“To know Tongues is comly” – the Janua linguarum reserata of John Amos Comenius

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 29 April 2016

Comenius tableJan Amos Komenský, 1592-1670, also known by the Latin version of his name as Johan Comenius, was another of those great 17th century scholars.  His protestant family were members of the Moravian Church.  He studied at the University of Heidelberg, and before that at the Herborn Academy where he learnt the diadatic method.  His was an age of war and persucution, and eventually he fled to Poland, later spending time in Sweden and visiting England in 1648.  He finally ended up living in Amsterdam, where he died.  There is a fine Rembrandt portrait which it is suggested depicts him.

Comenius 2 picsHe was influenced by Francis Bacon, and in turn became hugely influential as Piaget shows (see link below).  The book we have by him, his Janua linguarum reserata… was originally written when he was in in exile in Poland, and was published in 1631.  The English translation was called (in short) The gate of languages unlocked: or, A seed-plot of all arts and tongues; containing a ready way to learn the Latine and English tongue.  There were many editions and it would take someone with a good knowledge of the editions to divine exactly which volume we have, as when it was rebound and the pages badly cropped, in the 19th century, it lost its title page and part of the introduction.  The end of the introduction and part of the tables were bound (then, or earlier) out of sequence, between pages 18 and 19. Comenius 3 The book aimed to have a structured breakdown of learning, divided into 1,000 sentences, with an extensive Latin index at the end.  Our version is a parallel translation, Latin on the left page and English on the right, except the last page where it is reversed, probably due to a dozy printer.  Despite its tatty condition – a few worm-holes on ther back pages and very well read – it remains an entertaining book.  The front pages begin as follows –

1. Whither the study of Tongues tendeth.

God created the world, full of the works of wisdom; and placed man in the midst of the Creatures, that by contemplating them, and Using them, and Discoursing on them, hee might have delight.  There is therefore a threefold end of our life in the World, namely that – wee view the works of God; wee learn to use them well; wee propagate to others such knowledg and use, by the help of Tongues

wherefore we learn to speak (with one Tongue or more) thast wee may attain the Knowledg of Things; but wee seek the Knowledg of Things, that wee may not mistake in the Use.  Therefore mark well.  To know Tongues is comly; more comly, to understand the things themselves, whereof it is to bee spoken; but most comly to know how to use the knowledg of both.  Tongues therefore ought to bee learned, not without the knowledg of Things, but together with it.

Comenius hackneyThere are plenty of great lines – sentence 835, “Whores and fornicators are beaten with rods or whips : Hackney-whores are branded with marks…”, 339 “Cattel happily increaseth , when their wombs are of good breed.”   “Hackney whores” is a phrase also used by Ned Ward in The London Spy (1699), and in various  sayings and proverbs of that time, like “If Paris be the hell of hackney-horses, ’tis the Paradise of whoremasters and hackney-whores” and “whores are the Hackneys which men ride to hell.”

An eager student began to gloss the index of our copy but gave up after two pages!

Why do we have it?  Well, Selwyn Oxley collected many books that might talk about language, even in passing, and the word ‘tongues’ must have made this an interesting acquisition for the ‘ephphatha’ collection.

Comenius on Wikipedia page

Piaget on Comenius

Williams, Gordon, A Dictionary of Sexual Language and Imagery in Shakespearean and Stuart Literature. 1994  p.636

“I gazed upon her beauteous form, As in death’s clasp it lay” – Poems on the Deaf and Dumb

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 22 April 2016

Poems 2Poems on the Deaf and Dumb was written, or rather compiled by William Robert Roe, and published in 1888.

Jennifer Esmail says that Roe’s book reprints American Deaf poetry without refering to the author’s nationalities, but not all of the poems are American.  Roe must have scoured all the sources he could find, in order to fill his pages.  The sources include poems by Eliza Cook, the Church of England Magazine, and the American Mrs Sigourney.  Usually I stand back from direct comment on works which appear in the blog, and perhaps I am being unfair, but I have no hesitation in calling much (not all) of this collection, mawkish and sentimental!   Judge for yourselves.  The whole book is in the link above, and a few selections are below.


Written at the death of Miss F., a Deaf Mute.

By Miss M.M.F.

I gazed upon her beauteous form,

As in death’s clasp it lay,

The smile still hovered on the lips

With which she passed away.


And n’er before had that sweet face

So lovely seemed to me;

The heavenly calm reflected there

Was beautiful to see.


