BY TOBY PORTER
It’s a tough life being a milkman. Say what you do for a living, and, through no fault of yours, people snigger.
For some reason, any description of your work provokes smutty giggles.
Wimbledon milkman Ian Beardwell, though, has proved he can rise above the corny jokes.
Ian, whose father was a milkman before him, has proved he is the cream of the crop by whipping some strong competition from nearly 1,200 milkmen and women across the country to be crowned Milk & More’s Milkman of the Year 2018.
And, yes, there are milkwomen – though they may suffer from less innuendo about being ‘on the job’, ‘making deliveries’ or ‘doing their rounds’.
Ian, who takes his float out whatever the weather, has never missed a round in 28 years.
The milk operative, as he might be called these days – perhaps milko for short – was nominated by his customers for going above and beyond thanks to his passion for helping others.
Ian, his dad and his colleagues are the home delivery pioneers – they started delivering daily essentials to homes more than 150 years ago.
So it’s surprising, bearing in mind the myths around the job, that there aren’t more of them, really.
Ian’s acts of kindness include chasing car thieves, returning a lost laptop after finding it on the road and as recently as last week stopping thieves who were trying to steal tools from somebody’s van.
He interrupted a burglary at 2am, for which he received a letter of thanks from his customer. He won an award for his good deed, which saw him hailed as a hero.
Ian was completing his milk round at 4am when he noticed the front door of a house wide open and all the lights on.
Concerned, he rang the doorbell and waited for a response. He was greeted by a visibly shaken woman who told him she had woken up when she heard someone break into her home. Her young and terrified daughter was upstairs with her.
Too scared to do anything other than turn on the lights and pace around to try to warn the burglars that someone was home, the frightened resident hadn’t managed to call the police or check whether anyone was still inside.
Ian offered to wait at her door while she did this, reassuring and calming her at the same time. Once she had called the police, Ian then completed his round before circling back 10 minutes later to check on her.
Ian’s acts of kindness also include reuniting lost cats and dogs with their owners – all while delivering milk to his customers.
Ian’s first thought on winning the award was his customers: He said: “I want to say a huge thank you to my customers, many of whom I have been delivering to for years. “I’m just so touched to even be nominated. I love my job and if I can help anybody in the course of that, then that’s an added bonus for me but it’s only what anyone would do.”
Charles Runcie, one of Ian’s long-standing customers, said: “Ian’s an unsung hero of our community. He goes above and beyond simply delivering milk. “He’s always looking out for others who may need a helping hand, reporting or solving problems and generally keeping an eye on things.
“He’s like an extra pair of eyes to many. The reassuring hum of Ian’s milk float as it goes down my street and the chink of bottles on my doorstep always brings a smile to me, even at 4.30 in the morning.”
Patrick Mueller, MD of Milk & More, said: “Ian is such a wonderful example of why we believe every neighbourhood deserves a milkman. “His passion for helping others and his intervention when he sees people in trouble makes him a true local hero deserving of this award.
Our milkmen and women are an integral part of their local communities and Ian epitomises all that is great about this British tradition – which we are working hard to ensure will be here for generations to come.”