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Friday, 25 September 2020

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Somerset blind veteran becomes ukulele maker during lockdown

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A blind veteran from Somerton developed a passion for ukulele making during the lockdown and ended up making 14 of the instruments.

74-year-old Army veteran Haydn Callow starting making the ukuleles when he gave up on becoming adept enough at playing them.

Father of three and grandfather of six Haydn made his first ukulele using a kit purchased off eBay. As he improved his skills he started to order exotic woods from a luthier in Derbyshire.

He said:

“I’ve always dreamed of playing a musical instrument but no matter how hard I try I can never get the hang of it. I guess I’m just not musical in that way.

“It doesn’t take long to put one together and it’s fantastic fun. At first, they weren’t great but my skill level is improving with each one. My ukulele teacher decided to buy one so they can’t be too bad!”

Haydn’s ukuleles are made using American Walnut, Ovangkol, Sycamore and Cedar. Their neck is made using Mahogany because of its strength and fretboards using Ebony or Pink Ivory.

Haydn entered the Army as an apprentice at the age of 16 and spent 22 years in the Royal Army Dental Corps, including tours of Bahrain, Northern Ireland, Brunei and Germany.

It was later in life at the age of 52 that he was diagnosed with genetic condition Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), which caused a steady decline in his sight until he was officially registered blind.

Haydn added:

“The RP has meant that I’ve now got severe tunnel vision in both eyes. Obviously it gives an added challenge in producing the instruments but you get used to it.

“It’s great to know that the support is there from Blind Veterans UK when I need it. They’re in touch throughout the year and although at the moment I’m keeping fine, I know they’re only a phone call away if my sight deteriorates further.”

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 will 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 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.”

You can keep updated on Blind Veterans UK’s response to COVID-19 at blindveterans.org.uk/coronavirus where you can also find out more about supporting the charity to make this new service possible.

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