Her wish at length was realised –

She’d seen the glorious face

Of Him who shed for her His blood,

Who saved her by his grace.


She’s watching for her dear ones now,

With others gone before;

And one who since has crossed the flood

And joined her on that shore.


Her unstopped ear shall catch the strain

That will our advent greet;

Her loosened tongue with ours shall join

In halleljahs sweet.


O, hasten, Lord, that meeting time,

We long to be with Thee;

To leave this world of grief and sin,

And all Thy glory see.(p.22)Mute courtship

pOEMS pARRYOne of our many copies was owned by Edwin Parry, 25 Primrose Terrace, Bower House, Blackburn, dated May 12nd [sic] 1888.  In 1911 there was an Eliza Parry, aged 54, widow, described as deaf from aged 6 (circa 1863), though the 1861 census says she was deaf ‘from birth’.  It seems her maiden name was Eliza Gladstone and that she married Edwin Parry in Blackburn in 1885.  Eliza was born in Hunslet, Yorkshire, daughter to James and Jannet(t) Gladstone, who had moved to England from Roxburgh.  We may question whether she had any formal education at all, other than at home, but it is possible.  The Leeds Deaf Institute only opened in 1876, when she was an adult.

In 1901 Eliza, already widowed, was working as a cotton winder, living with Margaret Walker, aged 67, and Jane Clara, aged 65, both deaf.   I wonder if they used signs at work, or ‘meemawing’, a combination of mouthing and mime employed in noisy Lancashire Mills, which Les Dawson famously used with his characters Cissie and Ada.  I have not been able to find Edwin on a quick look at the census records.  Perhaps he was not deaf, though I suspect he may have been.  It is also possible that, like his wife, he was not born in Lancashire.  Hunslet was a town that had mills which wove flax, and presumably Eliza moved to Lancashire seeking work some time in the 1880s.

I think our Eliza Parry died in 1915.  Do add anything you may discover in the comments below.

new ears

Esmail, Jennifer, Reading Victorian Deafness.  2013

The invalid’s hymn book [compiled by H. Kierman] with preface by H. White

1911 census Class: RG14; Piece: 25107

1901 census Class: RG13; Piece: 3915; Folio: 130; Page: 3

1891 census Class: RG12; Piece: 3416; Folio: 145; Page: 3; GSU roll: 6098526

1861 census Class: RG 9; Piece: 3357; Folio: 79; Page: 10; GSU roll: 543119



Summerford Board School

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 14 April 2016

Mary E. Smart  (c.1860-1918) and Peter Dodds  (1859-1939), were teachers of the deaf at Summerford Street Board School, Bethnal Green, London [now Somerford St., just by the railway line at Bethnal Green], around 1900.  They appeared in The British Deaf Monthly in 1900, in photographs submitted to the paper by Fred Doughty (1882-?), a pupil at the school.  According to his obituary in the Teacher of the Deaf, the Northumbrian born Dodds was trained at Manchester under Andrew Patterson, and later worked at Margate, before he moved to the London Board SchoolIn 1901 he became the head of the Exeter Institution, remaining there until his retirement in 1923.

With regard to methods Mr. Dodds has an open mind. Whilst assured that, given proper conditions, the Oral Method is the best, he would adopt any method which would, in his opinion, confer the greatest benefit upon the child. His strong advocacy of the Gouin Method of teaching language may still be fresh in the minds of teachers. (British Deaf Monthly, 1901 p.210)

Unfortunately the article skips over his time in London.

In 1881 Mary Smart was living and working at The Elms, Castle Bar Road, site of the Ealing Training College, which was under the then superintendent, Mary A.J. Hobson (born on St.Vincent, West Indies, circa 1841, died 1915).  The student teachers are listed as follows –

DoddsAgnes Newth     31
Isabel Spring     30
Agnes Pengelly     24
Harriett Davy     21
Maria Hotton     27
Marianne Thomas     23
Fanny Rutherford     21
Lilly Nickels     20
Mary Smart     21
Diana Wrench     18

Mary died in 1918, so perhaps she was a victim of the influenza outbreak (thanks to @DeafHeritageUK for finding that out).  She lived with her sister in Caledonian Road in 1901.

Fred Doughty has been hard to track down.  He was the son of a metal plate worker, and seems to have trained in the same trade, according to the 1911 census.  That census tells us that he was totally deaf from an accident aged 2 1/2.  He took the school class photos which Ernest Abraham published.   In 1911 he lived with his parents, William and Sarah Ann, in 1a Cornwall Rd, Mile End.

