A Highland veteran has regained his love of reading – and been able to enjoy his 100th birthday cards – with help from a national charity.
James Crook served in the RAF from 1940 to 1947, working as a rear gunner in the Lancaster Bombers during the Second World War and then as a dispatch rider.
He has been receiving support from charity Sight Scotland Veterans since 2016, when he moved from Bolton to live with his daughter’s family in Aultbea, Wester Ross.
The organisation, formerly known as Scottish War Blinded, has provided Mr Cook with a Vario video magnifier.
It is letting him enjoy a range of literature without assistance once more – including the 100th birthday card he recently received from the Queen.
He said: “It’s good to be able to read books again and to be able to see the pictures clearly, I love looking at aircraft and steam trains.”
Mr Crook’s daughter, Kimberley Moore, said: “Over the years, Sight Scotland Veterans has provided my dad with magnifying glasses and specialist lighting of various strengths.
“Recently they have also been helping us to source the most suitable clock with large numbers for him so that he can continue to tell the time and date independently.
“It was fantastic that they were able to provide him with his Vario magnifier in time for his 100th birthday so he was able to read his cards.
“He loved this – especially reading his card from the Queen. He also enjoys reading magazines and newspapers and looking at family photos with the Vario now.
“Sight Scotland Veterans has been a great help to us, both practically and emotionally.
“We know they are always there if extra support is needed.
“The regular calls we have been receiving in lockdown are reassuring, knowing that someone is still there to help us if we need it.”
Charity has adjusted to life under Covid
Before the pandemic, the charity was providing veterans across Scotland with one-to-one practical and emotional support.
It has since adjusted its ways of working to connect people via telephone and email, and has been posting specialist equipment as needed to homes.
Last year it joined forces with Age Scotland to use its group phone call service and launch a number of Comradeship Circles.
Groups including the seven Garioch Geezers and four Aberdeenshire Golden Girls have since been enjoying fortnightly calls to make new friends and talk about their experiences.
Clair Bryan, Sight Scotland Veterans’ interim director of services, said: “It’s fantastic to hear how James is enjoying reading once more with specialist equipment and support from Sight Scotland Veterans.
“Despite the current restrictions there is still a lot the charity is able offer veterans with sight loss remotely – whether it’s specialist equipment, expert practical advice to adapt to life with sight loss or a friendly, listening ear through these challenging times.
“We know there are thousands more veterans with sight loss in Scotland, including those who served National Service, who are eligible for our support.
“The majority of the veterans we support today have sight loss as a result of age-related conditions such as macular degeneration or as a result of an accident or illness.”
For more information visit sightscotlandveterans.org.uk or call 0800 035 6409.