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UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries


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“Resisting intemperate habits” – York Deaf and Dumb Mission football club

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 3 February 2012

York City F.C. was founded in 1908 as an amateur side, eventually becoming professional. However the team folded in 1917, probably because of the pressures of the war. This photograph from the collection of Selwyn Oxley is however the team from the Deaf Mission in York, playing on the York City ground in January 1916. (Click onto the photo for a larger resolution). It looks to me as if they were using a municipal ground at the time – but if you know better do tell us.

We do not have many records of the mission but it was founded in 1884 at a meeting in York’s Guildhall. It was originally known as The York and District Christian Mission to the Deaf and Dumb. In the words of the first annual report – not produced until 1902-3, early on it had “a chequered existence”, before being reconstituted with the input of the ‘Deaf Mute’ Mr. M.I. Stewart Fry in 1901. These sorts of Christian mission to the Deaf were widespread in the late 19th century as we have noted in earlier items. The objects were usually very similar, in this case,

“the religious instruction of the Deaf and Dumb; to see as far as possible to the educational wants of Deaf-Mute children; to help the Deaf to bear patiently their daily burden; to encourage them in resisting intemperate habits; to help the needy; to find work for the unemployed; and to minister to the sick. In short to do to the Deaf and Dumb what the churches and various charitable agencies do for those who can hear and speak.”

The relationship between sport and the Christian missions was strong, with the Victorian idea of ‘muscular Christianity’ (though curiously St. Paul said “bodily exercise profiteth little” 1 Timothy 4:8). The photocopy we have of the first report was owned by Fry (see his picture in the article on the National Deaf Club), who left in 1903 to go to London. He has added a hand-written note in the copy, dated 1937, that he went to work at another firm “as a litho artist”. What became of the York Mission in the long term I am not sure. Some missions mutated, some will have folded, some still exist.

The York and District Christian Mission to the Deaf and Dumb, Annual Reports.

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