All these people are full of potential for interesting research and fuller ‘potted biographies’ than we can put here.  Additionally, the London Board Schools, and similar schools other than the big Deaf Instititutions, are deserving of much fuller treatment.  Places to research this are of course local newspapers and archives such as the London Metropolitan Archive.

The school building still exists, as part of the present school in Somerford [sic] Street, and you can see how small it is on Bing Birdseye which you can turn around to see the building from a different angle.  It probably had two classes only, from the size of the building.

Summerford Smart

Summerford DoddsMary Smart 1881 Census Class: RG11; Piece: 1344; Folio: 48; Page: 51; GSU roll: 1341327

Mary Smart 1901 Census Class: RG13; Piece: 171; Folio: 84; Page: 19

Fred Doughty 1911 Census Class: RG14; Piece: 1625

British Deaf-Mute, 1896, 5, 133-34.

Charles Booth Online Archive

Mr Peter Dodds, British Deaf Monthly, 1901, p.209-10

British Deaf Monthly, 1900 June, vol.9 p.172 (photo of Miss Smart and class)

British Deaf Monthly,, 1900, Feb, vol.9, p.76 (Mr. Dodds and Class)

Our Photographic Competition, British Deaf Monthly, 1900 p.76 (Picture of Dodds in the class as shown above)

18/4/2016 Updated with death date of Mary Smart, thanks to @DeafHeritageUK

East Scotland Deaf Draughts Champions – 1900

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 8 April 2016

Dundee Deaf draughts champions of East Scotland, from a match at the Dundee Mission Hall between Dundee and Arbroath.  February 1900, from the British Deaf Monthly, Vol.9, p.164.  Apparently the result ‘was an easy win for the Dundonians’!

Dundee draughts 1900


Deaf Sculptor, Dorothy Stanton Wise, A.R.C.A. 1879-1918

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 1 April 2016

Stanton Wise SpringDorothy STANTON WISE,  (1879-1918) was a talented sculptor.  Born on the 20th of October, 1879,* one of four children, Dorothy was deaf from birth, .  Her birth name was Dorothea rather than Dorothy.  Her father who ran a small boarding school with his wife, taught mathematics, her mother Elizabeth taught Dorothy to draw.  Elizabeth wrote an extensive article, “How a mother educated her own deaf child,” published in The Association Review in 1909.

We had no fears about her until she was two years old.  She cooed and laughed like any other baby, looked up when I entered the room, and was particularly lively and happy; but when she reached that age, and still only cooed and laughed, I was afraid she must be tongue-tied.  The doctor soon settled that point, and, after a few minutes’ careful watching, broke to me what the real trouble was.  He talked about my waiting a while, taking her to an aurist, and so on, and casually remarked, “I suppose you know now the deaf are taught to speak, and to understand by the movement of the lips.”  I did not know; we had no deaf friends, and the matter had never interested me; but suddenly, at that one sentence, the whole horror of the shock fell away, and a future of infinite possibilities opened out.  The doctor was kind and sympathizing; I stood by the window looking down the familiar street, but I saw all the old objects under a new light required for their interpretation to Dorothy, and her education began from the moment we skipped out of his doorway. (p.104)

Stanton Wise BingyWhen she was five she attended a kindergarten for two years (circa 1886), but then inexplicably says, “there was no school for the deaf within fifty miles of us” (p.104) – yet Margate school was only a few miles away.  At any rate, Elizabeth consulted the oralist teacher in Northampton, Mr. Arnold, who gave her some help in learning his methods of education.  When they moved to London, Dorothy had a short course of lessons in lipreading every spring at the Fitzroy Square School.  Straight after kindergarten Dorothy “went twice a week to a school of art for the usual course of freehand and model drawing” (p.106).  She decided to pursue art, wanting to study under Lantéri in the Royal College of Art.  To qualify, the whole family contributed to her art education, her father teaching her perspective, her mother helped with lessons in anatomical drawing that Dorothy developed further on her own, and her younger brother sat and worked with her on geometrical drawing (p.107).  After five years study under Lantéri she obtained the sculpture degree in 1906, the only girl in her year to do so.

The family ended up living in Hendon, and she remained with her parents, working on commissions.

She died on Christmas Day 1918**, possibly the victim of the influenza outbreak.  Regular readers may recall the words of  Yvonne Pitrois – “My heart was nearly broken when I heard of the passing away of Miss D.S. Wise!”

