A CHARITY boss has paid tribute to Sir Jimmy Savile — the man who set him on his way to raising thousands of pounds with a series of audacious fundraising publicity stunts.

Derek Gaskell, from Lostock, chanced his arm when Sir Jimmy, who died at the weekend, aged 84, came to town for the Bolton Marathon in 1984.

Twenty five years ago, Mr Gaskell contacted the legendary TV presenter after his wife, Dorothy, suffered a brain haemorrhage.

Mrs Gaskell had struggled with rehabilitation after brain surgery, so the couple started to raise money to help others in the same situation by holding charity raffles and sales.

But, thinking big, the Bolton builder called Jim’ll Fix It, for advice.

Mr Gaskell, aged 78, said: “Jimmy was running the Bolton Marathon and was stopping at the hotel in Beaumont Road. I’d been thinking about this daft idea of chartering Concorde, and I thought I’d give him a bell and see if he could help.

“I rang the hotel and they just put me straight through to him. I said I wanted to have a word with him about raising money and he said ‘You’ve got two minutes’.

“Anyway, 20 minutes later we were still talking. Over that 20 minutes, Jimmy said that unusual things like this got a lot of publicity.

He said if you weigh up what you’re doing, you should succeed. I took his advice. I never got round to meeting him and thanking him for what he did. He set me on the way to fundraising.”

Sir Jimmy put Mr Gaskell in contact with Lord King, the Chairman of British Airways, and Derek secured the services of the supersonic plane for £50,000.

The Gaskells went on to arrange fundraising trips on Concorde, the Orient Express and the QE2. With the proceeds from the trips, the Lostock couple founded their charity, which was renamed BASIC (Brain and Spinal Injury Centre) in 1994.

BASIC now helps hundreds of people every year from its base in Salford, on the doorstep of Hope Hospital.

BASIC chairman Mr Gaskell added: “I was very sad to hear Jimmy had died. He’s done an awful lot for charity himself, he raised millions. He was a very good guy.”