Derby pensioners take on city abseil

An 88-year-old and an 84-year-old have signed up to the Derby Cathedral Abseil for Rainbows and say they cannot wait.

An abseil has been on the bucket list of 88-year-old retired nursery nurse, Marie Glynn, for over 20 years and is her next life ambition. With just a glimmer of nerves, there is no stopping Marie who rode on the back of a Harley Davidson at the age of 80 and flew in a hot air balloon at 82.

She will be completing the abseil with her daughter, Janine. Marie, who walks around 6,000 steps a day, said: “After the year we have had, I really wanted to do something to help others and I am not ready to give up yet. Rainbows is such an excellent cause and it also full-fills something from my bucket list.

“I believe every little helps to support families in these most difficult circumstances. I am a mother, grandmother and great grandmother and children play, and have played, such an important part in my life. To help other parents and grandparents is an honour and a pleasure.”

Marie will be joined at the event by retired head teacher, John Etchells, of Hilton, who last took on such a feat in the Alps when he was serving in the army at the age of 19. Now at the age of 84, he is looking forward to climbing the 189 steps to the top of Derby Cathedral before descending 212ft to the ground.

John, who is a member of the Rotary Club of Etwall and Hilton, first heard about the event at a virtual meeting. “At the end of the meeting we were talking and I volunteered to do the abseil and there was a stunned silence,” said John.

“I am looking forward to it; it will take me back in time. I was a mountaineer and last time I did an abseil I was 19. I was stationed in Germany doing my national service in the army and spent a lot of time in the Alps. I was a skier and a serious climber. I climbed all over Europe and the UK.”

John, who was a head at various schools across the county including Codnor Community Primary School and Gayton School in Littleover, is no stranger to keeping fit. He spends time cycling on an electric assisted bike, which he says “takes the sting out of pedalling”. He also loves to walk and is a member of the Rotary Ramblers. 

His son Mark, (52), who lives in Devon, will also be taking on the event.

“I am not nervous as it is all so safe,” added John. “Not like back in my day when it was a bit riskier. Rainbows is such a worthwhile charity without a shadow of a doubt. It was very interesting to learn more about the services it provides to children and I was staggered at the cost it takes to run and how little support is received from the government.”

We still have places for the event on Saturday 2 October. 

Jenny Perry, Rainbows Community Fundraiser, said: “We are so proud of Marie and John for taking part, they are amazing. And we really hope people join them for this incredible event, which will be held in a Covid-safe way. 

“This challenge will give you spectacular views across Derby as you stand at the top of the tower, the chance to see the clock-face up close as you abseil down, while every penny you raise in sponsorship will help make magical memories for local children and young people with life-limiting conditions.”

To follow in Marie and John’s footsteps, visit