There is certainly sufficient material on Dorothy to make an interesting article, especially if the writer has an interest in art and can track down her original works.  Perhaps the Royal College of Art Archive has interesting records of her.

**[not 1919 as Lang says – see probate records and death index]
Stanton Wise*Dorothy Stanton Wise, Døves Blad, No.3, 1922, p.4-5

The Late Dorothy Stanton Wise, A.R.C.A., Ephphatha 1919 no.42 p.550-1

Lang, Harry C. & Meath-Lang, Bonnie, Deaf Persons in the Arts & Sciences, 1995, p.381-4

Pitrois, Yvonne, Dorothy Stanton Wise, The Silent Worker, 1916. 28 (7) p.121-2

Ray, Cuthbert Hamilton, A Clever Deaf Sculptor, BDT 1911, vol 8 no.90 p121-3Roe, W.R., Peeps into the Deaf World, p. 1917

Wilson, Miss Edith C., Note to “How I Became a Sculptor”, The Volta Review 1913, Vol.15, 406-7

Wise, Dorothy Stanton, How I became a Sculptor, The Volta Review 1913, Vol.15, 403-5

Wise, E. A., “How a mother educated her own deaf child,” in The Association Review, 1909, vol.11 p.103-8


“Breeders of the Deaf” – Percival Macleod Yearsley’s ‘self advertisement’

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 22 March 2016

In the 1920s eugenics was a very hot subject, an area of much concern to Percival Macleod Yearsley (1867-1951).  Percival was a cousin (twice removed) of James Yearsley the great aural surgeon.  Yearsley was formerly consulting aural surgeon to St. James’ Hospital, Balham, and to the London County Council.  He died at Gerrard’s Cross on May 4, 1951 at the age of 83.  He was educated at Merchant Taylors’ School and the Westminster and London Hospitals.  In 1893 he was appointed to the staff of the old Royal Ear Hospital in Soho, becoming senior surgeon, and

he was the first aural surgeon to the London County Council, for whom he carried out important investigations among school-children.  He also interested himself in the welfare of deaf-mutes.  A man of many interests, Macleod Yearsley wrote some delightful fairy tales, studied the story of the Bible, discussed the sanity of Hamlet and doctors in Elizabethan drama, took a scientific interest in the Zoological Society, translated Forel’s Sensations des insectes, and was an archaeologist of repute. In his own specialty he wrote a Textbook on Diseases of the Ear (1908) and another on Nursing in Diseases of the Throat, Nose and Ear.  Later he became greatly interested in the Zund-Burguet electrophonoid treatment of deafness, on which he wrote a monograph in 1933.  Energetic, open-minded, and many-faceted, he was looked upon as rather a stormy petrel by his contemporaries; but he mellowed with time, to be regarded with respect and admiration by otologists of today. (Obituary in the Lancet, 1951)

Percival McLeod Yearsley's signature in a copy of his cousin's The Artificial Tympanum

Percival MacLeod Yearsley’s signature in a copy of his cousin’s book The Artificial Tympanum

The letter, a follow up to a much longer letter signed by a number of notable people, appears in a scrap page from Ernest Ayliffe’s collection of various odd documents and letters, with associated cuttings, and the page is dated ‘Feb 22/29’.   The year was 1929, the newspaper the Daily Mail.

Breeders of the Deaf

Sir,- For the past twenty-one years I have been advocating the sterilisation of those who are responsible for the perpetuation of a considerable section of our “deaf-mutes.” But hitherto such advocacy has fallen upon deaf ears.

There are numerous examples in our deaf schools all over the country of born deaf children whose disability is due to what is known as “true hereditary deafness,” a condition which, in its propagation, follows the Mendelian theory.
Dr. Kerr Love, of Glasgow, and I have published for years past a considerable amount of work upon this question, and have shown that, while there are hearing carriers of deafness whom it be difficult to sterilise, owing to the practical impossibility of recognising them until they produce deaf children, those who are born hereditarily deaf breed true, and can be safely expected to do so.

These are the cases which require sterilisation, and I have a considerable number of family trees showing this sure method of perpetuation of deafness.

I need not expatiate upon the advantage to the race and to the State if this form of deafness could be eliminated, but I would point out that the education of a normal hearing child costs approximately £5 18s., while that of a deaf child is £69 18s. 10d.

This gives an additional reason for sterilisation of the unfit, and it is satisfactory to see that the letter published contains the names of bishops as well as of men of science.
81 Wimpole street, W.1.

As you see, Ayliffe added some comments –

Wish to call attention to this very damaging letter to the cause of the Deaf.

