This Hartlepool poppy appeal volunteer is so dedicated she postponed her dream golden wedding holiday

A dedicated poppy collector has postponed her 50th wedding anniversary celebrations so she can help with this year’s appeal.

Thursday, 7th November 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 7th November 2019, 10:09 am

Irene Gilhespy has been a key member of Hartlepool’s Poppy Appeal team for the last six years.

She and husband Mick, who also helps run poppy stalls when needed, celebrated their golden wedding on October 25.

They love travelling and to mark the occasion had planned to enjoy a holiday in Thailand and Singapore.

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Irene and Mick Gilhespy in Middleton Grange shopping centre where Irene mans the poppy appeal stall for two weeks of the year.

But they have postponed the trip as Irene, 72, did not want to miss out on the poppy appeal in which she plays an important role for two weeks every year.

Irene runs the stall in Middleton Grange shopping centre and helps distribute collection tins all over town with Hartlepool appeal organiser Sian Cameron and 16-year-old volunteer Marley Haggan.

Irene said: “I didn’t really want to let Sian down. I’m here Monday to Thursday for the two weeks plus we distribute poppies and tins right through the town for the full weekend before we start selling the poppies and collect them the weekend after.

“It wasn’t really a hard decision to make, we just delayed the trip.”

Irene and Mick Gilhespy.

Sian said Irene and Mick, 76, have made a huge difference to the appeal since 2013 when Sian was still relatively new to the role.

She said: “By the end of that first appeal, it was quite apparent that I’d made friends for life, Irene and Mick became known to me as Mamma and Pappa G, which is what I call them six years on!

“They’ve both made such a massive impact on the whole process – they are always happy to help at a moment’s notice and now I’m not sure I couldn’t manage without them.”

Irene and Mick met at The Rink dance hall in 1967 and married two years later at Christ Church.

Irene and Mick on their wedding day.

They have two daughters; Nicola, 48, and Denise, 44, and are doting grandparents to their grandson Will, 15, and granddaughter Beth, 11.

Irene also works at Alice House Hospice helping support staff and patients, while Mick, who served in the Royal Navy, is the Hartlepool secretary of forces charity SSAFA.

Irene and Mick Gilhespy in Hartlepool for Remembrance Sunday.