Care Story: Dolly and Julie

Henrietta (likes to be known as Dolly) was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in the 1930’s. Dolly was one of eight children.

Dolly recalls having a fantastic childhood with so many fond memories particularly of her mother, who was a wonderful kind and strong lady.

Dolly came from a very a close family and spent a lot of time with her sisters.

Dolly began her working life first by helping out in a corner shop belonging to one of her sisters.

The Troubles in Northern Ireland began in the 1960’s during Dolly’s early life. British Troops were deployed in both policing and counter-insurgency roles but were seen as hostiles to many, particularly the republican paramilitaries. Despite the risks, Dolly and her family would welcome British soldiers into their homes, providing tea and biscuits and a warm welcome away from the tensions.

Dolly recalls memories of New Years Eve 1974 after the IRA had called a ceasefire.  She and her family had welcomed some British soldiers in for drinks and sandwiches. After a few hours relaxing without a care in the world, the soldiers got a call over the radio and they left in a hurry only to knock on the door again several minutes later. They had left their rifles propped up in the kitchen and no-one had noticed.

Dolly later met and married David, who was fulfilling a career in the Army in Northern Ireland. Dolly became an Army wife and threw herself into the role, helping out in the Barracks. David and Dolly travelled extensively with the Army.

Wishing to have a family of their own, Dolly and David later became parents to their two children, David and Donna. Having spent years moving around, the family finally settled in Barrow-in-Furness where David got a job working in Barrow’s famous shipyard. Dolly later joined him working at the shipyard in the canteen.

Dolly describes her life as fantastic and without regret. She recalls fabulous memories of her life and says that she wouldn’t change a thing.

Dolly, being very family orientated and sociable adores her grandchildren and talks about them with great pride. Her grandson, Dale lives very close-by and regularly calls round with tea.

During the last couple of years, Dolly’s health has declined and she sadly developed Dementia.  As time went by it became clear that Dolly would need support from carers in order to remain independent in her own home.

Julie Whitelock first began to care for Dolly in early 2019, shortly after joining Heydays. Julie soon became Dolly’s regular carer. During Julie’s visits to Dolly, she ensures that Dolly has taken her medication, eaten a healthy breakfast and supports her to get dressed.

Since getting to know each other, Julie and Dolly have developed a good friendship and spend time sitting together chatting and having a good laugh.

Julie enjoyed hearing stories about Dolly’s amazing life, including how Dolly used to look after the English soldiers who were stationed near her home. One day, after seeing old photographs from those days on Dolly’s coffee table, Julie decided to find out if it would be possible to put Dolly back in contact with those soldiers who she had helped.

With assistance from a military contact, Julie put a message out about Dolly on an Army forum and received five replies within an hour. Soon contact had been made with the ex-soldiers who asked about meeting up with Dolly. They wanted an opportunity to thank her in person and Julie arranged a date for the visit.

In no time at all, four of the English soldiers that Dolly had helped, travelled to Barrow from different parts of the country, along with some of their families, bringing bouquets of flowers, biscuits and memories to share with Dolly.

Julie recalls what a special day it was for the four men, now in their mid-sixties to be re-united with Dolly. Dolly was in tears and very emotional but thrilled to find out more about these men and their lives since meeting her in Belfast.

Organising the re-union was hugely rewarding for Julie as Dolly’s carer, knowing how much the day had meant to Dolly. Julie says that despite the challenges of living with Dementia, Dolly continues to be a joy to care for.