A MUCH-loved charity which has raised almost £250,000 for good causes is getting ready to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Peel Lions was formed in 1974 and continues to raise thousands of pounds which goes back into the community in Ramsbottom.

The group raises £6,000 on average every year, and will celebrate the special birthday at the Bolholt Hotel in Walshaw Road on April 12.

In 1974 it became clear that there was a demand for a Lions club in Ramsbottom and Tottington, and 36 people from the area helped to set up the group.

The club was named Peel Lions as a compromise, as people from Ramsbottom and Tottington both wanted to name the group in honour of their respective towns.

Memorable fund-raising projects led by Peel Lions include raising £20,000 to refurbish an old carriage on the East Lancashire Railway, to allow disabled people toboard the train and travel on the popular line.

The group raised the sum over a four-year period, and in 1995 the carriage, which was furnished with adapted toilets and ramps, went into service.

However, in 2004 the carriage was destroyed by a fire, which was believed to have been caused by a lit cigarette.

More recently members donated £1,000 towards the construction of a War Memorial wall in Ramsbottom, and continue to hold their popular annual three-legged race.

Two founder members of the group are still involved today — 67-year-old Jimmy Hill, the group’s current president, and Peter Hepburn.

Mr Hill’s son Sean became involved with the Lions in 1999, and says it is about helping to give something back to the people of Ramsbottom and Tottington.

Sean, 32, said: “I grew up with the Lions, it just seemed to happen automatically. I used to go to all of the events with my dad and I knew all the Lions, so it just seemed natural to join myself.

“It is about giving something back to the community. We are not like any other charity, we don’t take anything out of the funds raised. If we raise £100, £100 will go to good causes and back into the community.

“We volunteer our time to raise money, but it is about friendship as well.”

The event at the Bolholt will include a three-course meal and entertainment. For tickets, call Dave Galway on 01204 596161.