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Robert Smithdas, American deaf-blind poet -“Blindness takes you away from scenes. But deafness takes you away from people.”

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 7 December 2018

Robert J. Smithdas was the first deaf-blind person to gain a master’s degree when he graduated from New York’s St. John’s University in 1953.  Born in 1925, Smithdas caught cerebro-spinal meningitis aged four and a half, and lost hearing and sight as a result.   He became director of Services for the Deaf-Blind at the “Industrial Home for the Blind,” and at the Helen Keller National Center.

We have a signed copy of his poetry book, City of the Heart (1966).  In the preface he says,

I composed these poems because my heart sang them to me over the years – because poignant moods, or powerful emotions, made me crystallize my thoughts and feelings into verbal expressions.  Sometimes inspiration was so spontaneous that the words came flooding into my consciousness and shaped themselves into song; but far more frequently I found myself searching through the labyrinthine meanings of language to find the most convincing words , and the most plausible rhythms, to serve as crucibles for my themes.  Yet I always knew the intrinsic essence of the thing I wanted to express in a sonnet, or a lyric, or the nobler passion of blank verse.

This is a clip from an interview theat Barbara Walters did with Bob Smithdas.

Barbara Walters: The lives of the deaf-blind have changed remarkably since the era of Helen Keller. She was never able to live by herself without sighted help, never able to be independent.

Bob: And today, it’s a tremendous difference, we can communicate, we can cook, we can go out and it is a wonderful type of progress

Barbara Walters: In spite of the good things Bob, what is the hardest part of be being deaf and blind?  What is the most frustrating?

Bob: At this stage of life, I am very used to being deaf blind, but I will admit that I miss not being able to see my friends’ faces or hearing their voices. Remember deafness takes you away from sound, from music. Blindness takes you away from scenes. But deafness takes you away from people.

Robert Smithdas died in 2014.

His poetry book, Christmas Blessing and Other Poems, (1959) is available on Archive.org

“Gently the snowflakes fall

Fragile and thin and light…”

https://nationaldb.org/pages/show/in-memoriam-robert-j-smithdas-advocate-for-the-deaf-blind

The photo of him above is the same as that at the back of the poetry book.  Unfortunately, when an external contractor tagged all of our books, the #### people doing the task were so slap-dash that they place the tag neatly over the photograph.

Please note, the chief U.K. deaf-blind charity is Sense.

Deaf Chess Player, Missioner, & Teacher, Leigh Hossell (1867-1907) -“to get the best out of, and make the most of, life notwithstanding affliction”

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 30 November 2018

Leigh Hossell (1867-1907) was one of at least ten children born to John Hossell and his wife Ann.  His father was a fellmonger, a dealer in hides, particularly sheepskin.  This illustration of a Fellmonger is from T. J. Watson’s 1857 book, An Illustrated Vocabulary for the use of the Deaf and Dumb, published by the S.P.C.K.

He told friends that while his parents thought he had lost his hearing at the age of four by an ‘attack of sunstroke,’ he thought that he was born deaf (BDM, 1894).  He did “not remember ever having been able to hear and speak, and his friends appear to have no recollection of having heard him speak at any time” (ibid). However, in his obituary it was said that later “he recovered the power of speech to some extent” (BDT, 1907).  We may well wonder if his parents were correct, but perhaps this speech was as a result of his education.  When he was seven (around 1874) Leigh became a private pupil of Mr. Hopper, at the Edgbaston School, Birmingham.

Up to the age of fifteen he received his education by the silent system. It was whilst at the Birmingham school that Mr. Hossell first took a liking to the fascinating game of chess, to which he has devoted much time and attention ever since. (BDM)

When Hopper died, his parents placed him as a private pupil with Mr. Bessant at Manchester, who taught him using the oral system.

On the completion of his education he was appointed pupil teacher at the Old Trafford Schools for the Deaf, Manchester, and is at the present time a teacher at these schools.
As Mr. Hossell owes his education to both systems, we thought his opinion as to which he considered the best would prove of interest to our readers. In answer to our questions, Mr. Hossell said :— “Until I obtained a knowledge of the oral system I naturally thought the silent one the best possible means of instructing the deaf, but since then I have come to feel that all the deaf who can be taught to speak and lip-read should have that great advantage. At home I am able to make myself entirely intelligible by speech, and can follow very well all that is said to me by my friends and relations by lip-reading. When travelling and shopping, too, I find my speech of real assistance. I should indeed be sorry not to be able to speak and lip-read now. At the same time I feel that the silent system must be retained for some of the deaf, but I should like to see them use spelling more freely than they do, in place of signs.” (BDM)

Hossell represented the Droitwich Workman’s Club at chess, and was good enough to play Joseph Blackburne, “the Black Death”, and English champion, “whom he won a game from, about two years ago” which would mean around 1904/5 (BDM).  He was a keen sportsman, particularly with lawn tennis and croquet (BDT).

Hossell was a lay helper at the Grosvenor Street Institute for the Deaf, Manchester, and for a while was Missioner to the Deaf in Oxford, before he left to go into business (BDT).  Quite what the business was his obituary fails to tell us, but one brother was a solicitor so the family was not poor.

His funeral was held on October the 29th, 1907 at Handsworth Parish Church, in the town where he was born, by the Rev. R. R. Needham.

His obituary says, he “was in some respects a remarkable young man, considering his limitations.”  I suppose he means his deafness, but who can say.  He was

widely known and unversally esteemed, he endeared himself to all who knew him by his gracious manner and amiable disposition.  His private character was exemplary, and his personality was a most inyteresting one; in fact his career was a notable example of what can be done by the Deaf and Dumb in order to get the best out of, and make the most of, life notwithstanding affliction. […]  He could ill be spared and will be sadly missed.

