Home   Thetford   Article

Eye town mayor taking residents to their vaccination appointments

A Suffolk town mayor has gone beyond the call of duty by personally transporting residents to their coronavirus vaccine appointments.

Eye mayor Johnnie Walker has taken around half-a-dozen people to their local hub centre in Debenham after they found themselves with no other means of transport.

His neighbourly efforts long pre-date the pandemic; five years ago, the former electrical engineer enlisted himself as a driver for Eye Volunteer Centre, which takes elderly or vulnerable residents to their medical appointments.

Johnnie Walker, the Mayor of Eye, and his Vauxhall Passat. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography.
Johnnie Walker, the Mayor of Eye, and his Vauxhall Passat. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography.

In the past six years, he has taken an impressive 700 people to various appointments in his Vauxhall Passat.

The father-of-three, who has served as mayor since May, decided he wanted to help around five years ago after a neighbour was struggling to make an appointment.

“A neighbour of mine needed to go to hospital,” he said.

“They were in their 60s, had MS, and had also had a stroke, and they were told to get a bus. I said ‘don’t be so silly, I’ll take you’.

“Later, I happened to see a notice in the window of the volunteer centre looking for drivers.”

In addition to offering community transport, Eye Volunteer Centre, a registered charity, offers befriending services for isolated and lonely people through its main office in Broad Street.

Since the pandemic began, 72-year-old Mr Walker has had to restrict the number of journeys he could offer, but continues to take a select few to get their jab if they have no other means of getting there, maintaining the same Covid-safety protocols one would expect with a regular private hire firm.

The trips have proven mutually beneficial, also helping the Glasgow-native learn more about his adopted home.

“I’ve found it fantastic,” he added. “I’ve made a lot of friends from it, and I’m interested in social history; when you’re taking an elderly person and you’re talking, you get to know all about the history of Eye.”

Read more: All the latest news from Suffolk

Read more: All the latest news from Diss