He might have walked more than 200 miles to make sure his home-town of Galashiels is able to light the way to Christmas in style, but fundraiser Bill Jeffrey is going to miss out on the big switch-on he’s helping pick up the bill for.
Supermarket worker and music promoter Bill, 60, completed his walk along the 214-mile length of the Southern Upland Way yesterday, August 25, accompanied by 40-plus supporters and cheered on by many more well-wishers.
It took him 15 days altogether, in three stages, to complete the coast-to coast walk from Cockburnspath in Berwickshire to Portpatrick in Dumfries and Galloway, defying a history of spinal injuries, pulled calf muscle and inclement weather.
So far, his efforts have raised just over £3,000, with more to follow, and that, added to the £15,000 Galashiels’ Christmas lights committee has secured from Scottish Borders Council’s localities bid fund, means this year’s festive display might well be its best yet, he reckons.
He’ll miss out on seeing the fruits of his labours launched, though, as he’ll be a whole world away come the switch-on event being planned for Saturday, November 30.
“I’m hoping it’ll be the best we’ve had, but I’m going to miss it,” said the Galashiels community councillor.
“I’ll be there to help with organising it beforehand, but I’ll miss the switch-on as my wife and I will be away in Australia celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary.”
Father-of-four Bill and wife Carol, 58, also his boss at Tesco, will be back in time for the festive season, though, so they won’t miss out altogether.
Bill was prompted to go the distance to light up his home-town by last year’s disappointing festive display, and he intends carrying on raising further funds in years to come, provisionally lining up a 200-plus-mile kayak trip along the rivers Clyde and Tweed next time round, if feasible.
“It’s going to be an ongoing thing,” he said.
“I’m planning to learn how to kayak, and I’ve heard of people kayaking along the length of the Tweed, and I want to go one better and do the Clyde too.
“The sources of the Tweed and Clyde are only a few miles apart, so it should be possible to carry a kayak from one to the other. I’ve not heard of anyone having done that before, so there might be a reason for that, though.”
Bill was welcomed back to Galashiels with a buffet at the Salmon Inn after completing the last leg of his walk from Innerleithen, assisted all along by lifelong pal Bill Russell.
“Christmas is a time for giving and giving magic to our kids,” added Bill.
“Galashiels being one of the main towns in the Borders, it should be leading the way when it comes to events in our region.
“Due to a lack of funds, 2018’s non-event was a disappointment to a lot of the town’s people and more so for its children.
“Our Christmas lights have been organised and paid for by Galashiels Chamber of Trade. Its members are all town centre business owners who all contribute to things like events and the lights.
“The change in our shopping habits has been responsible for a large decline in local traders in our town centre, and that has cut the number of businesses who can contribute, and the businesses we do have no longer have the income to support things like the town’s Christmas lights, so if we want better for our town, children and grandchildren, it’s time for us to help.”
To donate, go to www.gofundme.com/f/coast-to-coast-walk-for-the-christmas-lights