As one of Lancashire’s oldest charities, Galloway’s Society for the Blind, celebrates its 150th year, Natalie Walker looks back at how it all began.
Back in the mid 1800s, two men took on the needs of blind and partially sighted people in Preston.
John Catterall and Joseph Livesey began looking after their needs in John’s home in East View, Preston. A few years later, they took over a cottage in North Road, Preston, and used it as a workshop for blind and partially sighted people. It was here that a blind gentleman named William Woodhurst was put in charge of operations.
John, who was described as ‘a gentleman of sympathetic and helpful nature,’ called a public meeting in the Corn Exchange on March 11 1867.
After great discussion, members passed a resolution to set up an Industrial Institute for the Blind and the charity was born.
It has undergone several name changes, including the Institute for Blind Welfare in the late 1940s/early 1950s and until 2000, the Preston and North Lancashire Blind Welfare Society.
It is now known as Galloway’s Society for the Blind, named after William Wilding Galloway, a cotton merchant from Preston whose will Galloway’s benefited from.
The work of the charity expanded throughout Lancashire with community workers visiting blind and partially sighted people to instruct them in various trades or skills. Workshops were established, followed by a school, a residential home and even a hotel.
Following the inaugural meeting, Preston Banking Company offered rent-free accommodation in Derby Street, Preston, offering work to 14 blind people.
Mr Edwin H Booth, founder of well-known supermarket chain, became a significant benefactor. Although he died in 1899, the Booths family has continued its support ever since.
In 1875, Mr T R Jolly was appointed secretary and a day and night school for the blind was opened. In 1909, Mr W Reid began visiting the school, teaching braille and moon reading.
In 1895, The Fulwood Institute and workshops were officially opened by Lord and Lady Derby.
By 1939, workers in the blind workshops were engaged by the government to produce supplies for the war effort. By the end of the war, the workshops were making an annual profit of more than £3,500.
The hostel building, in Lytham Road, Fulwood, opened with accommodation for 24 blind residents in 1926. This was used to evacuate blind children from Manchester during the Second World War. It was later absorbed into the Derby School.
In 1939, the charity had enough funds to open new social centres in Preston, Lancaster and Morecambe. The Galloway Home for the Aged Blind, Howick House, in Penwortham, was added to the collection, opening in May 1951.
Just a few years later, the charity, then known as the Institute for Blind Welfare, bought the former building in Balmoral Road, in Morecambe, for £1,500 in 1954.
In 1970 the first talking newspaper was started in Wales by Ronald Sturt. The institute launched its talking newspaper service seven years later after being run by volunteers from the Lions Club. Ronald even became one of its listeners.
The charity received a new recording studio following Howick House’s refurbishment in 1992 and the Derby School building was sold in 1989.
1994 saw the start of the annual Morecambe Bay Walk, led by The Queen’s Guide to the Sands, Cedric Robinson, becoming the charity’s biggest single fund-raising event.
In 1995 Galloway’s started its pioneering driving day experiences for service users at BAE, later moving to Three Sisters Race Track in Ashton in Makerfield, near Wigan.
In 2004 Galloway’s took over Chorley and District Welfare Society and in 2010, Galloway’s opened its Southport centre in Wright Street.
Last year, Galloway’s opened its new state of the art centre at the old Morecambe Visitor building, complete with a social enterprise cafe.
The Post has launched a campaign - Gallowheels - in conjunction with Galloway’s to raise £50,000 for a new minibus.
So far, readers have donated £5,000. Can you spare any more? To make a donation visit http://www.galloways.org.uk/gallowheels; call: 01772 744148 Text: GALL25 £amount, £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10, to 70070 or send a cheque payable to Galloway’s to: Galloway’s Society for the Blind, Howick House, Howick Park Avenue, Penwortham, PR1 0LS. Are you holding any fund-raising events to support Galloway’s? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org