WHILE other Octogenarians are settling down with their pipe and slippers, Nigel Hague is preparing for his latest wild stunt.
The 85-year-old, father to Foreign Secretary William Hague, will next month strap himself on top of a bi-plane and wing-walk across the English Channel for charity - and to mark one of the most significant dates in the Second World War.
It takes place on June 6, the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, and is Mr Hague’s personal tribute to those who lost their lives in the operation.
Since he turned 80, Mr Hague has raised almost £200,000 for the NSPCC with a series of daredevil challenges.
His first wing walk was at Selby in May 2012, and raised £59,000. He had planned an incredible ‘skyathlon’ challenge, a wing-walk, skydive, and six mile trek, all in just three hours, as a breathtaking follow up, but the seemingly infallible Yorkshireman was diagnosed with prostate cancer, putting the plan on hold - although he says he did raise £27 in sponsorship “without doing a thing”.
The “hiccup”, as he describes his illness, resulted in a course of radiotherapy, which only disturbed his routine of a couple of pints in his local pub each day “once or twice”. Six mile daily walks have been temporarily replaced by a three mile trek, but he’s now back to full health.
Mr Hague, of Harley, near Rotherham, said: “I was busy working most of my life, with no time to indulge in climbing mountains, it’s all be done in late life.
“My wife said to me ‘if you’re fool enough to be climbing mountains, it’s time to do it for charity’. Since then I’ve done sky dives, climbed Skafell Pike, abseiled down a high building, so I guess I’m I doing ok for 85.”
His son, he says, laughs about his endeavours, and thinks he’s “a bit nutty”, but it’s partly down to his parliamentary colleagues that the sponsorship has rolled in so heavily in recent years.
As the Queen joins heads of state from across the world - and his son William - at commemorations in Normandy, Mr Hague will be strapping on top of the plane in Calais for the 40-minute wing walk to Lydd near Folkestone. It was his pilot that suggested twinning the wing-walk with the anniversary.
Mr Hague said: “It gives people comfort and pleasure to mark these anniversaries.”
The challenge will raise money for the Maltby-based dementia charity Lost Chord, which was set up by Mr Hague’s friend Helena Muller 15 years ago.
From small beginnings providing interactive musical sessions for people in a handful of South Yorkshire care homes and day centres, it now works across the country, providing sessions at 130 venues every month.
Mrs Muller said the mere thought of her friend’s latest endeavour “makes her eyes water”, but the potential gain for the charity, which needs to raise around £300,000 a year to keep going, was invaluable.
“Nigel was devastated when he couldn’t complete the skyathlon last year, but he’s never forgotten about us, and was determined that once he was fit enough he’d do something for us,” she said.
“It’s just inconceivable to think that a man at 85 should even consider the death defying feat of being strapped to a bi-plane and hanging on for dear life while it flies all the way to England.
“All those brave soldiers, had they survived, would have been in awe of Nigel’s antics - and all in the name of Lost Chord.”
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He’s been dubbed a dare-devil for his exploits, but says a “bit nutty” is nearer the mark.
His first high profile challenge came at the age of 80 in 2009, when he climbed the 3,209ft Scafell Pike peak in seven-and-a-half hours and raised £51,000 for the NSPCC.
This was followed by 10,000ft skydive in August 2011, and his first wing-walk in May 2012- which combined raised more than £100,000.
The wing-walk was just a warm up for his latest challenge, which is double the length. Mr Hague said: “20 minutes on top of a plane is long enough. The weather is a big factor - when the rain comes down it hits you like bullets. You can’t practice for this sort of thing, you just have to go out and do it.”