Letter from Pearson to Fraser
Happy New Year!
Throughout 2015 we will be celebrating our history through 100 objects that represent Blind Veterans UK and the work that we do.
The first object we are revealing is a very special letter dating from 1916, written by our founder Sir Arthur Pearson.
In 1915 Sir Arthur Pearson, who owned the Evening Standard and founded the Daily Express, lost his sight through glaucoma. He was shocked at society's attitude to blindness and what little support was available. He decided to help soldiers who had lost their sight in the First World War by providing them with support, care and rehabilitation so they could go on to lead self-sufficient lives.
During his own lifetime he helped many blinded soldiers, visiting them personally to offer the support, rehabilitation and training of the charity he had now formed. On occasions where he was unable to travel he dictated a letter, which was delivered and read in person by Sir Arthur's assistant, Irene Mace. In the letter below, he writes to wounded and blinded soldier Ian Fraser.
This letter later became an essential part of our history as Ian Fraser not only accepted the invitation for support but five years later became our Chairman, after Sir Arthur tragically died in an accident aged just 55.
It was also an important letter for Fraser for another reason: he fell in love with Irene Mace and they married in 1918.
Throughout the rest of 2015 we'll be revealing many different objects that show the many ways that we provide care, as well as objects that demonstrate how we have helped blind veterans and to celebrate our achievements over the last 100 years. Make sure you visit the site regularly to see our latest feature!
For a word translation for this letter:
Arthur Pearson Letter
Aug 11 
21, Portland Place
Dear Lieutenant Fraser,
I had a letter this morning from Capt. Ormond telling me of the bad luck which has befallen you & I am writing to tell you how very truly & sincerely I sympathize with you, and how sorry I am that I am prevented from coming to see you at present. I am laid up, & shall not I fear be back in London for about a month. I am afraid that at the moment the future must look very black to you but I assure you from my own experience - for I am quite blind & lost my sight while staying strong and vigorous in every other respect - that blindness does not involve the dreary & empty life which at first it seems to necessitate. In a little while you will find yourself as I do happy, occupied & with any amount of interest in your life. No one could have been more unhappy about himself than Lieut. McLaren, a fellow of about your own age, when he was at St Mark's, & now I can say quite truthfully that there is not a brighter, happier boy in the kingdom than he is. An undue proportion of very young officers have lost their sight at the front but all of them I am glad to say have found their lives as blind men immeasurably more happy, than seems at first possible. I hope that a little later on you will like to join the other officers, whose sight has been badly damaged, & learn the various things which will be useful to you in your new mode of life. I can promise you a great deal of interest and enjoyment in doing this & I know that you will be happy as a member of the family party at Portland Place. All are away now until the beginning of September. With my very best wishes.
One of the main aims of our founder, Sir Arthur Pearson, was to build up the confidence of Service men returning blinded from the First World War. As a blind man himself, he wanted to offer the training and support to blinded veterans to ensure that they could lead fulfilling lives and support themselves and their families, with many having successful careers.
In 2003, Billy trained to take on the world record to be the Fastest Blind Man on a Motorbike! He broke the Guinness World Record by 24 mph and was recorded as the fastest blind man on a motorbike travelling at an incredible speed of 165 mph.
Braille typewriters are an early important object in our charity's history as they functioned hand in hand with the charity's aim of teaching independence to veterans with severe vision impairment.
Our very first minute book, which documents the early years of our charity from 1915 to 1921.