‘Shirl the Whirl’ flies high again to support charity

Shirley, mid paraglide
Shirley, mid paraglide

For many, skydiving or parasailing might not be the first thing that comes to mind to mark a milestone celebration.

But, for Shirley Price, 85, who lives in Bodle Street Green, near Hailsham, taking on a daring challenge for a big birthday has become somewhat of a tradition – and a way to raise funds for charity.

Shirley with her dog, Marcus. Photograph by Peter Cripps (SUS-181101-093742008)

Shirley with her dog, Marcus. Photograph by Peter Cripps (SUS-181101-093742008)

On Christmas Eve, Shirley took on a tandem paraglide from 4,000ft up off Mont Blanc, in the French Alps, to mark her 85th birthday and to raise funds for the East Sussex Association of Blind and Partially Sighted People (ESAB), of which she is a vice patron, the chairman and founder of its Friends group, and the chairman of its Tuesday club.

Shirley travelled to Chamonix on December 23 for the challenge with nine members of her family – her son, Ian Fletcher-Price, her daughter, Clare Martin, and their families, including her five grandchildren.

“It certainly was a challenge,” says Shirley. “I have never been so frightened,” she adds about the take-off. “When I was standing there all ready to go I was told ‘we have got to run at 20mph’.”

If Shirley failed to run fast enough she says she was told she would not get airborne, slide 1,500ft on her stomach and have to climb back up.

“They put a man either side of me and I ran. I have never seen my little legs move so fast.”

After getting airborne she enjoyed “glorious” views. “It was silent, it was just blissful. It was 20 minutes of delight, I have to say.”

Shirley, who has earned the nickname Shirl the Whirl and Action Gran locally, marked her 70th birthday with a parasail while on holiday in Paxos, Greece; at 75 she did a wingwalk in Cirencester, Gloucestershire; and at 80 she skydived at Headcorn Airfield in Kent.

The latter two challenges were also in aid of ESAB and raised £10,000 each.

Shirley is also hoping to raise £10,000 through the paraglide. So far, she has reached £4,750, with more donations expected. “I know I have got a bit more coming in, but I want more coming in,” she says.

Her online fundraising page – uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ShirleyPrice1 – will stay open until March 10, when she is to hold a dinner to present ESAB with a cheque for the amount raised.

Donations can also be made by cheque, payable to Friends of ESAB, and sent to Shirley at Prospects House, George Street, Hailsham, BN27 1AD.

Shirley, who lives with a retired guide dog named Marcus, was awarded an MBE in 2013 for her services to charity. Other than her work with ESAB, she says she has done ‘all sorts’ for causes, including teaching carriage driving for the disabled with Heron’s Ghyll Disabled RDA Driving Group for around 33 years, which she is still doing.

She would like to do more challenges and has two planned – at 90 she is hoping to take on Europe’s longest zip wire in Wales, and to mark her 95th she says her grandchildren are insisting she tries to beat the current world record for the oldest person to do a wingwalk.