‘It hits you when people say they can’t afford milk’: the superhero plumber who keeps his community warm

James Anderson dropped everything to offer free or low-cost services across Burnley and beyond

In March 2017, heating engineer James Anderson received a call that would change his life. The man on the other end had just been told he needed a new boiler, but wanted a second opinion. Anderson drove from his home in Burnley. When he arrived, he found an elderly man in bed. He needed a hoist to get up, and had carers visiting every day.

The man had no hot water, and the kitchen radiator was making a clanking noise. But none of Anderson’s usual fixes worked. “I was scratching my head,” he says, “wondering what was going on with this boiler.” In a last effort, he opened the tank. There was a magazine floating in it. The previous engineer had stuffed it in there so he could make £5,500 installing a new boiler.

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