A MAN who was left unable to speak and control his limbs has been able to create his life story with the help of arts organisation, Healthy Arts.

Stephen Gallagher, from Golborne, suffered a common childhood condition aged six months old which progressed into a virus which caused inflammation of the brain.

Without the aid of a communication device until the age of 16, Stephen was assumed to have a learning disability.

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However, able to type with one finger, he did not let his disability get in the way and enjoyed great success as a scout.

He was the first scout to be presented with the prestigious Cornwell Scout Badge, an award for bravery and strength of character, at the age of sixteen.

Stephen, now 57, said, "I was stunned and thrilled when the District Commissioner wrote to tell my parents that the Chief Scout, Sir William Gladstone, had given me this accolade”.

Stephen desperately wanted to write his life story but due to his communication needs, it was difficult for volunteers and carers to support him in this task.

So, a professional ‘ghost writer’ worked with Stephen, developing a creative partnership over many months to bring his words to the page.

In December 2018, Stephen was introduced to Leigh writer Julie McKiernan from Healthy Arts, a local not-for-profit organisation that uses creativity to improve people’s lives. Following hours of interviews, the pair penned a book of 10 chapters, each one dispelling a myth around disability and drawing on examples in Stephen’s life – for example, “Disabled people don’t fall in love”.

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The resulting book will challenge the stigma of being disabled.

Julie adds: “I also interviewed his parents and his sister to fill in any gaps in Stephen’s timeline and to get their perspectives on his life. I am humbled by his strength and his journey”.

The book is entitled “My Life in Their Hands” and Stephen himself, with his typical sense of humour, has judged it to be “brilliant”.

Thanks to funding from the City Health Care Partnership Foundation, Taylor Wimpey Community Chest initiative and donations from Newton-le-Willows and Hindley Rotary Clubs, the book was published in March 2020 but the official launch had to be postponed until due to the pandemic.

The book will finally be launched on Friday, August 19 from 3pm to 4.15pm at Pennington Wharf Community Hub, Plank Lane Marina, Leigh WN7 4QD. Local poet and disability activist, Shaun Fallows (https://www.dadafest.co.uk/artist/shaun-fallows) will read extracts from the book on Stephen's behalf and perform some of his own poems.

There will also be a celebratory cake and an opportunity to buy a copy of the book. Wigan-based Joolz Design professionally designed the book cover and it was copy read by Lowton writer and editor, CJ Harter.

If any organisations would like to support the distribution and sale of the book, please email juleswriter@hotmail.com All profits will be donated to the British Heart Foundation