Spidergran: Grandmother (82) celebrates birthday with 160ft abseil

Jill Aspinwall takes on the Europa charity abseil.  INCT 18-724-CON

Jill Aspinwall takes on the Europa charity abseil. INCT 18-724-CON

A grandmother has celebrated her birthday in an unusual way - by abseiling 160 feet down the side of Belfast’s Europa Hotel.

Jill Aspinwall, 82, carried out the daredevil feat on April 24 in aid of the Northern Ireland Children to Lapland and Days to Remember Trust.

The Jordanstown resident, who is a long-time member of Carrick Ladies Probus Club, was inspired to take on the challenge following a talk by NICLT chairman, Jack Rodgers.

“Jack came to speak to the club about six or seven weeks ago; I thought [the abseil] was a lovely idea and the charity is such a worthwhile one, so I told him to put my name down for it,” said Jill, from the Rosstulla Drive area.

The Europa event was in fact the second time she has scaled new heights for charity, having taken part in a similar abseil 10 years ago at the age of 72.

“My husband and I had both had cancer, and we wanted to do something for Musgrave Park Hospital,” Jill explained.

“I remember that one took place on a very rainy day and I almost got turned upside down!”

Thankfully, last Sunday’s clear weather meant a smoother experience this time around.

“My main concern was that I wasn’t sure they would let someone my age do it,” Jill said.

But after clearing the medical checks required, Jill joined over 30 other hardy participants for the venture.

“It was a lovely day weather wise and the whole thing went brilliantly. I couldn’t believe how easy it was,” she added.

“We were all dressed up as Father Christmas because the charity is the Lapland Trust, and we were treated very well with food and drinks afterwards.

“While I was up there I had a good look up the coast and around the town - but I didn’t look down as I’ve actually no head for heights.”

And the 82-year-old’s family couldn’t be prouder of her achievement, which has raised over £1,000 so far for the Lapland Trust.

“My grandchildren have been calling me ‘Spidergran’!” she laughed.

“My children thought I was mad at first, but if I can show them they can do things for those less fortunate then that’s all well and good.

“I’m very much indebted to everyone who donated; people have been so kind and they have given a fantastic amount.

“The Lapland Trust really is a fantastic charity and I’m delighted that the money is going to be helping children here in Northern Ireland.”

Every year, the Northern Ireland Children to Lapland Trust takes a group of terminally ill, long-term ill and deserving children, along with their parents and carers, on a dream-come-true trip to Santa’s homeland.

In recent years, the Trust has expanded to include ‘Days to Remember’ summer excursions to Disneyland.

“I’m so grateful to Jill for everything she’s done for the charity,” said Trust chairman, Jack Rodgers. “Her enthusiasm and energy were an absolute inspiration to everyone who took part in the abseil that day.”