Cure for piles sufferers - relief at hand thanks to former Shorts missile salesman and native healer in Brazil
Age is no deterrent for Second World War veteran Peter Hill, who in his nineties has set up a new company to zap piles. Stephanie Bell hears his extraordinary story
A 92-year-old Second World War veteran who once marketed missiles for Shorts in Belfast has a very different target in mind for his latest product. Peter Hill helped invent a capsule which is transforming the quality of life for people with haemorrhoids.
It is derived from a herbal remedy discovered by a friend who suffered from the problem. He had been given the remedy in tea form by a native healer in Brazil and noticed a rapid improvement in his symptoms.
Peter used scientists at Ulster University to help develop the product in capsule form, a process which took 10 years, but nothing has deterred the sprightly nonogenarian from setting up a company to bring the product to market.
Although now living back home in Exeter, one of his two daughters, Sharon Allen, lives in Crawfordsburn and his company - Suntab Limited - is also registered here.
Speaking down the line from his home in England, Peter recalls specific dates and names of events significant to his story from over 70 years ago without a moment's hesitation.
It is easy to see that he spent a good part of his career in marketing as he is keen to spread the word about his new product Suntab.
It was during his time in Shorts while visiting Austria to negotiate a deal that he met a businessman from Vienna who became a friend.
He contacted Peter a few years ago about a new herbal remedy for haemorrhoids he had discovered while travelling in Brazil.
Peter's friend had suffered for many years with piles and tried the tea remedy prepared by a curandeiro (native healer) in Brazil.
Peter says: "After just four days of taking the tea infusion made from a sunflower plant the symptoms of his piles had subsided to a level of comfort he had not previously experienced from over the counter solutions in Europe.
"He went back to Vienna and tried it on his friends and it worked so well he went back to Brazil and successfully completed a financial settlement with the curandeiro to secure the information on how to plant, grow and harvest the sunflower plant
"He then needed someone to help market it and I was the obvious person to ask.
"I have discovered that marketing fast-moving goods is very different from marketing guided missiles as the fastest I was able to negotiate a contract for the missile was one week and the longest up to five years.
"My first thought was that if I was going to help sell a product it would have to be very sound and well and truly proven to be effective.
"Also I didn't think as a tea it was very practical and I thought a capsule would be more readily available to people."
It was because of his affection for Northern Ireland that Peter decided to look here for the expertise to test his new product.
He contacted the biological plant unit at Ulster University in Coleraine who agreed to carry out the scientific research.
"As as result of the trials it was well and truly proven," Peter says. "They proved its safety and its potential and it was through their testing that we discovered we weren't putting enough of the product into the capsules and that we needed quite a large dose for it to be effective.
"It has taken 10 years in total to get it to this point and since we launched it around two years ago we've never had a complaint by anyone that the product hasn't worked for them."
The Ulster University trial covered the wide range of symptoms associated with piles and reported improvements in bleeding, itching, swelling and constipation.
The most significant improvements were seen in bleeding and Peter's capsule is so effective it has been picked up by a leading colo-rectal surgeon in Exeter. Peter says: "Many of his patients undergoing endoscopies proved to have piles rather than bowel cancer or other more serious symptoms and Suntabs could offer a less intrusive and more affordable way for the NHS to rule this out before proceeding to endoscopy."
Peter was 82 when he took on the idea of bringing the product to market and the process of testing and developing the Suntab capsule has taken 10 years.
His friend sadly passed away before the work was completed and he has set up the company on his own with the support of family.
The capsule has been a big success and is available through the company's website - www.suntab.co.uk.
It is also being shipped around the world, with plans to make it available in retail shops across the country.
Running a new company at 92 is something which this forward-thinking new inventor is taking in his stride.
He says there is no secret to longevity, and working into his 90s is just part of life for him.
"I doubt that I would have given much thought about life in my nineties," he says.
"Living through the Second World War taught us the necessities of life; everything in moderation and, for us, a Mediterranean diet."
Looking back on his life Peter describes himself as "a bit of an opportunist". He left the Royal Navy to take up a post marketing missiles for Short Brothers in Belfast after the late Lord Mountbatten recognised the need for the navy to be better armed.
It is a fascinating story and Peter played a big part in the success of the Shorts Seacat missile in the '60s and early '70s.
He explains: "I joined the Navy as a cadet at Dartmouth in May 1943 and was 17 when I served during the war. I did see some tough things and I was part of the landings in Sicily and at Normandy on D-Day.
"After the war I served as a staff officer for policy and tactics in the gunnery school in Portsmouth.
"In 1957, the USS Boston came into Portsmouth and Lord Mountbatten, who was the Chief of Naval Staff, paid it a courtesy visit.
"He was horrified to find the only gun on the ship was a revolver in the quartermaster's holster and the rest were missiles.
"He got in touch with us as we did research and development and asked what we had on our books in the way of guided missiles.
"We contacted Shorts to see what they had. They told us they were working on a missile and Lord Mountbatten told us to get it into service as fast as we could.
"On St Patrick's Day 1957, Shorts got the contract for Seacat to supply missiles to all the Royal Navy ships.
"It was a highly effective weapon and all the trials were very successful. They went on to sell it to 18 other countries and received the Queen's Award for technology and marketing on five consecutive occasions."
Peter saw the opportunity the new contract offered and resigned from his position as Lieutenant-Commander with the Navy and started a new job marketing the missiles for Shorts.
Seacat was the world's first operational shipboard point-defence missile system and was widely used by the Royal Navy during the Falklands War when it was the sole anti-aircraft defence of many ships.
Peter's job took him all over the world negotiating contracts.
During his time with the Belfast company, he and his wife Denise (90) settled in Helen's Bay with their two girls, Alison and Caroline.
The family was here at the start of the Troubles in 1969 and only left to go back to England when a change in management at Shorts changed the way Peter's job was being organised.
He says: "We all have very fond memories of Northern Ireland and when we were leaving my eldest daughter said, 'Thank you very much, but I'm Irish now and I am staying' and she has been there ever since.
"Quite frankly, when the Troubles started we did hear the bombs but only saw the riot police getting ready once. If you knew where to go you could avoid the trouble.
"That turned out to be not so true in London when we returned and the IRA had started bombing there."
Life is a lot quieter now, if still busy. Peter says: "My wife and I have little external activity apart from shopping, listening to Classic FM and I am obsessed with Freecell.
"We are going to move into a McCarthy & Stone retirement apartment soon. This will mean a complete reassessment of which furniture, books and other household goods will need to be disposed of. That will take us up to August!"
Meanwhile, his marketing work will continue.
A special launch offer is available on the Suntab website with two tubs of the product (180 capsules) available for £17.20. For details, visit the website at www.suntab.co.uk