Riding a royal wave...

WE go back just 20 years for this week s Days of the Old School Yard when a disabled youngster was riding on the crest of a royal wave. It was back in 1989 when Spina Bifida sufferer John Paul Gray found it was plain sailing when he met Princess Michael o

WE go back just 20 years for this week's Days of the Old School Yard when a disabled youngster was riding on the crest of a royal wave.

It was back in 1989 when Spina Bifida sufferer John Paul Gray found it was plain sailing when he met Princess Michael of Kent for a right royal chat.

She boarded SPARKLE, the first boat of kind designed to accommodate wheelchjairs - at St Katherine's Dock in Wapping.

John Paul, who was 11 back then, from East Ham, had been on a trip to Greenwich before the royal guest arrived.

He said: "It was great fun. I have been on other boats before, but never one where you can use your wheelchair.

"The Princess was very nice. She was very easy to talk to."

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SPARKLE is managed by SPARKS, Sports Aiding Research Intro Crippling Injuries, which raised funds through celebrities sporting activities.

The Princess was then the organisation's royal patron.

John Paul, a pupil at Plaistow's Elizabeth Fry School back then, has also just completed a wheelchair mini-marathon for the Newham Rollers group, raising almost �200.