Hearts fan dementia sufferers in memory project

Club archivist John Baxter, centre, with historians David Speed, left, and Bill Smith. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Club archivist John Baxter, centre, with historians David Speed, left, and Bill Smith. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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THEY were cheering from the terraces when Hearts’ “Terrible Trio” of Alfie Conn, Willie Bauld and Jimmy Wardhaugh laid siege to defences.

Sixty years later however, many of those fledgling fans are veteran Jambos facing day-to-day battles with dementia.

Now, Alzheimer’s-hit supporters are being invited to relive their golden memories from Tynecastle as part of a pioneering project aiming to spark the synapses by harking back to a glorious bygone era.

Run through funding from Alzheimer’s Scotland, Football Memories has been feted for “lifting the fog” for older dementia suffers – if only for a few hours – by flashing back to the old days supporting their boyhood club.

The workshop, which aims to jog memories and spur discussion among elderly fans by exhibiting archive images of former Hearts heroes, is open to over-65s and will focus on seasons from 1945 to 1970.

It has even drawn praise from football world governing body Fifa.

Michael White, a Falkirk FC historian who helps run the sessions, said spouses have told him they “drive here with a sad person with dementia and take home their husband”.

He said: “Some of the moments are quite emotional. To see the change in behaviour, mood and self-esteem from these men is quite humbling.

“In Inverness, a lady came along with her husband saying she wasn’t sure whether he would cope. But she came back at the end of the hour and broke into floods of tears because he was conducting a full conversation and was lit up.

“It’s powerful stuff. With Scottish men of a certain generation, football was huge part of their life. When you take them back to that time people who haven’t spoken for months on end open up.”

Football Memories taster sessions will be held at Tynecastle later this month, repeating at regular intervals thereafter. Run in tandem with Big Hearts Community Trust (BHCT), around half a dozen fans with dementia are expected to attend the event.

Ben Craigie-Sharland, development manager for the BHCT, said: “This is a great opportunity for us to get involved and help this group of people in a way not thought of possible. We firmly believe this project will work well at Tynecastle.”

The workshop will launch on February 26, with a second event being held on March 5, from 2pm to 4pm. Regular sessions will then be held on the last Tuesday of every month.

The Tynie of our lives

THE Tommy Walker golden era spanning 1954-1963 will no doubt be a period organisers will be keen to dwell on.

During that time, Hearts won the league in 1958 and 1960, periods of heightened excitement bound to trigger happy memories among participants.

Other key dates that could figure include the 1956 Scottish Cup win and their 1978 promotion back to top-flight football.