Mr L. Hossell, (our Chess Editor), British Deaf Mute, 1894, Vol. 4, November, p.3

Obituary: Mr. Leigh Hossell, British Deaf Times, 1907, vol. 4 p.280

Montgomery County Times and Shropshire and Mid-Wales AdvertiserSaturday 12 December 1896 – (chess problem set by Leigh Hossell)

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 2972; Folio: 27; Page: 47; GSU roll: 838862

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 2835; Folio: 125; Page: 16; GSU roll: 1341679

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 3160; Folio: 168; Page: 4

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 2796; Folio: 24; Page: 40

Michael Reed OBE, teacher, psychologist, & RNID Chairman 1975-85

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 23 November 2018

Michael Reed, (1913-99) was a psychologist, audiologist, and teacher of the deaf, and was the first educational psychologist in England to work with deaf children.  He was employed at the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital, Gray’s Inn Road, London, from 1949-1961.  He then moved to the Inner London Education Authority as Her Majesty’s Inspector for Special Education, with responsibility for deaf pupils.  He remained there until his retirement in 1978, and then settled in Canada in 1989.

Michael Reed was the author of the Reed Picture Screening Test (see below) and Educating hearing impaired children, published by the Open University Press in 1984.

He had a long involvement with the NID/RNID.  He was co-opted onto the NID Medical and Scientific Committee in 1956, then elected onto the Council of Management in 1957.  He became Vice-Chairman of the RNID in 1972, and Chair from 1975-85.

In 1986 he was awarded the OBE and created a Vice-President of the RNID for life.

Here we see him in 1984, in the centre, flanked by Tom and Brenda Sutcliffe, from the then RNID magazine, Soundbarrier.

AKHURST, B.A. Michael Reed OBE 1913-1999. Psychologist, 2000, Jul, 2000, p.338.

REED PICTURE SCREENING TEST FOR HEARING This was a set of pictures of everyday objects for screening primary school children’s hearing, devised by Michael Reed and published by the RNID in 1960.

He uses the language of the time – ‘defect’ sounds uncomfortable to us now, and probably did in the 1960s to some.

PICTURE SCREENING TEST OF HEARING By Michael Reed, B.SC.
THERE IS NO DOUBT that the earlier a hearing defect is discovered the more the handicap caused by such a defect can be alleviated. The picture presented by severe or total deafness is all too obvious, but in the case of slight or moderate deafness, the picture is sometimes more obscure. Many children have been thought to be mentally very dull when, in fact, they have been partially or severely deaf. Frequently they had become frustrated and non-co-operative and therefore it had become difficult to establish the true facts. Many simple cases of deafness have been misdiagnosed because a complete understanding of the effects of distorted hearing or slight hearing losses has been lacking. Children with slight hearing losses which are not obvious may become educationally retarded in the adverse noise conditions of a class-room. Therefore it is extremely important to discover any significant hearing loss as soon as possible in order to be aware of the problem and so help the child. If there is a slight loss of hearing for all frequencies throughout the speech range, or severe loss for frequencies above 1000Hz, there will be some disability in discriminating between consonants. The R.N.I.D. Picture Screening Test has been designed around this simple fact. It is interesting to children and therefore fairly certain of ensuring their co-operation, and is easy both to carry around and to use.
The test is made up of several separate cards each of which has four pictures. The names of the pictures conform with the following conditions.

1. The words must be monosyllabic so that the rhythm of that word does not give a clue.

2. The words in any one row must contain the same vowel sound.

3. The words must be those within the vocabulary of the children to be tested.

The test as designed here can be used for children with a mental age of four years and older and with many children of mental age of three years. To ensure that the child to be tested knows the name of the picture, he is told how to name the pictures first, especially with very young children. If the child calls the owl a bird, one says ‘That’s right but I am going to call it an owl.’ Similarly if the hen is called a chicken, or the sheep a lamb, or the lamb a sheep, he is told that it is to be called a hen a sheep and a lamb so that the words do have the common vowel sound. If the child does not know any words then one cannot test in this way and if in doubt, a full audiometric examination must be requested.

REED, M. A verbal screening test for hearing. proceedings of the 3rd World Congress of the Deaf, Weisbaden, 1959. Deutschen-Gerhorlosen-Bundes, 1961. pp. 195-97.

HOLDING, B., HOLDING, J. and OWEN, A. Prawf clyw darluniadol Dyfed. British Journal of Audiology, 1987, 21. 147. (Welsh version)

McCORMICK, B. Screening young children for hearing impairment. Whurr, 1994. pp. 76-77.

I have had for the first time the courage to say, “Monsieur, I am growing deaf” – Marie Bashkirtseff, Artist

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 16 November 2018

Maria Konstantinovna Bashkirtseva or Marie Bashkirtseff (1858-1884), was a Ukrainian Russian born artist and diarist.  She led a fascinating if brief life, and kept a regular diary from the age of twelve, where she put everything of herself, her hopes, fears, sorrows and joys.  Gladstone famously called it “a book without a parallell.”

The diaries were originally published by her family in an expurgated version in 1888, which was translated into English by the German born English poet, Mathilde Blind.  Marie describes her life, struggles to be accepted in art, and her illness, of which her hearing loss and deafness was a side effect.  More details of her life are to be found on the web (see links below) and her portrait paintings are very fine, well worth seeking out.  She attended the same Art School in Paris as the British Deaf art student George Annand Mackenzie did some years later, the Académie Julian.

