By Lily Chick
DEDICATED MAYOR of Oldham Derek Heffernan has hailed his year in office as “wonderful” as he raised £46,000 and counting for charities.
Cllr Heffernan, 77, bore the chains of the borough from May 2016/17, accompanied by his wife of 50 years Di as Mayoress, and put an emphasis on being the first ‘Mayor of Peace’.
During Cllr Heffernan’s year in office he made more than 300 visits and appearances to charity events, dinners, fundraisers, schools, civic events, talks and more.
And despite breaking his collar bone and his wife Di breaking her hip on holiday, the pair raised an impressive amount for good causes, before handing over to Shadab Qumer.
Cllr Heffernan said: “The whole year was wonderful! I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to do it and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
“It has been difficult not having Di there for the last six months after her fall. After 50 years with someone you come to expect them to be there, but there was a big hole.
“But I wouldn’t change it for the world and I am delighted to have raised so much for charities – and we still have donations coming in!”
Money raised will be split between Francis House children’s hospice, Macmillan Cancer Support – as Cllr Heffernan is chair of the Saddleworth group – and local charities.
Reflecting on his year, proud Cllr Heffernan picked out his most outstanding moment as meeting two Hiroshima survivors, Reika and Midori Yamada, both in their late 80s.
They had brought over seeds from a Ginkgo tree that survived the atomic bomb to be planted in Alexandra Park and shared with local schools that have signed the Pledge to Peace.
Another highlight was meeting young people and children from all over the borough and spreading his message as the first ‘Mayor of Peace’ in the country.
Cllr Heffernan also pointed out his involvement in helping Rotary and young people to plant purple crocuses to mark the fight to eradicate Polio.
And he was also inspired by his meeting with David Nott at the opening of the new science building at Oldham Hulme Grammar, where the surgeon was a former pupil.
Dr Nott shot to fame and received a Pride of Britain award for his work in Syria, including operating under torchlight as bombs fell around him.
To list just a few more of Derek’s achievements, he has encouraged a seven-fold increase in schools signing the Pledge to Peace, opened a peace book section in Oldham Library, and refurbished the peace garden in central Oldham.
And he has resolved to work for peace until he is 100, saying: “After my hip operation in June there will be no stopping me!”
Incoming Mayor Shadab Qumer said: “The role of Mayor is extremely hard work and takes dedication, commitment, love, humanity and so much more.
“Since I can remember this has not been exemplified more. We will not see another Derek and Di Heffernan.”