Mike Perry - Ilkeston’s community champion

Mike Perry - President of the Friends of Ilkeston Community Hospital Photo: Ilkeston Advertiser

Mike Perry - President of the Friends of Ilkeston Community Hospital Photo: Ilkeston Advertiser - Credit: Archant

Kevin Palmer talks to Mike Perry, who is retiring after a lifetime of public service

Mike (fourth from the left) fundraising for the Hospital League of Friends Photo: Brian Pickering

Mike (fourth from the left) fundraising for the Hospital League of Friends Photo: Brian Pickering - Credit: Archant

He has been a familiar face in Derbyshire for years, and particularly in Ilkeston, where he has held high office in the town’s Rotary Club and helped the town’s community hospital through his work with the League of Friends. Now, Mike Perry, whose career in the police included an involvement in two major criminal investigations, is leaving the area for the North Wales seaside.

Loughborough-born Mike started his career as a police cadet in Leicestershire, following in the steps of a great uncle who was a superintendent in Hinkley. He joined British Transport Police and took up an offer to work from London Euston station. It was there that he became involved in the hunt for the perpetrators behind one of the 20th century’s biggest crimes – the Great Train Robbery, where criminals stole £2.6m (equivalent to £50m today) from a Royal Mail train on 8th August 1963. The young constable was sent to assist Scotland Yard, who were leading the inquiry into the crime, and ordered to walk up the railway line to see what he could find.

‘My job was to find the cigarette end that Ronnie Biggs had thrown out of the window of the train,’ Mike recalls. ‘I found a nub end, put it in a plastic bag, handed it in and went back to Euston. There was no DNA technology in those days. There’s a black and white television documentary which shows a lone figure walking up the track after the event. That was me.’

Mike later applied for a job with Nottingham City police but was half an inch short of the regulation six foot height. He then joined Derby Borough Police which later merged with the county force. ‘I was one of the first to drive a panda car (a Morris 1000) out of Full Street police station,’ he says with pride.

Over the years he rose through the ranks to inspector. Among the cases he was involved with was the still unsolved murder in 1970 of student teacher Barbara Mayo whose body was found near the M1 at Ault Hucknall. It was the biggest manhunt in the country at the time.

Mike served at Ilkeston, Belper, and Long Eaton before retiring in 1996. He then used his vast experience to establish his own business as a cctv consultant in crime prevention and detection. He set up schemes all over the country, including one at Heanor Gate Industrial Estate.

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However, it is for his work in the community and voluntary sector that Mike has become well-known. He has been a member of Ilkeston Rotary Club for 40 years, twice serving as its president.

In the late 1990s Les Hutchinson, a Rotarian and president of Ilkeston Hospital League of Friends, persuaded Mike to help at a garden party at the new hospital and he has been involved ever since, becoming chairman and president. He now holds just the latter title. ‘This is my first attempt to ease off from commitments I have had over the years,’ says the 74-year-old who lives in the town with his wife Pauline.

Over the years the Friends have raised £700,000 for the Hospital. Mike was the driving force behind the refurbishment of the tea bar. Smiley’s café was constructed, along with the convenience shop in the hospital’s main entrance on Heanor Road. These bring in around £1,000 profit a month which is used to buy equipment and items to benefit patients.

Every Sunday Mike takes newspapers to inpatients, chats with them, tries to cheer them up and listen to any problems. He also helps in the shop and recently helped launch an appeal to buy monitors and an ultra-sound scanner costing £140,000 for the diagnostic and treatment centre.

Mike’s dedication led him to be a governor for 18 months of Derbyshire Community Health Services Trust which runs the hospital. ‘The people of Ilkeston are very generous and and supportive to the League,’ says Mike. ‘They consider it their own hospital and are very protective towards it. They like to help by donating money to improve services for the patients.’

But Mike has had his own health issues and now feels that it is time to put his feet up and finally retire from public service. ‘I will still be involved in Rotary and will try to help people in the community where I can,’ he says

Pauline comments: ‘Mike is very dedicated to helping good causes in the community and finds it difficult to say “no” to anybody.’

He has a daughter Rowena, working at Royal Derby Hospital and three sons: Stephen, who lives in France, Ian who in addition to his work for the Department of Work and Pensions in Nottingham is manager of Erewash Sound local radio station, and Neil who works in Sheffield for a large international IT consortium. Mike’s mum Kathleen, who is 102, lives at a home in Shepshed.

Trish Bailey, general manager in DCHS said: ‘Mike has personally made a huge contribution to the local NHS in his time as both chairman and president of Ilkeston Hospital’s league of friends. Through his tireless fundraising efforts we’ve been able to improve facilities and equipment at the hospital, all for the benefit of local people. We’ll forever be grateful for the measurable difference he’s made for our patients and wish him all the very best for this next stage in his life.’

Ian Viles, chief executive of enterprise agency Erewash Partnership, which helps regenerate the area, said: ‘Mike was instrumental in bringing town centre cctv to Erewash, working alongside Erewash Borough Council and Erewash Partnership. This was the beginning of a professional relationship and friendship with the Partnership that spans nearly 25 years. Mike has been an active participant of the Partnership’s business club and in recent years he has used this conduit to promote the work of the League of Friends of Ilkeston Hospital. Mike has worked tirelessly and been a great champion for the local community and we will miss him.’

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