A GREAT-GRANDAD from North Yorkshire has been hailed as Britain’s most dedicated volunteer – after giving his free time to charities for 80 years.

John Shannon, 97, started volunteering at 17 with the League of Nations Union Society. Since then he has supported 20 different organisations helping sick, vulnerable and lonely people and is thought to be the country’s longest-serving volunteer.

John, of Harrogate, has now been recognised in the Royal Voluntary Service’s Diamond Champions Awards.

He says he was inspired by his parents William and Dorothy. “My mother must have been among the founding members of the WRVS and my father was in the Air Raid Precautions,” he said.

“He volunteered as a bomb disposal expert in the Second World War. It was a custom in my family to help others. John now acts as a friend and respite carer to elderly and vulnerable people with Harrogate Easier Living Project (HELP), its Carers’ Time Off service involving visits to carers’ homes to give them respite and for the charity’s Supporting Older People befriending service.

“I had help myself with my wife. She was stuck in bed for three years. When she died I felt I wanted to pay back a bit. My wife was unable to speak for two-and-a-half years so I had no one to talk to. Being there for someone seven days a week, 24 hours a day, the support was an enormous help and I’d look forward to someone coming in.