The philanthropic exploits of the founder of Gold Medal Travel were highlighted at the weekend.

Ken Townsley, 73, a former baggage handler, has donated nearly £56 million to his charity over the past year.

Publicity-shy Townsley, who founded Gold Medal Travel and later sold it to Thomas Cook, has arranged to raise that figure to £100 million on his death, The Sunday Times reported.

Details of the travel tycoon’s generosity emerge in the latest accounts of his foundation, which show that the Lancastrian gave £55.8 million to the charity in 2016-17.

Townsley is an entrepreneur who made his fortune by starting his own travel group.

Born in Blackpool to working-class parents, he left school at 15 to start work at the local airport as an “airline traffic officer apprentice”. His duties included handling baggage and cargo.

His career took off after he was made redundant in 1968. Townsley rented a shop on Church Street in Blackpool, hired two staff and launched Trident Travel. One of its early trips arranged for a group of boxing fans to travel to Kuala Lumpur in 1975 to see the heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali fight Joe Bugner.

Over the next four decades he expanded his renamed Gold Medal Travel enterprise into one of the UK’s largest independent tour operators.

Townsley made £84 million from a two-stage sale to Thomas Cook in 2008 and 2009. Gold Medal Travel Group was then acquired by dnata in 2014.

He later improved his wealth with savvy stock-market investments and has built a £160 million fortune, according to The Sunday Times Rich List.

Three years ago he established his Kentown Wizard Foundation, which sets out to have a “positive impact on the lives of children and young adults with serious, life-limiting conditions and disabilities”.

Townsley once said: “I didn’t want to just leave this money in my will to benefit various charities at some future point.

“I wanted to see it being used to help those in need now, today and tomorrow.”

He pledged £4 million this summer to clear the backlog of young people in Malawi waiting for cleft palate surgery. Other beneficiaries have included hospices and young epileptics.

The size of his donations will almost certainly see Townsley jettisoned from future editions of The Sunday Times Rich List.

The entry level for this newspaper’s annual rankings of Britain’s wealthiest 1,000 individuals and families has risen to more than £100 million in recent years.