Whatever the merits of the system it is a brutal one.
May be justification for it in a few cases- but very few.
Why Deaf & Dumb! Why not blind. You get some cases to my certain knowledge – generations of them (in few cases likewise)
Why not M.Ds?
Why not the vicious?
Why not criminals?
[pencil] Difficulty of appeal [pencil]
Our appeal for the Deaf is very seriously jeopardised by such a letter.
Can anything be done by the committee to counteract it?
[pencil] Implications by quotation from Kerr Love
Ought we to repudiate the whole thing or let Yearsley get away with his self advertisement? [pencil]

B.D.D.A. – [pencil] Indignation – but –


Ayliffe’s comment there seems to expose Yearsley.  His understanding of the new science of genetics does not seem to be great.  Despite his other certain talents, in this letter he comes across as a shameless self-promotor, a mere shadow of his relative.Breeders of the deaf 001

Percival Macleod Yearsley Lancet. 1951 May 19;1(6664):1130.



“His lips sought her skin as the horse noses its mate. […] It was a strange proposal of marriage.”

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 17 March 2016

Clyne House 2Ann Denman was the nome de plume of Katie E.M. Croft, a teacher of the deaf at the Royal School for the Deaf, Manchester.  I cannot add any interesting biographical details about her as I have not definitely identified her date or place of birth or death, though it is possible she is Katharine Elizabeth M. Croft, born in Derby in 1895.  Unfortunately we do not have a complete record of the Royal School annual reports, which were very full and included pictures.  Miss Croft appears on the list of staff for Clyne House, the part of the Royal School for the juniors, under nines, from at least 1925 to the war.  She was one of the resident teachers, following on from the first resident teacher at the school, Irene Goldsack, who married Alexander Ewing.

Why are we particularly interested in her rather than Misses Elliott, Baker or Cross, her fellow teachers in 1925?  Well, she wrote a novel, A Silent Handicap, published by Edward Arnold in 1927.  The novel follows the lives of three children who were born deaf, an illegitimate orphaned girl, a boy from a poor background, and a girl with wealthy parents.   Our copy has a promotional leaflet with review excerpts, and Selwyn Oxley’s inimitable black inky scrawl.Croft 2 book reviews  He had a brief correspondence with Katie Croft, which is stuck into the front of the book.  First there is a three page letter from the 14th of March, 1928, then a couple of short notes congratulating the Oxley’s on their marriage, and Kate Oxley’s second book being published.  Oxley had sent her a Guild of St. John of Beverley badge.  He seems to have scattered them around, for I have come across other mentions of people receiving one.

A few quotations from the novel will give a flavour of the story.

“She’s deaf and dumb, you know,” said Mr. Searle, feeling sorry for the woman and the child.
“Fiddlesticks!” said the Doctor.  “You can train a puppy, why not a deaf child? […]” (p.8)

School work began with prayers.  Geoff stood sullenly between two children.  A grown-up person had pushed him there and shaken her finger at him, and as he had always associated a sound cuff with the breaking of the law as laid down by finger-waggers, he stood where he had been put and frowned angrily. (p.30)

Chapter 19, A Proposal, describes how Mary and Geoff, the two children in the excerpts above now adults, get engaged: Geoff has given Mary a watch as a present –

Her eyes sparkled.  She looked up at Geoff to thank him.  He did not wait for her thanks, but caught her in his arms, and rubbed his mouth against her neck and cheek.  He had never learnt to kiss.  His lips sought her skin as the horse noses its mate.  Mary bent back her head that their faces might meet.  She rubbed her cheek against his.

It was a strange proposal of marriage. (p.194)

This was the 1920s, and eugenics rears its head –

“You should say until Prince Charming comes,” said her father. […] He’ll be coming along and marrying you.”

“Marry me?  No one will ever marry me, said Sally, shaking her pretty head.  I shall not marry , Daddy.  I shall live for ever and ever with you.”

“I wish I could think so, but I can’t,” said Sir Patrick.

