Woman who survived cliff plunge up for award

Fran MacLean. Picture: Jon Savage
Fran MacLean. Picture: Jon Savage
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A 40-FOOT plunge down a cliff could easily have ended her life – never mind any dreams of forging a successful business.

But Fran Maclean not only survived her horror fall – she defied the odds to oversee a thriving company with a £1 million turnover.

The 57-year-old from Ravelston has been shortlisted for a national award for her successful Pitman Training centres in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Just three years ago, in September 2012, she was in the Canary Islands with husband Tom when she lost her footing on a stony path, falling onto jagged volcanic rock below.

Fortunately a rucksack cushioned the fall – and may even have saved her life – but she suffered a punctured lung, a bruised spleen and ten broken bones.

“Frankly, I’m amazed that I’m still alive today,” she said. “How did I manage to survive that? How did I not break my neck or my back?

“When I fell over the cliff I didn’t scream like they do in the films. I just thought ‘Oh no, I’m going over the edge’.

“My husband was walking in front of me and when he looked round he couldn’t see me and thought I had gone back to the car.

“But then he realised he still had the keys and looked down and saw me at the bottom of the cliff.”

Her shoulder, collarbone and six of her ribs were broken while her leg was fractured in two places – an agony so great that the mother-of-two has described it as a pain “worse than childbirth”.

She was airlifted to hospital in Puerto Del Rosario, Fuerteventura and spent two weeks there before she was flown to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary where she remained for a further four weeks.

Meanwhile, her colleagues based in the business’s York Place headquarters had to take on more responsibility as she took time off to recover.

Forced to wear a massive steel frame on her leg for four months, Fran underwent operations to her shoulder, spent time in a wheelchair and endured months of gruelling physiotherapy.

But she insisted that she never gave up hope of making a full recovery, adding: “After I had my accident, I was lying in the trauma ward.

“I had just watched the Paralympics a couple of months previously and had been amazed by their courage and achievements.

“I had my low times but it made me realise that, even if I end up in a wheelchair, I will be able to do something.

“This gave me inspiration to accept my misfortune and to work hard at recuperation to achieve the most positive outcome that I could.”

It was a slow process but after three years she was able to get back to doing everything she had previously done, including cycling, windsurfing and golf.

Fran Maclean is one of three finalists in the Older business category at the 2015 bfa HSBC Franchisee of the Year Awards, for the chain of six Pitman Training centres she runs with her husband.

Winners will be announced at a black tie dinner on October 1 at the Town Hall in Birmingham.

john.connell@edinburghnews.com