Buxton’s Poppy Appeal organiser steps down after raising £200k

Allan Smith, left, passes over the baton of Poppy Appeal organiser to Craig Wilson.
Allan Smith, left, passes over the baton of Poppy Appeal organiser to Craig Wilson.

During his seven years at the helm of Buxton’s poppy appeal, Allan Smith has helped raise almost £200,000.

Now the 78-year-old is passing on the baton to Craig Wilson who will lead this year’s appeal for the Buxton branch of the Royal British Legion.

Out-going Poppy Appeal organiser, Allan Smith.

Out-going Poppy Appeal organiser, Allan Smith.

Allan said: “I felt the time was right. I have been caring for my wife with dementia for some time now and that requires a lot of my time and I couldn’t give myself properly to the appeal so it made sense to hand over to someone else.

“I have done my bit and enjoyed it too but now it’s someone else’s turn.”

Allan from Fairfield served in the RAF as a Flight Lieutenant for five years, between 1957 and 1962.

He also gave 43 years’ service to the Buxton Air Cadets Squadron.

He said: “It’s been nice to pass on my experience to the next generation, and the cadets really are going great guns even after all this time.”

During his time in charge of Buxton’s annual poppy appeal, Allan was pleased to see the amount raised grow year on year.

“During my time we have seen the centenary marking the outbreak of the First World War, and I think it has brought it back into the forefront of people’s minds,” he said.

“And with more products available than the traditional poppies we are branching out and targeting a wider audience which is why I think we have seen the numbers keep on rising.”

But Allan says working on the poppy appeal can be time consuming, with the planning starting months in advance.

He said: “It’s quite a big job. You have to get everything ready to go and you need to make sure you have enough volunteers.”

There are three manned stalls in Buxton town centre which require volunteer cover for four two-hour shifts for 14 days.

Help is also needed distributing boxes to more than 300 shops, cafes, schools and businesses in the run-up to the two-week appeal.

The Royal British Legion helps those in need within the Armed Forces community including current and ex-service personnel and their families.

Allan added: “It has ben very satisfying to be part of something which does so much good for others, and I will be acting as Craig’s deputy going forward.”

‘I have some big shoes to fill’

Craig Wilson, who is already the chairman of the Buxton branch of the Royal British Legion, will be taking over the reigns for this year’s poppy appeal.

He said: “I have some very big shoes to fill. Allan revolutionised the appeal when he took over.

“When he first started the town was making around £7,000 a year through donations - now it makes close to £30,000 which is amazing.

“There has been a lot to learn but I have been shadowing him since 2012.

“He has left everything so organised that it will be much easier to take over.

“I am going to make a few tweaks to how things are run and focus some of my time on the digital side and social media to engage more people that way.

“It is a mammoth task though, and there will be jobs to do for about nine months of the year, but Allan is staying on as my deputy to make the transition easier. I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”