Catching up with dynamo charity fundraiser Neil Melville-Rae

By on June 16th, 2016 in Editorial

If Neil’s recent training sessions were a 1980s movie montage, much of the footage would be made up of Neil powering around the West Sussex coast in a kayak, perhaps set to the rousing strains of Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero (feel free to start this song playing before you read the rest of the blog post).

Neil launched himself from Itchenor and paddled a staggering 13 miles in three hours, on reflection deciding that it “wasn’t as daunting as I thought it might be”. He upped the stakes when he set off with an ex-marine friend and ran aground near Hayling Island, walking all the way back to the mainland in “mud that went right up past our knees.” Neil is philosophical about the setback: “Our legs are nice and soft now – it was a free beauty treatment.”

The time devoted to kayaking makes sense; the 24-miles of London-Paris across the English Channel are sure to be the most dangerous stretch of the journey. To that end, Neil has also been practising his Eskimo rolls in a controlled environment:


On June 4th, Neil took part in London’s Nocturne penny-farthing race. After a strong start that saw him take the lead (as seen in this video), Neil’s innate bon vivant took over; “I did a bit of showboating for the spectators, so I went over the line with my hands off the handlebars. That gave away one place to my arch-nemesis Neil Laughton.”

On June 10th, Neil paid a visit to the organisation that will receive the money raised by his London-Paris trip – Cranleigh’s Jigsaw School for children on the autistic spectrum. Neil caused a stir amongst the students by arriving in a lovingly restored 1940s Leyshon James prototype Bentley with penny-farthing in tow, the children flocking round his car and excited to have a go on the anachronistic bicycle.


The school’s Community and Events Fundraiser Yvette Copping was thrilled. “All the pupils had a lovely time sitting in Neil’s fabulous car, but the highlight was most definitely having a go on the wonderful penny-farthing.” Neil hopes his upcoming odyssey will help the school make big changes; the school places a huge importance on fundraising.

“Fundraising is very important to the trust,” says Yvette. “It allows us to provide additional equipment and resources, so we can help engage and educate more young people and adults. It also the helps the trust to grow and develop more services.”

All that remains is for us to point you in the direction of Neil’s Just Giving page.


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James is freemarket’s Chief Commercial Officer. He has a history of finding new ways to solve age-old financial challenges and was responsible for launching some of the first online money transfer and prepaid card initiatives in Europe.

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