South Shropshire couple's passion for Poppy Appeal won't waver in face of pandemic

The Poppy Appeal this year could draw in half its usual funds for the Royal British Legion because of the coronavirus crisis – but the stalwart Shropshire folk who organise their local appeals are still finding ways to sell poppies.

Barry and Tricia Oldham, in their 70s, have been shielding since March
Barry and Tricia Oldham, in their 70s, have been shielding since March

Among them are Barry and Tricia Oldham of Clun.

The pair, both in their 70s, have been collecting for the Poppy Appeal in their town for the last decade – this year's appeal launched this week.

But this year, in line with Government guidance, they have been spending most of their time shielding indoors to reduce the risk of catching the virus.

Barry is 77 while Tricia is 75 and has asthma.

Living in the small south Shropshire town, they have been able to get their daily exercise without seeing another soul, but they have been avoiding supermarkets and relying on deliveries.

The thing they miss most, however, is human contact with their families.

"The hardest bit is we don't see our children or grandchildren," said Barry.

"We have a Zoom get-together on a Sunday evening but it's not the same as seeing them in person."

The two have been the faces of Clun's Poppy Appeal since taking over from Bob Jameson 10 years ago.

Collection boxes

Barry said: "We have a fundraising activity usually during the summer time. The activity this year was going to be a village party for the whole of Clun, that had to be cancelled.

"We have about 75 collectors and because we live in an area which doesn't have large supermarkets, most of them go door-to-door with their boxes.

"Of course this year that can't happen. We have instead got strategic ones placed in shops and pubs, and we have notices up saying where people can get their poppies.

"In the past we have gone to the people; this time we are asking the people to come to us."

In normal times they would be working with their legion of 75 collectors to knock on doors and sell poppies, but this year the appeal in the town is relying on 11 collection boxes spread around shops, pubs and schools.

It has meant more telephone organising and fewer collectors going about and about.

Barry said: "Because our burden has been cut from 75 boxes to 11, that's been less work for us, but we've had to phone round all the people that normally collect and explain.

"Many of them are upset at the fact they can't go out and collect.

"We're not going to collect as much as in previous years, we know that."

'They deserve that recognition'

Barry and Tricia are both keen historians and Barry said they have a deep respect for the armed forces. The family have visited historical sites around France and Belgium.

They retired to Clun from Birmingham in 2003, and when they heard about the vacancy in the Poppy Appeal leadership role they felt it would suit them perfectly.

Barry said: "I loved my job as a teacher, but I didn't put my health at risk. They put their lives on the line, they go that extra mile and they deserve that recognition.

"[The Royal British Legion] does the big things but it does the small things as well, helping the individuals.

"It's a charity people respond to."

The national Royal British Legion fears that donations this year could be half the usual amount because of the pandemic.

"It's frustrating that we are limited in what we can do, but we need to keep safe and I think people realise that," Barry added.

The poppy boxes will be distributed to the schools around Clun, the Spar, the White Horse Inn, Bright Flowers, the Aston on Clun community shop, the Hundred House Inn at Purslow and Bucknell Garage.

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News