A “VITAL lifeline” for Milford Haven’s blind residents is going from strength to strength as it enters its 20th year.

The Talking Mercury – which provides recordings of the Milford Mercury for the blind or partially-sighted each week – began life in 1997, and the inspirational driving force behind the volunteer service is as determined as ever to ensure it continues long into the future.

Pat Farrar, 62, began losing her sight at the age of 24, and received the weekly Talking Western Telegraph recordings, but was frustrated there was no similar service for the Milford Mercury.

“I was getting the Western Telegraph and I asked my support officer why there was no Talking Mercury,” said Pat. “She said, “there isn’t one, if you want one – you do it” – so I did.

“Almost 20 years later, we are still here.”

Pat initially recruited five like-minded souls, but the group got off to a rocky start and were forced to move home within six months of setting up. They have been in St Katharine’s church hall ever since.

The Talking Mercury – recorded onto USB memory sticks – is sent out free of charge to around 45 listeners, mainly Milford Haven and the surrounding area, but also much further afield.

The group now has a dozen volunteers, predominantly women, and meets each week to go through the paper and make the recordings.

“We are an informal, relaxed bunch and I think that comes across in the recording,” said Vicky Hopkins, a volunteer with 15 years’ service under her belt.

“We are a pretty nice crowd.”

“The feedback we get from our listeners is great – they tell us that they enjoy our relaxed style,” said Pat.

“They feel like we are talking directly to them as individuals – that connection is very important to us.”

Katharine East - a relative newcomer to the team who joined nine months ago – is aware of the importance the service for the partially sighted.

“Being blind or partially-sighted often leaves people feeling cut off,” she said.

“Because we are a relatively small group and our listeners get to know our voices, we become like friends and family to many of them.

Vicky Hopkins added: “For many with a visual impairment, the Talking Mercury is their only access to local news.

“We provide them with a lifeline.

“We feel we are keeping people in touch with their community.”

Anyone interested in receiving the Talking Mercury or joining as a volunteer can contact Pat on 01646 692304.

All equipment is free and the recordings are sent with a Freepost return address.

“Anyone who would like the recordings or who wants to join is more than welcome to be become part of the Talking Mercury family,” said Pat.

“We would be really pleased to welcome some new male readers too.”