Her experience of losing her hearing will, I believe, be recognized by many in a similar situation.  The follow entries date from 1880.  At first there is the mishearing –

Saturday, May 8th. — When people talk in a low voice I do not near. This morning when Tony asked me whether I had seen any of Pemgino’s work, I said “No,” without understanding.

And when I was told of it afterwards, I got out of it, but very badly, by saying that indeed I had not seen any of it, and that, on the whole, it was better to admit one’s ignorance. (p.406)

Then she has tinnitus, and has to endure the ignorant behaviour of others –

Thursday, May 13th. — I have such a singing in my ears that I am obliged to make great efforts in order that it may not be noticed.

Oh ! it is horrible. With S___ it is not so bad because I am sitting near him ; and besides, whenever I like, I can tell him that he bores me.  The G___s talk loud. At the studio they laugh and tell me that I have become deaf; I look pensive, and I laugh at myself: but it’s horrible. (p.407)

There are times when it improves –

Wednesday, July 21st. — I have commenced my treatment. You are fetched in a closed Sedan chair. A costume of white flannel — drawers and stockings in one — and a hood and cloak ! Then follow a bath, a douche, drinking the waters, and inhaling in succession. I accept everything. This is the last time that I mean to take care of myself, and I shouldn’t do it now but for the fear of becoming deaf. My deafness is much better — nearly gone. (p.416)

Then she is told how serious her condition is –

Friday, September 10th. — … Doctor Fauvel, who sounded me a week ago and found nothing the matter, has sounded me to-day and found that my bronchial tubes are attacked ; his look became . . .  grave, affected, and a little confused at not having foreseen the seriousness of the evil ; then followed some of the prescriptions for consumptive persons, cod-liver oil, painting with iodine, hot milk, flannel, &c. &c, and at last he advises going to see Dr. Sée or Dr. Potain, or else to bring them to his house for a consultation. You may imagine what my aunt’s face was like ! I am simply amused ! I have suspected something for a long time ; I have been coughing all the winter, and I cough and choke still.

Besides, the wonder would be if I had nothing the matter ; I should be satisfied to have something serious and be done with it

My aunt is dismayed, and I am triumphant Death does not frighten me; I should not dare to kill myself but I should like to be done with it . . . If you only knew ! . . . . I will not wear flannel nor stain myself with iodine; I am not anxious to get better. I shall have, without that, quite enough health and life for all I shall be able to do in it.

Friday, September 17th. — Yesterday I went again to the doctor to whom I went about my ears, and he admitted that he did not expect to see matters so serious, and that I should never hear so well as formerly. I felt as if struck dead. It is horrible! I am not deaf certainly, but I hear as one sees through a thin veil. For instance, I cannot hear the tick of my alarm-clock, and I may perhaps never hear it again without going close up to it. It is indeed a misfortune. Sometimes in conversation many things escape my hearing. . . . Well, let us thank heaven for not being blind or dumb as yet. (p.422-3)

This was two years before Robert Koch, the founder of modern microbiology, identified the causative agent of ‘consumption’ – Tuberculosis, as Mycobacterium tuberculosis.  It seems likely that the this was the cause of her deafness, but we cannot be sure.  In that year, 1882, she was confronted by the news that her hearing was gone and would not return –

Thursday, November 16th. — I have been to a great doctor — a hospital surgeon — incognito and quietly dressed, so that he might not deceive me.

Oh! he is not an amiable man. He has told me very simply I shall never be cured. But my condition may improve in a satisfactory manner, so that it will be a bearable deafness ; it is so already ; it will be more so according to all appearances. But if I do not rigorously follow the treatment he prescribes it will increase. He also directs me to a little doctor who will watch over me for two months, for he has not the time himself to see me twice a week as is necessary.

I have had for the first time the courage to say, “Monsieur, I am growing deaf.” Hitherto I have made use of, ” I do not hear well, my ears are stopped, &c.” This time I dared to say that dreadful thing, and the doctor answered me with the brutality of a surgeon.

I hope that the misfortunes announced by my dreams may be that But let us not busy ourselves in advance with the troubles which God holds in reserve for his humble servant. Just at present I am only half deaf.

However, he says that it will certainly get better. As long as I have my family to watch round me and to come to my assistance with the readiness of affection all goes well, yet …. but alone, in the midst of strangers !

And supposing I have a wicked or indelicate husband ! … If again it had been compensated by some great happiness with which I should have been crowned without deserving it ! But . . . why, then, is it said that God is good, that God is just ?

Why does God cause suffering? If it is He who has created the world, why has He created evil, suffering, and wickedness ?

So then I shall never be cured. It will be bearable ; but there will be a veil betwixt me and the rest of the world. The wind in the branches, the murmur of the water, the rain which falls on the windows . . . words uttered in a low tone … I shall hear nothing of all that ! With the K____ s I did not find myself at fault once ; nor at dinner either ; directly the conversation is just a little animated I have no reason to complain. But at the theatre I do not hear the actors completely ; and with models, in the deep silence, one does not speak loud . . . However . . . without doubt, it had been to a certain decree foreseen. I ought to have become accustomed to it during the last year … I am accustomed to it, but it is terrible all the same.

I am struck in what was the most necessary to me and the most precious. (p.565-6)

She died on October the 31st, 1884, and was buried in the Cimetiere de Passy in Paris, a few weeks before her twenty-sixth birthday.

It is certainly wrong to portray her by her illness alone.  She was a dynamic and interesting person, and the tragedy is she did not have the opportunity to show what she might have achieved.  I hope some of you will be interested to read her diaries and see her paintings.

