The clouds on Saturday had a silver lining for one charity walker, who raised £600 on a solo marathon after fog prevented him from flying south.
Council employee Gavin Philip had been due to participate in the Tartan Army Children’s Charity (TACC) 26-mile Kilt Walk from Hampden Park, Glasgow, to the shores of Loch Lomond with over 400 other kilted participants. But when thick fog prevented he and his wife Moira from travelling to Glasgow, he realised the only option was for him to complete the walk as scheduled, but here in Shetland. Bitterly disappointed but determined to carry on, the couple then set about finding the equivalent distance in the isles. Gavin said: “When we left the airport car park we reset the mileage clock and drove 26.1 miles. That took us to the Welcome to Shetland sign on the Esplande in Lerwick, and that became my new route.”
The organisers of the walk were gutted for him, but pleased that he was still entering into the spirit of the event.
And so it was that on a dry and warm Sunday morning – Gavin’s 37th birthday – the couple returned to the front door of the airport just before 9am. Gavin, wearing his kilt, started the long and winding road back to Lerwick – Moira had been due to participate but was prevented by a bout of glandular fever. Nevertheless she managed to support her husband in the car by providing valuable food and drink pit stops every three to four miles.
Soon, the sun was shining and Gavin, who works in SIC’s finance department, was casting off his coat and woolly bonnet. The light breeze was a delight compared to the howling winds and rain faced during training. He had built up the miles walking with the family dog, a Belgian shepherd cross collie called Keety, sometimes going from his home in Cunningsburgh to Lerwick and back. But braving the conditions in training stood him in good stead for the charity walk and he enjoyed it: “The training had gone well enough and it [Sunday] was a beautiful day.” Having passed the halfway mark, he stopped at home in Cunningsburgh for a half hour lunch break. He enjoyed beans on toast but was happy to get on his way again: “I never felt like giving up.” The regular refreshments of drinks and bananas from his support vehicle also kept him going.
His friends also made the undertaking easier. After stopping in Cunningsburgh he was joined by friends Alec Elphinstone and Crawford McIntyre who walked with him all the way to Gulberwick. Some more friends, Ryan McNeillie and Kimberly Smith, then met him at the top of Sound Brae, Lerwick, to accompany him for the last few miles into town. Gavin said: “It was fine to see my friends and get a wee bit of support and a bit of encouragement. When you’re speaking you’re not noticing how far you’ve got to go.”
That last stretch was the most taxing, however. He said: “My knees were a wee bit stiff towards the end and walking downhill into Lerwick was the hardest bit. But when folk have donated money to you it spurs you on.”
Gavin completed his walk at 6.15pm, just over nine hours after starting out, and headed to the Lounge Bar for a well-earned cider. He was delighted to have finished, although he admitted: “It would have been nice to have the atmosphere of all the other folk walking.” Now he and Moira want to give “huge thanks” to all their sponsors who, despite all the trials and tribulations, helped raise over £600 for the TACC which supports disadvantaged children, both at home and abroad.
Most of the money, 90 per cent, raised by the Tartan Army’s annual Kilt Walk is used in any of the countries in which the Scotland national football team plays – it could, for example, be used to buy equipment for a school. The remaining 10 per cent is given to the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS), which has two children’s hospices, Rachel House and Robin House.
Moira is very grateful to her sponsors, especially as illness prevented her from walking.