Saturday, July 21, 2012

Nun carries Olympic Torch

Next Tuesday, 24 July, Sister Mary-Joy Langdon from Acton will carry the Olympic Torch in the Kingston to Ealing leg on Day 67 of the Olympic Torch Relay hoping to keep a number of different flames burning strongly.

Sister Mary-Joy is no ordinary nun – if there is such a thing. In 1976 she became Britain’s first female fire fighter when she joined the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service in Battle. In 1984 she joined the Sisters of the Infant Jesus, who themselves are celebrating their 350th anniversary this year.

The invitation to carry the Olympic Torch has been extended to this ground-breaker for her energetic and inspirational work of running the Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre for inner city children and young people with disabilities. Already an accomplished horsewomen, Sister Mary-Joy set up the Centre to provide riding and equine therapy opportunities for the disabled and inner city children.

The school was established in 1989 and continues to provide riding and other equestrian activities to hundreds of children and young people with mixed abilities and from a range of backgrounds. In 1994 the BBC’s Challenge Anneka series enabled the indoor riding arena school to be erected from scratch in 72 hours. The Centre continues to grow and flourish there are 15 ponies, many valuable volunteers and excellent riding school facilities. Several of the equines are rescue ponies themselves, so the therapy they can provide to their often needy riders is poignant.

The most famous horse is Sioux, a 26 year old skewbald mare who was the subject for Lucian Freud’s renowned painting ‘The Skewbald Mare’ which now hangs in Chatsworth House.

Sean Pike Locke, 20, of Kensal Rise, who has been around the centre since he was two years old and now helps out in his spare time, said: “the stables are very well organised and the horses and people work amazingly smoothly together”.

As a member of the Catholic Church, Sister-Mary Joy wishes to keep the spiritual flame alive in everyone; as the founder of the equestrian centre she started, she aims to keep that flame burning brightly and, in the spirit of the Olympic Games, she most certainly hopes that the Olympics flame keeps burning as she hands the Torch over to the next holder in the relay on Tuesday.

Sister Mary-Joy said: “I am very humbled and grateful for this recognition from the local community. It is an honour which I would like to share with all those who help at the Pony Centre. Without their continuous support the mission of the Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre would not be able to flourish.”