Blind Veterans of the First World War

Fundraising for blind veterans

Many different methods were used to raise money to support the charity – from fundraising ‘flag days’ to the sale of members’ work. Thousands of people also worked hard to raise money for the charity through individual efforts across the country.

Artwork:

St Dunstan’s worked with several artists, who created designs for the charity’s collection boxes and publicity material. The image of the ‘Three Happy Men of St Dunstan’s’ (pictured in the photographs above) was taken from a design by Harold Copping, a British artist and illustrator. The image shows the charity's main aim – a happy future for their blinded members. 

Cartoon characters:

One artist even donated a cartoon character to St Dunstan’s. ‘Old Bill,’ a curmudgeonly soldier with a walrus moustache and balaclava was created by Bruce Bairnsfather, inspired by his war service with a machine-gun unit in France. 

‘Old Bill’ featured in humorous cartoons about life in the trenches for The Bystander magazine, and Bairnsfather pledged the popular character to a fundraising campaign for St Dunstan’s, to decorate two boxes. 

The character was also used by the ‘Old Bill Fraternity’, a club in which members paid a subscription to regularly purchase items made by St Dunstaners. A special Bairnsfather cartoon appeared on the membership cards. 

Amy Foster: St Dunstan’s fundraiser: 

Amy Foster, a young girl from Burnley in Lancashire became famous when she collected thousands of pounds for ex-servicemen’s charities during the First World War. Amy Foster was born in 1906, one of a family of eleven children. Every weekend Amy and her mother would stand in the town centre with collection boxes and selling small items, asking for contributions from local townsfolk. 

Amy gained the nickname ‘Heilan’ [Highland] Lassie’ because she dressed in traditional Scottish Highland clothing. The money she raised was used to send parcels to the soldiers on active service and for disabled servicemen, particularly for St Dunstan’s, which she continued to support throughout her life. 

Glossary: 

Balaclava - Knitted hat that covers the head and neck with a small gap for the face 
Contributions - Something given away to a cause
Donate - To give without wanting anything back
Publicity - Activity to let people know about something

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