Dickie Bird OBE has hosted a private talk for a group of 20 blind veterans with an interest in cricket, providing some much-needed entertainment as this period of self-isolation continues.
Streamed on Microsoft Teams, the blind veterans from the South East with an average age of 85 were able to join the call via telephone.
Dickie vividly described his time playing first-class cricket for Yorkshire and Leicestershire before moving onto his umpiring career at various World Cups and Test matches through the years. Recalling some of his most treasured memories, he emotionally described his lunch with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, listing it among his proudest moments.
Dickie then moved onto a series of questions from the blind veterans on the call, giving his opinion on the current state of the game as well as the impact technology has had on umpiring decisions.
“At the age of 75 I had a sight loss scare myself when I woke up one morning and couldn’t see a thing. It was only by the power of God and the amazing doctors at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital that I managed to get 90% of my sight back.
“So I had a brief insight into the challenges that blind veterans face everyday and I have the world of respect for them. Blind Veterans UK are a wonderful charity who do a brilliant job supporting them through those challenges. It was a fantastic afternoon and I look forward to speaking with them again.”
83-year-old Graham Forshaw from Worthing was one of the blind veterans on the call. He says:
“I think I speak on behalf of all the blind veterans on the call in saying that it was an amazing experience to hear from Dickie in the comfort of our living rooms. He not only regaled some amazing stories from the world of cricket but was also highly entertaining as you would expect.
“It broke up the social isolation that so many of us have experienced in the last year or so. It was a wonderful feeling to hear the voices of friends and discuss our shared love of cricket.”
The presentation with Dickie Bird was just one of the many virtual activities that the charity now offers the veterans it supports. Blind Veterans UK launched ‘Operation Entertain’ last year to maintain the beneficiaries’ morale and prevent social isolation.
So far over 1,000 veterans have taken part in virtual social activities including online photography, woodwork, and art clubs. There are now 75 national groups of blind veterans and 102 local groups meeting regularly and supporting each other.
Blind Veterans UK has adapted its service to support its 5,000 beneficiaries, 90% of whom are over 70 and at an increased risk from Covid-19. The National Support Service has and will continue to help blind veterans through this period of social isolation.
Nicky Shaw, Blind Veterans UK Director of Operations said:
“Living in isolation, blind veterans need our help right now with daily tasks, such as the shopping, and constant emotional support through this difficult time. So we are temporarily changing our service and mobilising our staff to provide practical, essential support to help the most vulnerable.
“There is so much that we can and must do to support blind veterans to help them maintain physical and emotional wellbeing, and to feel safe, reassured and cared for during this crisis.”