Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Heavens above, Vicar!

Inspired by cancer patients in his parish, Ulster cleric does a charity skydive

A man of the cloth from mid-Ulster has just descended from the heavens at breakneck speed - to raise thousands of pounds for a local charity.

Moved by the plight of cancer sufferers in his parish, Rev Gerald Macartney put his faith in God - and a parachute - to the test by leaping from a plane at an altitude of 13,000 feet.

He was on a wing and a prayer, but the brave Church of Ireland rector finally landed on terra firma safe and sound - and in doing collected £7,210 for cancer research and treatment in Craigavon.

Rev Macartney, from Milltown in Co Armagh, performed his wacky stunt with the help of a skydiving expert at The Wild Geese Centre near Garvagh, Co Londonderry.

Some parishioners were quite stunned when the idea of a money-raising skydive was first mooted but Rev Macartney rose - quite literally tens of thousands of feet - to the challenge.

"Four women in my parish were undergoing cancer treatment and one of them, Eimear Clarke, thought it would be a good idea to raise money for the local cancer unit at Craigavon Area Hospital, the Mandeville Unit," said Rev Macartney.

"I volunteered for the sky dive and parachute jump with a view to raising £2,000 to £3,000.

"But I'd reckoned without the generosity of the people here and I'm delighted with the £7,210 to tal."

The clergyman, who is in his fifties, added: "Actually, it was great fun. After an hour or so training we went up in one of the planes and the expert Gregor McKenzie and I leapt out strapped together.

"The first part was amazing as he dropped 7,000 feet with the parachute closed - at about 175mph - and then when the chute opened we seemed to float. It was exhilarating."

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