By Martin Graham
VETERANS from all three of the armed forces gathered in Edinburgh yesterday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Scottish Veterans Residences.
A service of thanksgiving was held at Canongate Kirk, then the residents and their guests, including the Lord Provosts of Edinburgh and Dundee, walked down the Canongate to see a special sculpture unveiled.
Communities and Veterans minister Alex Neil unveiled the specially created bas-relief sculpture by artist Billy Teasdale at Whitefoord House opposite the Scottish Parliament.
The minister paid tribute to charity’s founders, saying: “I commend the foresight of Charles Pelham Burn and Chilton Smith who saw the need for the residences back in 1910.
“Like many people, I used to think that veterans were men aged 40, 50 or 60, but of course veterans can be as young as 18.
“This sculpture provides a lasting tribute to all our veterans for their selfless duty to this country, we are eternally in their debt.”
Scottish Veterans Residences provides accommodation and support for ex-service men and women, and has helped over 60,000 people since it was founded in the early part of the last century.
Andrew Christie Carr, 63, is a former RAF member who has lived at the residences in Edinburgh for the past two years.
He appreciates the care provided by staff and the camaraderie of being with other ex-service people.
Mr Carr said: “They held a meeting here recently for residents to air their grievances and raise any complaints.
“I didn’t go, and the guy that organised it asked me why not.
“I told him that it’s because I have no complaints and that he should take it as a backhanded compliment.
“The staff are excellent, the food is very good and the accommodation is good, everyone is friendly.
“It’s like they say, it’s not a handout it’s a hand up.
“I’m from Denniston in Glasgow originally, I used to work in security at Parkhead.
“They asked me to wear a Santa suit for one game and stand in the centre circle waving to the fans.
“When I was with the RAF I was stationed in Hong Kong then I was posted to Singapore.
“When I left the RAF I worked in the middle east, first in Oman then later I built planes in Israel.
Andrew was joined on the day by his friend Kenny Kerr, 62, who is a former Royal Marine.
Kenny is originally from Northern Ireland and has been at the residences for nine months.
Kenny said: “I was standing on the street and I heard a guide telling some tourists that the residences were for destitute ex-soldiers.
“I went up to him and I put him straight, I said ‘These men are former soldiers and many of them have physical or mental disabilities, they are most definitely not destitute.”