“Yes, I shall,” said Sally.  She had been reading a book on eugenics, and spoke with the finality of youth.  “Deaf people shouldn’t marry.”[…]

“Love and common sense don’t go together, Sally,” he said, but Sally had stooped to get a piece of coal from the box, and had not seen him speak. (p.231)

Katie Croft says in her letter to Oxley,

I wrote a “Silent Handicap” in odd free afternoons.  It is life as I have seen it. Life odd queer, inexplicable – worth living only in the measure of service for others.  I felt that my children would grow up and miss so much.  I was sorry for the poor deaf child unloved except by casual strangers – and sorry for the rich deaf child who seemed to have so much.  It is the things of the spirit that matter in life – and congenital deafness tends to bind one so to mainly physical pleasures.  Education can lift one until all things are possible but it also gives the power to realize ones own isolation.
I wrote, so that if anyone ever found my work worth publishing, those who read might have some knowledge of the lives of deaf children, and of the “Dockerty’s”* scattered up and down the country, who have given such ungrudging service often for so little salary.  Above all I wished to show how economically sound it is to spend money on the education of the Deaf.  Not only does education kindle into life that Divine “light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” but it also makes the Deaf self respecting, self supporting citizens: a help not a drag upon the community.

Croft letter 1If you can add any information about Katie Croft, please do in the comments field below.  The novel is probably hard to find – at the time of writing there is one available on Alibris.  We have a loan copy as well as the one with the letters.

For a picture of Clyne House search here https://apps.trafford.gov.uk/TraffordLifetimes.

It seems that the house was a hospital during the Great War.

*Dockerty was a character in the novel

Thanks to Geoff Eagling for the update below.

Project Riandu in Kenya – Secondary Education for Deaf Children

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 7 March 2016

Riandu 1In Kenya, the Mbeere Mother’s Union saw a need for secondary education among deaf teenagers.  They raised funds and then through the Peter Cowley Africa Trust they got volunteer from the U.K. to help with the project via Peter Macnaughton.  The aim is to get 200 students access to secondary education over three years.  2016 is the third year of the Project Riandu.

Riandu 2

Last summer we had regular visits from one of the volunteers who was researching the background and needs of Deaf children, Peter’s sister Ali.  She sent me some pictures of the project – many thanks to her for sharing.

Good luck to all involved!

It is great that this project is locally led and motivated.

A Project Riandu documentary is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHMP6rokREk

If you would like to help them out, you can contribute on their web page – the also need volunteers!

www.project riandu.com/donate

riandu 3

Jack Clemo, “prydyth an pry”, deaf-blind poet and novelist (1916-1994)

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 4 March 2016

clemoThe Cornish writer Reginald John Clemo, commonly called Jack, was born on born March 11th, 1916, near St. Austell in Cornwall.  His mother Eveline Polmounter, daughter of a Methodist preacher, was pious, “a dreamy, sensative girl, naive, steeped in worthy religious books and cheap romantic novels, with little interest in the lives of the clay labourers beyond the farm” (Magnusson, p.12).  His father Reginald, belonged to a family that had a bad reputation but were very poor, working as clay labourers (ibid).  He liked to dress up, and he joined the chapel choir as he loved to sing, and there he came to know Eveline.  In 1909 Reggie decided to try his fortune in the Montana copper mines.  He returned after three years, having spent what he had earnt, and they married in 1913 (ibid p.14).  Their first child died as a baby, but then when war broke out Reggie went to work at a Woolwich munitions factory, then Devonport dockyard.  Shortly after Jack was born his father was sent to work in the navy, and he died on the 23rd of December, 1917, when the ship he served on as a Stoker, 2nd Class, H.M.S. Tornado, was mined off Rotterdam (not torpedoed as Magnusson says) (Spinks, see * below).

Cause of Death: Killed or died as a direct result of enemy action
Official Number Port Division: K.38321 (Dev)
Death Date: 23 Dec 1917
Ship or Unit: HMS Tornado
Location of Grave: Not recorded
Name and Address of Cemetery: Body Not Recovered For Burial
Relatives Notified and Address: Widow: Eveline, Gonnanarris Slip, St Stephens, Nr Grampound Rd, Cornwall

At the age of 18 months, Jack was able to recite the Lord’s Prayer, and aged four he was “reading vigorously” (Magnusson, p.16).  When he was five he had his first attack of blindness, diagnosed as iritis, and it took a year to go, but it changed Jack to a withdrawn introspective child (ibid p.17-18).  He started school but hated it, though he excelled at writing, and religious study.  He had a further episode of blindness when he was thirteen, which made him even more inward looking, but at the same time became inspired to write after meeting a girl called Evelyn at a cousin’s wedding.  She took it on herself to look after him, “stroking his hair and whispering softly throughout the meal.  The effect on a boy whose senses and emotions had been so starved was electric.  That day was born an obsession that that was to haunt his imagination for a long time to come.”

