UK’s longest serving milkman retires after delivering 12.5m pints over 54 years

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Britain’s longest serving milkman has retired after delivering an estimated 12.5 million pints over 54 years – and never missing a round.

John Forster completed his final shift today after starting his first at 17 for the Co-op.

He delivered his last bottle in freezing Falmouth, Cornwall and parked his float up for good – at the age of 71.

John has never failed to complete a round during his career, even when he recently fractured his wrist midway through.

And such is the high regard in which he is held, a special Facebook page has been set up where regulars have flooded to pay tribute.

John started his shift at 2am and finished his deliveries by around 11am in recent years.

And the grandad said that, although the role has changed significantly over the years, he will still miss all his customers.

He said: “I am 71 now so have been doing it for 54 years now. I never thought I would be doing it for so long.

“But it’s given me a good life and kept me fit. And got me out in all winds and weathers.

“I have always put up with the bad weather and never not got round. Even in the worst snow I have still got to my customers.

“Some of the conditions in the midlands were the worst. I remember a really bad snow storm back in 1968.

“It might take a lot longer to get round, but I always did. You just carry on, however long it takes to make sure everyone gets their milk whatever the weather.

“Not many people can say they’ve been in the same job for 54 years and it has had its ups and downs but on the whole I have thoroughly enjoyed it.”

John started his career in Nuneaton in 1966 aged 17 with a milk round for the Co-op.

He moved down to Cornwall in 1979 and got a job for a dairy in Penryn.

He then became self-employed in 1987 and has been doing the same round in Falmouth, Cornwall, ever since.

He began by working seven days a week, which was cut to six and now just three.

At his peak of popularity he was delivering 1000 pints a day, but now does around 400.

Reflecting on his long career, John said the biggest change was the amount of people having milk delivered.

When he started in the 1960s everyone in the street would be a customer, but this has now thinned out massively.

Some also used to leave their door unlocked so he could go in and make himself a cup of tea.

He added: “Over my career I have probably delivered an average of around 750 pints a day, for six days a week over 54 years.

“I won’t do the maths, but it is probably millions of pints.”

The total worked out on John’s estimates would mean he has delivered around 12.5million pints during his career.

John, who is married to Ruth, 73, has a daughter and two grandchildren.

He plans to spend his retirement working on his allotment and doing more travelling, once lockdown restrictions allow.

And he said he had witnessed many changes.

He added: “We start earlier these days as people want the milk on their doorstep earlier.

“A lot of the wives didn’t used to work, but now it is common for both partners to have jobs.

“They also like their milk before they take the children to school so I am on the road by 2am.

“Years ago, everyone would use a milkman, but the big change was the rise of the supermarkets – that really killed doorstep delivery.

“I have lots of great memories. Some customers years ago would leave the door open for me so I could go in and make my own cup of tea.”

John and his family attended the Queen’s summer garden party at Buckingham Palace in 2002 for his services to the community.

And, ten years later, John was given the honour of being one of the Olympic 2012 torchbearers.

The last year has seen demand for home delivery rocket due to Covid – but has brought an end to a lot of the face to face contact.

But for John, his age and suffering more injuries meant he knew it was time to move on.

He added: “I have had couple of injuries and fractured my wrist not long ago when I slipped on the road. I still carried on and completed my round though. I have just accepted that my time has come to stop.

“I will miss it but I will certainly be enjoying a few more lie ins.”

Among those paying tribute was customer Estelle Johnson, who said: “I couldn’t wish for a more lovely, cheery, reliable chap.”