Skip to main content
Community

'Mad Man with Pram' launches autobiography

10 October 2016

No doubt you've seen him. You've probably even read about him. But you've never heard his incredible, inspiring story told all in his own words - until now.


John Burkhill - Sheffield's famous 'mad man with the pram' - has penned his long-awaited autobiography. Published by RMC Media and funded by the people of Sheffield via a Crowd Funding website, it's the fascinating tale of a truly unique life.


'Distance No Object: Sheffield's Man with the Pram' is full of moving memories, insightful pictures from John's own archive and a fair old dose of Yorkshire humour.


Available in Blades Superstore from Monday 10th October, priced £9.99 with all proceeds going towards John's target of raising £1 million for Macmillan.


John, from Handsworth, aged 77 said, "It's absolutely incredible to hold this book in my hands. I really hope people enjoy reading it. It's something I've thought about doing for a long, long time. I've loved writing it."


He continues, "Most people know a little about why I do what I do - many think I'm completely barmy but there are things in this book which I've never really talked about publicly before which people often ask me about. This is my way of telling everyone where it all began, the challenges I've faced and why I love the people of Sheffield so very much."


From his early days in Sheffield to his antics as a teenager, his fundraising races and walks across the country, to the celebrities (and royals!) he's rubbed shoulders with along the way, it really is quite a story.


Wearing his green wig, giant foam hand and pushing his colourful pram complete with mascot Biggles - John has become a familiar sight on the streets of the Steel City. Even at 77 years old, he spends almost every day walking around Sheffield collecting money for the cause closest to his heart, Macmillan Cancer Support. It's an amazing level of dedication - and one inspired by a terrible personal tragedy.


John's beloved daughter Karen went into hospital for a routine operation, but complications meant she ended up on life support, and she died soon after. Within a year, his wife June passed away from cancer. For John, this loss was a devastating blow - but the tragedy spurred him on to devote his life to helping others in need.


A keen sportsman since childhood, John developed a passion for race walking in the 1960s. Ever since, he spent most weekends taking part in races up and down the country, often raising considerable sums for charity in the process. After the loss of his wife and daughter, John dedicated every spare moment to these fundraising walks.


Having raised thousands of pounds for various causes over the years, on his retirement at the turn of the Millennium John decided to focus on one charity in particular, Macmillan. Since then, he has collected more than £350,000 for the charity - but the determined pensioner says he won't stop until he's reached £1 million.


Rob Turner, Senior Fundraiser for Macmillan, "John is incredible, and when he came to me twelve months ago and told me he had written a book - and said "let's get it published" - I knew we would face challenges getting it written, printed and of course into shops. But the thing I've learned from knowing John over the years is that nothing is impossible."


He continues, "RMC Media wrote up and designed the book for free, then the people of Sheffield donated via a Crowd Funding site to pay for the printing costs. We have had some great support from local printers and retailers who've all donated items for free and agreed to stock the book without taking any percentage which means every copy of every book sold will help John get closer to that magic million for Macmillan."


In his green Macmillan outfit, with wig to match, John looks quite the character. But his awe-inspiring achievements have won him personal recognition too. In 2012, he was voted by the people of Sheffield to be a torchbearer when the Olympic torch relay passed through the city. A year later, he was awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen's New Year's honours list.


Co-written with RMC's Adam Kay, 'Distance No Object' tells these stories and many more. And as part of John's fundraising mission, all proceeds after costs from the sale of the book will be going directly to Macmillan Cancer Support.


But what's the story behind John's famous pram? To find out, you'll have to pick up a copy of the book for yourself - and help Sheffield's 'mad man' towards his magical million pound goal in the process. For John Burkhill, distance really is no object.


John recalls "Starting at the Star's office, I would head out to Hillsborough then over to Bramall Lane, back to Hillsborough then back to the Lane, and finally return back to the Star - 18 miles a day, six days a week. I had fantastic support all along the route. Both sets of supporters, Owls and Blades, they were great.


"Another great day for me was to be invited back to Bramall Lane for another of their Senior Blades dinners. They asked me to bring along my Olympic torch and my BEM medal to show the supporters. It was once again great to see my friends John and Pat Beever and Richard Foster, and I also had the enormous honour of sitting next to one of the finest comedians in the country, the one and only Bobby Knutt.


"June was over the moon to meet him and he signed a copy of his book 'Ey Up Knutty' just for her. She will treasure that book forever. It was a great dinner and Bobby went down a storm. I remember that they asked me to say a few words just before Bobby came on. I thought they were going to give me bread and dripping when I said: 'Up the Owls!' But they were great."


'Distance No Object: Sheffield's Man with the Pram' is available from the Blades Superstore priced at £9.99, or from Waterstones in Orchard Square or Meadowhall, the Moor Market, The Sheffield Star or online at amazon.co.uk