A BOY from the blackstuff is nearing his last delivery after 48 years of facing the sack.

Leslie Pateman has warmed the homes and hearts of thousands of residents around East Hampshire since first rocking up at Petersfield coal yard in October 1975.

The 67-year-old from Petersfield has probably lifted close to 200,000 tonnes over the past five decades and regularly delivered 50 to 70 tonnes of coal per week in the 1970s and 80s.

But the 1999 Coalman of the Year will sadly miss out on a half century of service because of the imminent closure of his Farringdon yard.

“The number of tonnes he has delivered in 48 years would be insane,” said his son, Richard.

“He is of a generation that was not fazed by hard work and in all weathers, from rain and snow. If he could get the lorry out he would. I dread to think about how many tonnes of coal he’s shifted.”

Leslie, who was based at Petersfield coal yard until its closure in the late 1990s, was renowned for his smile, cheeky persona and chats with his customers. His reward was the 1999 Coalman of the Year title with more than 200 customers nominating him.

Although he’s had a few scrapes and almost got buried alive in the 1970s, Leslie has never been seriously injured. He often cycles to the Farringdon yard in the summer and has even walked in wintry conditions so he can delivery to needy residents.

Leslie wanted to clock up 50 years but Corralls are closing their Farringdon yard this Friday and transferring operations to their Gatwick and Fordingbridge sites.

So with a heart as heavy as the 50kg sacks he delivers, Leslie has reluctantly taken early retirement.

“People who know my father know he would bend over backwards to help,” added Richard.

“This is his work ethic, nothing is too much for him, he is one in a million.”