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A Kintyre man taking part in Scotland’s Virtual Kiltwalk says he will never forget the kindness of strangers who stopped to donate money to him.
Over two days, last Friday and Saturday, Andrew Rathey walked from his home at Pennyland Farm in Southend to Campbeltown and back via the single-track Learside road, a total distance of about 40 kilometres (24.8 miles), to raise money for the Mairi Semple Cancer Fund, a Kintyre charity that financially supports people suffering from cancer.
Andrew signed up to the charity challenge just a couple of weeks ago and, having not walked such a long distance since he took part in the 2015 Kiltwalk, decided to undertake the trek in two parts.
He had warm weather both days as he enjoyed his solitary walks, taking in some of Kintyre’s most spectacular views – and taking on some of the area’s most challenging hills!
He told the Courier he has been ‘overwhelmed’ by the support and positive comments he has received, not only before and after but also during his walks.
‘Starting out on Friday, my trepidation was banished when, after only one kilometre, I was given an additional two donations,’ he said. ‘It’s the sheer kindness that carries you onwards.
‘As I was walking along the road outside Campbeltown on Saturday, a car passed me, slowed and stopped, and the driver called to me and gave me another donation. This was such a touching moment as the gentleman and his wife had clearly been among many people who were waiting to pay their respects as a funeral cortège travelled through the town, as he was wearing a black tie.
‘To be showing respect for the passing of a friend or relative but still be compassionate enough to consider giving a donation to a stranger passing in a kilt for a charity… this single act by this couple will be remembered by me forever and I respect them.’
Further on, Andrew bumped into a group of fellow Kiltwalkers – Callum Miller, 18, Andrew Johnstone and Gregory Wemyss, both 19, and Sophie Miller and Nicola Wareham, both 20 – who were stepping out to raise money for The Halliday Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Alzheimer Scotland.
The five Campbeltown Grammar School graduates were about a third of the way into their almost 30-mile journey from Campbeltown to Southend via the Learside road, and return to Campbeltown via the main B842 road.
‘They were very nice, polite and happy,’ Andrew said, ‘a shining example of our hope for a better society, a credit to themselves and their parents.’
Views of Ailsa Craig, the Ayrshire coast and Northern Ireland lifted Andrew’s spirits when the steep hills and ‘never-ending’ twists towards the end of his walk began to take their toll.
However, with his home in sight, he says the final five or six kilometres (three-four miles) flew past. He was welcomed home by his wife Hilary and daughter Tripti, who ‘made enough noise to awaken the valley’ as they cheered him across a bunting finish line.
Andrew has received donations from as far afield as California, Stoke-on-Trent and Dunoon, and the total raised on his fundraising page was £413 when the Courier went to press.
This will be further boosted by 50 per cent, thanks to philanthropist and Kiltwalk supporter Sir Tom Hunter of The Hunter Foundation.
‘This has been a wonderful experience and I would like to thank everyone who has supported me in whatever way,’ Andrew said.
After reaching the finish line, Andrew and his family spotted the young Kiltwalkers making their way towards Southend along the single-track road.
‘We waited until they reached a gap in the hedgerow and, although we are about half a mile off the road, we just erupted with whooping,’ he said.
Sophie told the Courier: ‘There were many people clapping as we went round which definitely motivated us, and the local police stopped and encouraged us towards the end.
‘Family and friends drove out with food and drinks for us along the way, including Keith Dickson who delivered slushies, given to us from Olly’s Street Food.
‘It was an all-round brilliant experience and all for three great causes. After 27.18 miles [43.7 km], I think we could all confidently say that we went home feeling every mile! All five of us would just like to say a huge that you to everyone who has donated.’