Did you try new things during lockdown that you loved so much you plan to keep doing them? Haydn Callow, a 74-year-old Army veteran from Somerset, has developed a hidden talent for ukulele construction during the coronavirus lockdown.

The grandfather of six has always been keen to master the playing of a chordophone, in spite of what he believes to be a lack of natural aptitude.

“I’ve always dreamed of playing a musical instrument, but no matter how hard I try, I can never get the hang of it. I guess I’m just not musical in that way,” Haydn explained.

However, after purchasing a DIY ukulele kit from eBay, he discovered that his true aptitude lay not in the playing, but in the assembling of instruments. 

“It doesn’t take long to put one together and it’s fantastic fun. At first they weren’t great, but my skill level is improving with each one. My ukulele teacher decided to buy one, so they can’t be too bad!” 

As Haydn continued to hone his niche craft, he contacted a professional luthier from Derbyshire and ordered a variety of exotic woods, such as American walnut and pink ivory, serving as the basis for his homemade ukuleles. 

This Army Veteran Has Taken Up An Unusual Hobby During Lockdown
Haydn has built an impressive total of fourteen ukuleles from scratch. Photo credit: Blind Veterans UK

Haydn enlisted in the Royal Army Dental Corps at the age of 16 and served in the British Army for 22 years, touring in Bahrain, Northern Ireland, Germany, and Brunei. 

In his early fifties, he was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which caused a gradual decline in his peripheral vision, ultimately leading to a state of legal blindness. 

“The RP has meant that I’ve now got severe tunnel vision in both eyes. Obviously it gives an added challenge in producing the instruments, but you get used to it,” Haydn said.

This Army Veteran Has Taken Up An Unusual Hobby During Lockdown
Haydn sits alongside his guide dog Webster. Photo credit: Blind Veterans UK

The Somerset resident is a member of the charity Blind Veterans UK, founded in 1915 by Sir Arthur Pearson in a bid to provide rehabilitation to those visually impaired in the wake of World War One. In the century that has elapsed since being established, the non-profit organisation has assisted over 15,000 ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen. 

“It’s great to know that the support is there from Blind Veterans UK when I need it. They’re in touch throughout the year, and although at the moment I’m keeping fine, I know they’re only a phone call away if my sight deteriorates further.”

This Army Veteran Has Taken Up An Unusual Hobby During Lockdown
The charity works to rebuild lives after sight loss. Photo credit: Blind Veterans

Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, Blind Veterans UK have kept in regular telephone communication with those under their duty of care, linking up with local volunteering groups to offer beneficiaries help with their shopping, 90% of whom are over the age of 70.

Director of Operations at Blind Veterans UK, Nicky Shaw, said, “There is so much that we can and must do to support blind veterans to help them maintain physical and emotional wellbeing, and to feel safe, reassured and cared for during this crisis.”

Visit the Blind Veterans UK website to find out more about the charity.

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Zayna is a student of Comparative Literature at UCL and an avid reader who hopes to cast light upon the ripple effect of small acts of kindness that lead to great waves of change.

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