Defying stereotypes of older age, the volunteer who is busier than ever at 75

Bill Mulroe at the Dr Jackson Cancer Fund charity shop in Hemsworth, West Yorkshire. Picture Tony Johnson.
Bill Mulroe at the Dr Jackson Cancer Fund charity shop in Hemsworth, West Yorkshire. Picture Tony Johnson.

Bill Mulroe is busier than ever.

Now 75, he runs two charity shops for the cancer fund he manages, takes patients across the country to their medical appointments, and has raised more than £1.75m for hospital equipment in Pontefract, Wakefield and Dewsbury.

In his own words, he refuses to “sit at home and wait for the inevitable”.

He is one of thousands of over 65s defying stereotypes of older people, and keeping the charitable sector in Yorkshire going.

“I’m a massive believer that people should find something to focus on, even if it’s just half a day a week - or in my case six and a half days a week,” he said.

Mr Mulroe, who was last year awarded the British Empire Medal for dedicating more than 25 years to charity work, is vice-chair of the Dr Jackson Cancer Fund, which is based in Pontefract and works with hospitals across the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust area. His role recently broadened after the fund, which started in 1977, opened two charity shops in Hemsworth and Featherstone. He opens and closes both stores daily, while balancing organising the charity’s team of volunteer drivers, transporting patients to and from hospital himself, and running all of the fund’s admin duties - including running tombolas and fundraisers.

Mr Mulroe said: “My day starts by calling at Featherstone to prepare the shop for the volunteers, before going to Hemsworth to open the shop. Usually I’m there all day, before coming back to Featherstone to cash up.

“I still do my bit of driving when I can fit it in because that’s what I really enjoy, dealing with the patients. Sometimes the phone will ring at 9.30pm and it’s the hospital, asking if we can help a patient get home. I often get asked by the sister, ‘what time do you finish work?’ and I will answer, ‘what time do people stop getting ill?’

“Last year, up until Christmas, I was taking a lady from Normanton to the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea where she was taking part in a drugs trial. For a 9am appointment, I was up at 4am and finished at 10pm.”

It is this dedication that saw him honoured by the Queen last year for services to charity and community.

In his home town of Featherstone, he has served as secretary at the local working men’s club, chaired the town’s Labour Party branch, worked with the local housing association on neighbourhood planning, was elected to the town council and served as mayor between 2011 and 2012. He was also a school governor for 10 years.

“I still enjoy my constitutional two pints on a Sunday afternoon at Featherstone Working Men’s Club, but I daren’t have any more than that as I never know when I’ll be needed,” he said.

“For me, volunteering is my way of giving back. I came out of two brain operations 15 years ago for cerebral abscesses, and recovering from that, I wanted to show I could still do things rather than just sitting at home. Coming from a mining town, you saw people retiring from the pit and spending the rest of their days in the Working Men’s Club.

“I think it’s absolutely brilliant that after retirement, you can pay something back to society and help people who are worse off than you.”