Marie_Bashkirtseff1878Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff, Translated by Mathilde Blind, London 1890

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Marie-Bashkirtseff

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13916/13916-h/13916-h.htm

Marie Bashkirtseff. Part 2 her later life and diaries

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Bashkirtseff

Marie Bashkirtseff. Part 1 The portraitist and feminist

Gladstone, W. E. (1889). JOURNAL DE MARIE BASHKIRTSEFF. The Nineteenth Century: A Monthly Review, Mar.1877-Dec.1900, 26(152), 602-607. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/2630378?accountid=14511

Her paintings:

https://www.wikiart.org/en/marie-bashkirtseff/all-works#!#filterName:all-paintings-chronologically,resultType:masonry

https://www.ecosia.org/images?q=marie+bashkirtseff

The following looks interesting but I have not seen the article:

VALLERY-RADOT P 1955 Nov 26;63(79):1659-60. Une curieuse malade (1860-1884); Marie Bashkirtseff peinte par elle-même d’après son journal. [A strange patient (1860-1884); Marie Bashkirtseff who, according to her diary, she portrayed herself]. [Article in French]

 

“He owes his mental development to the manual method” – George Annand Mackenzie, the first Deaf man to get a degree in Britain

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 9 November 2018

George Annand Mackenzie, (1868-1951) was the first born deaf man to obtain a degree from a British university (B.A. in Theology, 1910, Master of Arts, Cambridge, 1911).*

Born to Scottish parents, his father was a chief reporter for the Liverpool Mercury (census, 1881).  He was not the first in his family who was deaf.  His elder brother, James Wilson Mackenzie (1865-95), was a talented artist, but he died young, and his obituary appeared in his father’s paper.  I wonder if their father wrote it –

THE LATE MR WILSON MACKENZIE.—Poignant regret is kindled in the hearts of his old masters, his old fellow-students, his nearer circle of friends, and the wider range which embraces those whose admiring appreciation is confined to true art, by the announcement of the death of Mr. J. Wilson Mackenzie, eldest eon of Mr. J. B. Mackenzie, of Liverpool, the sad event having occurred at West Kirby on Tuesday night. Early in his youth Wilson Mackenzie developed a remarkable aptitude in drawing and a fine sense of colour. He was placed under Mr. John Finnie, the principal of the School of Art, in Mount-street, and after a prolonged course of tuition in that nursery of painters, passed over to Paris, where he spent some time in the famous studio of Bougereau. While on the very threshold of his career, and later, he was an honoured exhibitor at the Royal Academy, and on many occasions works from his easel were hung in the Autumn Exhibitions in the Walker Gallery. In portraiture he ever minced the highest qualities of perception of charterer, and notable examples of his rare gifts in this direction are to be found inks presentments of the late Dr. E. M. Sheldon, Dr. J. Kona Smith, the late Police Magistrate of Birkenhead (Mr. J. Preston), and the into Dr. Costine. Some few years back signs of failure of the young painter’s health began to assert themselves, and in search of restoration he repaired to Davos Plata. For a time the change gave rise to hopes of recovery, but these, alas, faded away, and he returned home a. few months ago to die amongst those he loved so well. Wilson Mackenzie—it is agreeably easy to recall his eyes, quick with the brightness of genius, his graceful features, and his buoyant demeanour—was of a singularly sweet disposition, and all who know him, and knowing him therefore esteemed him, share with his parents. his sister, and his brothers the grief with which the calamity of his untimely demise has overshadowed their household. The funeral is to take place at. West Kirby Parish Church, at three o’clock to-morrow (Friday) afternoon. (Liverpool mercury, 1895, 1oth October)

In fact, the 1881 census says that George was ‘semi-deaf from birth,’ suggesting that at least when younger he had some hearing.  His mother sent him to live in Perthshire with an uncle who farmed , in the hope that the climate would help his hearing, but he seems to have run wild and was so shy on his return that he hid when he was re-introduced to his older brother (Silent World 1951, p.266).  We also read that he – and presumably his brothers – was taught initially by his mother “in finger spelling and signing – arts in which she was adept” which makes one wonder whether she learnt to help them or had learnt from some deaf relative.  Robert Armour (1837-1913), Missioner for the Deaf in Liverpool (born in Kilmarnock and deafened at 18 months by “some malady of the brain”) gave him some instruction in English composition, and he and his brothers walked five miles to the nearest church where services for the Deaf were held, so they met other members of the local Deaf community, like George Healey.

At thirteen after irregular attendances at a junior school, he went to a large hearing school, where the classes were too big and the teachers overworked. Being the only deaf pupil there he received scant attention. His school-mates with the thoughtless cruelty of the young made fun of him, standing around the door when class was dismissed and waving their hands and fingers in mimicry of his only means of expression. He took all this, he says, in good part, refusing to be drawn into any manifestation of anger or weakness and his good natured smiles soon made the game lose its savour and turned most of his tormentors into staunch and understanding friends. (Silent World p.266-7)

He was pretty much left to work out lessons for himself, gazing at pages of fractions and decimals until he understood, and he was successful enough to win school prizes (ibid).  His mother encouraged him to use his voice, but in The Teacher of the Deaf (1910, p.150) we read “He owes his mental development to the manual method.”

Leaving school, he became an artist like his brothers, winning prizes, and painting portraits of Sir Edward R. Russell , Dr. Robert Jones, and the Rev. T.W.M. Laud, among others.  He worked as an art master at a Liverpool school, and a potterty designer in Derby, before becoming a missioner to the deaf in 1901.  He then worked in Ely, Oxford and Cambridgeshire, before going to Cardiff from 1921 until his retirement in 1931.

