Neil Melville-Rae, his giant cheque and his wrong foot

By on December 8th, 2016 in Editorial

Now, thanks to some last minute sponsorship (and Neil generously dipping into his own pocket) Neil has almost doubled his original goal; the grand total raised stands at a stonking £9620. But more on this – and an oversized cheque – later.

To absolutely no one’s surprise, Neil has not stopped living life on the edge. Since we caught up with him in July, Neil has injured himself rather spectacularly yet nevertheless continued doing things most people in peak physical condition would consider daunting.

“I did have a slight mishap where I ended up burning my foot,” says Neil, demonstrating a powerful mastery of the mysterious understatement. (The photo he sent of his post-skin graft foot gives new meaning to the phrase ‘slight mishap’ and can be seen here by anyone with an iron constitution… but don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

“I’ve got a big pond so I put my foot in there for a bit and then I drove to the hospital. They had a look at it and could see it wasn’t very good. The next day I had a three hour operation where they took a bit of my thigh away and built it all back up again.” He was on crutches for five weeks, and unable to commune with his beloved bicycles.

img_5912Until last week that is, when Neil flew out to Rio de Janeiro to ride the Olympic route – his first major mission since the accident. “I was only there for four days, but I climbed a mountain as well, so I packed a lot in really.”

img_5903Neil jokingly threatens to kill his bicycle.

img_5927Here’s Neil forgetting that he’s not holding his bike aloft, on top of a mountain that is definitely in Brazil.

img_7554Here he is climbing the mountain.

img_5825And there’s the mountain.

Neil got back to the UK just in time to visit the Jigsaw School this week, arriving in waistcoated style and employing the infrequently-used ‘spread eagle’ method of riding a penny farthing.
stunt-1
“That was a great experience. The pupils were all very excited to see me and the penny farthing again, so I let them ride around out back and took the odd picture.”
jamie-1
And then there was the big cheque – the almost £10,000 donation that will help the Jigsaw School to refurbish their sensory room. “It will be the newly-named Melville-Rae Sensory Room and I’ll get a little plaque,” says Neil, “so I’ll be going back there to cut a ribbon in the New Year!”

Jigsaw’s new Melville-Rae Sensory Room will be a fantastic facility that benefits all the children at the school.  It will be a place for pupils to enjoy a comfortable and calm space where they can engage in a range of sensory stimulation activities.  As well as refurbishing the room, they will now be able to kit it out with a wide range of new equipment including fibre optic tunnels, a bubble wall, sensory image projectors and interactive floor pads.

Jigsaw’s Community & Events Fundraiser Sally Ward said: “Our Sensory Room is enjoyed by all of our pupils and is so well used that we have been wanting to refurbish it with new equipment for quite some time.  Thanks to Neil’s amazing fundraising efforts we are looking forward to introducing our pupils to the newly named ‘Melville-Rae Sensory Room’ when it opens in the New Year.  On behalf of all the pupils and staff here I would like to say a huge thank you to him for his incredible support.”

emmaThe Jigsaw School’s Director of Education Emma Hawkins poses with Neil, Neil’s giant cheque and Neil’s wife Angela, while enjoying a Neil-eyed view of the world.

angela-plane-and-chequeNeil and Angela at Dunsfield Aerodrome. “It’s where they film Top Gear – that’s  near where the school’s situated. They’ve got a few old planes hanging about, including that big 747, the one that was in the James Bond film. I just thought it might make a reasonable picture. Old penny farthing, newish plane etc. etc. The jet age!”

It turns out that Neil has a keen eye and big ambitions when it comes to technology and innovation, as he plans his fundraising adventure for next year: Neil wants to be The Fastest Man on a Penny Farthing of all time.

“My average speeds on the Arch-to-Arc challenge were really good and I’ve got a cunning plan for going even faster which involves remanufacturing the wheel.” Yes, that’s right: Neil is going to literally reinvent the wheel.

“35mph is the fastest I’ve been, and the wheel starts to oscillate and make an S-shape. After that it would want to fly apart, so I didn’t want to push it too hard.

“I’ve got an idea for the new design in my head, I just need somebody with a big 3D printer to make it for me. Can you put in there that ‘Neil has a requirement for somebody with a large 3D printer’? If there’s anybody out there, please get in touch. I know Dyson’s got one, so I might approach him anyway.”

But let’s not pin all our hopes on James Dyson – if you have a big 3D printer knocking around, please get in touch and help Neil Melville-Rae reinvent the wheel.

He remains the most inventive, determined and extreme philanthropist we know, and – as ever – we salute him.


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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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