Britain’s first Paralympic gold medal hero has today spoken of her joy after she was chosen to light the cauldron at this week’s opening ceremony.
Margaret Maughan, 84, from Much Hoole, won two gold medals at the inaugural Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960 in archery and in the 50 metres backstroke.
She then went on to compete in a further four Paralympic Games.
On Wednesday night, Margaret, a former member of Much Hoole Methodist Church, had the honour or lighting the cauldron at the Paralympic games opening ceremony.
Today Margaret said: “It was very exciting. I was not allowed to tell anybody that I was doing it. Everybody wanted to know and was asking why was I not involved.
“I had to keep it a secret.”
She added: “Sebastian Coe himself rang me up and said he would really like me to do it. Of course it’s not something you say no to.
“It has been very exciting planning for it.
“The whole show was marvellous. All the people were just a blur in the background.
“I was very nervous.
“We all had little ear pieces in to get the messages from the operations room giving instructions. Mine was ‘light the flame Margaret’. I had to be in the right position and I lit the flame and all the lights came on.
“It was terrific. It is a lovely thing to have done. I am extremely proud.” Margaret, who now lives in Watford, was injured in an accident in Africa when she was 29.
She was treated at Stoke Mandeville hospital, where she got involved with archery as part of her recovery.
Friends from Much Hoole paid tribute to Margaret’s extraordinary achievement.
Mona Lewis, 80, the organist at Much Hoole Methodist Church where Margaret attended, said: “I was really pleased when I saw her on TV - really pleased. “She said to me a few weeks ago that she is more famous now than she was when she was competing.”
Eric Barker, 70, who used to live next door to Margaret remembers helping to collect her arrows when she was practising archery in the garden.
He said: “I think it is fantastic. She was 30 odd when she got the medals, now she is 84, it has taken so long for the Paralympics to get public recognition. In some ways it has taken Margaret 50 years to come into her own.”
Geoff Whalley, of GC Whalley undertakers in Much Hoole, said: “I couldn’t believe it when I saw her on TV, her name flashed across.”
Wednesday was also a special day for Marilyn Gregson, 63, who carried the Paralympic Torch in the capital.
The mum-of-two was nominated because of her work with Preston Panthers, a multi-sport disability club based at West View Leisure Centre.
She said: “It was amazing.”