12 October 2010
MOSCOW is one of the world’s biggest cities, with a population of 10,500,000 – but its little cousin in Ayrshire can certainly punch above its weight. That village (pop: not even 200!) will be the starting point for an epic adventure next June which aims to link the two Moscows.
The idea, conceived by motorbike-mad Jim Humphreys from Glasgow – is to raise cash for Stoke Mandeville Hospital’s spinal injuries unit.
On 12 June 2011, Jim and a group of chums will climb on their motorcycles and leave the pretty Berkshire village of Waltham St Lawrence, to ride north to Moscow, Ayrshire. From there they will begin their heroic 6,000 mile return ride to Moscow, Russia, to raise money for the Poppa Guttmann Celebration and Recognition Project.
As part of an initiative to honour the life and work of brilliant neurologist Sir Ludwig “Poppa” Guttmann, father of the Paralympic Games, the project aims to establish an arts programme at Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire. The ground-breaking Spinal Injuries Centre there was founded by Guttmann during the Second World War.
At that time, life expectancy for spinal injured patients was a mere three months. No real treatment existed and rehabilitation was unheard of. The majority of patients succumbed to infections and sepsis and died. Guttmann sought not only to mobilise his patients, but to improve their fitness and foster determination and a sense of self-worth. This he achieved through competitive sport.
Guttmann’s legacy has recently attracted renewed interest through the work of the Battle Back programme for wounded UK Service personnel.
Battle Back was launched in 2008, exactly 60 years after Guttmann created the first Stoke Mandeville Games. However, the hospital, where it all began, has nothing to honour this founding father of the modern Paralympic Movement.
That’s where Jim Humphreys came in.
Jim – now 69 but no slouch – is a retired engineer and management consultant, now living in Waltham St Lawrence.
For the keen motorcyclist, the idea of riding from Scotland to Russia and back held particular appeal, since his native Scotland and Russia share the same patron saint, Andrew.
His involvement with the project comes from his longstanding friendship with Philip Lewis, MBE, a former Paralympian and one of the Guttmann trustees. Other riders include friends, retired police officer John Rynne, 58, and his wife Brigid, 47.
The journey – expected to last six weeks – will take the the riders through France, Holland, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and into the Russian Federation, returning via the Ukraine, southern Poland, the Czech Republic, southern Germany, and France.
Built into the itinerary are places with particular relevance to the Poppa Guttmann story: Wroclaw (formerly Breslau), Frieburg and Hamburg, for instance, where Guttmann studied and practised medicine before he and his family – orthodox Jews – were forced to flee to England in 1939.
More information about the trust and its recognition and celebration project can be found at www.poppaguttmanncelebration.org
For more about the ride and the riders, and to see their progress visit www.offonaweeride.com or contact Jim Humphreys at firstname.lastname@example.org
To donate to the Trust use the donate button on www.offonaweeride.com – that will take you directly through to the trust website.