Veterans' Stories: Jamie
Jamie Cuthbertson was brought up in Glasgow, and studied Mechanical Engineering at Glasgow University before joining the Army in 1982. In 1986, he was blinded and lost his hearing in one ear in an explosives accident, whilst serving as a Captain in the Royal Engineers. While recovering in hospital, Jamie was approached by St Dunstan’s (now Blind Veterans UK) and was offered a place on a rehabilitation course, which he describes as “the best thing that ever happened to him.”
His rehabilitation with St Dunstan's inspired him to take on a series of "adventures" to begin rebuilding his life after his accident, including parachuting and running marathons in the desert and at the North Pole. For Jamie, Waterloo Uncovered is the latest in his series of adventures. He considers his discovery of Waterloo Uncovered through Blind Veterans UK to have been a “piece of good luck”, coming shortly after his retirement when he was faced with an overwhelming amount of free time to fill. While Jamie intended to take part in our excavation in Belgium in July 2020, this was unfortunately cancelled due to Coronavirus. Instead, Jamie took part in our Virtual Programme, and found that it was exactly what he needed to occupy himself in lockdown. He felt that the programme gave him something to look forward to each week during a difficult time, and provided him with some much needed routine and variety.
Jamie’s main goals for the programme were to challenge himself by engaging in online activities on a digital platform, and to improve his social engagement by getting to know other veterans involved in the programme. This latter goal was made more difficult due to the forced isolation caused by the Covid-19 emergency - but group discussion activities and break-out rooms in Google Hangouts during the virtual programme provided a source of much needed social interaction to Jamie and other participants. In addition, Jamie hoped to build on his pre-existing interest in the Napoleonic era, by increasing his knowledge of the history of the Battle of Waterloo throughout the programme, as well as his understanding of the archaeological process.
Jamie thoroughly enjoyed and engaged with the lectures from the Virtual Programme, and felt that his knowledge of Waterloo and archaeology were greatly improved by the wealth of content on offer. He also felt that he was fully able to engage in the content of the programme despite his vision loss. The programme inspired Jamie to continue learning about the Battle of Waterloo, and building on the archaeological skills and personal relationships he built over the summer.
In 2021, Jamie returned to take part in Waterloo Uncovered's Creative Arts Programme. Though initially concerned by the challenges that participating in an arts based programme while blind may have brought, Jamie embraced the programme and found a love for poetry. He performed his original poem, What About Me?, on stage at our annual fundraising event in November 2021. This poem combines what Jamie has learnt about the history of Waterloo and the power of poetry, exploring the thoughts of the young drummer boy who was the only survivor of the French soldiers who invaded Hougoumont farm.