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Our Inspirational Member – Anna

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In their 80’s – most women would be looking to put their feet up – but not grandmother Anna Illingworth.

The inspirational octogenarian has been learning to scuba dive following her retirement at 68.
Anna, a grandmother-of-two from Lenzie, is one of 33 members of the British Sub-Aqua Club’s Thistle Divers, training weekly in Kilsyth.

It’s a hobby that takes her all over the world, from diving in the Maldives with manta rays to Kenya, Cyprus, The Bahamas and The Seychelles, where she snorkelled with whale sharks.

She said: “I have had some incredible experiences diving around the world. I think my most memorable was in The Maldives. I went diving with manta rays; we weren’t very deep and had around 20 manta rays feeding around us.

“Then I looked up and saw two huge whale sharks above us at the surface. I think that had to be my most memorable and unforgettable experience. It was absolutely amazing.”

A translator of scientific and medical documents by trade, Anna also worked for the NHS as a librarian.

She took up diving following the death of her husband, after growing bored of swimming lengths at the local pool.

She added: “I’d heard about the scuba club and thought I’d give it a try. I began with snorkelling and worked my way up to becoming a snorkel instructor.

“I taught snorkelling for a while to young people and then thought I’d take the plunge and learn to dive.

“I trained as a BSAC Ocean Diver, although it was called club diver then, I never wanted to go any higher as I just wanted to dive in warm water whenever I could go on a trip.

“I love to see natural history, the fish and corals. I’m not so keen on wreck diving or going to any great depth, there is no need as I can see all I want to at quite shallow depths.”

A hip replacement in 2011 briefly stood in her way – and she still finds it hard to carry the equipment needed to dive.

“That’s why I stick to boat diving nowadays,” Anna explained. “I can sit at the stern, they help me put my cylinder and other equipment on and in I go. It’s easier that way and once in I can move about quite well as you simply don’t feel the weight in the water.

“I still love to go diving although my horizons have narrowed somewhat. I just love that feeling of weightlessness while moving about in three dimensions, the feeling of freedom is just wonderful.

“My husband, Bob, would have encouraged me. He never saw me dive but I know he would have been quite proud.”

Anna says she would encourage anyone interested to give diving a try – no matter what their age.

She said: “I have given talks to a few groups, such as the Women’s Guild and U3A about diving and how it is of benefit to older people. But I’d say to anyone give it a try, I’ve had some amazing experiences and see things I could only have dreamt of.

“I go along to the Thistle Divers’ club nights, mainly for a swim these days and perhaps a bit of snorkelling. I don’t believe I’m too old to dive and so long as I pass my dive medical I’ll carry on.”

Rob Sewell, Thistle Divers’ diving officer, added how ‘very well thought of’ Anna is at the club.

He said: “She really is a remarkable lady and is a very popular club member. She’s been a member far longer than most and used to be our snorkelling instructor. She our oldest club member and you simply couldn’t meet a nicer nor more sincere person.

“Everyone respects her and her ability as a diver.”

To follow in Anna’s footsteps, head to the Thistle Divers website and find out more

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