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75-year-old magician climbing Bennachie every day in May for charity

To go with story by Ellie Milne. Neil McArthur is climbing Bennachie every day in May to raise money for charity. Picture shows; Neil McArthur and Ben Riddell at Bennachie. Bennachie. Supplied by Ben Riddell Date; 08/05/2021
To go with story by Ellie Milne. Neil McArthur is climbing Bennachie every day in May to raise money for charity. Picture shows; Neil McArthur and Ben Riddell at Bennachie. Bennachie. Supplied by Ben Riddell Date; 08/05/2021

A 75-year-old magician is climbing Bennachie every day in May – declaring “I am fighting fit and up for a challenge.”

Neil McArthur, from Monymusk, is climbing Bennachie every day in May to raise money for charity.

Thee pensioner has taken on his walking challenge to raise funds for the Gathimba Edwards Foundation (GEF) for which he is a trustee.

Mr McArthur, who performs magic in his spare time, joked: “I wish I could magically make Bennachie 3ft high.”

Showing people what you can achieve despite obstacles in life is one of his reasons for taking on this challenge. He suffered a heart attack in 2017 which resulted in open heart surgery and a triple bypass operation and was diagnosed with leukemia in 2019.

On his Total Giving page, Mr McArthur said: “So far, fingers crossed, I am fighting fit and up for a challenge.”

Following his day 12 climb, he said: “It’s going fine so far. It’s getting quite tough but I’ll be able to do it all as long as my knees don’t give out.

“I’m quite fit, but I was a bit worried because I hadn’t done more than two consecutive trial runs.

“I’m just taking it one day at a time. That’s my strategy, my goal each day is to just get another climb out the way.

“Although it would be nice if the weather was better.”

Mr McArthur has continued to climb through snow, sleet and hail stones and at times cannot see more than a few feet ahead. He has completed some of the climbs solo while friends have joined him for others.

He added: “I’ve had some friends climb with me which has been really nice, it’s good to have someone to talk to.”

Raising money for charity

Mr McArthur is raising funds for GEF to celebrate his 75th birthday this year. He has already received donations of more than £4,450 and hopes to raise lots more for the charity.

He said: “I hope my determination can persuade you to sponsor my effort throughout May and give some more Kenyan children the chances in life they so richly deserve.”

GEF is a Scottish charity which supports disadvantaged children in Kenya through shelter, education, sustainable food solutions and counselling.

He continued: “I have run the Monymusk Boules Masters for the past eight or nine years and have managed to raise a fair bit of money for different charities. We have 200 players wearing fancy dress in the square and it is always a nice day out for everyone.

“Some of the money raised from the tournament in 2020 was supposed to go to GEF, but when it was cancelled I promised I would raise money in 2021. When Covid stopped that too, I decided I had to do something myself.

“When I was coming up with this crazy scheme the travel restrictions were still in place, so I had to find something I could do within a five mile radius. I was sitting looking at Mither Tap from my window and that’s when I created this monster of a challenge for myself.”

Support from friends

For his day eight climb, Mr McArthur was joined by his friend Ben Riddell, personal trainer at The Life Coach, who has been working with him for the past three years.

Mr Riddell said: “I first met Neil after his heart surgery when he came to see if the gym would be suitable for him. He has progressed so much with his fitness and we’ve now developed a friendship.

“He came to me a couple months ago with this idea to climb Bennachie every day in May and asked if I thought he could do it. I said yes, but that he had to prep and get into the right mindset.

“We came up with a plan for going up and worked out a schedule so he could get to the very top every day.

“I climbed up with him on Saturday morning which was an absolute pleasure. He is an inspiration to me and many others and it’s been a privilege to train him and help him back to health over the past three years.”

‘He’s been great’

The 75-year-old said Mr Riddell was “instrumental” in his recovery and in his preparations for this challenge.

He added: “Open heart surgery is very debilitating. I had to stop every third step when climbing the stairs to get my breath back, but now I’m fitter than I was 20 years ago.

“Ben was very understanding and sympathetic but also challenged me. He put a positive spin on everything.

“We stayed friends and he has been very helpful with practicing for this challenge, making sure I drink plenty water and cool down properly. He’s been great.”

Mr McArthur is feeling good about his remaining climbs and is continuing to take it one day at a time.

He said: “I’ll have a celebration at the halfway point and then when I finish I’ll treat myself to a small glass of something.”

People can read Mr McArthur’s daily reports on his Instagram account and donate via his Total Giving page.

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