A DOTING grandfather is walking 500 miles to raise money for his six-year-old granddaughter who is battling cancer.
Alistair McIntyre’s trek from the Scotland to Kent will follow the footsteps of his own grandfather who walked and cycled to England in the 1930s to try to find work.
Mr McIntyre’s granddaughter, Belle, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cell cancer neuroblastoma in 2011.
The 54-year-old’s gruelling journey, which is set to raise thousands of pounds for Cancer Research UK, comes 80 years after his miner grandfather made the same trip.
In 1933, Jimmy McIntyre, a miner, was forced to leave his pregnant wife, young son and his home in Fife to look for work in Kent, a 500 mile journey he did on foot and by bicycle.
Joined by two of his brothers and three of his friends, Jimmy first walked to Newcastle where they “borrowed” a bike.
With little more than the clothes they stood up in, this intrepid band of workers then walked or cycled the remaining length of the country ending up in Deal, Kent.
Once in London, Jimmy left the bike at a police station with a note requesting that it be returned to its rightful owners in Newcastle.
Now Alistair has set up the In Jimmy’s Footsteps appeal which will raise money for Cancer Research UK.
The walk, to take place in June and July this year, will start in Fife and finish in Deal, about 20 miles from Belle’s home.
Alistair’s friends and family will also host a number of fundraising events in and around his home town of Galashiels for the charity.
Alistair was inspired to set up the appeal after his granddaughter Belle McIntyre – Jimmy’s great, great granddaughter – was diagnosed with cancer.
Alistair, 54, said: “This challenge is a celebration of two lives. Belle is only six-years-old and has already undergone every type of treatment you can imagine – she is bright, funny and incredibly brave.
“Jimmy McIntyre went on to help and support a great many miners, working with the union to secure welfare for those who were injured or suffering.
“The way Jimmy and Belle coped with the situations they found themselves in show character, strength and a determination to live.
“Many people’s lives are touched by cancer and by funding research we can increase our chances of fighting this terrible disease.”
Alistair added: “I grew up listening to my granddad’s story and I had planned to do the same walk for charity about six years ago.
“It never happened, as these things often don’t, but once Belle was diagnosed, and watching her go through treatment, I felt it was the perfect time.”
Alistair said Belle is currently “doing very well”.
He said: “She is having an MRI scan today and once we have the results back we will know what’s happening.
“She is so happy just now as her hair is growing back. She has lost her hair three times which is very hard for her.
“We last saw Belle at Christmas and try to get down as much as possible. The impact on the family has been huge.
“For my son, Ben and his wife, life has become about making sure Belle is OK, making sure she gets to hospital whenever she needs to.
“I think Ben is very proud of what I am doing.”
The council worker said he hoped the walk would take him around four weeks to complete.
He said: “I have always enjoyed exercise and I’m looking forward to it. I will have an advantage over my granddad as he wouldn’t of had the luxury of staying in hotels in the evening.
“My grandad was around until he was in his 80s so I used to listen to his story and it really inspires me.
“Belle has been lucky that she has received state of the art treatment and I wanted to raise money for Cancer Research to recognise their work.”
Since being diagnosed with neuroblastoma – a cancer of the nerve cells – Belle McIntyre has been undergoing treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton as part of a clinical trial.
Around 90 children are diagnosed with the disease each year in Britain.
Belle, who lives in Canterbury, Kent, has been treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery and a stem cell transplant.
Alistair added: “Belle is. The whole family has shown amazing strength and resilience during this difficult time and they are an inspiration to us all.”
Alistair’s walk will begin near to the Lochore Mine where his grandfather once worked.
Donna Marshall, Cancer Research UK’s volunteer manager in the Borders, said: “Jimmy and Belle have both shown remarkable determination and I know this will be matched by Alistair and his resolve to raise as much money as possible for life saving research.
“In Jimmy’s Footsteps is a wonderfully imaginative fundraising idea and everyone at the charity wishes Alistair and his supporters well as they embark upon their appeal.”
To find out more about the In Jimmy’s Footsteps Appeal and the fundraising activities in the coming months, please visit: www.jimmysfootsteps.co.uk<http://www.jimmysfootsteps.co.uk>