Gutsy grandad doing wing walk for Mercy Ships hopes fundraising will take off

Reverend John Dawson with his grandchildren: Ben (15) and Isobel (13)

Gutsy grandad doing wing walk for Mercy Ships hopes fundraising will take off

A fearless vicar from Hampshire is celebrating his 80th birthday with a daring wing walk strapped to a biplane, raising funds to bring life-saving surgery to some of the world’s poorest nations.

Gutsy grandad John Dawson from Oakley near Basingstoke will be secured to the rig of a Boeing Stearman, built in 1942, for the challenge for Mercy Ships on Saturday 24th June.

The Anglican vicar at All Hallows, Whitchurch, said:

“My two children asked me what I wanted for my 80th birthday. I said, ‘Nothing. I’m too old for anything and I don’t want anything.’

“Then I had an idea to do an activity instead and I thought of a wing walk. I like anything to do with aviation and I have been doing things for Mercy Ships for a long time.”

The intrepid octogenarian first heard of Mercy Ships when he saw one of its hospital ships docked in Liverpool having refurbishment work. Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare services, including surgery and medical training, to strengthen and support low-income countries in Africa that need it most.

In 2006, Rev Dawson and his late wife, Val, helped Mercy Ships build an extension to a health clinic in Sierra Leone, which was funded through the Rotary Club.

Rev Dawson said:

“It was such an eye-opening experience for us both. Even as we built it, the need for it was so clear as there were people already queuing in the hope they could get help for their conditions.

“Mercy Ships for me is the epitome of what we should do as people, helping those who are in such need. I have supported the charity ever since and even do talks for them.”

Rev Dawson, who calls himself retired, still runs two services every Sunday and is the chaplain at St Michael’s Hospice at Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital. A former pharmacy worker, he was a vicar at churches in the Derby and Leicestershire areas for 30 years before moving to Hampshire.

The active grandad-of-four, who sadly lost his wife two years ago, said:

“In order to do the wing walk, they say I have to be able to climb on the top wing of the biplane unaided. I have had two knee replacements but I tried, and it went well. My children think I’m mad!”

The plane will fly between 100ft and 700ft, at speeds between 80mph and 110mph during the challenge in Templecombe, Somerset.

He added:

“I really hope that as many people as possible will support me. This charity is amazing and leaves such a lasting legacy of training in every country it visits.”

To sponsor Rev Dawson visit his JustGiving fundraising page.

Are you up for doing a fundraising challenge for Mercy Ships?