Walkers set out on a gruelling 500-mile pilgrimage to honour Penwortham air crash victim Sam, taking with them a Preston North End shirt in his name

A close friend of air crash victim Sam Pegram is setting out on a 500-mile pilgrimage in memory of the 25-year-old Preston North End fan.

By Brian Ellis
Monday, 21st February 2022, 5:12 pm

Jonny Stewart will carry a PNE shirt bearing "Peggy 25" on his rucksack for the entire walk from France to Spain as a poignant reminder of the aid worker killed in the Ethiopian Airways disaster almost three years ago.

"It might sound a bit corny, but it's almost like he will be there with me," said Jonny, 28, from Penwortham, who will be accompanied on the famous Camino de Santiago route by his partner Rachel Casey and her dad John.

"Hopefully people will be asking me what Peggy 25 means and I'll be able to tell them about what a great lad he was. We will be keeping his memory alive by talking about him.

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Jonny and Rachel at PNE with the shirt they will be taking on a 500-mile trek in memory of Sam Pegram. (Image: PNE Community and Education Trust).

"Sam would have loved to have done this walk. It's something we'd talked about doing and so it will be really special to do it for him and have the PNE shirt with me."

Sam was one of 157 passengers and crew who died when an Ethiopian Airways Boeing 737 MAX 8 came down shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa in March 2019.

The former Priory High School and Runshaw College student was working for the Norwegian Refugee Council and was on a humanitarian mission to Nairobi when the plane crashed.

Jonny, who was one of Sam's closest friends having known him from high school, decided a back-packing walk to raise money for the Sam Pegram Humanitarian Fund was the ideal way to honour his mate.

Sam Pegram was only 25 when he did in the Ethiopian air disaster while on a humanitarian mission in Africa.

A target of £500 has since been increased to £1,000 on JustGiving, with half of what is raised going to Sam's fund and the other half to Children In Need in memory of Rachel's uncle Bob, also a devoted PNE fan, who died last year aged 65.

"Bob was a really popular bloke and his favourite charity was Children in Need," explained Jonny. "So whatever we raise will be split between two very worthwhile causes.

'Bob loved walking and completed the Pennine Way with his brother John. He also loved France, it was his happy place where he spent many holidays there in his second home.

"He always talked about doing the Camino as it was something he always wanted to do. It's the perfect walk to complete in his honour.

"Rachel and I have done a bit of walking - we completed the Cleveland Way last year which is around 110 miles. It took us about seven days, but the Camino is almost five times that.

"We reckon it is going to take us between 30 and 34 days. I won't pretend it isn't a daunting task, but it is something we are looking forward to because it will honour two very special people."

The trio set out from St Jean-Pied-du-Port near to Biarritz, France on Wednesday and follow one of many ancient pilgrimage routes heading for Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.

The Camino is a network of routes from across Europe, dating back to the ninth century, which converge on Santiago at the tomb of St James, the evangelical apostle of the Iberian Peninsula. Hundreds of thousands of people from all backgrounds tackle the walks every year, staying in hostels along the way.

"Sam would have loved the social side of the Camino because it brings people together from all over the world and he would have really enjoyed talking to folk.

"He was a real people person and would have found it fascinating to hear other people's stories. He was a great human being and we all miss him so much."