The Bader Flame Burns Again!!

Presentation of The Bader Flame to Margaret “Maggz” Biggs at the Southport Cycling Club Annual Dinner and Award Ceremony – 21st November 2014

The Bader Flame

Shortly after its inception, the Douglas Bader Foundation commissioned Aspreys to create The Bader Flame to be presented as an award to people who had shown outstanding inspiration to others in the spirit of Sir Douglas Bader. One of the first recipients was Terry Waite, CBE, English humanitarian and author, who had displayed extraordinary courage while a hostage in Lebanon 1987-91.

The Flame was put into retirement for many years but, when we were asked to attend the Southport Cycling Club’s annual dinner where DBF Ambassador, Margaret “Maggz” Biggs, was going to be presented with 2 club trophies for her cycling achievements, it was clear that it was the perfect time for The Flame to be reignited for a truly worthy recipient.

Margaret Biggs

Maggz in action wearing the striking kit she designed for Team Bader Cycling

Maggz in action wearing the striking kit she designed for Team Bader Cycling

Many of you will know that Maggz, a below-knee amputee, has been an invaluable member of the DBF team since joining us as an Ambassador. Her efforts on behalf of the charity have been legion and diverse. Some of you will know her as “Leggz”, our very own amputee helpline, offering one-to-one information, advice and chat to fellow amputees. Maggz and fellow Ambassador, above-knee amputee, Wyn Jenkins, founded Team Bader Cycling. This great charity initiative was launched with the famous Tandem Challenge Wales, with Maggz and Wyn, accompanied by supporters from County Merlin Cycles, riding a tandem down (and frequently up!) the vertical axis of Wales. This ride is well documented on the Website. Not content with completing this gruelling ride, Maggz also designed the DBF Kit that she and others in the team wore for the challenge. This cutting edge kit has done a huge amount to attract attention to and raise awareness of the charity. The only problem being that it usually flashes past too quickly to be seen!

In April this year Maggz accompanied a small group from the DBF to the Calvert Trust, Kielder for a special Bader Braves Adventure Weekend. Our first for amputee or limb deficient children. She was able to show them personally that wearing a prosthesis doesn’t need to hold you back and they couldn’t fail to be inspired as she tackled every challenge, scaling the climbing wall like a mountain goat! Later in the year she also represented Team Bader in the London Triathlon taking the cycling “leg”(!) for our amputee team, which also consisted of Wyn (swimming) and Helen Chapman (running). The team turned in a great time finishing in a very creditable position especially considering they “only had 3 working legs between them” (Wyn Jenkins). You can read more about all the teams’ and individual’s achievements at the London Triathlon on the DBF Website.

Maggz has been a competitive cyclist for decades and, with her indomitable mother, Jane, also being very proficient on two wheels, cycling is clearly in her blood. She was cycling competitively and turning in some excellent times when an accident with a vehicle while competing in a Time Trial event ultimately brought about the amputation of her right leg. Tough times understandably followed but with true grit she came through and started cycling seriously again getting great support from the Southport Cycling Club. She was participating in Cycling Time Trial events again with great results as one of the only amputee competitors when she decided to turn this into an opportunity by launching Team Bader Amputees, now an official affiliated Time Trials Group. Thanks to Maggz, this group had a great first season with a top 30 place in the Ladies BBAR (Best British All Rounder) and a 3rd in the RTTC Circuit Time Trial Series para cycling class. She successfully completed time trial rides in the 3 distances of 25, 50 and 100 miles finishing 28th in the GB league when she was the only disabled rider. She also managed to achieve a personal best completing the 100 miles in under 5 hours – a fantastic achievement for anyone, let alone, to quote Wyn, “a pensioner with one leg”! The fact that she is now turning in times faster than those she was achieving in her 20s is extraordinary.

