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Handyman dubbed as ‘Britain’s kindest plumber’

James Anderson holding a spanner

A father who lost his baby has been dubbed ‘Britain’s kindest plumber’ after offering his services for free to pensioners living with cancer and donating hundreds of pounds to support a disabled boy.

James Anderson has been fixing pumps for vulnerable customers whilst putting £13,000 towards the cost of a bionic arm for a seven-year-old lad so he can be fixed with a bionic arm for Christmas.

The heart-warming story attracted the attention of Hollywood actor Hugh Grant, after the star heard about the cause he donated £20,000 towards Anderson’s charity Disabled and Elderly, Plumbing and Heating Emergency Response [DEPHER].

Anderson, 55, from Burnley, closed down his private business to launch a not-for-profit organisation - he went viral after a picture of his bill for £0 was sent to a woman with acute leukaemia was uploaded on social media, one of many customers which has benefited from his selfless generosity.

In 2013 the handyman, originally from Liverpool, lost his16 weeks son William after he was born with two holes in the heart.

Anderson told Lancashire Telegraph:  'He was a proper little Braveheart.

'We spent every single day in hospital with him and photographed him every day of his life so his memory will live on.

 'He only cried once in his life but it was the quietest, faintest thing ever.

'Normally, you don't want your child to cry, you want them to be safe, but it was such an emotional moment hearing him do that... I'm so proud to be his dad.'

Mr Anderson’s wife Barbara also paid tribute to their wonderful son saying: 'William was such a cheeky chappy, always winding up the nurses.

‘He could recognise my perfume as soon as I walked into the room and hated it when I stopped cuddling him.

'Everyone will miss him so much.'

Anderson himself has had his fair share of personal battles, he was a target for online trolls who bullied him for only having one tooth, calling him ‘gummy, grandad and ugly; one even told him down the phone he was ‘a bloodsucker who should die’.

Determined to make a difference to other people’s lives he launched a GoFundMe page which raised £1,700 to buy a set of ‘life-changing teeth’.

Anderson told WalesOnline:  'I got my teeth done because I wanted to be able to smile and I couldn't. Since the launch of DEPHER in 2017 I've been in the papers and on TV and people used to say 'can you smile?' but I couldn't and I was too ashamed to tell them why.

'I didn't want them to know that I only had one tooth and a couple of stumps that were black and had crumbled away. If you put a wig and make-up on me I'd look like a witch when I smiled, it was horrendous.

'I look back now and think 'bloody hell, why did I allow myself to get to that position?'

Recalling years being bullied at school he went on to relive the upsetting experiences growing up with ‘bright red hair, big nose and big ears’.

'I was ugly, I was skinny, so I got bullied. I got into a position that I just gave up, I didn't care. I would get myself into situations where just staring at people and quite a few times I got beaten up and I lost a couple of teeth,' Anderson said. 

'On one occasion I got really beat up and I lost two teeth, then again I lost another couple. I had around 11 or 12 teeth left and I just gave up with them. The remaining teeth went through neglect, I didn't brush them regularly or go to the dentist.

'I just didn't care and thought 'what's the use of trying to make myself look nice? I might as well just stay ugly'. I just became what they wanted me to be, I lived my life on the pedestal they built for me.' 

After losing his baby, Anderson wanted to help other disabled children and vulnerable people, like the seven-year-old boy wanting a bionic arm.

Alex with his bionic arm

Alex Sparkes was born without a right arm, his mum Dionne Sparkes, 33, from Oswaldtwistle, set up a campaign to raise £12,700 for a bionic arm so her son could take throw-ins playing at his school’s football games.

But when Anderson heard about the cause he stepped in to cover the cost. 

He said: 'His story drew me in. If Depher can do anything, this would be it. The arm will give a little boy his life back. I fell in love with him.

'He will remember it for the rest of his life and it will make his life much better. It will make a little boy live again.

'It was humbling to meet him, and it was wonderful to see his smile when I told him. It was an easy decision.

'He is smiling and happy and getting on with his life. It's just wonderful to see a young boy go through so much and just want to be as normal as possible.'

Alex’s mother was overwhelmed by Anderson’s generosity, she said: 'For us, it's life-changing, and James has just done it from the kindness of his heart.

'I never thought someone would be so kind. When James phoned me yesterday he just said, 'Send me your bank details and I will send it'.

'As soon as we left his home, the three of us had a massive hug. And when we got into the car, we started screaming.

'Alex was saying: 'I've got a new arm!' He absolutely loved it.'

[ James Anderson almost took his own life in September 2020 planning to jump off a bridge suffering from depression. ]

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