Highland great-gran (90) recognised in Queen's birthday honours list for remarkable stairway 'mountain' charity fundraiser
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A 90-year-old Highland woman, who climbed the equivalent of 2398ft high mountain for charity, has been recognised in the Queen's birthday honours list.
Great-grandmother Margaret Payne, of Sutherland, has been awarded the British Empire Medal for services to the commununity in Lochinver during the Covid-19 response.
She won the nation’s hearts during lockdown by climbing the stairs at her home 282 times – the equivalent height of Suilven.
Her efforts raised over £435,000 for NHS Charities Together, NHS Highland, RNLI and Highland Hospice.
Mrs Payne recently received a telephone call informing her she was among those who have been honoured by the Queen.
Publication of the list, which was agreed before the pandemic took hold in the UK, was postponed in June so individuals who played crucial roles in the first months of the outbreak could be added.
Mrs Payne had no idea who nominated her.
"My initial reaction was one of surprise," she said.
"I am thrilled about it.
"I never dreamed this would happen."
Mrs Payne moved with her husband, Jim, to Lochinver over four decades ago but sadly he died on Christmas Day last year –shortly after her 90th birthday.
A few months later, she was faced with the uncertainty and fear of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As a vulnerable shielded person in poor health, she realised her options to make a difference were limited.
But she was inspired by Captain Tom Moore who raised millions of pounds for the NHS by walking 100 laps in his garden to mark his 100th birthday.
Her initial aim was to raise £10,000 but her endeavours over two months captured the public's imagination.
She was also praised in the Scottish Parliament as well as receiving a letter of congratulations from Prince Charles.
She said every single penny donated had helped.
"In the main, the donations were between £1 and £20 – anything over £25 was a bonus," she said.
"Thousands and thousands of people have given money.
"I am very grateful – people were so generous.
"It was wonderful of them."
She is keeping her online appeal at Virginmoneygiving.com/MargaretPayneArdvar-SuilvenChallenge open until her birthday on December 12.
Related story: She did it!