Caring former Doncaster teacher helps out former team mate of Manchester United legends Bobby Charlton and Duncan Edwards after dementia strikes ex-footballer

To most people, Dave Booth looks like just another man with a friend at a football match.

But the retired Doncaster schoolteacher is there as one of a legion of caring people who have signed up to help someone suffering from a seriously illness.

Dave, aged 81, is a volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Society Side by Side scheme. The project matches volunteers with Alzheimers patients, pairing them as friends.

Some just pop round to visit for a chat, or to play a game. Dave prefers to be more adventurous. 

Since meeting Richard Marston, from Mexborough, he has taken him to football matches, rugby league games, and to the Victoria Cross Trust’s Ashworth Barrack's museum in Balby.

For Dave, it is the latest piece of voluntary work he has taken up since retiring from teaching in the 1990s.

Born brought up in Rotherham, he left Rotherham Grammar School and went off to do his national service with the RAF in the 1950s, based at RAF Locking in Somerset.

He had wanted to be an air photographer, but the opportunity was not available. Instead he worked in electronics, as they trained him in ground to air communications, and that led to him getting a civilian job with the Yorkshire Electricity Board in the 60s.

With two children and a mortgage, he decided to train as a teacher in the late 60s. After getting a degree in geography and psychology, he went to teacher training college, and moved to Doncaster, working as a teacher at Campsmount and Balby Carr secondary schools in Doncaster.

He now lives in Sprotbrough.

On retirement, he initially went to help out as a volunteer at what was then the new St John's Hospice.

His voluntary work increased after the death of his wife in 2003, after she suffered from cancer.

He worked from 2004 with the Winged Fellowship Trust, helping at holiday homes for the disabled, and in 2007 he went to Kenya to help build a hospital.

Later that year he stopped his work with the disabled holiday homes, after suffering shoulder and neck injuries in a car crash.

His voluntary work had to take a back seat again in 2014, when he received treatment for cancer. He said three years of treatment slowed him down. But that did not stop him.

And when he was fit enough he joined a scheme run by Guide Dogs for the Blind, which saw him take a blind friend for days out. The activities he arranged ranged from riding a tandem bike together to touring a brewery.

Having got back into volunteering, he then saw an advert for the Alzheimer's Society’s Side by Side scheme.

He was introduced to Richard Marston, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2015. Both men hit it off immediately, sharing a similar age and a love of sport. Dave said Richard had an amazing long terms memory of sport from the 50s and 60s.

Their introductory meeting was spent talking about sport and David was able to understand the sort of things that Richard would like to do during their time together  – attending a football match, rugby match and possibly a race meeting. 

Richard revealed that he had played professional football in the past with both Bobby Charlton and Duncan Edwards, while he was doing his national service in the army with them, and the pair decided that their first meeting would be to attend a Rotherham United match as Richard had never attended the club’s new ground.

Richard’s wife Mavis has joined them in visits to see brass bands.

David said: “I think my role is to understand Richard and  encourage him to decide what he wants to do rather than decide on his behalf. Talking to Richard it soon became apparent that he was a keen sportsperson and so I pursued this interest with him and suggested some possible events we could attend together, which is how the Rotherham football match came about.”

“Dementia his people in different ways. For Richard, he gets confused about where he is. He is unsteady on his feet, he’s lost some peripheral vision, and he gets disorientated.

“I think it’s really fulfilling in that I’m doing something that’s infinitely worthwhile. People with cancer get a lot of sympathy from the public and I don't think people with dementia get that sympathy to the same extent.”

If you  would like to volunteer on the Side by Side service contact Heather Weston on 01709 580543 or log onto  alzheimers.org.uk/sidebysidevolunteer.