2015 Members' Gathering celebrates comrades in arms

Posted: 25/06/2015 | Scottish War Blinded

Over a hundred members and their partners came together in Stirling on the 11-12 of June for what will become an annual event known as ‘The Members’ Gathering.’

The Members Gathering brought together members from all over Scotland. Long standing members were quick to make new faces feel welcome and included. The event was introduced this year to emphasis our commitment to growing a sense of comradeship amongst members. All of those who gathered shared experiences of military service and sight loss, and much insight was shared over the two days.

We were piped in to dinner by Neil Bell, who was regaled with stories before dinner by a member who is formerly a piping instructor from the Argyll Regiment. A post dinner surprise for many of the veterans was a performance by the West of Scotland Military Wives’ choir.

Lead by Musical Director Miriam, the West of Scotland MWC delivered a spirited and at times poignant performance. Many of our older veterans recalled the words to songs once sung in their early youths, and were not shy to admitting to a lump in the throat as the performance drew to a close. The ladies’ voices were evocative for many of our members, as the words of their chosen songs recalled their own commitment and the sacrifices of friends from the services.

The next day, a hearty breakfast was enjoyed by all (with perhaps a few strong coffees for those who had dawdled catching up over a late night drink in the bar.) Our members were then welcomed by our Chief Executive Richard Hellewell and a busy day of talks and lively discussions began.

Of real interest to many was a presentation on current Army activity by Captain Lori Smith of the Royal Artillery. This was followed by a very lively question and answer session, at which the Captain gamely answered as many questions as were thrown at her.

Throughout the two days, members made use of the opportunity to grill representatives from RNIB and Optelec on developments in visual impairments aids and have a go with equipment, which Scottish War Blinded can distribute to members to make daily tasks easier.

A lively lunch followed the talks of the morning. At lunch our longest standing member Matt Howitt, who has been a part of the Scottish War Blinded community since 1955, had the ceremonial cut into our centenary cake. We did not insist on 100 candles, much of the relief of the venue’s staff.

An afternoon of group discussions followed, at which members had their say in debating the future developments of our services, with many keen to contribute to ideas for our Paisley centre.

Plans are afoot for 2016’s Members Gathering, and any suggestions or ideas for the programme from members are most welcome - please contact hannah.mitchell@scottishwarblinded.org or call 0131 229 1456.