He had tried to enter Liverpool University, with no success, and was also declined at Oxford when he was missioner there.  In 1907 the Cambridge University academics were however more enlightened than their Oxford colleagues, and he was accepted as a student.  He was excused lectures and spent the days reading for six to eight hours.  He graduated in 1910, causing a minor splash in newspapers of the time.

George married a Deaf lady from Cambridgeshire, Emily Lucy Kett (a good Norfolk name!) (1873-1954), and they had the one child, Alan.  He became involved in the deaf community, not really surprisingly, and went into the church.  The Rev. Alan F. Mackenzie (1911-1997) worked for the R.A.D.D. and was at one time on the council of the N.I.D.

The younger brother, Charles Douglas Mackenzie (1875-1953), was also Deaf.  He too became an artist, and seems to have made a living out of it.  He remained living with their mother after his father died.  Unfortunately I have not had time to research him properly.

*There is always the slim possibility that someone sneaked through before this, unrecorded.

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 3849; Folio: 124; Page: 54; GSU roll: 841928

1881 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 3419; Folio: 6; Page: 3

British Deaf Times, 1910, 7, 169-170

Grand Old Gentleman, Silent World vol.5 (9) 1951 p.266-8

The Messenger, 1910 vol.10 (6) p.80-82

Obituary. Teacher of the Deaf, 1951, 49, 154

ROE, W.R. Peeps into the deaf world. Bemrose, 1917. pp. 186-92.

Teacher of the Deaf, 1910, 8, 149-151. (photo)

Alan Pole Allsebrook, Deaf, art student, fruit farmer, Canadian (1880-1976)

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 2 November 2018

Alan Pole Allsebrook was born in Wollaton, Nottinghamshire on the 26th of May, 1880.  His father was a farmer.  Alan lost his hearing aged six due to scarlet fever (Berg, 2017).  From Silent World we can say that he was educated “at Mr. Green’s Deaf School in Nottingham, afterwards going to Northampton, and thence studying art under Professor Sir H. von Herkomer, R.A., at Bushey, and at the Académie Julian.  By ‘Northampton’ we must suppose that is Spring Hill School, where the Re. Thomas Arnold had taught.  I would suppose H.N. Dixon was headmaster when Allsebrook was there. 

Nowell Berg tells us, I would suppose based on information from Alan’s daughter Naomi Miller, that he got a certificate in teaching at Nottingham School of Art, before going to Paris to study art, and then working on Liverpool Cathedral.  The Roe article tells us that he was a pupil of Sir Hubert von Herkomer, and that after his time in Paris he worked for a firm of ecclesiastical sculptors as a partner.   If we add those three sources together it makes sense, and we might suppose he was at art school from circa 1895 to 7 perhaps, then at Bushey, then in Paris.  In the 1901 census he was staying with his brother, Arthur, who was a barrister, in Inner Temple, where Alan was described as an art student.

He was certainly acquainted with the community of Deaf young men who formed the National Deaf Club, though I am not sure whether he was a member.  He must have know M.S. Fry as he was a regular contributor to The Silent World, the Fry-edited magazine that lasted from 1909 to 1910 before being absorbed into The British Deaf Times.  Allsebrook wrote a series of articles about his cycling holiday in France, and other articles such one entitled ‘Idling in Devon’ (The Silent World, 1910 p.85-7).

This article, A Deaf Art Student in Paris (Silent World, Vol 1 p.3-7), is written as Jules de Languedoc, but it is pretty clear to me that it is AllsebrookIt gives us a vivid picture of the life of a poor student.  From that we know it was ten years since he left, so he must have been there in about 1899.

In 1911 Allsebrook emigrated to British Columbia, “to try his luck in fruit farming” (Roe, p.220)

After sixteen weary days and nights of travelling, I landed at Nelson. It is a delightful little town of 8,50o inhabitants, and has some good shops and cosy houses, all built of wood. I was only there for two-and-a-half days, however, for the very first man I called upon, the morning after my arrival, took me on at his apple ranch at Kaslo, forty miles higher up the lake.

I was introduced to Carl Johansen, a Swede, who worked on the farm. We soon got to business, pruning and spraying six acres of apple trees. My first night’s sleep in my little ‘shack’ was somewhat restless, owing to the antics of a little squirrel who had got in and was squatting on the eaves over my head, regarding me curiously with his bright little eyes. Then I was rather cold ; and I might well be, for I found on getting up in the morning six inches of snow on the ground, the ice in my wash-basin one inch thick, and the contents of my kettle a solid block of ice.

There is one great discomfort here. The air is so dry that gloves are a sine qua non in working out-of-doors. Just imagine an English nurseryman in gloves! At first I set to work gaily, enough with bare hands, but in a few days every finger-tip and some of the joints cracked and oozed blood.

It is just a month since the door of my little ‘shack’ on the mountain side was pushed open one night as I was baking potatoes on the stove, when in walked my boss, and behind him showed my brother’s cheery, strong, brown face, just arrived from England. That was the end of my ‘hitching’—doing for your-self in a ‘shack ‘—for the time being, for within five days my brother had taken a rapid but thorough survey of all the likely lands round Nelson, and bought a lovely two-acre apple ranch, cleared and planted, at Balfour.

At his request I gave up my berth to go and spend the summer with him, helping him to knock his place into shape and get a house built. We saw on the plot many beautiful birds and magnificent butterflies, three to six inches across. By the way, we have not had any shooting yet, but the surveyor of Kaslo ran against two bears on the mountain side a week ago, but, not having his gun, he hurried away. Small blame to him, for these bears arc as big as a cart-horse. It is strange to see the people at church in unimaginable clothes and a dozen dogs sitting quietly by their owners.

Then, as to letters, they only come three times a week. Lord Aylmer has a ranch not very far from here. I intend that Kaslo shall be my future home, and have purchased a ranch on the lake front, which appears to me to be an ideal spot, surrounded as it is by beautiful scenery, and dotted all about the hills with rich, beautiful orchards of the finest fruit trees.

It is glorious! Soft, green leaves, bushes of roses of every size and hue, sweet-peas, pansies and violets, snapdragon and clematis, and creepers of all kinds. Below, the sparkling blue water ; and above, crag, forest, and peak of snow. Yes, you must look far round the world, and far east and west across this wonderful Canada, to find a fairer spot than Kaslo.

It certainly looks very beautiful!

Berg tells us that Alan and his youngest brother Eric were drafted in World War 1.  Alan returned to England in 1916, arriving at Liverpool on the 28th of May.  It is interesting if that is the case, as almost all Deaf people were excluded from serving when their deafness was discovered, however perhaps the Canadian forces (generally more meritocratic that the British Army) put him into some non-combat role – if he served with them?  I could not find any mention of him in online military records, but they are far from complete.

On a trip back to Britain, he met a friend of his sister Dorothy, Lucie Naomi Smith, and they got married and returned to Canada (Berg, 2017).

He lived to the age of 96, dying in Nelson, British Columbia, on the 17th of December, 1976.  We might say he had a long and fruitful life.

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 2671; Folio: 145; Page: 4

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 264; Folio: 104; Page: 13

1916 – Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 623

1924 – Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 761

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/188709766/alan-pole-allsebrook

Berg, Nowell, Histories Historian: The Story of Naomi Miller. The Village Buzz, August 2017 Issue 201 http://wasalake.com/News/TVB-08-2017.pdf

Roe, W.R., Peeps into the Deaf World, 1917

A short history of the Action on Hearing Loss Library

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 29 October 2018

The Action on Hearing Loss Library, formerly the RNID Library, can trace its origin to a meeting held on 9th June 1911. The National Bureau for Promoting the General Welfare of the Deaf was founded by the wealthy banker Leo Bonn and a group of people interested in trying to draw together the various organisations that dealt with deafness and hearing loss to better promote the issues involved. The first annual report (1912) said “considerable headway has been made in the establishment of a library on deafness and the deaf.” Books were donated by many organisations and also by missioners to the deaf like the Rev. F.W.G. Gilby. The Arnold Library from the National Association for Teachers of the Deaf was accommodated in the Bureau’s offices for some years, before being sold by the National Association for Teachers of the Deaf to Manchester University, and the collection was open from 10am to 1pm on Saturdays.

The Great War held up the work of the Bureau which was reconstituted in March 1924 in High Holborn under the title the National Institute for the Deaf. We can see from the annual reports that spending on ‘Periodicals and publications’ in 1925-6 was £4 5s 11d, but already by 1931 this had risen to £74 9d. By 1932-3 the Institute was outgrowing its cramped offices, now in Bloomsbury St, and space was needed for a proper library, so in 1934 premises were purchased at 105 Gower St. At that time the Royal Ear Hospital was in Huntley St and in conjunction with the NID they set up an early hearing aid clinic.

The Second World War once again restricted the work of the Institute but with the help of their pressure in 1948 the first NHS Medresco hearing aid was made free, and importantly its batteries were also made free.  The same year the Honorary Librarian H.G.M. Strutt BA was thanked for “converting our collection of books and pamphlets into the nucleus of a modern library service for the deaf.”  The new library, which opened on March 10th 1948, on the second floor (we have always been up the stairs!) was open for 3 days a week and sent books out on loan, though the postage was paid by the borrowers. Early users then were mainly teachers of the deaf and trainees in deaf welfare.  “It is free, there are no fines and for the most part borrowers observe the regulations”.  Books were purchased for Manchester University’s Deaf Education students, and the first journals were now bound.

In 1951 the library received a boost by the addition of the collection of books & photographs made by the missioner to the deaf, Selwyn Oxley. The collection was classified under the Bliss System.  In 1957 the Australian Dr Pierre Gorman was appointed librarian.  Gorman, who was born deaf, was the first deaf person to graduate with a PhD from Cambridge University.  After Gorman left the UK he returned to Australia where he died in 2006.

By the 1990s the RNID (it became Royal in 1961) had outgrown Gower St and moved to Old St.  The future of the library was in the balance but Professor Tony Wright, then head of the Institute of Laryngology, negotiated the transfer of the collection management to UCL while the RNID maintained ownership and gave financial support to the collection.  For many years until her retirement in 2003 the librarian was Mary Plackett who knew the collection intimately having worked for the RNID since the 1960s.

See also NID/RNID Annual Reports and various NID/RNID magazines and journals for the details.

William Walter Adamson, Missioner to the Deaf in Northumberland, (1867-1947)

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 25 October 2018

William Walter Adamson was a Geordie of Scottish extraction.  He was born in Newcastle in 1867, son of Thomas (a draper) and his wife Elizabeth.  He was educated at Dr. Bruce’s Academy, according to a note by Selwyn Oxley.  He seems to have remained in the city all his life, dying in 1947 at the age of eighty.  In 1885 he formed a club for poor boys in the city, and a Deaf boy came along.  As he lived near the Northern Counties Institution (school), he went along and this began a life-long interest in the Deaf (Teacher of the Deaf, on which much of this is based).  In 1895 he gave up work in a local shipping company, and became a candidate for ordination.  The Rev. Gilby mentions him several times in his memoir – they worked quite closely together in the ten years following, Adamson becomomg a co-editor of Our Monthly Church Messenger to the Deaf (Gilby memoir p.172).

