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Weekly Edition - Publication date:- 2017-11-20

-en Southport & Mersey Reporter

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83 year old blind veteran from Merseyside to have paintings included in St George's Hall art exhibition

A blind veteran from Merseyside who has discovered a love for art since losing his sight has attended the opening of a special art exhibition that features his work.

Don Mulryan, 83 and from Wirral, is exhibiting his work along with other blind veterans at the:- 'Art - Life Beyond Sight Loss' exhibition which opened its doors to the public, on Saturday, 14 January 2017.

The exhibition explores the role of art and craft in assisting blind and vision impaired veterans overcome the barriers and challenges of sight loss. Held at St George's Hall, it includes paintings, wood work and ceramics produced by a number of blind veterans who have been trained in new techniques after visiting the charity's training and rehabilitation centres.

Don was born in Liverpool and began his military career as a National Serviceman in 1952 when he enlisted with The Green Howards. He was then transferred to Royal Army Ordinance Corps and served with them until 1954. He later joined the Intelligence Corps TA until he was discharged as a Sergeant in 1958.

After his service he initially returned to his previous career in banking, but at the age of just 33 his sight began to fade as a result of Macular Dystrophy, a rare genetic eye disorder that causes loss of vision.

Don continued in banking until his sight deteriorated to the point where he was no longer able to read documents. He then qualified and worked as a Technical Officer for the blind, working as a contractor for many agencies including Bradbury Fields and the National Federation for the Blind.

It wasn't until 2013 that Don became aware that Blind Veterans UK supported veterans who had lost their sight after completing their Service like himself. He says:- "I'd heard of St Dunstan's, which is what Blind Veterans UK used to be called, but had no idea they now supported people like me. I was chatting to a man at Henshaws Society for the Blind and he told me I had to get in touch with them. I'm so glad he did."

Don attended an Introductory Week at the charity's Training and Rehabilitation Centre, in Llandudno to find out more about the support the charity could offer. He says:- "We tried out all sorts of things that first week and it was absolutely brilliant. I learnt that, in addition to getting training in things such as IT, we could also receive support in developing interests. So I went back to Llandudno to try my hand at a week of painting.  I cannot tell you how happy the painting course has made me. I have always wanted to have a go but never had a chance before my sight condition developed; but now with the help of Blind Veterans UK I have created paintings which have received favourable comments from all those who have seen them.  Abstract painting is perfect for me as there is no need to focus on detail. The Art and Craft instructors taught me a blowing technique which has been perfect. Using a brush can be tricky as my sight condition makes it difficult for me to perceive depth, meaning I don't always know when the brush has met the canvas. Although I have now received a special magnifier which allows me to add in more details when I want to."

Since the charity's founding in 1915, Blind Veterans UK has considered the study of art and craft skills to be an important element of rehabilitation for the blind veterans it supports. This exhibition:- 'Art - Life Beyond Sight Loss' will exploring the impact of arts and crafts on the lives of blind veterans and illustrate how the military charity has enabled many of its beneficiaries to build confidence, self belief and independence.

The exhibition is open to the public, until 29 January 2017, excluding Monday's and Tuesday's; and will be open from 10:00 to 16:00. Admission is priced at ₤3 per adult, ₤1.50 per child with reduced rates available for groups and schools.

Many of the items displayed in the exhibition will be up for auction, including a collection of signed portraits of celebrities such as Steven Gerrard, Joanna Lumley, Andy Murray, Lorraine Kelly and many more. Visit:- BlindVeterans.Org.UK/LifeBeyondSightLoss for more information and to bid on the auction.

Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 and the charity's initial purpose was to help and support soldiers blinded in World War I. But the organisation has gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning World War II to recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan.

For more than a century, the charity has been providing vital free training, rehabilitation, equipment and emotional support to blind and vision impaired veterans no matter when they served or how they lost their sight.

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