How Lancashire charity pioneer Peter Taylor revolutionised services for those with sight loss

Peter Taylor (left) with Galloway's current CEO Stuart Clayton
Peter Taylor (left) with Galloway's current CEO Stuart Clayton
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A local sight loss charity has bid a fond farewell to its longest serving staff member.

Former Chief Executive Officer of Galloway’s, Peter Taylor, has stepped down from his current role as Legacy Manager after working for the charity for 32 years.

Peter served as the charity’s CEO for 25 years and is credited with leading a quiet revolution in the sight loss sector.

He said: “When I look at how far the charity has come I feel a real sense of achievement, not for myself but for Galloway’s and the people it serves.

“The charity has always worked to be at the forefront of the sight loss sector in terms of the services it provides.

“But we would not have been able to achieve anything without the support of local people.

“The fact that the charity is still here after 150 years must mean that we have a special place in the heart of our community.”

Peter first joined the charity, which was then known as the Institute for Blind Welfare, in 1987. He had previously worked for eight years as a social worker for blind and partially sighted people in the area.

He was soon promoted to CEO of the charity and began to lead a change in the culture of the organisation.

Working with just three staff members, he began to look at how the charity could empower people living with sight loss.

He said: “I’d had quite a bit to do with blind and partially sighted people and I thought there’s something you could do with this organisation.

“It was a sleeping giant. It was providing a good service but to a very small group of people.

“We were working at a loss and I realised fairly early on that there was very little money coming in. Nobody was fundraising or doing anything to promote our services.

“It was very difficult. I was the youngest member of staff and I had to make some major changes to ensure that the work of the charity could continue.

“We worked very hard to create a culture where people would feel empowered. When I first arrived people using our services were given plastic plates and weren’t allowed knives in case they hurt themselves.

“There was an assumption that anyone with a visual impairment could not see anything. But we saw firsthand how treating people with dignity and respect would help them to flourish.”

As well as challenging misconceptions around sight loss, Peter also led a pioneering movement to unite local societies for the blind.

Peter helped found a national organisation which promoted cooperation and skill sharing across sight loss charities.

The National Association of Local Societies for Visually Impaired People (NALSVI) which later became Visionary, revolutionised the way local sight loss charities worked together.

He also instigated several mergers with other smaller sight loss charities and talking news services to help broaden the reach of the charity.

Peter always worked passionately to empower the people he supported and remembered fondly the story of one man whose life was changed by his work.

He said: “There was one gentleman, who was in his 40s, whose house I visited when I was a social worker.

“He was living like a hermit in absolute poverty with his mother. He never left the house and had no confidence. I kept visiting and when I went to Galloway’s I continued to offer support. At that point his mother went into a nursing home and then sadly died.

“I spent a lot of time visiting and bringing him to social groups at Galloway’s. He hadn’t been for an eye test since he was at school and was amazed when we provided him with low vision aids that enabled him to read again.

“Once he got a taste of how good things could be again, he just flew. Towards the end of his life he had gained so much confidence he just didn’t need us anymore.

“He had a wide circle of friends and his life just blossomed. He told me that his life had been transformed because of this charity.

“That’s why I’ve always worked so hard to fundraise to help support people who need it. I’ve seen just how much of an impact that fundraising has on people’s lives.”

Current CEO of Galloway’s, Stuart Clayton, praised Peter’s achievements and dedication to the sight loss sector.

He said: “To many, Peter will always be known as Mr Galloway’s. He has been the embodiment of this charity for many years and has worked tirelessly to improve its reach and services.

“Peter is passionate about the cause and has made many sacrifices to ensure that local people living with sight loss would have the very best provision.

“I have the utmost respect for what Peter has achieved both at a local and national level but he also has my absolute respect as a person with integrity and passion.

“Everyone involved with the charity is very grateful to Peter for all the work he has done for Galloway’s.”

Simon Booth current Chairman of Galloway’s also acknowledged Peter’s successes.

“Peter has played a significant part in the history of Galloway’s and should be rightfully proud of his achievements. Not everyone will know the extent of Peter’s commitment to sight loss but myself and fellow Trustees understand the difference Peter has made to many people’s lives over many years.”

Dorothy Crean who worked with Peter when he first joined the charity added: “Peter has always had my admiration. What he has done for Galloway’s and the people it serves is truly phenomenal.

“Without his efforts we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Peter has worked for over 40 years helping to empower people living with sight loss.

If you would like to help fundraise for Galloway’s or would like to make a donation to help the charity continue its work please visithttps://www.galloways.org.uk/donate

A history of Galloway’s

1867 – The Preston Industrial Institute for the Blind is established by John Catterall and his associate Joseph Livesey

1875 – Day and night school for the blind is opened

1895 – Fulwood Institute and Workshops are opened by Lord and Lady Derby

1909 – Mr W. Reid is appointed a home visitor to teach Braille and Moon Reading

1939 – Social centre opens in Morecambe

1946 – Name changes to the Institute for Blind Welfare

1951 – The Institute opens The Galloway Home at Howick House using funds from the William Wilding Galloway Will Trust

1954 – The Morecambe centre is purchased on Balmoral Road

1977 – Talking News Service is launched

1989 – Derby School closes

1992 – Howick House is refurbished and reopened

1992 – The charity is renamed The Preston and North Lancashire Blind Welfare Society

1994 – Galloway’s flagship fundraising event, the Morecambe Bay Walk, begins

1995 – Driving Day starts at BAE

1998 – The WW Galloway Trust is disbanded and its only asset, Howick House, is transferred to the Institute for Blind Welfare

2000 – Name changes to Galloway’s

2004 – Merges with the Chorley and District Blind Welfare

2010 – Merges with Southport Blind Aid

2016 – Flagship Galloway’s centre and café opens at the newly renovated former Morecambe Visitor office