WHEN lollipop man Tony Kelley gets married today, he'll have an extra spring in his step – all because of a heartwarming act of kindness by a grateful parent.

Tony, would be the last person to describe himself as dapper, but he'll walk down the aisle in shoes fit for a Hollywood star.

Instead of the old trainers he normally wears, the modern-day male Cinderella will be resplendent in a £440 pair of deep submarine navy derby shoes, with purple soles and laces. As a finishing touch, the've been monogrammed with the words “Mr and Mrs Kelley 23rd March 2019”.

And it's all because County Durham entrepreneur Simon Bourne wanted to show his appreciation to Tony for being so friendly in helping his little girl, Daisy, safely across the road.

Simon, founder of the Hand Dyed Shoe Company, has fought back from mental health challenges to build a successful company - supplying luxury, bespoke shoes – and he likes to make people feel special.

“I didn’t know Tony, but I could just see that he was one of those people who make the world a better place,” said Simon.

“Come rain or shine, he’s there, helping Daisy across the road, and always so bubbly and friendly to everyone,” said Simon.

The pair of them got talking about Tony’s impending wedding to his partner Lauren Davis and the lollipop man decided to go for a fitting at Simon’s studio in the creative business hub at Ushaw. He described his dream shoes but quickly realised they were out of his price range.

Within days, Simon had delivered the shoes to Tony as a wedding gift while he was on duty outside at Old Esh Primary School.

“He’s so humble, I wanted him to feel a million dollars on his wedding day,” said Simon, alias “The Shoe Guy”.

Tony, born and bred in Ushaw Moor and the grandson of a pitman, admits to being moved to tears when he saw his special wedding gift: “They’re the best pair of shoes I’ve had by a million miles – there are no words to describe how they made me feel,” he said.

Today's wedding at St Luke’s Church in Ushaw Moor will be the only time Tony wears his purple-laced shoes. “That’ll be it – they too nice to spoil,” he said. “But I’m definitely going to safe up and one day buy another pair that I can wear.”

With Lauren about to give birth to their second child, Tony’s more likely to be in need of his old running shoes for the next week or so. 

THE random acts of kindness from Simon Bourne haven’t stopped there because he also made a pair of luxury shoes for Peter Crabtree, his old teacher from Fyndoune Community College, as a thank you for believing in him.

Now, Simon has now been shortlisted  for a national retail award run by e-commerce company Klarna and judged by fashion celebrities Hugo Taylor and Millie Mackintosh.

He stands to win a £10,000 prize, as well as the chance to be mentored by business experts.
It takes a couple of clicks to vote here www.voteklarna.com. Think of it as a random act of kindness - you don’t even have to put your shoes on.

STICKING to the subject of random acts of kindness, how about Heather Weighill, who serves behind the counter at Woodhouse Close Leisure Centre in Bishop Auckland.

Early for a meeting one day last week, I popped into the centre in search of a coffee, a loo, and somewhere to check my emails.

“Do you have a cafe here?” I asked.

“No, but we have a hot drinks machine,” replied Heather.

I explained that I didn’t have any cash - just my credit card.

“Oh, don’t worry, I can give you a pound,” said Heather, opening her purse.

Despite my protestations, she insisted on paying for my coffee.

As I sat with my hot drink, it was a pleasure to watch Heather and colleague Karen Dobson, pictured below, in action. Both were welcoming, and helpful whenever anyone came in.

Then a woman, ready for a dip in the pool, appeared through the door from the changing room. She had a tight grip on her swimming costume because the strap had snapped.

“I don’t suppose you have a safety pin?” she asked the receptionists.

“No, but I have one of these,” replied Heather, jumping to her feet and securing the strap with a locker key that happened to have a safety pin attached.

I hope Durham County Council knows what a pair of gems it has working at Woodhouse Close Leisure Centre.

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NEWS about the £1m barrier being broken for a racing pigeon reminds me of a deal I struck when I  was the Echo’s editor in 2002.

Armando, the champion pigeon, has been sold for 1.25m euros (£1.1m) by owner Joel Verschoot, of Flanders, to Chinese enthusiasts.

While that’s officially a world record, the transaction I brokered back was possibly the worst pigeon deal in history.

It followed Northern Echo the racehorse - another of my bright ideas and owned by a syndicate of readers - turning out to be an embarrassing failure.

Replacing him with Northern Echo the racing pigeon seemed a novel way of giving readers an insight into a traditional and fascinating grass roots sport.

My old mate and hairdresser Nigel Dowson kindly put me in touch with a racing pigeon breeder from Cockfield, County Durham, called Peter Matthews, who was the local coalman and a lovely fella.

How much would it cost to have a racing pigeon?” I asked during a tense telephone call.

“I’ll do you a deal,” replied Peter, pictured below. “I’ll give you a racing pigeon in return for you advertising my coal business in The Northern Echo.”

So that’s what we did. The record books, however, show that Northern Echo the racing pigeon finished her career by finishing an hour behind the rest in a 270-mile race from Wanstead Flatts, near London.

Peter concluded that she’d stopped off to lay an egg on the way.

The Northern Echo: