A teenager who wrote a heartbreaking song about his nan’s battle with dementia has revealed she died days before he performed it live on Britain’s Got Talent.
Harry Gardner, 16, put pen to paper last year on the day his 77-year-old gran Maureen McGuinness first forgot who he was.
He poured all his emotions into the hard-hitting record, titled ‘Not Alone’, which went viral and has so far raised more than £80,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK.
On Saturday night, he brought the judges to tears as he performed a heartfelt rendition, before getting four ‘yeses’ to go on to the next round of the ITV reality show.
Harry’s audition left both Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon emotional, as Amanda told him: “It really moved me. I just wish your grandmother could see what you’ve done today because she’d be so proud of you.”
Alesha added: “It takes real courage to put your heart and soul into a song like you did. It was a fantastic audition.”
But Harry later revealed his grandmother died just three days before his Britain’s Got Talent audition, leaving his whole family ‘devastated’.
He said: “She loved the song, she swayed and clapped in time with the music when I sang it to her.
“I have always sung for my grandparents right from a young age. They always loved it.
“It was a real shock when she went. We weren’t expecting it at all.
“I wish she got to see me on the show but it just wasn’t the case. I think she would have been so proud.
“I’m hoping to do well for her. I wish I’d had a chance to sing her the song when I saw her for the last time before she died.”
There are 850,000 people across the UK living with Alzeimers’s and related dementia.
Speaking of the moment he was inspired to write the song, grade seven pianist Harry said: “I was aware that my nan had Alzheimer’s but I wasn’t aware of how severe the condition would be, as I thought it would only be a short-term memory loss.
“I visited their house with my mum and we had lunch there but my nan was not downstairs as normal.
“She was lying in a dark room, with no expression on her face whatsoever, with her eyes closed.
I had never seen my nan like that before and it really hit me hard. I left the room so shocked.
“The first thing I did when we arrived back at home was sit at the piano and try and get all my emotions down into words.
“The tune and lyrics fell into place quickly.
“I explained all the things we did together, like when she brought chocolate when she visited, and ruffled by hair, telling me how bad it was.”
He uploaded the tear-jerking tune to YouTube last year, alongside a four-minute video which his friends helped him to create.
Harry, who started playing the piano when he was seven-years-old, said: “The reaction I’ve had has been amazing, but really unexpected.
“It has just made me realise how many people are affected by dementia and that so much more can be done to raise awareness.
“I never really imagined a career in music was possible, but I’m starting to think now maybe it is.
Harry, from Chelmsford, Essex, also revealed he now plans to sing the song at his nan’s funeral in two weeks’ time.
He said: “To be honest that’s going to be the most difficult performance for me, because that’s when the song is going to mean so much.
“I’m more nervous about that.”
Maureen was forced to give up her job on Sainsbury’s checkout when she was unable to cope with counting money.
Her husband Owen became her full-time carer.
Harry’s mum Gail, 50, who is Maureen’s daughter and also mum to Molly, 16, Oliver, 14, and Gene, nine, added: “It’s been phenomenal really and none of us can really comprehend it, as a family we just couldn’t be prouder of what he’s achieved.
“The song is so special to me, but it’s also special to my mum’s ten other grandchildren, who can all relation to the line about the chocolate in the handbag.
“It was three years ago this month that I sat down with my mum playing Scrabble. I knew something was wrong when she spelled joy with a G – it was really heartbreaking.
“I’m so proud that Harry wants to raise the money for Alzheimers’s Research UK.”
Since the release of his hit ‘Not Alone’, Harry has been described as an “inspiration to young people” for his fundraising efforts.
Alzheimer’s director, Tim Parry, said they were “thrilled” to see him on Britain’s Got Talent.
He said: “Harry is an inspiration to young people and we’ve been blown away by his commitment to support the charity in honour of his nan.”
To donate, visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/HarryGardnerMusic