A FORMER special forces soldier has resurrected his mission to row solo across the Atlantic after having to call off the charity challenge last year.

John Davidson, 56, was due to take part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge last December, to support the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation which raises funds for research into Motor Neurones Disease (MND).

Sadly, John had to cancel when his main sponsor pulled out – but he is now gearing up to take on the challenge this December.

Father-of-four John, originally from Dundee and now living in Worcestershire, was inspired after meeting fellow Scotsman Doddie Weir, who has since been diagnosed with the debilitating disease and set up his foundation with the aim of finding a cure.

To raise money, John, who joined the army aged 19 and served until 1996, is giving inspirational talks on his time in the SAS and as a bodyguard in warzones, with one planned for Elmslie House in Malvern on Friday March 8 and another at tennis centre The Queens Club in London in May.

Explaining his motivation for helping MND, John said: “I met Doddie at Malvern College three years ago where he was giving an after-dinner speech.

“I then bumped into him at Murrayfield where I was watching Scotland play England. Last minute ticket bookings meant that my son Hamish and myself were in a room with about 95 England supporters, we couldn’t get in the Scottish wing with Doddie and fellow Scotsman.

“Upon hearing this Doddie picked Hamish up under his arm and carried him into the room and gave an inspirational talk about how you can do anything you want to do and how important children are to the future of rugby. It meant a lot to Hamish, who was nine at the time.

“So it just felt right to support his foundation with this challenge.”

John is one of nine solo rowers taking on the quest this year, which will take between 50-60 days and one million strokes of the oar to traverse the 3,000-mile expanse.

His personal story, from training through to the actual row, is being documented by Bow River Films, which has filmed the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge for many years.

To raise as much money as possible for MND, John is offering local businesses the chance to sponsor him.

“If they had a special piece of equipment or something to help me, that would be a form of sponsorship. Anything biodegradable, for example.

“Around 3.3 billion people see the event through TV, social media and newspapers, so their brand would be seen by a huge audience.”

John already has a raft of famous faces supporting him on his challenge, including Jonathan Powell, who was Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff while Prime Minister, TV journalist Kate Adie, the rock band Thunder and celebrity chefs the Hairy Bikers.

With their backing as well as that of his family, friends and Doddie, and his SAS training behind him, John is confident that he can meet the challenge ahead of him.

“The mental side will be the biggest challenge because you’re in a boat on your own for all that time and you have to force yourself to keep rowing even when you’re exhausted, but I’m used to that kind of mental test from my time in the special forces. I know I will do it,” he said.

John, who has run a consultancy company since leaving the forces, added: “There’s a tendency to think that the adventure in your life is over by the time you hit 50, so it’s a great thing to show that you can always do something a bit crazy like this, no matter your age.”

See madgiraffeatlanticrow.co.uk for more on John’s challenge, to book him as a guest speaker and how to donate.