Adamson was made the first chaplain to The Northumberland and Durham Mission to the Deaf and Dumb, a post he held until 1920.

His obituary says that he disliked publicity, and “fought firmly all exploitation of the deaf.”  It continues –

He taught all manner of subjects at the Mission and interested the members in athletics, in-door games and hobbies.  He sought out deaf children who were not attending school and brought them to the notice of the Authorities.  These self-appointed tasks were carried out with enthusiasm and the work he began 50 years ago is now well established.

His understanding and knowledge of the problems of the deaf placed him in a unique position in the North.  He had a large circle of influential friends and he was able to cover much ground in his efforts to improve matters for all handicapped children. In addition to the work he did for the deaf, a lively interest was taken in blind and crippled children.  During his life-time he saw many changes, and thanks to his efforts light and colour brightened innumerable lives.  The spiritual life and general welfare of the deaf were his constant care and he was often consulted with regard to improve-ments in schools and administrative affairs.

Adamson never married but lived for many years with a sister.

Below is a page from the local mission magazie, D & D from 1903, and a photograph that appears to show him to the left of Sir Arthur Fairbairn at a ‘sale of Work’ for the mission.

Click onto the images for a larger size.

Our Monthly Church Messenger to the Deaf, 1894 vol.1 p.15-16

Obituary, Teacher of the Deaf, 1947 p.205

Charles Birtwistle, Deaf Missioner – “he approves of the Oral Method for those able to profit by it.”

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 19 October 2018

Charles Birtwistle was born in Rochdale in 1850.  Being deaf from birth, he was sent to the Old Trafford school in Manchester, where he learnt with the ‘silent’ or manual method.  His father was a warehouseman, according to the 1862 Manchester Annual Report, who paid £2 12s a year in fees.  He joined the school on the 26th of July, 1858, so he would have left  (p.12). The census shows that his older brother James (born 1847) was also ‘deaf and dumb’ and he had joined the school on the 31st of July, 1854, at which time their father was paying £5 4 s per year in fees.  The headmaster at that time was Patterson, and F.G.C. Goodwin was one of the teachers.

In The British Deaf Monthly when they featured him in March 1900 (p.99) he says that although he was never taught to speak, “he approves of the Oral Method for those able to profit by it.”  Note the qualification.

After leaving school he became a ‘clogger’ as did James.  Sadly James Birtwistle died aged only 20 in 1867.

He was described as a ‘pioneer’ of the Rochdale and District Adult Deaf and Dumb Society (1931 Annual Report, p.3).*  The mission was first established at Bolton, as a branch of the Manchester mission, in 1869, meetings initially being held at the Trinity Church Schools (Ephphatha p.630).   The first missioner was F.G.C. Goodwin.  The Rochdale branch was founded in September 1871, and services were conducted in the Co-operative Hall until 1895.  Birtwistle rarely took services himself, but was a regular at the services and meetings – “where his presence does much to ensure an orderly and profitable gathering.”

He married wife Emily Derrick, who was hearing, in 1877, the service being conducted by the Rev George A.W. Downing (1828-80).  The Irish born Downing was a Teacher of the Deaf first at Claremont, Strabane, and then took over from Rev.William Stainer at Manchester in 1866.

Birtwistle’s four children were all hearing.  He died in February 1932.

It is interesting how so many people in the Deaf world of Northern England can be connected with a relatively obscure and humble man, and illustrates how many more ‘histores’ there are to be written.

* Pages are un-numbered.

1851 Census – Class: HO107; Piece: 2244; Folio: 9; Page: 11; GSU roll: 87261-87263

1861 Census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 3045; Folio: 31; Page: 4; GSU roll: 543069

BOLTON, BURY, ROCHDALE AND DISTRICT ADULT DEAF AND DUMB SOCIETY (1869-?)

Historical sketch. British Deaf Monthly, 1896, 6, 31-36. (photos of missioners)

History and work. Ephphatha, 1922, 52, 630-631.

A Missioner, two frauds, and UCL

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 12 October 2018

R.W. Dodds (1866-1948) was from Cramlington, Newcastle.  He became a teacher of the deaf under B.H. Payne in Swansea, then at Old Trafford under Bessant, and finally went to Donaldson’s Hospital, Edinburgh, before becoming a missioner.  His first appointment as such was in Dundee, then later he was missioner in Belfast from 1903 to 1939.  He was a regular contributor to the British Deaf News in that period.

There have always been unscrupulous people who exploit the good nature and generosity of the public, and who thus cause huge harm to trust. In October, 1897, when he was missioner to the Deaf of Dundee, Dodds wrote a letter to The Dundee Courier & Argus, about two such beggers, one representing herself as deaf but almost certainly hearing, and the other apparently deaf for about two years.

