Pit worker-turned-Sick Kids porter hailed on eve of retirement

RETIREE John Forsyth knew nothing but mining when he was left jobless by the closure of East Lothian’s pits.

The decision to wind up Monktonhall Colliery in the 1980s left John, then age 40, with no work prospects.

However, now, 25 years after landing a job as a porter, he has been nominated for the Sick Kids’ Heroes awards as a staff member who has made the ultimate difference.

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The Sick Kids Friends Foundation, celebrating its 20th anniversary, has launched the awards to recognise selfless staff, outstanding supporters and brave patients.

The 65-year-old from Mayfield, who retired five months ago after a quarter of a century working for the hospital, dismissed his contribution as nothing out of the ordinary.

Others, such as former colleague and nominator Anne Taylor, disagree, insisting John more than deserved an award for his Good Samaritan efforts every Christmas.

John said: “I used to get involved with some of the kids before they passed on. I’d sit and read to some of them. Most of the time it was enjoyable because you would try and perk them up on the wing, make them laugh.

“Over Christmas, we used to go around at night. I dressed up as Santa Claus and I made a sleigh and put music and lights on it.”

The father-of-four played the role of Santa every Christmas for more than 15 years.

He said: “One time I did it for the leukaemia kids. It was during the day and they took me up to the ward. I was sitting in the Santa suit and all the bairns with nae hair were all sitting around me singing.

“One of the nurses asked me to visit a wee special girl. She was dying. The dad wanted her to get a photograph with Santa.

“I was trying to make her laugh and she was just lying there. I pulled my beard down
. . . and she started laughing.

“The poor wee thing died about a week later, but the dad thanked me. It was a sad, sad occasion – happy, but sad.”

Anne said the staff always tried to pull out all the stops for children at Christmas, but John’s efforts were extra special.

She said: “For the days and nights he was on duty he was always helpful to staff and parents and kids alike.

“You always got him the same way – he was always very cheery.”

Nominations must be submitted by April 11 at www.edinburghsickkids.org/events/nominate, by phoning 0131-668 4949, or by sending in our coupon.