He began to write articles for Netherton’s Almanack, and pursued Evelyn until she ignored him, eventually sending back all his letters.  He fell into despair, and as he approached his nineteenth birthday became increasingly deaf (ibid p.38).   Although he had always been spiritual, at around this time he experienced a conversion, though not connected with any traditional religious group.

His first novel, Wilding Craft, was finallly published in 1948.  Here is a short excerpt to give something of his style –

When all was quiet and he knew Irma too must be lying up there in all her lovliness, awaiting sleep, Garth leaned over the sofa and noiselessly drew back the curtain from the window. Moonlight streamed into the room, for the the moon, just past full, was riding up behind Trethosa, the tree-tops cutting upon its silvery shrunken disc like black veins, unmoving, while shadows all over the valley and the clay ridges were becoming magical, the triangular shade of sand-dumps broken upon the folds of the pits, and the shade of drying-sheds and tanks groping out over the Fal and the marshland, over the first war-time instalment of flowers, insects, microscopic eggs and amphibian life.  Hardly a cloud up there among the stars, and no marauding apparition below. (Wilding Graft, p.278-9)

He won an ‘Atlantic Award for Literature’ worth £100 for this novel (Magnusson p.71).  It was a Rockefeller prize that helped young writers whose careers had been disrupted by the war (one winner being P.H.Newby, the first Booker winner).

In 1951 his poetry collection , The Wintry Priesthood, won a £100 Festival of Britain poetry prize.  Magnusson quotes this poem, The Two Beds, which shows his combination of the erotic-mystical and industrial, and if that sounds strange do follow up the links at the bottom of this page –

…you never saw
The clay as I have seen it, high
On the bare hills, the little breasts
So white in the sun, all the veins running white
Down to the broad womb with its scars.
And the scars meant, beyond fertility,
Purgation – symbol of the stained rock,
And the live water searching, cooling
Along the bare sinew; and then the heat,
The brief heat beyond the body; and at last
The cup for the new wine.  (But that is yonder
And this is faith).  So I had the open view,
While you groped in cramped seams, found no heavenly clue.

Clemo’s sight deteriorated iin the 1950s and by 1955 he was blind.

Spinks says of Clemo,

His early poetry is infused with an erotic view of the barren clay landscape of his home and God’s just demand for the surrender of the personal soul.  He praised the industrial invasion of the natural world as God’s grace claiming his own.  Though he derided nature, his verse has a haunting beauty of expression and the challenge of a personal, honest voice.

Having had a correspondance with Ruth Grace Peaty, he finally achieved a long held desire, when he married her in 1968.  In 1970 he was made ‘prydyth an pry’ or ‘Poet of the Clay’ at the Gorsedd – Cornwall’s unofficial national assembly.

He died in 1994 and is buried in Weymouth.  An archive of his manuscripts and papers is held at the University of Exeter – see link below.  In 2005 the cottage he had lived in for much of his life was destroyed by the Goonvean quarry.  Though we might consider this modern vandalism, in the light of his ideas of industry and nature mentioned above, one wonders whether he might have thought this a sort of poetic justice, appropriate for the landscape he knew so well.

WildingMagnusson, Sally, Clemo, a love story. 1986, Tring.



University of Exeter Archives

One of his manuscripts

Destruction of his home

Michael Spinks, ‘Clemo, Reginald John (1916–1994)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2011 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/54814, accessed 2 March 2016]



*Marine War graves Roll -TNA Series: ADM 242/7; Scan Number: 0787

A web search will bring up more interesting items.

Alexander Melville and Llandaff School, 1862-1906)

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 26 February 2016

MelvilleLLANDAFF SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF AND DUMB (1862-1906) was founded by Alexander Melville (1820-1891), who had begun his teaching career under Charles Baker at Doncaster.  Melville, who was not deaf, was born in Carlisle, and Doreen Woodford says “extensive research has revealed nothing of his early life or family” (p.5).  He was certainly at Doncaster School in 1846, before moving to London in 1849, where we are told, “he was mainly instrumental in originating and organising a Sunday service for the deaf, which he carried on for some time” (BDM, 1897, p.77, Woodford ibid.).   Woodford gives a few details of his time in London where he worked for the ‘Red Lion Square Institution’, forerunner of the R.A.D.D. (now R.A.D.), helping people find work and holding signed services.  Financial problems of the new institution probably forced Melville to return to Doncaster, but his friend Samuel Smith left Doncaster for London in 1854 to work for the revitalised institution, and Melville left and after a hiatus of five years he started working in Swansea School (ibid).   Melville was the headmaster, but he clearly found it difficult to bend to the views of others, so he decided to found his own private school, which opened in 1862 near the cathedral (Woodford, p.6).  After about three years, larger premises were required.  “In passing in and out of Cardiff, Mr. Melville often cast a longing eye on a neglected little public-house on the borders of the Llandaff parish, which had been a flourishing hostelry in the days when telegraphs and railways were unknown” (BDM).  The new premises, in Romilly Crescent, remained the home for the school until it closed.

