Tower descent holds no fear for grandad Bob, 84

Former paratrooper Bob Blackburn from Milton looks forward to abseiling down The Spinnaker Tower which he is doing to raise money for the Help the Heroes campaign. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (112713-1)
Former paratrooper Bob Blackburn from Milton looks forward to abseiling down The Spinnaker Tower which he is doing to raise money for the Help the Heroes campaign. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (112713-1)
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HE’S an 84-year-old grandad but former paratrooper Bob Blackburn is still up for a challenge.

And he’s going to prove it by abseiling down Portsmouth’s landmark Spinnaker Tower.

Bob says that descending the 650ft tower holds no fear for him after years spent leaping out of planes.

‘I’m not against doing something risky, I like a bit of excitement,’ said Mr Blackburn.

‘I’ve done freefalls for a mile and a half before I’ve opened my parachute – I’m sure I’ll be OK for this.

’I’m a founder member of the self-preservation society.’

Mr Blackburn, of Moorings Way, Milton, will join dozens of others who are descending the tower for several different charities each day next week.

He said he was spurred into taking action to raise money for the forces charity Help for Heroes after seeing news coverage of the appalling injuries soldiers are returning home with from Afghanistan and Iraq.

He said: ‘I’m not a political animal but I get very frustrated when I see the lack of support for our young men and women returning home in such bad ways.

‘I thought to myself, “How can I help them?”

‘I had a discussion with the other Pompey Paras and they suggested the abseil.

‘I said “I’ll do it”.’

Despite protests from wife Barbara, Mr Blackburn, a retired coal board manager, said he was very excited about his challenge.

And he’ll be proudly wearing a Pompey Paras T-shirt as he travels down the tower.

In the run-up to his feat he has been given words of advice by another elderly abseiler – record-breaking 97-year-old daredevil Doris Long.

He said: ‘My wife thinks I’m a nutcase for even thinking about it.

‘My sons are right behind me but my girls think it’s all a bit daft.

‘But if you look at Daring Doris, she’s doing it at 97, she’s inspirational. Not all old people are past it.’

Mrs Long, from Hayling Island, who holds the world record as the oldest female abseiler, had some words of advice for Mr Blackburn.

She said: ‘He shouldn’t look down when he gets to the top and should always make sure he keeps his hand on his hip with the guide rope.

‘But, most of all, he should thoroughly enjoy himself.

‘I wish him the best of luck.’

Mr Blackburn will undergo a short training exercise before descending the tower at 2pm on August 14.

If you would like to sponsor him call (023) 9273 1224.