Thursday, 17 March 2016

The Blind Helping the Blind

Friday 17th March 1916: Concerts were given yesterday at the Bedford Corn Exchange by blind musicians on behalf of the National Institute for the Blind. The first performance was for civilians and a second performance took place in the evening for a military audience. Since the war began a number of blinded soldiers and sailors have been added to the Institute’s membership. Locally these include Mr. Guy Pym’s footman [1] who was blinded at Anzac, and Captain Owen, an Old Modernian and Bedford Rugby three-quarter. During the interval Captain Owen was led on to the platform by Mr. Machin and introduced as a “very gallant gentleman” who would tell them not “of sitting against a rock whilst lead was spattering all round him, so that he had 42 pieces of it in his body; but of the magnificent work being done by the Institute”.

Captain Owen said he “was not such an old crock as Mr. Machin would make him out to be” and was feeling very fit. He told the audience about St. Dunstan’s [2], where he had spent six months. At the beginning of the war the president of the National Institute, Sir Arthur Pearson, had borrowed a house of that name in Regent’s Park, with beautiful grounds of 14 acres. Here soldiers and sailors who had been deprived of their sight were taken after their convalescence and trained for six months. Mr. Pearson and his Committee also supervised their after-care. Since the beginning of the war 281 soldiers and sailors had lost their sight, with some also losing limbs and speech. At St. Dunstan’s they were trained in a variety of trades, ranging from poultry keeping and market gardening to typewriting, ensuring that they would not be dependent on charity. The Institution cost £200 a week and depended entirely on donations.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 17th March 1916

[1] Charles Guy Pym was Conservative Member of Parliament for Bedford from 1895 to 1906 and High Sheriff of London in 1911.

[2] Now Blind Veterans UK  

No comments:

Post a Comment