25 May 2018
Regulars of the old Hertford Post Office may feel like something has been missing from the new one: the NSPCC’s Postman Pat charity collection box. In June, the box will return to its rightful place in the Hertford Post Office, but although the distance between the old building and the new one is a mere 350 yards, the quest to get Pat from Post Office Walk to Maidenhead Street ended up going international!
Martin Alcock, NSPCC Treasurer for Hertfordshire, tells the story.
Standing at a metre tall, the Postman Pat charity collecting box had been a part of Hertford’s Post Office for many years. It raises around £200-250 a year for the NSPCC, so when we discovered the Post Office had been closed, we wanted it back!
I contacted the Post Office’s head office, but as they didn’t own the building they couldn’t help me. It was at this point that I realised it wasn’t going to be as easy as I’d initially thought to retrieve Pat and I was now thinking about it more as a full-scale rescue mission! It sounds dramatic, but I think referring to it in this way actually helped me because people were more willing to get on board and help out.
The first thing I needed to do was find out who owned the building. I asked friends of mine who were commercial estate agents, and although they weren’t sure, they thought it had been auctioned. There was no indication anywhere of which agent had handled the deal, but when I investigated further, I did manage to discover the solicitor who’d been acting for the vendors, so I got in touch with him.
He told me the name of the company it had been transferred to in 2015, which should have been easy enough to follow up, but there was just one problem – the company had gone into liquidation!
So I had to spend more time sleuthing to find out who the receivers were. When I’d tracked down this information, I contacted them and they told me who the building had been transferred to. The next problem was that the owner didn’t have anything to do with its operation – responsibility lay with the Bank of Paribas, in France. So I contacted them only to find out that they couldn’t help as they weren’t responsible for the running of it. That was in the hands of yet another company…
Finally, I was nearing the end of the story. The last company I spoke to was the right one. Hooray! They were looking for buyers and had therefore given the keys to a Hertford estate agent. As soon as I told them the story, they agreed to let me in and liberate Pat. They even helped me carry him to my car.
I took Pat home and gave him a wash and brush up. There was still £80 inside, which has now, finally, reached the NSPCC.
The whole saga had taken me over two months, and I have to be honest and say I rather enjoyed the search. It was like doing a treasure hunt and the prize was to be reunited with Postman Pat.
The next problem was to get Pat back ‘home’ to the Hertford Post Office, a task which was simple in comparison with the rescue mission. I contacted UOE and asked if they wanted Pat back. They said yes!
He will be officially re-installed at the Hertford Post Office & UOE Store on Tuesday 5th June. There will be a small ‘welcome back’ ceremony at 10am and I will be there with Her Worship the Mayor of Hertford, Councillor Mrs Beryl Wrangles and my colleagues from the NSPCC to make sure he’s happy in his new position.