Woman, 90, honoured for fundraising ‘mountain climb’ on stairs


A 90-year-old woman who has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity by climbing the equivalent of a mountain on her stairs has been honoured by the Queen.

Margaret Payne receives a British Empire Medal for services to the community in Lochinver, Sutherland, after scaling the height of the 731-metre Suilven on her staircase.

She described the royal recognition as a “great honour” and thanked all those who made donations to her fundraising page.

She raised funds for the NHS, the Highland Hospice and the RNLI, with the total now at more than £434,000 including gift aid.

The royal honour comes after the Prince of Wales, known as the Duke of Rothesay in Scotland, sent her a letter of support during the climb, saying: “In great admiration of your incredible efforts, my wife and I send you our warmest congratulations on your splendid achievement.”

Mrs Payne said she was inspired to take on the challenge by Captain Sir Tom Moore, 100, who raised more than £33 million for the NHS by doing laps of his garden.

She said it was also a way of saying thank-you to NHS workers on the front line during the pandemic, and hospice staff who took care of her late husband Jim.

“They have been amazing, each day they are risking their lives,” she said. “My husband died at Christmas and the NHS were absolutely wonderful.”

She started the challenge on Easter Sunday and finished on June 23 after climbing the stairs at her home in Ardvar, Sutherland, for the 282th time.

She told the PA news agency: “It was amazing how much money we managed to make.

“We haven’t closed it yet – the Virgin Money Giving page remains open until my birthday which is December 12.

Margaret and Jim Payne
Margaret and Jim Payne

She said climbing the stairs was “better some days than others”, dependent on the weather, as she feels stiff when it is damp and cold, adding: “I’m very lucky that we had such a good summer.”

Mrs Payne said she has not yet told her family about the honour and is looking forward to doing so.

She added: “Thank-you again to everybody who donated the money. Thousands of people must have donated money.”

Donation amounts started at £1, she said, adding: “All those little donations have just built up to an enormous sum, it is amazing.

“And if they hadn’t done it then the whole thing wouldn’t have worked.”

She also thanked her family and the Highland Hospice for their support and help with publicity.