Shirley Waller, 78, ‘proud’ to carry Olympic torch through Market Deeping

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A 78-YEAR-OLD woman said she was proud to be carrying the Olympic torch through her home town.

Shirley Waller, who has been blind for 25 years, was the first person to bear the torch through Market Deeping this morning (Wednesday), led by her guide dog Alfie.

Shirley Waller, from Market Deeping, passes the Olympic flame to Sam Hills, 14,  in her home town, watched by her guide dog Alfie

Shirley Waller, from Market Deeping, passes the Olympic flame to Sam Hills, 14, in her home town, watched by her guide dog Alfie

Speaking before she started, she said: “It’s absolutely wonderful. My eyes are full of tears. It’s a very proud moment.

“I can’t see the flame but it is a wonderful feeling holding something that thousands of others can see.”

Shirley was nominated to carry the torch because of her work raising funds for the South Lincolnshire Blind Society and Guide Dogs

She was initially selected to carry the torch in Mumby, but organisers changed it so she could carry it through Market Deeping after reviewing her situation.

Shirley, of Meadway, added: “Everyone here knows me and thinks about me and I am happy here. Alfie is pleased he is in familiar territory, he will remember that smell.”

Shirley was concerned that Alfie might be confused by the crowds lining the street and this proved to be the case. But thankfully the next torchbearer Sam Hills, 14, from Lowestoft, ran to the rescue and completed part of Shirley’s route as well as his own.

Sam was followed by Nick Rickett, 44, from Baston. Nick is a familiar face in his home village and is involved in many activities there, including co-ordinating the allotment group and raising funds to promote healthy activities on the playing fields.

Speaking before his section of the relay, Nick said: “I feel fantastic, it’s a wonderful day. All thanks to my family who nominated me and the people I work with.”

Nick’s wife Claire, children Sophie, 13, Toby, 11, Katie, 10 and his mother-in-law Ann Colyer turned out to watch him, with a banner reading “Dad we love you”.

Katie said: “He’s really clever, I’m really proud of him. We all helped to make him our banner.”

The final torchbearer in Market Deeping was Carl Garner, 41, from Peterborough. Carl runs junior sides at Glinton United and has recently taken up the position of chairman.

Schools in the Deepings allowed their pupils to come in late this morning so they could watch the torch. Deeping St James Primary School pupil Zoe Medhurst, 11, waited with her friends and family for more than an hour to see the relay.

She said: “It was really, really good and was well worth the wait. I was up before 6am to get my spot.”

Her mother Alison, 44, added: “It’s nice to see the whole community come out and support the torch.”