LETTERS TO EDITOR.
A WARNING. TO THE EDITORS OF THE DUNDEE COURIER. SIR.,—

I beg to warn the public, and particularly managers of public works, workshops, &c., against respectably dressed deaf mutes soliciting help by means of letters. One at present in the district hailing from London shows a book containing some rough sketches described as his own work, and signing himself as “Jack Leslie.” He is well dressed, and by putting on a bold front is readily admitted into factories, stores, and workshops, being regarded by porters as a factory inspector or traveller. His method of proceeding is to leave circulars, and then return to collect subscriptions from workmen, &c., who generally help him all round. I would also draw attention to a young girl representing herself as Shields, dressmaker, aged 17, an orphan, and deaf and dumb, from Whitehaven, England. Has a ruddy complexion, and generally wears a brown Jacket. Having come across her begging late in the day by means of a letter, I stopped her, and after inquiries made arrangements to get her work, but instead of appearing at time appointed she escaped by an early train. As she has passed through all the towns south of Dundee, carefully evading missionaries and deaf and dumb persons, I expect she has proceeded northward. It is doubtful as to her being a deaf mute. Again, I would earnestly request the public to refuse all such deaf mute applicants, both the respectable and the poorly clad, and refer them to Mr Dodds, 31 Reform Street, who is now prepared to attend to the genuine needs of all deaf mutes, and to find them suitable work. As this mission is supported by public subscription through an authorised collector, we sincerely regret that vagrants should be allowed to impose on a generous people. The authorised collector for our Mission is finished for this year.—I am, &c., R. W. DODDS, Missionary. October 23, 1897.

A few days earlier, the Dundee Evening Telegraph described Leslie as follows –

Medium-sized of gentlemanly appearance, dark, clean-shaven attired in a black suit, and wearing a dark straw hat, one might take him for a traveller attached to a well-to-do publishing firm, a supposition which would appear to be borne out by the fact of his currying a portfolio under his arm. But this gentleman is no ordinary traveller, and if he should drift across the readers path you will find he has an extraordinary tale to tell.

In November, 1897, the British Deaf Monthly published an article about Jack Leslie, if indeed that was his real name.  They included the text of his mawkish appeal to sentiment referred to above, designed to make anyomne who refused him feel guilty of cruelty.

AN AFFLICTED TALENT.

PLEASE: READ.

The only joy in my silent life is Art.

I am not begging. A mute’s appeal.

Ah! Nature itself is beauty alone to those who can speak

and hear and listen to the music of God’s

own nature, and speak to the ones

he loves most dear.

Please purchase my Poems below and assist me

to become an Artist.

Price whatever you desire to give.

Small as well as large gifts will be thankfully received.

Everything helps.

To the Reader,—For more than two years I have been deaf and dumb from a horrible attack of scarlet fever, and, as I am alone in this world, my sole ambition is to become an artist. My father has been dead for four years. Two years ago I became seriously ill with scarlet fever, and my only friend, my mother, attended me during my illness, and was my only comfort. But alas! for her duty and kindness, one day became ill herself with the fever, which was caught by attending me. After my mother was stricken with the fever, and on awaking one morning, I tried to call her in the next room. I made several efforts to speak, but the words came in soft whispers. I could neither speak nor hear, and everything appeared silent and dead about me. “My God,” I whispered in a breath, “I cannot speak or hear.” The feelings that crept over me you must imagine—my pan can never describe them. I went to the room occupied by my sick mother. She smiled on me when I entered, her eyes closed and her pale lips moved, but I could not hear what she muttered. When she learned the fact that I was deaf and dumb she took from her hand her wedding ring, and, placing it upon my left hand, kissed me good-bye as she breathed her last moments. I believe now it was the shock she received that killed her as she learned of ray sorrow and the thought of my past misfortunes. Would to God I had died with my poor mother than to be left upon earth a burden to myself, as you see before your eyes. I take my sorrow more to heart than any one born deaf and dumb. They are more happy than I because they know not what it was to be happy before, with a promising future and a happy home, but which now has passed to misfortune and sorrow. God only knows what I have suffered, and what I deserve. God has left me one gift, and that is art, for which you will see I have a great natural talent by looking at the sketch-book I carry. I hope by offering the poems below, which I composed myself, for sale to obtain money enough to study art at the Slade School of Art, University College. What you give will never be missed from your pocket, and all will be put to good use, for I am not a beggar. God will reward you by future good fortunes, for perhaps Providence has been more kind to you than me. If so, assist me all you can, and thus cast a ray of hope and sunshine on a dark and gloomy pathway.

N.B.- I speak both double and single hand language. Any one doubting my affliction can inquire at University College. (British Deaf Times, Nov. 1897, p.3)

Oh dear!

The University College Secretary, J.M. Horsburgh was forced to put out a statement in July saying that Leslie was nothing to do with them and had no connection with the Slade School.  It would have been simple enough to test his finger spelling ability.  He had made all sorts of claims, including being an American artist, but no one saw any of his work apart from the few sketches he showed when begging.  He dressed well and liked to stay in good hotels, having carried out his fraud in Ireland as well as Scotland, where he was run out of Glasgow by two detectives and forced to buy a train ticket to London, presumably England being considered fair game.

The BDT article says that he was a little over 18 years old, and, “although he belongs to London, has spent some time in America” (p.3).  It says that, as he claimed, he could not hear and had no speech.  I wonder if there are records of him in America, but the problem is, he may have used more than one name.  The article ends saying that he “is now in prison charged with indecency and begging” (p.4)

I wonder what became of him.

Dundee Evening TelegraphThursday 21 October 1897; pg. 2

The Dundee Courier & Argus (Dundee, Scotland), Friday, October 22, 1897; pg. 5; Issue 13828

The Dundee Courier & Argus (Dundee, Scotland), Monday, October 25, 1897; pg. 4; Issue 13830

The Morning Post (London, England), Tuesday, July 27, 1897; pg. 3; Issue 39044

The Late Rev R.W.Dodds, C.T.D. Obituary, British Deaf Times 1947, XLV p.87

Wanted to be an Artist. British Deaf Times, Nov. 1897, p.3-4