A MAN who started collecting five pence coins more almost 14 years ago has now gathered one million of them – adding up to £50,000.

St Cuthbert’s Hospice volunteer Ian Watt, from Great Lumley, has donated them to the Durham-based charity.

The 71-year-old, started as a volunteer 20 years ago, when he used to count donations received and decided to start collecting the coins to help with fundraising.

He said: “The hospice would receive many donations of coppers that people would collect and send along in jars and boxes. They’re the most popular coin for people to part with as most are happy to chuck a few one and two pence pieces into a charity bucket to clear out their purse.

“One day my granddaughter, who was two at the time and had just learned how to high five, said to me ‘Papa give me five’. This got me thinking, if people started donating 5p’s instead of coppers it would greatly help with fundraising for the hospice.”

After spreading the word about his fundraising, other people started collecting the coins and giving them to Mr Watt, and the millionth coin came from a bottle of coins collected by the hospice’s living well centre

Mr Watt, who is now hoping to collect two million coins, said: “I simply couldn’t have done this without the support of the local community who have helped me to collect the coins. Just the other night someone pushed a huge bag of 5p’s through the hospice door that had over 1,500 in. It’s just incredible.”

“For the millionth coin to have come from the hospice itself too is just great. The guests and staff all love to collect the coins for me so I’m pleased they can share in this achievement too.”

Hospice fundraiser Jade McArdle said: “Ian is a real inspiration and his dedication to collecting the coins for St Cuthbert’s is amazing. “

We’re so proud of him and what he has achieved, and incredibly grateful.

“He’s known fondly as ‘the five pence guy’ and the more people who find out about him the more people start collecting to help. We’ve no doubt he’ll reach his next target far sooner than the incredible 14 years it’s taken him to reach 1 million.”

St Cuthbert’s Hospice, based in Durham makes no charge for its services and must fundraise more than £2 million each year to continue offering support to people in County Durham with life-limiting illnesses.

Anyone who would like help Mr Watt on his quest to reach 2 million coins, can simply collect them up and take them along to the hospice or call 0191 386 1170 ext 5 to request a loose change box to start saving them in.