Time to play last post for Grange Park champion
If Peter Collins expected a quiet life when he took over the running of a post office in Blackpool, he was destined to be mistaken.
For as he steps down from the role after 34 years in charge of the Grange Park Post Office, he recalls a career which has seen him fight off armed robbers, stand as a councillor, receive an MBE for his community work and launch a new scout group.
No wonder after recently celebrating his 70th birthday, he has decided it is time for a rest!
Over the years Peter has also seen many changes take place on the Grange Park estate - and made many friends as well.
He took over the post office and newsagent’s in 1983 in order to secure his future after being made redundant.
Peter says: “I came to Blackpool in 1973 from Leicester and worked for Streets bakers and confectioners until they went in liquidation.
“I bought the Grange Park Post Office to be self-employed so I could never be made redundant again, and I think that’s why I have always had a lot of empathy with people on Grange Park, because I understand how frustrating it is not to be able to work.
“So I was always going to be here for the long haul.
“I have enjoyed the work, and the people are more than just customers.”
But it has not all been plain sailing, and Peter has been targeted twice over the years by would-be robbers.
The first incident was in 1993 when he was threatened by attackers wielding a gun and a lump hammer.
He said: “I used a chair like I was a lion tamer to fight them off and they ran off.
“The police never found them. The following week I was protected by a number of other ‘petty’ criminals on the estate – they seemed to be saying ‘you can’t do this on your own patch’. The second incident happened in 1999. I was making the papers up and this man came in and offered me a bag and said ‘fill it’.
“I threw a pile of Mail on Sundays at him to distract him, and then hit him on the head with a walking stick.
“It didn’t put me off in the least from running a Post Office though.”
In 2008 Peter was elected to represent Park ward on Blackpool Council for the Conservatives following a by-election.
His victory at the polls was a measure of his standing on the estate, which has traditionally been a Labour seat.
Although he only stayed on the council for three years, his impact was such that he held the senior position of cabinet member for children’s services.
But in 2011 he lost out to Labour at the local elections.
However it did not put him off helping the community, and along with the late Maureen Horn, who headed up the Grange Park Residents Association, he helped set up the 4th Blackpool Scouts on the estate.
He said: “We started off with about 15 youngsters, and now there are 70.
“Scouting has got children off the streets. They go camping at every opportunity and we have sponsors who help fund it for the families who otherwise couldn’t afford it.
“And I know that will keep on going, which is a great thing for this area.”
Peter also received the MBE in 2004 for services to the community of Blackpool.
He said: “It is a wrench to leave. When I put the notice up to say what will be happening, I thought ‘this is the end’ and it will be emotional.
“There are about 40 people, customers, who have been with me for 34 years, getting their newspapers. I will miss that contact and the banter that goes with it.
“These are people who are loyal to their community and who are proud people. The vast majority are brilliant and look after each other, When we have had any charitable event or fundraiser they cough up like no tomorrow, especially for young people.”
The next chapter for Peter will be to spend more time with his two children and four grandchildren,and he plans to move back to his roots in Stamford.
But he adds: “I will never lose my roots here in Blackpool, particularly with the work I have done in scouting, and I intend to make visits back to keep in touch with them.”
The Grange Park Post Office on Chepstow Road will close at 1pm on June 20. It is relocating to the Londis Store at Cunliffe’s Garage on Poulton Road, and will re-open there at 1pm on June 21.
The new postmaster will be Jonathan Cunliffe.
The relocation is taking place under the Network Transformation programme and Peter had to find a new site for the Post Office within a mile of the existing office.
Despite efforts to keep it on the estate, there were no takers until an agreement was reached with Cunliffe’s. All the shops are set to move out of Chepstow Road which is being earmarked for future development.
The One-Stop-Shop and pharmacy will move into new units being created at the Community Learning Centre on Dinmore Avenue.
Work will start in July and they are expected to be in the new premises by the end of the year.