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AN ARMY reservist from Kintyre will race almost 100 miles in less than two weeks to raise money for jailed ex-paratrooper Billy Irving.
Colour Sergeant Robbie Semple, 46, of the 7th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland, from Glenbarr, is training for the 2017 Virgin London marathon and the 73-mile Kintyre Way Ultra mountain bike race.
Robbie, inspired by an Oban Times report, plans to raise money through sponsorship for fellow reservist Billy Irving, who was educated in Campbeltown.
Billy is serving a five year sentence in Puzhal Prison, near Chennai, in India, alongside five other ex-servicemen. The Chennai Six, as they have become known, were working on US anti-pirate ship MV Seaman Guard Ohio, which was held under firearms charges in October 2013.
Robbie said: ‘I have followed the case of Billy and the other five ex-servicemen over the past few years and had always thought they would be home soon … it’s all a mistake. However, time is passing and after reading a report by Oban Times columnist Angus MacPhail, I decided to use the marathon and ultra-cycle event to raise money to assist Billy, who will hopefully be released soon. He is currently awaiting judgement on an appeal.
‘Even when he gets home, he is going to need assistance to adjust back to normal and find employment.’
Although a keen runner, Robbie has never
taken on more than a half-marathon and when he entered the Kintyre Way Ultra cycle race, he had never ridden a bike off road.
‘Maybe I am crazy,’ Robbie added, ‘but when it gets tough I will just think about Billy and his mates and think my pain is only for today, and I can go home to my family at night.
‘I know lots of ex-soldiers who are channelled towards security work as it is their skill set, and no-one does it better.
‘There is a common bond between jocks.’
Robbie will run the London marathon on April 23 and cycle the Kintyre Way Ultra race on May 6.
Yvonne MacHugh, Billy’s fiancée, is organising a peaceful protest for Billy and the Chennai Six at the High Commisson of India in London at 7am on Friday June 16.
To sponsor Robbie, visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/robert-semple99milesforBilly.
For more on the Kintyre Way Ultra see page 27.