Airborne Engineers Association
Edinburgh Branch Going Over the Edge
Edinburgh Branch Member Colin Reid, who resides at South Queensferry, first mentioned the possibility of an abseil from the Forth Rail Bridge, in aid of the charity Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland, at our Branch Meeting on Sunday 16 July 2006. He said that the event would probably take place around April 2007.
When asked if anyone would want to take part in this death defying leap from a perfectly stable bridge, a number of hands went up. I don’t know if the beer had anything to do with it, or it just seemed that April was a long way off and it would be forgotten about, but it was agreed to discuss the event at a later date when Colin would have more details. However, it was not long before telephone calls were received from Colin intimating that the abseil had been brought forward and would now take place on Sunday 15 October 2006.
Six volunteers were required for the abseil, but we could only muster five as Dougie Archibald was celebrating his 65th Birthday on a short cruise, Mick Walker was in the USA and Brian Earl was unable to participate. This left Colin Reid, Ronnie Drummond, Kim Panton, Jim Simpson and John Donaldson, whose ages total 354 years, to do the business. An advance payment of £20.00 per applicant was initially paid by Colin, which would be added to the total sponsorship money collected. Detailed documentation, including a sponsorship form, was later received by each applicant informing them what was required of them on the day and the time they were due to abseil, which in our case was 1038 hrs.
At 0945hrs.on Sunday 15 October 2006, which was a rather misty morning, we met at the Hawes Inn, South Queensferry and thereafter headed for the Registration Point where we handed over our sponsorship money and collected our free C.H.S.S. “T” Shirt. We were later called forward and fitted with the abseil harness, helmets and gloves and then had to walk from the Registration Point via an extremely steep stepped bank to the base of the bridge pillar and then up another set of steps constructed with scaffolding and on to the bridge. We were knackered by the time we got to that point.
We were met on the bridge and given instructions how to move along it to the abseil area. There were nylon ropes attached to the bridge and we had to connect the caribiner on our harness to the rope before moving off. The part of the bridge used for the abseil was actually under the span used by the trains and trains were crossing during the abseil.
On our arrival at the abseil area we were briefed by an instructor on how to abseil, and the ropes were attached to our respective harnesses. The most difficult part of the event was trying to get a leg over the guard rail and then hang in space 165’ above the ground on a thin rope. With the left hand on the fixed part of the rope and the right hand gripping the running part of the rope all one had to do was to allow the rope to run through the hand and to raise and lower the right arm to control the rate of descent. I presume if you were left handed the opposite would be the case. The rate of descent could also be controlled by the instructor should anything have gone wrong. All five of us managed to get down safely, some faster than others, and cheered on by friends and families. An exhilarating experience to say the least. We then collected our Certificate and receipt for sponsorship money from the Registration Point.
Afterwards we all moved swiftly to the Moorings Public House located at the other end of the town where Colin had arranged food and drink to be available for members and their families. John Kennedy, the Publican and his wife Elaine laid on a splendid buffet which was thoroughly enjoyed and greatly appreciated by all.
This was a great day out where we all achieved something we had never done before or ever contemplated doing and raising in excess of £1200.00 for a well deserved charity.
Well done Colin and Sandra for organising a great day.
The next abseil event from the Forth Rail Bridge takes place on Sunday 22 April 2007, should anyone be interested in doing it.
The video taken of the event by my son John was for private use only but when he edited it he thought it would be a great advert for the Airborne Engineers Association and included it on www.scotlandonvideo.com as well as the branch website www.airbornesappersscotland.co.uk