Inspirational Generation – stories of exploration

Here we put the spotlight on two retirees whose hobbies have taken them on trips all over the world.

Golfing took me across the globe

John Pritchard lives at our Blyton House development near Marlow. Upon retirement, John’s love of golf and travel led to an interesting new venture taking fellow golfers around the globe.

‘I retired in 1993 and needed to do something to interest myself. My daughter luckily introduced me to Saga Holidays where I worked for six or seven years, taking their clients overseas to exotic locations; Borneo, South Africa, Thailand, the States – many places I’d never visited. I used to take groups of up to 24 to each of these places where they would stay in the central hotel playing golf, and then for the periods where they weren’t playing golf I would arrange for activities and places to visit that were of interest to all parties.’

John later started getting clients himself, after Saga Holidays decided the venture wasn’t making enough money.  

‘I got my own groups of people together, and continued going round the world playing these golf games in exotic locations, and I finally gave it up when my golf got pretty poor, and the others were getting older, but we still wanted the good things so I started doing holidays to Ecuador and South America, and that was great fun.’

I trekked Mount Kilimanjaro in the eighties

Shirley McKiernon’s life has been a series of accidents. From becoming a teacher, to trekking Mount Kilimanjaro, to passing her advanced driving test at age 92!

‘After getting into teaching by accident, I had kids who weren’t behaving well and decided to take them into the mountains to improve their behaviour. But Health & Safety was coming in so I took my Mountain Leadership course. I was one of the first women to do it - that was 40 years ago. There were only ever men on the course, but now look how many females are mountaineering.

I later took my Winter Snow and Ice Climbing course, which allowed me to take youngsters all over the world. I took them to the source of the Ganges and I got them all sat there for a photograph, where 20 people had lost their life. You should see how it moved them.

I also went up Mount Kilimanjaro in the eighties. The most amazing thing was that I took five asthmatics. There were other leaders on this group of 21, but the five asthmatics got to the top, every one of them, because they knew how to breathe when you’re short of breath. The rest of us took three steps forward and had to rest. I’m so lucky to be able to have done that. It led me to lots of other things, and it helped my remedial youngsters no end.’

After years of teaching and mountaineering, Shirley retired but ended up starting a new career as a travel tour manager, taking her to all corners of the globe.

‘I was very lucky because Saga Holidays approached me to work for them when I retired, and they turned me into a Long Haul Tour Manager which meant I went across the world, to Egypt outwards, so I went to China, India and America. They never sent me on the same tour twice. Well on one occasion they put me on a half boat, half inland tour. I always had a guide with me, speaking the language, so there were people looking after me.

On one occasion we were travelling in Thailand and Singapore on a boat, and the boat caught fire. The flames were about 20 metres from us, big flames, but when I went down to the boat below us, they had inhaled all the paint, so when we were rescued by a freight boat with only 17 people on it, a huge boat, I took my little first aid kit and went up to help.  A couple of people had burnt the tips of their fingers trying to push the boat.

When we landed on the Malacca Straights, I wanted to kiss the ground like the pope, to think we got over it. I’d lost all Saga’s money, all my beautiful dresses and gowns, I had nothing whatsoever. But Saga looked after us for a week and took us everywhere. They treated us like kings and queens.’

It’s not just travel and mountain expeditions that have kept Shirley busy. She still works part-time and passed her Advanced Driving Test at age 92.

‘I work for Nationwide, it’s a little part-time job and all my paperwork has got Department of Transport on it. My job is to organise the people and where they’re going. Because I need to be able to drive, and at my age people worry about their driving, I used to go to the AA and get them to check I was at normal driving standards. But when I came here, with more time on my hands, I decided I’d take my Advanced Driving, so I joined and I passed two months ago. I was amazed when I passed it because it’s the Police who normally take it. I was just amazed, and the instructor said “Aren’t you going to say anything?” and I said “I’m flabbergasted because I didn’t think I’d pass”. They had one person who passed at 92, but not many do go for it at this age.’

Are you a member of the inspirational generation? Watch our video starring John and Shirley: