fb-pixel Skip to main content

How a folk song from childhood sparked joy in a Dorchester dementia patient — and across the UK

Dementia patient Dorothy Stein heard the song "Blaydon Races" for the first time since she was little.
Dementia patient Dorothy Stein heard the song "Blaydon Races" for the first time since she was little.screenshot from senior living residences youtube channel

“Gannin’ alang the Scotswood Road to see the Blaydon Races,” doesn’t mean much to most folks in Dorchester.

But for an 89-year-old dementia patient who lives there, the folk song provoked a flash of recognition that reached back decades to her childhood in Newcastle, England — and recently made her a feature in British media.

“Oh, I loved it; I loved it,” Dorothy Stein said, smiling and laughing after singing along to “Blaydon Races” in a video that has been widely shared in the United Kingdom.

In the video, Stein, who left the UK as a teenager, quickly picks up the rhythm of the song, clapping along but fumbling for the words. Then, her eyebrows momentarily knit in determination as the words come out in Tyneside dialect, confidently holding out the word “road” like the soccer and rugby fans that have made the song a fixture of British sports.

Advertisement



“These kinds of moments with Dorothy and others who have dementia can be few and far between, but when they do come, they are magical — heaven to those of us who work with people with dementia, as well as their families,” Maisie Miller, who provides musical therapy at Standish Village Assisted Living in Lower Mills, wrote in a blog post about the video.

Miller said when she learned of Stein’s UK roots, she reached out to a Newcastle Facebook group soliciting ideas for a song that Stein might recognize and was quickly inundated with responses. At their suggestion, Miller played “Blaydon Races,” and it immediately caused a spark.

“Dementia affects people differently but music, poetry and prayer are at the core of all of us, and the emotional connection to all three can live on well into advanced dementia,” Miller wrote on Age Right, a website about senior care.

Advertisement



The video was shared on BBC television and radio programs and by British tabloid The Mirror, and was reported locally by “Caught In Dot” magazine in late January and by the Dorchester Reporter earlier this month.

“It really does get through to my mom, and her joy is just so apparent and so visible and so tangible,” Stein’s daughter, Anne Stein, told the BBC last month.

She thanked Miller for “going the extra 3,000 miles to do what she could to connect with my mom” and credited the people of Newcastle for suggesting the song that started it all.

“She really was touched by the music. That’s because you all reached out to her,” Anne Stein said.

“And we will cherish this for all the years to come.”


Lucas Phillips can be reached at lucas.phillips@globe.com.