“I started when I was ten,” says Jean Redfern. “At that age, I didn’t really know what I was doing or why. But I was out on my bike one day when I was stopped and asked if I’d like to sell some poppies.”
This is Jean’s calling as she hasn’t missed a single year since. Each year, a consignment of poppies has been delivered to her home. Jean divides them up and gets them ready to be distributed throughout Hulland Ward, including at the church she has visited for 80 years, Christ Church, Hulland.
She has walked the length and breadth of the village, leaving poppies to be sold at the pubs, the village shop and the school and has knocked on villagers’ doors offering them a smile and a chance to buy their poppy. Many will have been expecting her and will have their money ready to hand over. She is often accompanied by her granddaughters to help her carry the collection boxes and the boxes of poppies.
“People are used to me going round with poppies – and some say they will only buy them from me now,“ she says. “Sometimes we have a bit of a chat, but I can’t stop for a cup of tea everywhere I go or I’d never round everyone!
“People in the village are always generous – at least I think they are because I never look at what they are putting in the tin,” she laughs. “That wouldn’t be the right thing to do.”
But Jean certainly has got the tins filled. Last year her efforts together with village resident Jane Twigg, who sells hand-knitted poppies, helped raise more than £2,000 in the village.
Jean says: “I do it because I’ve always done it and because it’s important to remember those poor soldiers who come back from wars these days without limbs and in a terrible state. It’s awful.”
Jean’s brother, Ken, was also in the army and came home from the Second World War. He has since died but his memory also inspires Jean to sell poppies: “He was away for a long, long time when I was only a girl. We didn’t hear anything of him in that time… but he did come home.”
Christ Church, Hulland, has been Jean’s place of worship for 80 years.
Jean is humble when she talks about the personal accolades she has received because of her commitment to the Poppy Appeal: last year she was awarded the Bishop’s Badge, presented by Bishop Jan in Derby Cathedral, and earlier this year she received Maundy Money from the Queen at Windsor Castle.
Jean recalls, “When I first got the letter inviting me, I thought ‘Oh Heck! Who’s told her about me?’
“It was a grand occasion though. The Queen didn’t stop to chat as she had so many people to see, but she smiled as she presented me with the purse, and that was lovely.”