sheffield's famous fundraiser 'Man With The Pram' ,at a surprise celebration at Sheffield Town Hall to mark his 80th birthday. Picture: Scott Merrylees

The legendary fundraiser has competed in more than 1,000 charity races and has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for Macmillan Cancer Support.

He is also a familar face across Sheffield with his pram and even took out for a walk on Christmas Day.

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And the city of Sheffield thanked him for remarkable efforts as he was treated to a surprise 80th birthday bash at Sheffield Town Hall on Friday.

John Burkhill, Sheffield's famous fundraiser 'Man With The Pram', at a surprise celebration at Sheffield Town Hall to mark his 80th birthday. John is pictured chatting to Mike Tomlinson. Picture: Scott Merrylees

John Burkhill, Sheffield's famous fundraiser 'Man With The Pram', at a surprise celebration at Sheffield Town Hall to mark his 80th birthday. John is pictured chatting to Mike Tomlinson. Picture: Scott Merrylees

Dozens of people turned out for the celebrations, including former sports minister Richard Caborn, Sheffield Council chief executive John Mothersole as well as friends, neighbours and former colleagues.

The party was also broadcast live on BBC Radio Sheffield's Toby Foster at Breakfast and he walked into the Silver Room to be greeted with cheers and applause.

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Derek Parkin, who used to work with John at Express Dairies, said: “I think it’s a miracle what he does because he’s certainly not a young man.”

John Burkhill, Sheffield's famous fundraiser 'Man With The Pram', at a surprise celebration at Sheffield Town Hall to mark his 80th birthday. Picture: Scott Merrylees

John Burkhill, Sheffield's famous fundraiser 'Man With The Pram', at a surprise celebration at Sheffield Town Hall to mark his 80th birthday. Picture: Scott Merrylees

Derek’s wife Jacqueline said: “John is a truly fantastic person and he puts himself before everybody and anything else. Derek was in hospital at the back end of 2017 and John came to see him, complete with his pram, as he was heading out.”

John received hundreds of cards from friends, family and people across Sheffield. He was also presented with a special front page of The Star and a signed photograph from his favourite actor David Jason.

Alan White, who served in the army with John in the 1950s, said: “What he does is magic, the man is just magic.

“He is one in I don’t know how many million and a very special man.

John Burkhill, Sheffield's famous fundraiser 'Man With The Pram' ,at a surprise celebration at Sheffield Town Hall to mark his 80th birthday. Picture: Scott Merrylees

John Burkhill, Sheffield's famous fundraiser 'Man With The Pram' ,at a surprise celebration at Sheffield Town Hall to mark his 80th birthday. Picture: Scott Merrylees

“They’ll talk about John in 100 to 200 years time, he is already in the history books of Sheffield.”

John, whose wife and daughter both died of cancer, said he 'enjoyed every minute' of raising cash, in particular meeting people and hearing their stories of how Macmillan Cancer Support has helped them.

Claire Singlehurst, director of fundraising at Macmillan, said he was an ‘amazing’ man.

She said: “The team in Sheffield first introduced me to John in 2012 after he had raised about £500,000.

“It was one of the best days I’ve had at Macmillan because we walked around the city and it just struck me how passionate he was about the charity how humble he was about what he does.”

Ms Singlehurst said it was ‘very difficult’ to know exactly how much money John has raised but added it was around £750,000.

John Burkhill, Sheffield's famous fundraiser 'Man With The Pram' ,at a surprise celebration at Sheffield Town Hall to mark his 80th birthday. Picture: Scott Merrylees

John Burkhill, Sheffield's famous fundraiser 'Man With The Pram' ,at a surprise celebration at Sheffield Town Hall to mark his 80th birthday. Picture: Scott Merrylees

She added: “He is not just raising money, he is raising awareness of what we do, which makes people in Sheffield better equipped if they’re affected by cancer.

“We absolutely adore him.”

John, who was almost reduced to tears as he cut his 80th birthday cake, thanked everyone who sent cards and well wishes, as well as those who organised and attended his surprise party.

He said: “I can’t put into words what this means. I don’t know how everyone has managed to keep it quiet.

“It just brings tears to me eyes because, let’s face it, we have got the best people here in Sheffield and I am so proud to be the ‘man with the pram’ from Sheffield.

“People ask me all the time who the most important person is I’ve met and I always say it’s the last person to put money in the bucket”

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He added: “I am going to read each and every one of the cards but I’d just like to thank everyobdy in Sheffield – it means an awful lot.”

 For more information or to donate visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/madwalker.
 

John Burkhill, Sheffield's famous fundraiser 'Man With The Pram' ,at a surprise celebration at Sheffield Town Hall to mark his 80th birthday. John is pictured chatting to Toby Foster of BBC Radio Sheffield. Picture: Scott Merrylees

John Burkhill, Sheffield's famous fundraiser 'Man With The Pram' ,at a surprise celebration at Sheffield Town Hall to mark his 80th birthday. John is pictured chatting to Toby Foster of BBC Radio Sheffield. Picture: Scott Merrylees

John Burkhill, Sheffield's famous fundraiser 'Man With The Pram' ,at a surprise celebration at Sheffield Town Hall to mark his 80th birthday. John is pictured chatting to Toby Foster and The Star editor Nancy Fielder. Picture: Scott Merrylees.

John Burkhill, Sheffield's famous fundraiser 'Man With The Pram' ,at a surprise celebration at Sheffield Town Hall to mark his 80th birthday. John is pictured chatting to Toby Foster and The Star editor Nancy Fielder. Picture: Scott Merrylees.