Aberdeen veteran living with sight loss makes new connections with charity's support

Press Release | 27/03/2019

A sociable Aberdeen veteran living with sight loss has heralded a charity for helping him keep on living life to the full.

Harry Black, 88, struggles with mobility due to his angina and also has macular degeneration – an incurable eye condition which means he cannot see long distances well and details are blurred.

The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers veteran, who has also enjoyed gregarious careers as a chip ship owner, businessman in the fish trade, and in security, has lived on his own since his wife of 62 years, Helen, passed away four years ago.

He says the support he receives from Scottish War Blinded to attend a fortnightly sensory group, set up jointly by the charity and North East Sensory Services at Craigielea Gardens care home, is a “Godsend”. 

“It’s great because I’ve always been a very sociable person,” the grandfather-of-five and great grandfather-of-one said.

“I used to go to the dancing every night, and I was a judo black belt. I used to coach at Aberdeen University and I was a member of Aberdeen judo Club for 40 years (I stopped doing judo at 75).

“At the group we have quizzes, singalongs and a couple of games. We’re out and about for about two hours. I thoroughly enjoyed it – I wouldn’t miss it.

“My Scottish War Blinded Outreach Worker, Margaret Forrest, picks me up to take me over to the group at Craigielea Gardens, and takes me home again.

“That’s very important as I have angina as well, so I can’t walk great distances, and obviously now I don’t drive. If I didn’t have her to come and collect me and take me back then I couldn’t go.

“The people I meet there are all very nice. I look forward to going. I’ve found it very easy to make friends in the group.”

Harry was delighted to learn he could become a Scottish War Blinded member – initially believing he would not be eligible because he had served National Service.

He said: “Margaret told me I was in the forces, so that was that – I’m eligible.

“I got a shock that I could be a member. When I heard that, it really gave me a lift. It made me feel my National Service wasn’t for nothing.”

Alongside Outreach Worker Margaret Forrest’s support, life at home has also been transformed for Harry after he received a hand-held electronic magnifier and talking clock and watch, free-of-charge, with expert advice from Scottish War Blinded’s rehabilitation team.

Harry explained: “I’d bought glasses for reading around two years ago, but I can’t read with them.

“I told Margaret about that, and one of the members of the rehabilitation team came up to see me. They gave me an electronic magnifier. I didn’t know there were these types of magnifiers that could help until Scottish War Blinded showed them to me.

“It’s wonderful – I use it practically every day. I couldn’t read anything without it. Any mail and correspondence that comes in, I’ll use the magnifier for that. It’s nice to still have that independence.

“My talking watch and clock make a big difference, because I had three different watches which I couldn’t read, so that had been frustrating.”

And Harry is looking forward to a busy calendar for 2019, with ‘The Northern Gathering’ which brings together Scottish War Blinded members from the Highlands, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire for a two-day event, coming up in the spring.

“It’s useful to meet other veterans with sight loss, and you get to hear their stories too about their time in the forces,” said Harry.

“Scottish War Blinded is a wonderful organisation. Every year we’ll have a reunion lunch with members from other parts of the country. They’ll take us for a Christmas lunch too. If they have any event going on, they’ll always ask you if you’d like to go. You are always included.

“I keep myself busy because you can’t sit in your house and twiddle your thumbs, thinking about what life is. To me, every day is a bonus.”

Margaret Forrest, one of two Scottish War Blinded Outreach Workers covering Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire, said: “The Scottish War Blinded and North East Sensory Services sensory group and the Scottish War Blinded lunch groups are a great place to meet other veterans with sight loss. It’s a very relaxed, friendly atmosphere.

“We work to support each of our members in ways which will be most beneficial to them – whether that’s through some specialist equipment to help with independence in the home, which we provide free-of-charge, or with social support through our lunch groups and reunion events.

“We’re very keen to welcome more veterans with sight loss from the area into our Scottish War Blinded community. If you think you might be eligible, or you have a family member or friend who is a veteran struggling with their sight, we’d love to hear from you.”

Scottish War Blinded has two outreach workers supporting veterans with sight loss across Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire. There are lunch groups held across the region.

The charity gives free support to ex-servicemen and women of all ages, no matter if they lost their sight during or after service. The charity’s services include rehabilitation and training to adapt to sight loss, grants for equipment to assist with independent living, funded respite care and home modifications.

If you or someone you know could benefit from Scottish War Blinded’s activities and support, call us free today on 0800 035 6409 or contact us online at www.scottishwarblinded.org