A KIND-HEARTED taxi owner saved the day after a thief stole a cancer charity collection bottle containing about £400 from a Musselburgh pub.
John Cullen, of R&J’s Taxis of Musselburgh, stepped in to hold a bonus ball fundraiser when he heard that cash that had been donated to help prostate cancer sufferers and a hospital cancer ward was taken during a break-in at The Riverside Tavern.
The theft happened in the early hours of last Tuesday morning after a side window at the Mall Avenue hostelry was smashed to gain entry.
A two-litre vodka bottle nearly full of money given by generous customers was stolen.
James Douglas, owner of The Riverside Tavern, said the collection had been organised by the pub’s darts team which, over 32 years, had raised more than £100,000 for different charities.
Led by John Campbell, from Whitecraig, the players have held everything from collections to 12-hour darts marathons and competitions, and annual fancy dress sponsored walks during their time based at the Deantown Bowling Club and former Dolphin Inn at Whitecraig, and now The Riverside Tavern.
This year, they chose to raise cash for a prostate cancer charity and Ward 4 oncology for patients with cancer at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.
The theft of the charity collection bottle has failed to curtail their efforts after Mr Cullen’s emergency fundraising gesture raised more than £600 – well over the estimated £400 that was thought to be in the bottle.
Supporters flocked to pay £20 a number in a bid to win a £500 prize for Saturday’s National Lottery bonus ball. The numbers sold in just four hours after the fundraiser. The winner was Colin Rillie Caldwell with number ‘38’.
Mr Cullen, from Whitecraig, said: “I came up with the idea to try and get the guys their money back for cancer charities – it is disgusting what happened.”
He said family and friends rallied round with “fantastic” support, adding: “Raising more money than they lost was a bonus – it was a community effort. Everyone stepped up.”
A delighted Mr Campbell added: “It was unbelievable how quickly he did it. It restores your faith in human nature.”
He added that the total had risen to about £800 after football tickets were sold for £1 a sheet, bringing in a further £40, along with other donations from well-wishers which included two envelopes containing a total of £130, including the profits from a Grand National sweep.
The darts team has raised more than £4,000 since June last year, including £660 from an annual bowling charity competition organised by Robert Chapman at Deantown Bowling Club last August.
Preparations are under way for the annual sponsored walk on June 9, which is expected to raise a further £2,000.
An angry regular at the pub, who asked not to be named, described the theft of the cancer charity money as “absolutely shocking”.
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “The incident happened around 1am on Tuesday, April 10. A charity collection bottle containing around £400 in cash was stolen.
“Inquiries are ongoing into the full circumstances and officers are keen to hear from anyone with information that can assist them with their inquiries.
“Contact local officers via 101 or by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 quoting incident no 0150 of April 10.”
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. Symptoms include increased need to urinate, straining while urinating and a feeling that the bladder has not fully emptied.