A MUCH-LOVED Basingstoke grandad of four, who is also a vicar in Whitchurch, has completed a daring wing walk strapped to a plane at the age of 80.

Gutsy grandad of four John Dawson from Oakley has celebrated his 80th birthday by completing the challenge to raise money for a surgical charity he is passionate about. 

Intrepid octagenarian John was secured to the rig of a Boeing Stearman, built in 1942, for the challenge for international charity Mercy Ships on Saturday, June 24.

Flying at up to 110mph and at a height of between 100ft and 700ft, his fundraising has also taken off, with him raising £1,750 and growing. 

READ MORE: Whitchurch vicar to wing walk for Mercy Ships

The Anglican vicar at All Hallows in Whitchurch, who decided to do the activity instead of asking for presents, said: “It was so exhilarating! Quite a few people thought I was barmy and told me so, but my grandchildren were so excited to see me flying on top of a plane. 

“I asked the pilot to fly low and do banks, by tilting to each side, and they said yes – it was an incredible experience. I started off quite apprehensive, but soon I got used to it and I was waving my arms around. I enjoyed every minute of it.” 

The father-of-two first heard of Mercy Ships when he saw one of its hospital ships docked in Liverpool having refurbishment work.

Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare services, including surgery and medical training, to strengthen and support low-income countries in Africa that need it most.  

In 2006, Rev Dawson and his late wife, Val, helped Mercy Ships build an extension to a health clinic in Sierra Leone, which was funded through the Rotary Club. 

Rev Dawson said: “It was such an eye-opening experience for us both. Even as we built it, the need for it was so clear as there were people already queuing in the hope they could get help for their conditions. 

“Mercy Ships for me is the epitome of what we should do as people, helping those who are in such need. I have supported the charity ever since and even do talks for them.” 

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Rev Dawson, who calls himself retired, still runs two services every Sunday and is a chaplain at St Michael’s Hospice at Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital.  

A former pharmacy worker, and manager in the pharmaceutical industry, he was a vicar at churches in the Derby and Leicestershire areas for 30 years, and lived in Asbhy De La Zouch before moving to Hampshire in 2021.  

He added: “I really hope that as many people as possible will support me. This charity is amazing and leaves such a lasting legacy of training in every country it visits.”