By H Dominic W Stiles, on 21 October 2016
Northumbrian born William Robsson Scott (1811-66), was a son of the physician and magistrate, Dr. Walter Scott (see In Memorium for what follows). He became a teacher of the deaf, and principal of the West of England Institution in Exeter. His obituary does not tell us what embarked him on his career as a teacher, but tells us that he was another of those teachers who received early training at the Yorkshire Institution under Charles Baker. He left there in 1841 to go to Exeter where he stayed until his death, thirty-six years later, though “an attack of paralysis” partially incapacitated him for the last five years of his life. It seems he must have met his wife, Mary Maundel or Mandell Scott, when he was in Doncaster, where she was from, and they married in London, presumably when he was on his way to Exeter.
Marriages Mar 1841, London
MASON Mary Mandell – SCOTT William Robson
Mary was the matron at the school. Indeed, I expect it was the preference of the governing bodies of institutions to appoint a husband and wife team, so perhaps he had to get married, and it may have been a practical marriage rather than a romantic one – we will never know. They did have several children.
1841 was also the year Mrs Hippisley Tuckfield first became involved with the school. There is a good chance that Scott was the head when the fictional Arthur in the short story by Mrs Webb was published – in other words, perhaps he and Mr Wheatley were the models for the teachers in her story, Mr Eyre and Mr Johnson. Her story then may give us a window into the teaching methods in that period.
No less a person than Sir William Wilde, the ENT doctor and father of Oscar, wrote in his book On the Physical, Moral, and Social Condition of the Deaf and Dumb, that “By far the best work that has appeared in this country on the Deaf and Dumb during the present century is by Dr. Scott, the Principal of the West of England Institution at Exeter – a work should be in the hands of every parent or guardian of a mute child.” (Wilde, 1854, p.21).
D.B., In Memorium, William Robson Scott. Magazine intended chiefly for the Deaf and Dumb, 1877, 5, 97-98.
Wilde, William, On the Physical, Moral, and Social Condition of the Deaf and Dumb, 1854