There’s been a lot of talk about poppies this year – from The Tower of London installation to all the 11/11 commemorations across the country and so it was more like an accident that I stumbled across a chap called Ron Wiltshire (@RonWiltshire17) who was drumming up support via Twitter for sales of 1914-2014 poppy pin badges.
This East Midlands Trains train advisor set out to collect £25,000 via on-train and at-station collection boxes along the EMT route covering Corby, Leicester and Sheffield as well as the lines terminating at St Pancras International.
The first tweet I saw he was at £18K and had just starting selling them on ebay:
It was a few DAYS later that he hit the target (only to set a new one of £35K):
By 11/11 he was over £43K and preparing for his last “poppies on a train” collection round:
So I jumped at the opportunity to meet him when he called into St Pancras International to pick up all the boxes and do the final tally on 12th November. Just a handful of badges remained from the 14,000 they had at the beginning. The National Ticket Office at the station managed to raise an impressive £4,351 from badges and poppies – which is way ahead of last year’s £452!
As we were speaking a lady came up to Ron asking, “Are you the Poppy Man?” then asked for a pin badge and Ron promptly removed his lapel badge and gave it to her (for a donation of course).
Ron started raising money for the Royal British Legion eight years ago after a heart attack left him yearning for something positive to give back. Each year he gives up two weeks of his holiday time to follow his mission – the last two years of which have been wholly supported by his employer.
Ron not only personally walks the trains and visits the stations with the collection boxes and badges, but he also took to Twitter just a few weeks ago to help raise awareness and also set up an online shop on ebay. The online orders are personally fulfilled every day and in just one evening he had over 500 emails taking him three days to clear.
Ron, 62, is a kind and gentle man who has been taking the new-found media interest in his stride: “I had my photo taken in Sheffield and they printed a piece in today’s Star”. He humbly adds: “My legs are aching from all the walking, but it’s been really great and people have been so kind.”
He’s been away from home for the most part of a fortnight and he’s looking forward to a week off with a proper well-deserved break. His wife just about remembers what he looks like and at least Ron remembered to send her a postcard from London last week!
What a lovely man, what a fabulous cause and I hope the final figure is as near to £50,000 as possible!
See the story on Stpancras.com (12th November 2014)
Please note there are some delightful people on ebay selling poppy pin badges at twenty times the original recommended donation value – and we cannot guarantee that any or even some of the proceeds are going to the Royal British Legion. Ron is an official collector and only offering the pin badges for £2.50 with all proceeds going to RBL.