TODAY'S the day when millions of once-a-year punters try their luck in a Grand National sweep.

But this year The Northern Echo has gone one better by organising a human sweep for the world's greatest race.

We've officially adopted Mally Barnes – the North-East's best-known chimney sweep – as our very own Grand National Lucky Sweep.

Mally, from Cockfield, County Durham, hit the headlines earlier this year after investing his redundancy money from his old job as a transport manager in re-training as a chimney sweep, and writing poems about the places he visits.

So we took The Chimney Sweep Poet down to the Red Alligator pub – named after the horse that won the great race for Bishop Auckland 50 years ago this year – to draw four horses out of a hat.

Mally picked Anibale Fly, The Last Samuri, Milansbar, and Bless The Wings and he will place £10 on each to win, with The Northern Echo matching his stake. Any winnings will be presented to the Butterwick Hospice at Bishop Auckland.

"Half a century on, let's hope some of the Red Alligator magic rubs off and one of my horses comes home first to raise some money for a great cause," said Mally, who's in big demand as a lucky sweep at weddings.

Mally drew his horses the day after making an intriguing discovery while sweeping the chimney at the recently re-opened Bonny Moorhen pub at Stanhope.

His brushes dislodged what appeared to be a Roman coin, which fell out of the flue and onto the hearth.

Landlord Tom Lawlor, who took over the pub two weeks ago after it had been closed for three months, said: "It certainly looks authentic but we haven't had time to get it checked. We have no idea how it got up there but, whether it's of historic value or some kind of fake, we're going to get it framed."

Mally added: "I couldn't believe my eyes when it came down with the soot so, whatever it turns out to be, let's hope it's a lucky Roman omen."

Here's The Chimney Sweep Poet's Grand National Rhyme....

The Grand National is drawing near,

The most arduous of courses,

The Durham Sweep has done his best,

To pick the winning horses.

Annibale Fly to come in first,

The Last Samuri at two,

Milansbar to come home third,

Bless The Wings it’s fourth for you,

I’ve put a tenner on each one,

I’d like a decent price,

The winnings will go to Butterwick,

Which would make it very nice!