Bonnyrigg veteran discovers hidden archery talent

(left to right) Linburn Centre Officer and archery instructor, Tim Searles, Bill Stevens (veteran from Dunfermline who also attends Linburn and won the Novice Category of the Silver Arrow) and Jocky Elliott from Bonnyrigg.
(left to right) Linburn Centre Officer and archery instructor, Tim Searles, Bill Stevens (veteran from Dunfermline who also attends Linburn and won the Novice Category of the Silver Arrow) and Jocky Elliott from Bonnyrigg.

A Bonnyrigg veteran with sight loss has discovered a love of archery with charity Scottish War Blinded – even taking his new-found talent to competition level.

Jocky Elliott (71), who is originally from Glasgow and now lives in Bonnyrigg, lost his peripheral vision after suffering a stroke 16 years ago.

The sport-loving veteran, who was a physical training instructor with the Royal Highland Fusiliers from 1965 to 1974, has been attending Scottish War Blinded’s Linburn Centre in West Lothian for six years.

And since the charity introduced him to archery, helping him to adapt his technique to shoot despite his sight loss, Jocky’s skills have flourished.

Jocky said: “Most people shoot just looking through their one eye, but I’ve got to face to the left of me to see the target. Even if you can’t see it, the thud it makes when it hits the target lets you know you’ve got it on the board.

“I’d never thought about doing archery before I came to the Linburn Centre. Everyone would think the same - you’d assume for archery that if you’re visually impaired it might be a drawback.

“Funnily enough, most people take to it quite well. It’s a good laugh as well as competitive. You never lose that competitive streak from the forces.

“With Scottish War Blinded we used to train with the Royal Company of Archers. That got us all started and was good as well because it was in a military environment.

“The guys teaching us knew what they were doing and knew people who had lost their sight. They understood what we needed a little better than how a standard archery club might. They and Scottish War Blinded knew all about the adapting we have to do to shoot with an eyesight condition.”

Scottish War Blinded have had facilities to conduct archery training for the charity’s veterans with sight loss since 2014, with Linburn Centre Officer Tim Searles qualifying as an archery instructor, and the charity’s activity hub in Paisley – the Hawkhead Centre – also offers archery to members.

Jocky recently succeeded in scooping top spot in the ‘open’ category of the Royal Scots Silver Arrow Archery Competition, competing against fellow Scottish War Blinded members, who all also have sight loss.

In December 2018, he also came second in the Lothian Disability Sport Archery Competition, competing against archers with various disabilities, and has also been competing against sighted archers.

“It’s a great facility at the Linburn Centre,” said Jocky.

“I’m much more competitive now. I’ve joined archery clubs, not just military ones. It’s a good thing for the guys here. You want to see how far you can go.

“It takes a while to progress because of the technique you have to learn - there are a lot of things you have to remember to do. I’m quite happy with it, I’ve picked up quite a lot of trophies.

“I just like the camaraderie. Competitors will help each other if something’s broken and everyone’s always very good company.

“I get competitive in competitions - you know it’s a competition when you don’t shoot as well as you should! I enjoy the pressure, though.”

And the veteran’s experiences at the Linburn Centre don’t stop at archery: veterans take part in various activities with Scottish War Blinded, including woodwork, bowls, IT training and even a gliding session.

Jocky, who is married with two children and three grandchildren, said: “My wife works split shifts, so coming to the Linburn Centre three times a week is great. It’s a nice routine to come to the centre, and I’ve done the gliding and even made a rocking horse for my grandson.”

Linburn Centre officer, Tim Searles, said: “It’s fantastic to see how Jocky has developed in archery, and we’re very proud of his success in both the Silver Arrow and the Lothian Disability Sport Archery Competition.

“In archery training, we support each of our members to tailor their technique according to how their sight loss affects them.

“Archery has proven to be a popular activity, and any member attending Linburn or Hawkhead is very welcome to come and give it a try.”