There is, sadly, very little awareness of amputee cycling and, up to now, little opportunity or incentive for amputee and disabled cyclists to take part in Time Trials or other competitions. Maggz is a passionate force for change in that respect and her achievements will undoubtedly pave the way for more participation by others with a disability. We sincerely hope that her efforts and example will encourage other amputee and disabled cyclists and that more will join her next year to make Team Bader Amputees a force to be reckoned with.

The Presentation

Colin Baldwin, “El Presidente” of the Southport Cycling Club, contacted the Foundation in October to tell us that the Club would be awarding Maggz for her achievements at the annual dinner and to ask if we would also like to acknowledge her participation for the DBF. We were delighted to accept and it was agreed that I would attend the dinner to present a surprise award to Maggz. What better acknowledgement than the Bader Flame for someone who clearly possesses the Bader Spirit in spades and has been an inspiration and support to so many.

Discussions with Colin followed during which it was decided how best to achieve the all-important surprise element of the presentation. It was agreed that I would turn up at the Old Links Golf Club on the evening of the 21st November to make my appearance, brandishing The Flame (hopefully in one piece – it’s a heavy thing!), at the crucial point in Colin’s speech. Amazingly, with just one furtive meeting at the Golf Club during the afternoon of the 21st and several ensuing timely texts (how would it have been possible without mobile ‘phones?!) this was achieved.

Colin "El Presidente" Baldwin approaching the crucial point in his speech

*Colin “El Presidente” Baldwin approaching the crucial point in his speech…

…to an enthralled audience

*…to an enthralled audience…

…on both sides of the room

*…on both sides of the room

After presenting several awards, Colin called Maggz to receive her 2 trophies from the Southport Cycling Club. Then, just as she thought she could head back to the safety of her chair, he stopped her and proceeded to remind the gathering about her accident and to tell them about her support of the charity. On cue, I was then able to leave my temporary seat at the back of the room and approach an astonished Maggz.

First Maggz receives her awards from the Southport Cycling Club...

*First Maggz receives her awards from the Southport Cycling Club…

Maggz taken by surprise!

*Maggz taken by surprise!

The look on Maggz’s face was priceless and, after a very nervous speech from Wendy McCleave who was shaking so much she was convinced that she was bound to poke either Colin or Maggz or both in the eye with the mic, it was with true and genuine mutual delight that The Bader Flame was presented and received. There is no doubt that it has been brought out of retirement for the right person. Maggz is that rare combination of great ability, high achievement and humility. She is one of the warmest, kindest and most dedicated people I have ever met as well as having huge determination and courage. (Thankfully a great sense of humour, too!) She truly is an inspiration and we’re so very lucky to have her support.

As well as thanking Maggz, of course, my thanks also to Colin Baldwin, Poirot to my Miss Marple, and without whom it wouldn’t have been possible, and all the lovely people at Southport Cycling Club who were so welcoming and kind to a stranger who suddenly landed in their midst. Even for a non-cyclist, it was evident that it’s a thriving and hugely mutually supportive club and also blessed with a lot of upcoming young talent. (Probably the most glamorous young talent of any club too!) It was lovely to be able to participate in their annual dinner and award ceremony, to be able to acknowledge publicly the invaluable and tireless support the DBF has received from one of their members.

Colin hands the mic to a nervous Wendy McCleave

*Colin hands the mic to a nervous Wendy McCleave

Wendy McCleave hands The Bader Flame to Maggz.

*Wendy McCleave hands The Bader Flame to Maggz.

We look forward to seeing what Maggz will achieve next year and hope that other amputees will join her to swell Team Bader Amputees. Please do contact us if you’d be interested in finding out more about Team Bader Cycling, Team Bader Amputees or what Time Trialling is all about…We will be publishing a list of events as soon as we have them available and hopefully there will be one near you. Our next Newsletter will also focus on Team Bader Cycling and you will be able to read Maggz’s own report and thoughts.

* My thanks to Juliette Jardine for the wonderful photographs. You can see more on the SCC Facebook Page HERE.

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