Tributes to postman who died on Exmoor on round in the snow
Friends and colleagues have paid tribute to a postman who died on Exmoor while completing his rounds in thick snow.
John Bircham collapsed as he approached the end of his deliveries in and around the Somerset town of Dulverton on Saturday. He had been a postman since the late 1980s, according to the Royal Mail.
It is understood that the 57-year-old father of two was towed out of a snowdrift by a farmer before collapsing soon afterwards.
Friends said yesterday that he was a "quiet, friendly" man, who had lived in Dulverton all his life and was a firm favourite with the people of the town.
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School friend John Atkins, secretary and treasurer at Dulverton Town Football Club where Mr Bircham was a prolific striker during the 1970s, described the postman as a keen sportsman and a credit to his community.
He said: "As a footballer, John was as tough as nails – players used to bounce off him. But he was very gentle. There was never any nastiness in his play. If someone tried to tackle him, he'd just laugh. He was a very skilful player.
"I'm not being critical to our other former players, but John was one of the few who put something back into the club when he finished playing.
"He would turn up to watch and sell tickets for the club draw. He actually sold more tickets than anyone this year, so it was a very popular thing indeed when John's name was drawn first out of the hat to win the £100 first prize."
Mr Atkins said the club would plan its own tribute to Mr Bircham, whose sons, Wayne and Jamie, both followed their father in playing for the local team.
Ian Fleming, vice-chairman of the town council, said Mr Bircham was "held in high regard" in Dulverton.
"He was well-known in the town, and people would often see him with his grandchildren, happy and smiling," said Mr Fleming.
"He did a lot for the people of this town and the surrounding area. John really did go to great lengths for people, not just with his deliveries. He was a real family man."
Royal Mail paid tribute to his 25 years' service.
Dulverton sub-postmaster Chris Dubery said: "He was as hardworking a person as you'll ever meet, very dedicated to his collections and to the people of this town.
"He was a very quiet man, and the customers loved him. He was very considerate towards them, always helping them out. He will be missed."