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A founder of the National Deaf and Dumb Society

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 13 January 2012

James Paul,  (1848-1918) was born in Cardross in Dumbartonshire. As was so common until comparatively recent times, his deafness was a result of Scarlet Fever when he was five. At the age of 8 or 9 (the accounts differ) he became a pupil at the Glasgow Institution for the Deaf. Inspired by Kinniburgh’s work in Edinburgh, the Glasgow Society for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb had been founded at a public meeting on 14th January 1819.  He was a student there for seven years and the Principal Duncan Anderson said he was “one of the brightest of a clever band of scholars” (see his Obituary). It was common in the 19th and 20th centuries for Deaf children to be placed as apprentices or workers in trades wherever possible, with the idea of making them self reliant and Paul was apprenticed to a bookbinder. His talents were not satisfied by this however and he became involved in the Deaf community as an organiser and leader, and one way he expressed this was by founding the National Deaf and Dumb Society in 1879.

Religious work was central to many of the 19th century Deaf organisations, and the National Deaf and Dumb Society had the aim “to plant and maintain Missions and provide Missionaries to the Deaf and Dumb.” Although the society seems to got off to a good start, with a committee in 1882 including George Healey of Liverpool ( Missioner to the Deaf, at the Liverpool Adult Deaf and Dumb Benevolent Society from its inception in 1864, he was also Hon. Treasurer to the BDDA ), the Rev. Rhind (see a previous post) and the Rev. W. Stainer (chaplain to the Royal Association in aid of the Deaf and Dumb, St Saviour’s, Oxford Street and brother of the composer), after founding missions at Stockton-on-Tees and Ayrshire, it seems to have eventually folded, but I am not sure exactly when (if you have that information do let us know and we will update this).

Paul became superintendent of the Ayrshire Mission to the Deaf and Dumb upon its foundation in 1881 and through his efforts they obtained a building as their headquarters in 1894. They sheltered and trained yound Deaf women, but it was, accoding to his obituary,  “to the spiritual side of his work that he attached the greatest importance.” He spent the remainder of his life at the Ayrshire Mission, and his son was a missioner at the Victoria Mission to the Deaf and Dumb on Melbourne.

James Paul from The British Deaf Mute, 1895

British Deaf-Mute, 1895, 5, 42-43. (photo)

Semi-Jubilee celebration of the Ayrshire Mission: presentation to the Missioner. British Deaf Times, 1906, 3(29), 113-116.

Obituary. British Deaf Times, 1918, 15, 64.

National Deaf and Dumb Society, Annual report 1882-3 .

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