13th December 2017

Viking pensioner thanks Shetland after charity abseil

, by , in News, ST Online

Ralph Skene, 76, scales down the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital dressed in his Up-Helly-A’ outfit.
Picture by COLIN RENNIE

A pensioner who donned Jarl Squad gear to abseil down a 60ft hospital has thanked Shetlanders for their generous donations.

Ralph Skene, 76, raised over £5,000 for charity before the stunt at the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital – half of which came from isles donors.

His descent was watched by 20 members of the 2016 Lerwick Up-Helly-A’ squad, who even managed to raise an extra £350 on the ferry down.

“It was great – it was absolutely great,” said the first-time abseiler, who first visited the isles in 1969 to do work for BT.

During that first trip, he met Angus Halcrow from Lerwick and took in the sights of Up-Helly-A’.

He enjoyed the experience so much that he has barely missed a festival since, taking part in five squads himself.

The idea for the abseil, on 12th August, came after a conversation in the pub.

“Last year somebody was speaking about it and I said ‘I will do that in my Viking gear’ and the rest is history,” said Mr Skene.

He said the occasion was made all the more special by Mr Halcrow and fellow squad members’ decision to attend while dressed in full squad garb.

But the Viking outfit did little to bolster Mr Halcrow’s confidence as he watched his friend of 50 years tackle the stomach-churning drop – he admitted he was “a bit concerned” at the scene unfolding at one point.

When Mr Skene himself was asked if he felt nervous at the time, he said: “I was looking forward to the pub afterwards.”

Ultimately, though, the event was a success and all money raised has been sent to the Archie Foundation, which helps sick children.

Mr Skene said: “I am truly gobsmacked, grateful and very much appreciate the huge support I received”.

He paid special thanks to friends who held an afternoon tea in the Cunningsburgh hall in June, which raised £1,400.

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