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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

“Silent Chess Champions” in Belfast, 1913

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 22 March 2013

The following image and story is from the Belfast Evening Telegraph for Monday 4th August 1913.

A party of twenty deaf mutes, who arrived in Belfast on Friday.  The following “conversation” which took place – on paper, of course – between our photographer and one of the company will explain their mission:- “Could you give me a few details as regards your visit?” “We have come to play the Belfast deaf and dumb in a games tournament.  We are the holders of the London Federation of Working Men’s Social Clubs’ Chess Challenge Cup.  I hear the Belfast Deaf are hot stuff at chess, but I have no doubt we can lick them.  I am a Belfast man myself, but I have been away for fourteen years and hardly know the old place.  They are giving a party here to-night, and I hope to meet a good many old friends – and see a bit of the town meantime.  We are staying here till Monday evening, when we go over to Glasgow on the same errand – to lick them at chess, etc – and then we go on to Edinburgh, also on the same errand, returning to Belfast to-morrow week en route for London.”  “How many men compose your team?”  “Nine.”  “And how many are Irishmen?”  “Only myself; the others have never been out of England before.  In profession they are analyst, engraver, photographer, saddler, compositor, and bookbinder.  The rest are independent.”  The names of the group are:_ Back Row – Messrs. J. Hast, F.B. Caulfield, W. Baird (hon. Secretary), G. Howe, J. Longman.  Front Row – Messrs. E.T. Gausden, A. Padkin, C.H. Rymer. -. Jones, and H.H. Windsor.Silent Chess

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