‘If you live a long time you have a lot of adventures’ – Sheffield’s Graham Bell on fundraising and fun at 93

Graham Bell.
Graham Bell.

For 93-year-old Graham Bell age is no barrier to living life to the full.

Since he retired the former steelworker has gained an MBE for his charity work in 2005, was presented with France’s highest military distinction the Légion d’honneur in 2017 and gained a degree in French from the University of Sheffield in 2012.

Graham completing his firewalk for SRSB.

Graham completing his firewalk for SRSB.

Most recently he has continued his astonishing commitment to helping others by completing a fire and glass walk for two of his favourite charities, the Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind and CLIC Sargent.

For this feat, the lifelong Blade walked barefoot over 20 metres of red hot embers smoldering at over 1,200℉, before walking over a carpet of razor sharp broken glass.

“There is an ambulance on standby so that is reassuring,” said Graham.

“You have to walk slowly over the glass but quickly over the fire. I didn’t feel it so I did it twice it was so enjoyable.

Graham Bell.

Graham Bell.

“The adrenaline was like when you finish a marathon - I felt great.”

The fire and glass walk is just the latest achievement in a litany of charity work that it seems impossible to have fitted in in one person’s lifetime.

The Handsworth resident started his fundraising career for mental health charity MIND when he was 55 and five years later ran the London marathon in three hours forty minutes.

More than 30 years later, he is still competing in charity races, most recently by raising money for Age UK at the Sheffield 10k.

“I finished last, even behind John Burkhill,” said Graham.

“ITV said they would interview me after the finish, but by the time I got there they had left.”

In his working life, Graham was employed by British Steel in Rotherham for more then three decades after serving in the Royal Navy for four years, most notably on D-Day when he was tasked with shooting down the V1 ‘Doodlebug’ flying bombs.

For his service on the longest day, he was awarded France’s highest military honour, the Legion d’honneur, at a ceremony in Sheffield in 2017.

After the war finished he returned to Sheffield but couldn’t settle, so decided to sign up to a farming scheme for ex-servicemen in Lincolnshire.

While there he lodged with a family, whose daughter Mary later became his wife.

They have now been married 66 years and have been blessed by three children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

And as well as his physical feats, Graham has also remained remarkably mentally active, gaining a GCSE, followed by an A-level and then a degree in French seven years ago.

“Someone said I should write down my life story but it is too time consuming so it will go to the grave,” he said.

“I suppose if you live a long time you have a lot of adventures.”

Graham’s fundraising page can be found at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/GrahamBell22.

More information about SRSB and CLIC Sargent and be found at www.srsb.org.uk and www.clicsargent.org.uk.