Newspaper proprietor and founder of the Daily Express Arthur Pearson

6 December 2013 16:25

Blind Veterans UK, formerly St Dunstan’s, was founded by Sir Cyril Arthur Pearson, a newspaper proprietor born on 24 February 1866.

Starting his career in journalism, Pearson found his own journal in 1890 which he named Pearson's Weekly and subsequently went on to found titles such as the Royal Magazine, amongst others.

He then turned to the launch of a daily newspaper, the Daily Express, home of the Sunday Express, with the first issue launched on 24 April 1900. The first issue had eight broadsheet pages and news was innovatively featured on the outer covers! Pearson later went onto acquire The Standard and The Evening Standard.

Pearson suffered with glaucoma which resulted in severe sight loss but his experience of being blind made him determined to change society's attitude to blindness.

Having given up his newspaper holdings by 1912, Pearson became president of the National Institute for the Blind (now the RNIB) and at the outbreak of World War One Pearson established the Blinded Soldiers and Sailors Care Committee, with a vision which is much the same as it is today: no one who has served our country should have to battle blindness alone.

Pearson started with two blinded soldiers in a house in Bayswater Hill, London while St Dunstan's Lodge in Regent's Park was being modified. After moving there, become known as St Dunstan's and trained blinded soldiers in massage (physiotherapy), shorthand typing, telephone operating, poultry farming, carpentry, basket and mat making and shoe and boot repairing.

Many of our early members went on to return to normal life after World War One and make a living with these newly acquired skills. By the end of the War St Dunstan's had cared for over 1,500 blind soldiers.

In 1921 Pearson moved operations from St Dunstan's Lodge to St John's Lodge, also in Regent's Park, but Arthur tragically dies, aged only 55, and Ian Fraser takes over as chairman. As a captain in the King's (Shropshire Light Infantry), Ian Fraser had been blinded by a bullet on the Somme.

In 2013 our historical connection to the Express is highlighted once more as Blind Veterans UK is chosen as the Sunday Express Christmas charity of 2013. Througout the month of December, they are asking their readers to support the work of Blind Veterans UK through a special online appeal. Find out how you can support our work.

If you know someone who has Served in the Armed Forces, for National Service perhaps, who is suffering with sight loss you canrequest free support by calling 0800 389 7979.