Yarmouth super gran to plunge through the skies

A 77-year-old Great Yarmouth woman will be drawing on the memories of her war hero pilot father as she braves a 15,000ft plane plunge for charity.

From a long-held interest in astrology through to a recent visit to the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida and work in her teenage years at the RAF, Catherine McIntosh’s love of the sky has stretched back decades.

It is a fascination that the grandmother credits to her dad, David Shaw, who as part of the 550 Squadron flew a Lancaster Bomber from a Lincolnshire airbase during and after the second world war.

And it is to the same skies that she will be taking as she braves a tandem skydive, and all in order to raise money for the Royal British Legion, who this year marks its 90th anniversary.

“Good for you girl, press on” – these are the tender words Catherine imagines her father, who died aged 58 in 1973, might have said to her ahead of her big day at Hibaldstow airfield, also in Lincolnshire, on August 29.

“I’ve always looked up to the stars – I had one named after me for my 75th birthday – and there’s nothing better than sitting in an aircraft as she’s hammering along the runway as the pilot pulls back the stick and away you go,” she said. “I think I got that from my father, and I think that’s part of why I wanted to do this.”

The sky dive will come nearly 67 years to the day that her father passed through the same airspace on August 26, 1944, on his way to Germany. He was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

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“I’m not a religious person, but I’m a spiritual person, and I think it’s a way of being with my dad and getting a connection with him.”

She will be in good company. Catherine discovered the opportunity to jump thanks to the Royal British Legion magazine, which was advertising a mass jump in which 89 others will be participating to mark the anniversary. But though her main fear is the event getting rained off, others are not quite so sure.

Her doctor, from whom Catherine had to get the okay before getting involved, “just looked at me when I asked”, while her two daughters, Fiona and Gillian, voiced their concerns more audibly.

“They were like ‘you bloody fool’ but they expected it” she laughed.

That said, they will be there on the day, and have helped with fundraising efforts which have led to �200 being collected already.

The pensioner, who retired 15 years ago after working as a psychiatric nurse at the former St Nicholas Hospital on Queens Road, also intends to set up a display at Great Yarmouth Market to help her collect as much as possible. And she’s counting down the days till her leap of faith.

“It was overwhelming when I found out it was happening,” she said, adding: “I like to be active and I can’t lie about watching TV, but I’m getting old now so I’m doing it while I can.”

To sponsor Catherine, email her on lyra4uk@hotmail.com