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A Tribute to Bruce Blagden

08 Jul 2014

It is with great sadness that we have recently learnt of the death of Bruce Blagden, not only a colleague but a great friend to myself and the charity. It has been an honour working alongside Bruce and his wife Frankie throughout some of SOS Africa’s most successful fundraising events.

Bruce and Matt during SOS Africa's Kilver Court Abseil Event    Bruce and Frankie with the SOS Africa volunteers following our Cranmore Tower Abseil Event

I first met Bruce at a critical point in the charity’s transition from a small family project to an international organisation. At that time we were unsure how we could organise large fundraising events which would engage the local community and help increase our scope of support in South Africa. From the moment Bruce successfully guided our first abseilers down the Kilver Court Viaduct I knew that I was working alongside both a professional and a gentleman. Following that event, the newly formed partnership between SOS Africa and Cheddar Climbing Caving blossomed and before long we had arranged numerous events, raised tens of thousands of pounds for SOS Africa involving hundreds of people from the local community and beyond.

My fondest memories of Bruce are often of him standing fearlessly at the top of a high building surveying the challenge ahead; what always impressed me most was his ability to inspire people and help them find the courage to conquer their fears. No matter how great the challenge, Bruce was always able to help people believe in themselves; with Bruce at the other end of the rope the unthinkable felt achievable. I always maintain that one of Bruce’s greatest achievements was persuading my 67 year old mother Ann, a long-time sufferer of vertigo, to zip wire from Cranmore Tower, when days earlier she could barely climb the first set of steps. This was Bruce’s gift.

In September Bruce, Frankie and I were due to carry out our largest charity fundraising event to date; an abseil from Glastonbury Festival’s Pyramid Stage. I remember Bruce’s reaction when I first mentioned the event; I think he set the record for the fastest email response in recorded history. By this point it was clear that Bruce was really suffering from the symptoms of his condition. Despite this, just hours after receiving chemotherapy Bruce insisted on attending the meeting during which our Pyramid Abseil proposal was formally accepted. It saddens me to think that Bruce will not be there in person in September to guide our abseilers safely from the Pyramid Stage, though I know he will be with us in spirit.

SOS Africa and in particular the SOS Africa children will be forever indebted to Bruce. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Frankie, daughter Milly and his family and friends at this difficult time.

To say that Bruce’s legacy is far-reaching would be an understatement; in a small but significant way he has had a positive and everlasting impact upon the lives of many people. I feel very fortunate to have worked alongside Bruce and am delighted that Frankie and I will be able to build on his legacy over the years to come.


By Matt Crowcombe (Director, SOS Africa)

Comments (2)

  1. Sally@ 08/07/2014 @ 12:41

    Comment: Such a lovely tribute to Bruce. Am trusting his spirit will be keeping us all safe whilst completing the abseil I September
  2. Valerie Evans@ 04/08/2014 @ 14:31

    Comment: Matt, your tribute to Bruce is so beautiful and eloquent. I only met him briefly at the Cranmore Zip Wire, but everything you mentioned about him is so very poignant. A thoughtful and super tribute.

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