More songs by these blind war veterans are available at the bottom of this page.
During the early 1980’s while working at St Dunstan’s Ovingdean I wrote this poem.
St Dunstan’s is a Joy,
Heaven sent, to be sure,
A helping hand to secure.
The stories are many,
Their pain very real,
Yet shining with intensity,
Is their courage,
Some days may seem bleak,
This is surely so,
Their eyes see a distant life,
Of long ago.
They feel old limbs,
Once fresh and young,
While agile minds,
See humour carrying them along.
Their brave fight-the battle is won.
During my time at St Dunstan’s I was deeply moved by the bravery of those I cared for. Every day was a challenge yet humour really did carry them along.
One memory I’ll share today was my dancing lessons with Elmer Richards..
Elmer was blinded in the First World War, he had, I remember really soft hands and a beautiful almost porcelain complexion, with a warm gentle humorous face. Elmer liked to dance at the tea dances held in the afternoons. I’d never learnt to Waltz so watched on.
I remember one day while walking along the promenade from The Brighton Pier to Ovingdean, a walk Elmer liked to do whenever he could. Elmer decided to teach me to dance, there and then – he couldn’t see the folk watching as they passed by. I remember laughing as he took hold of me and swirled me into a waltz. Elmer taught me, one two three, one two three, back, to one side then forward, something like that.
On most of our walks along the prom Elmer would dance. I expect people got used to seeing a man with a white stick and hat swirling around a young lady. I remember the day I danced at my first tea dance, in my uniform. One St Dunstener I remember remarked,” where did you learn to dance? your quite good”.
Elmer also taught me to play bowls which he loved, a great way to spend a rainy day. I remember he brought me a pair of white Daps in Woolworths. as I’d said in passing that the walking was wearing out my shoes. Elmer had never heard plimsoles called Daps. It’s a Somerset saying!
Elmer loved it when I told him how smart he looked in his white bowls uniform which he wore for his matches. Dear Elmer, what a lovely old friend he was.
If you would like to donate to St Dunstan’s please follow this link to – Blind Veterans UK where you will find a DONATE button at the top of the page.