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Archive for the 'Deaf History' Category

ANDOR – Algemeen Nederlands Doofstommen ORgan – the Dutch Deafness Organisation periodical, 1934

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 18 January 2019

We have a pretty good collection of international journals, now of historical interest, from the 19th and 20th centuries.  One of them is the Dutch periodical, ANDORAlgemeen Nederlands Doofstommen ORgan.  We have bound copies of the first two years, 1933-4, then copies from 1948 on into the 1970s, with some gaps.

It appears that the earliest formal education for deaf people in the Netherlands, was in 1790, when the Wallonian Calvinist preacher, Henri Daniel Guyot (1753-1828) started a school at Groeningen with Willem Hora Siccama, Gerrit van Olst and Hendrik van Calcar.  Guyot had it seems met de l’Épée in Paris, and this inspired him to work with two deaf children, one Christian and one Jewish.  He ran the school until his death, and after him his two sons became heads of the school, Dr. C. Guyot to 1854, and then R.T. Guyot with a Dr. Alings.  they were followed by Dr. Roodha, Dr. Woltjer, and then Brunkner.  Selwyn Oxley visited the school in 1923.  We have a photo of an engraving of Guyot.

In January 1884 the Guyot deaf organisation was begun, founded by M.J. van Ijzer.  Unfortunately we have missed the 135th year celebration!

Dovenschap (formerly Dovenraad), founded in 1955, is ‘the Dutch association for, among others, prelingual deaf people who have Dutch Sign Language as their mother tongue.’  According to their Wikipedia page, there are about 15,000 prelingually Deaf in the Netherlands.

In the first copy of ANDOR, here with an article by Jaap van Praag, we see some of the organisers of the Dutch Deaf in the 1930s.  Was  he related to the van Praag who introduced oralism to England?  Probably not – it is not an uncommon name, usually I suppose suggesting someone of Jewish origin.  Here is the ANDOR board in 1934.

Here is a cover of an early issue, followed by the Guyot founding members, from a photograph that appears in the November 1934 copy of ANDOR, when the Guyot club was celebrating its Jubilee.  I have not had time to give more than a glimpse into the history of the Netherlands Deaf.  Please feel free to comment below if you can add any interesting information.  

See also https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/64bf/b288b7e6d6af8dde7638dc20a3a91b3ad511.pdf

Click onto photos for a larger scale view.

Merry Yule to all – from Finlands Dövstum-förbund 1918

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 21 December 2018

In 1909 the Finlands Dövstum-förbund produced the first of their special ‘Jul’ – ‘Yule’ – editions.  This was a Swedish language journal.  Finland has a large Swedish population, having been a part of Sweden for hundreds of years. Below is the cover from 1918, & below that an article on the sign counting system used, from the 1909 issue.  It was developed partly from foreign example, by the first teacher of the Deaf in Finland, himself deaf, Carl Oscar Malm (1826-63).

I hope to write about him at greater length next year.  If the fates allow!
Dövstummas Jul 1909-29

Mary Hickman, a Deaf schoolgirl of Manchester (1890-1978)

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 14 December 2018

In 1905 the King and Queen went to Salford to open the New Dock.  They also stopped at Henshaw’s Blind Asylum, and The Royal Schools for the Deaf and Dumb, where the pupils did what children do when they meet royalty – they gave them bouquets.*  The girl here from the Deaf School, whose photograph first appeared in the Penny Illusatrated Paper, is Mary Hickman (1890-1978), who was Head Girl at the school.

When told that she was to present the Queen with a boquet, Miss Hickman was naturally both proud and elated, and it goes without saying that her mind was fully occupied until the very auspicious Thursday dawned.  According to the newspaper reporters, she played her part in the little ceremony very neatly; and to our representative she naively confessed that sh “did not feel a bit nervous.  The Queen was very lovely and the Kinglooked very jolly.” (British Deaf Times)

Born on the 17th of November, 1890, Mary Hickman lost her hearing aged five and a half according to the 1911 census and the school annual report (1903), from meningitis.  When she was seven she entered the Manchester school, on the 28th of January, 1898.  She was due to leave on the 17th of November, 1906 when she was sixteen.  When she was at the school her father, salford born Walter, was a clerk.  He later became a newsagent and tobacconist according to the 1911 census, when they lived in 224 Ashton Old Road, Openshaw.  They were presumably in long gone terraced housing, as the two daughters and son shared a four room house with their parents.  Mary had studied for certificates with the College of Preceptors, the oldest professional body for teachers, but we find that in 1911 she was working as a ‘tracer’ for engineers – presumably in a drawing office.

I found that her sister married in 1915, but she seems to have stayed at home, and in the 1939 register she was in Station Road, living with her father.  It seems a pity that she never got to teach, but we cannot be sure that she did not – we really have too little information.  Perhaps schools would not contemplate taking on a Deaf teacher in the first decades of the 20th century.

Mary died in Manchester in 1978.

If you know anything of her life, please comment below.

*I think someone could probably write an interesting study on the history and sociology of children giving royalty bouquets!

NB I thought this is funny – on the 1911 census her father filled in the nationality – not required unless foreign –

Deaf Girl’s Unique Experience, British Deaf Times 1905, vol 2 (22) p.217

Census 1891 – Class: RG13; Piece: 3938; Folio: 95; Page: 35

Census 1901- Class: RG13; Piece: 3667; Folio: 208; Page: 8

Census 1911 – Class: RG14; Piece: 23729

1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/4546A

Penny Illustrated PaperSaturday 22 July 1905

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

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)

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.