Belfast Telegraph

The amazing friendship of man blinded by soldier during Troubles and stepson of major

By Donna Deeney

A random act of kindness by a retired Army major to a young boy living in Londonderry in 1972 has sparked a new friendship more than 40 years on.

Major Roland Bowen was so saddened to hear how Richard Moore, then aged 10, had been shot and blinded by a soldier that he was moved to write to the boy's parents.

This was the start of a correspondence that lasted a couple of years, during which time Major Bowen sent the young Richard his first Braille watch and chess set.

Major Bowen passed away in 1978 but not before he told his stepson Rikki Jodelko all about his letters to Richard and his parents in Derry.

When Rikki heard Richard feature in Patrick Kielty's recent documentary on the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, he was curious to find out if this was the same boy his stepfather had talked about.

Rikki emailed Richard at his Children in Crossfire charity and moments later the Derry man was on the phone confirming that he was that person.

The pair talked for almost two hours, during which time they discovered they had much in common - not only had they similar names but they both are blind and both play the guitar.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, the two men said they are looking forward to meeting up face to face in Derry as soon as it can be arranged.

Mr Moore said: "The important role Major Bowen has played in my life cannot be underestimated so for me to be able to tell that to someone in his family is just fantastic.

"He first wrote to my parents just a couple of months after I had been shot, which was in May 1972, and just months after my uncle Gerard was killed on Bloody Sunday.

"So our family's experience of the British Army hadn't been all that positive.

"Major Bowen sent me a Braille watch and a Braille chess set, both of which I still have. But he also sent me the top 10 singles every month after my mother told him I was learning to play the guitar. I have never forgotten his kindness to me and my parents and the great excitement his letters created in our house."

The story of the unlikely friendship was also not forgotten by Rikki, who added: "I knew my stepfather had sent Richard a Braille watch but I didn't know about the other gifts he sent, so it was wonderful to hear all about those.

"My stepfather came into our lives in the 1970s and sadly he died four years after he and my mum got married, but he was a man of great compassion.

"I know he would have been delighted that me and Richard have made contact and that we will meet up as soon as we can get it sorted."

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