A POET’S blast from the past has won him a national competition for a taboo-busting music CD raising awareness of mental health.

Pensioner wordsmith James Hulings’ moving masterpiece was chosen from hundreds of entries for soul band Refuge’s Open Minds EP, which will be launched on World Mental Health Day on October 10.

Mr Hulings, of Ffynnongroyw, based his poem on experiences during his 1957 to 1959 national service as a nurse in the medical corps, and a very disturbed reluctant soldier he cared for on a psychiatric ward.

He immediately came up with Dribbles and Bubbles for the competition.

Mr Hulings, 73, said: “That time, and the memory of that gentleman, has stuck with me all this time. We cared for him day and night, and he used to eat glass and needles, and drink bleach – anything to get out of the army.

“His only refuge was a cane chair, where he would curl up and feel safe from the cloistered world about him. He was eventually returned home to a UK institution, where, sadly, he eventually passed away.”

Competition entrants were encouraged to share their experiences through art, poetry, lyrics and photography.

The band’s lead singer Peter Hirst, who has bipolar disorder himself, was delighted with the response.

Grandfather-of-three Mr Hulings, who reads his own poem on the EP, was thrilled to be chosen as one of the contributors.

He was also very pleased with his prizes of an iPod Touch and VIP tickets to the launch event at The Y in Leicester, to which he will take his wife of more than 50 years, Elsa, 70.

“It was such a surprise to win. I didn’t think I stood a chance when I saw all the other entries,” he said.

“But best of all, it’s wonderful to be contributing to such a worthwhile project to break down barriers for people with mental ill health, and Peter and Refuge have done a fantastic job.

“Elsa and I had tears in our eyes when we listened to the CD, which is amazing.”
Mr Hulings previously worked as a sales manager at a paper mill in Ellesmere Port before moving to North Wales 20 years ago.

“I had family members who had mental ill health, and one in four of us will experience it at some time, so it is ridiculous that people are stigmatised,” he added.