My friend Bruce Grant, who has died aged 94, was a familiar sight in Newcastle and neighbouring towns, where he raised thousands of pounds for charity.
Despite being diagnosed with heart failure, he would leave home with his walking frame and handmade signs, catch a bus and spend hours collecting outside shops in all weathers. In total he raised £100,000 for charities, including Help for Heroes, the Royal Society for Blind Children, the Great North Air Ambulance Service and the Newcastle West End Food Bank.
Bruce was born to Gladys (nee Barker), a music teacher and church organist, and Robert, a farmer, at Auchorachan, in the whisky valley of Glenlivet. He was the third child in a family of three girls and three boys, and attended schools in Glenlivet and Tomintoul. Obsessed with flying, at the age of 14 he cycled 50 miles to Inverness, slept in a garden shed, and told the RAF recruiting officer the next morning that he was 17. He sailed through the interview but fled when asked for his address.
After he completed his schooling he became an apprentice engineer at the Aberdeen shipbuilders Alexander Hall and Sons, and in 1943 was accepted into the RAF Reserve before joining the Parachute Regiment and becoming a pay clerk in Palestine. On demob he joined the Ellerman Lines cargo business as a ship’s engineer, followed by several years in North America working for various other shipping companies. While in the US he fulfilled his ambition of learning to fly.
Bruce returned to the UK in 1957 and had a spell as a grouse beater, during which time he met and married Wilma Adams, who was working in the office of the crown estate in Glenlivet. After he found a job as an engineer with the Scottish Gas Board in Glasgow, he and Wilma settled down in Kilmarnock, where their children, Linda and Ewan, were born.
In 1968 the family moved to Ponteland, near Newcastle, where Bruce’s final job, as a plant manager, was with Tyne and Wear council. He took early retirement in 1983, and his money-raising activities began in earnest in 2013, when he set up the Pont Charity Group with two friends, organising local concerts and raffles to raise money for good causes during its four years of existence. After Wilma died in 2017, Bruce took his fundraising to the streets in a one-man campaign.
His charity work earned him an award from Ponteland town council and then the British Empire Medal in 2019, presented by the Duchess of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle. He was also invited to a Buckingham Palace garden party in 2020, but the event was cancelled due to Covid restrictions.
He is survived by Linda and Ewan, five grandchildren and a great-grandson.