End in sight for Aylsham’s stay-awake poppy marathon man

Ex-soldier Paul McGrath is on the home run of his stay-awake poppy collection marathon in Aylsham Market Place to mark the 90th anniversary of the Royal British Legion (RBL).

Mr McGrath, 39, pledged not to sleep for 90 hours and he will have fulfilled his promise on Armistice Day, this Friday, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

He has raised over �1,000 with his feat so far and is buoyed by the support of the public who have been visiting him in his tent to keep him awake, sharing their military reminiscences and making donations,

Each evening of his vigil has included a bugler playing the Last Post with a short service performed by David Martin, chaplain to the RBL's Aylsham branch.

And tonight's 6pm ceremony is also due to include Aylsham army cadets, and members of Mr McGrath's old battalion, the 1st Battalion, Royal Anglians.

He was in the army from 1993-2000 and saw service in Northern Ireland and Bosnia.

Speaking at the half-way stage this morning, Mr McGrath said he was feeling 'a little bit tired' with the wee small hours from 2am-4am proving the most challenging.

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Each night a fellow member of Aylsham RBL has been keeping watch with him from 6pm to 6am, helping him stay awake with cards, coffee and walks around the block.

'It's easier when people are around and it's daylight. I've been given more Mars Bars and other energy sweets than I can eat,' he said.

Local restaurants and other businesses have also been keeping him supplied with free meals.

Mr McGrath, an electrician, said he had also had sponsorship from some businesses, including NW Brown Financial Services, in Norwich, where his wife Karen works. Others have pledged sums for each hour that he manages to stay awake.

Anyone wishing to support the cause can contact Mr McGrath on 07853 864178.

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