Daredevil Edinburgh nan, 87, takes on 160ft zip wire and gets major 'surprise'

A daredevil ‘Nannie’ has defied the odds by undertaking a hair-raising 160ft zip line in order to raise over £4,000 for those battling addiction and experiencing homelessness in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Edinburgh-born Mary Mackay turned 87 on Saturday May 25, just one day after she completed the daring fundraiser at Glentress Go Ape in Peebles.

Humanist of the year 2021 winner Mary was determined to overcome her ‘apprehension’ as she climbed up to the launch platform as she wanted to reward Steps To Hope charity for the amazing work they do with the homeless and those living with addiction.

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The ‘nannie’ of four grandchildren, says she has a ‘lot of worries’ about not being able to do it but with the help of two young female instructors, she launched herself down the zipline in the pouring rain.

“I say no matter what age you are, provided you are fortunate enough to be healthy, then you are never too old for an adventure and this was a great one,” she said. “I was definitely apprehensive before it.

“I had a lot of worries about things I wouldn’t be able to do but the two women instructors in their early 20s were brilliant. They were so calm and matter of fact about everything that they made it all so easy to understand.

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“I was not scared and I was surprised that my vertigo did not kick in. I’ll be honest and admit I thought I’d keep my eyes closed during the whole zip wire but I didn’t, I kept my eyes open the whole time.

“It was amazing seeing the whole view. I was fighting the rain on my face but during it I did not feel as though I was that high up.

“The hardest thing was the walk up as I was just climbing, climbing and climbing. I was glad to have a seat on the harness by the time I got to the top.

“My family were all there cheering me on and giving me lots of encouragement. One of my daughters, Molly, was more worried than anybody else.

Mary tackling the rope up to the platform.
Mary tackling the rope up to the platform. -Credit:Steps To Hope.

“She kept saying that no one would see me as a failure if I couldn’t do it and that they would all understand but I was able to do it. We raised around £3,500 and with gift aid it will rise to over £4,000 for Steps To Hope.

“People have been so generous and I cannot thank them enough.”

Mary spoke to Edinburgh Live earlier this month and said that she had originally planned to take part in Steps To Hope’s sleep out but the charity’s insurance provider feared she was too old.

This led to Mary wanting to challenge herself so that she could still help Steps To Hope as she has great admiration for the work they do.

Mary spent several years working with vulnerable refugees in Calais and later working alongside the homeless community in Edinburgh.

Before the zip wire, she said: “While out on the street I discovered people that I never imagined would find themselves in such a position, it really opened my eyes.

“As a society we often pass the homeless in the street and see them as nothing but actually a lot who are homeless, have just suffered from a downward spiral, and that often leads to addiction on the streets. With addiction you would see people who had just arrived on the streets being targeted.

“One young guy in particular, was all fresh faced and within six months the difference was awful. Someone came with a wee white packet and said if you like it I’ll get you more.

“You understand why they want to get themselves into oblivion as they are living such a miserable life. That is why I think what Richie and Steps To Hope are doing is a real game changer, they are helping people get their lives back.

“I think it is important for us to humanise the homeless. There is a story behind everyone on the streets. It is amazing how many people were leading normal lives and then found themselves on the streets.

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“Unless you put yourself in a position to talk to people on the streets, you do not realise that there are a lot of lovely people. Some politicians say homelessness is a life choice and I find that ridiculous, why would someone make that choice.

“What we did on the streets was a sticking plaster, however Richie and Steps To Hope are doing something so positive to turn peoples lives around.”

You can still support Mary's fundraiser here.