A group of charity supporters from Wigtownshire made a 120-mile round trip to make a surprise visit and deliver a talk raising awareness about living with sight and hearing loss.

After four years of talking regularly on the telephone, one of Visibility’s longest-serving volunteers finally got the chance to meet one of her “closest friends”.  Mary White, 80, who has been volunteering for more than 20 years with local sight loss organisations since retiring as a nurse, journeyed from Sandhead to Crossmichael to meet another Mary, she has been speaking with on the telephone to provide emotional support and company through Visibility’s telephone support service.

The two then attended Visibility’s Castle Douglas Sensory Support Group together for the first time.  The group, which meets in the town’s Community Centre on Cotton Street, provides an opportunity for those living with sight or hearing loss to meet other people locally and share coping strategies, and is one of eight support groups facilitated by Visibility across Dumfries & Galloway.


Mary White said: “It was so wonderful to finally meet Mary. She’s just as I expected. We hit it off straight away on the phone, and talk regularly about our families and what we’ve been up to. My husband had Macular Degeneration before he passed, so I can relate to what Mary’s going through.  I usually support the Visibility group in Stranraer, but when I heard Mary wanted to get along to her nearest group in Castle Douglas, I just had to take the opportunity to come and meet her. I’m just so pleased, it’s been a great day. Neither of us have stopped smiling! I’m extremely grateful to Visibility for helping facilitate this.”


Mary was joined on her trip by fellow volunteer Tommy Burns and retired physio, John Cramond, from Stranraer who offered up his services to provide a talk to members in Castle Douglas on keeping fit in older age and living with sight and hearing impairment.  After inspiring fellow members with his first hand experiences going to the School for the Blind in Edinburgh, traversing the country for work in Perth, Scunthorpe, London and Stranraer, John’s talk on keeping fit was interesting and informative, and peppered with humorous anecdotes.


John, 90, added: “I discovered recently that for most of my life I have been suffering from glossophobia, fear of speaking in public, now it doesn’t bother me at all, certainly on an informal basis. Thank you very much for a great day, I really enjoyed myself!”


He also explained how after decades of confidently navigating around the town and his workplace without sight, it was when he started to lose his hearing in his mid-60s that stunted his ability to be independent and mobile: “You rely on your hearing more for getting your bearings and getting around when you can’t see. When my hearing began to go, I just didn’t trust my instincts anymore, so I retired a year or two early. I was given a hearing aid at the time, although to be honest it sat in a drawer for the first while. It’s not the same, and you hear things a little different, but I wear both of mine all the time now.”

Visibility, one of Scotland’s oldest charities, has established eight sensory support groups across the region.  The Stranraer Sensory Support Group meets in Burns House at 2pm on the first Tuesday of every month, while the Community Centre on Cotton Street in Castle Douglas is the venue for the Castle Douglas Sensory Support Group, which meets on the third Wednesday of each month.  If you’d like further information on these groups or others in Newton Stewart, Dalbeattie, Kirkcudbright, Annan, Lockerbie or Dumfries, please call 01387 267 131 or email [email protected]

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