In 1865 Melville married Hannah Louisa Chappell (died 1885), a Deaf lady he had known for many years, who had attended the Old Kent Road Asylum.  Woodford suggests that her money enabled to move to new premises (p.7).

Pupils were taught with a combined method, and annual reports show that they hammered home the religious education, as can be seen in the Report of the School for the Deaf and Dumb for 1883.  John Clyne of the Bristol School interrogated pupils.

“What happened lately at Sunderland?” “A serious calamity. Nearly 200 children were killed from suffocation, and were crushed to death.” […]
“Where was there war lately?” was asked of H.L. [Harry Lowe] He wrote, “In Zululand and Egypt.” This led to the question, “Was Christ ever in Egypt?” The answer was, “Yes, Joseph and Mary took him there while Herod wanted to kill Him.” “How did Herod know about Christ?” “Wise men told him.” “How did wise men know?” “God told them.” […]
Altogether I was not prepared to find the pupils so well up as I found them. The removal of so many who were superior pupils last year induced the fear that the difference would be more marked than has proved the case. […] the only reason for regret is, that the support of the establishment is still nort on a scale permitting an adequate number of the necessitous Deaf and Dumb of South Wales to enjoy the benefits of the education which would so well meet their need” (p.15 & 18)

When Melville’s wife died he soon remarried, his second wife Elizabeth controlling Melville, then running the school after his death, but it did last for long after her death in 1904.  Agar Russell was a teacher at the school from 1881-6, and he did not take to her, nor was he taken with the educational methods (Woodford p.20).  From Russell we get a different view of her than appears in the article below, though it seems hinted.

LLANDAFF DEAF AND DUMB I SCHOOL. On Friday evening, in consequence of the death of Mrs. Melville, the hon. secretary, superintendent, and treasurer of the Llandaff Deaf and Dumb School, a meeting of the patrons, trustees, and subscribers of the institution was held, under the presidency of the Rector of Canton (the Rev. David Davies), for the purpose of considering the present position of the institution. In the course of a discussion it was stated that hitherto the institution had been entirely controlled and managed by Mrs. Melville and her late husband. It was reported that at present there were fifteen pupils in the school from various parts of the country, and, having regard to the very excellent work carried on in the institution in the past, the meeting felt that some definite scheme of administration and management should be formulated without delay. It was decided to appoint a sub-committee, consisting of the Rector of Canton, Mr. C. E. Dovey, Mr. J. Radley, Dr. Athol S. J. Pearse, Mr. P. J. Harries, and the Rev. A. G Russell, to take the matter in hand pending the summoning of a larger meeting, at which will be more fully gone into. Miss Barton, who had been staying with the late Mrs. Melville for some years, decided, with the assistance of Miss Simmons, to keep up the school until some definite arrangement was come to. At the close of the proceedings the Chairman proposed a resolution of sympathy at the death of Mrs. Melville, whom he described as a remarkable lady, with one of the strongest personalities that ever a lady possessed in Cardiff. The success of the Deaf and Dumb Institution was, undoubtedly, due to her wonderful personality. The proposition, seconded by the Rev. A. G. Russell, was supported by Mr. C. E. Dovey and Mr. J. Radley, and passed in silence. (Evening Express, 17th September, 1904)

Doreen Woodford, whose grandparents were at the school, gives a much fuller picture than I can offer here. Russell’s unpublished memoir is held in the library.

Llandaff 1

Welsh Newspapers Online

Appreciation.  Deaf and Dumb Times, 1891, 3, 26-27 (illus)

Llandaff School for the Deaf and Dumb.  British Deaf Monthly, 1897, 6, 77-78

Deaf and Dumb Magazine (Glasgow), 1879, 7, 155-56

Obituary.  Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education, 1891, 2, 347-48, 378

School reports, 1867-72, 1883, 1892-4, 1897

WOODFORD, D. A man and his school: the story of the Llandaff School for the Deaf and Dumb. Llandaff Society, 1996