‘Life-changing’ service officially opened by His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester

Press Release | 27/04/2018

Scottish War Blinded's ‘life-changing’ service for veterans with sight loss in Paisley was officially opened yesterday by the charity’s Patron, His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester.

SDuke of Gloucester tours the hawkhead centrecottish War Blinded’s Hawkhead Centre opened its doors in October last year and supports around 120 visually impaired ex-servicemen.

The ceremony marked the official opening of the activity hub in Hawkhead Road.

His Royal Highness toured the centre and met Scottish War Blinded members before unveiling a special plaque to commemorate the occasion.

The event, attended by representatives from the Scottish veterans sector, included a performance from the West of Scotland Military Wives Choir.

Duke of Gloucester unveils plaqueScottish War Blinded Chief Executive, Mark O’Donnell, said: “We are delighted to welcome our Patron, The Duke of Gloucester, to officially open the Hawkhead Centre today. This marks an important milestone in the history of Scottish War Blinded as we open our first centre in the West of Scotland.

“With the number of people living with sight loss in Scotland expected to double by 2050 in line with population ageing, the Hawkhead Centre provides a vital service for veterans with sight loss here in Renfrewshire.”

Scottish War Blinded provides specialist support for ex-service men and women of all ages and abilities – no matter how they lost their sight.

The Hawkhead Centre’s state-of-the-art facilities include an IT suite, kitchen, woodwork and art studios and a fitness centre. The free service includes support on cane training, financial assistance, advice on specialist equipment and practical help making homes safer.

Hawkhead Centre Manager, Sally Ross, said: “It is a privilege to welcome His Royal Highness to the Hawkhead Centre to meet our team and members today.

“There has been great excitement in the build-up to his visit and to the day when we officially celebrate the opening of the centre. The interest shown amongst the members of Scottish War Blinded in attending the centre has been amazing and the staff team have responded to that demand with determination and hard work.

“We look forward to building up the attendance at the Centre and to providing a high quality service to veterans with a visual impairment.”

Scottish War Blinded member and RAF veteran, Billy Petrie OBE, of Helensburgh, gave a presentation to attendees on the member’s perspective of the Hawkhead Centre.

Billy, aged 90, is a former Provost, a Freeman of Argyll and Bute, a past deputy lieutenant of Dunbartonshire, and dedicated 45 years to serving his community – retiring in 2013.

He was diagnosed with Age-Related Macular Degeneration five years ago and began attending the Hawkhead Centre earlier this year.

He said: “It’s a wonderful centre that has given me and my fellow members opportunities that we would never have dreamed of and introduced me to interests I never knew I had. I have cooking and IT lessons, do exercise classes, we have woodworking, art and music appreciation.

“Coming here has improved my quality of life tremendously. A few of us here are in the evening of our lives and without the Hawkhead Centre we would be sitting around watching TV on our own. It really has opened up a new world to me which I never would have thought possible before.

“I was 45 years in the council and I was very active in the community, so you miss it when you retire from public life. I was delighted to speak at the opening as I can’t speak highly enough of the centre.”