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Aberdeen Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 29 June 2012

ABERDEEN INSTITUTION FOR THE EDUCATION OF THE DEAF AND DUMB (1817-?); later the Aberdeen School for the Deaf

As with the Glasgow Institution, it was inspired by the Edinburgh Institution and its teacher Mr Kinniburgh.  It began at a house in upper Kirkgate in Whitsun 1819, later moving to School-hill.  The young teacher, Mr Taylor, was sent to train in Paris under the Abbe Sicard in 1818.  When Taylor resigned in 1833 a Deaf teacher, Mr Burns, took over until 1841.  From 1841 the teacher was Mr. Weir. In 1909, when the head was Alexander Pender (see picture below, with what appear to be long johns under his kilt!), there were 21 pupils at the school.

A rival day school was set up in 1818 ‘by a person of the name of England’ but it was unsuccessful and closed after a few years.

The school is still going, and has a link to the Education Secretary Michael Gove whose mother taught there.

History. Annual report, 1821. pp. 12-15. [photocopy of original]

Aberdeen Institution – in The Edinburgh Messenger, No.7, p.69-75, June 1844.

New development for Aberdeen School. British Deaf News, 1998, Jun, 3.

Annual Reports – 1821 (photocopy), 1844-6, 1846-1847, 1879, 1910-1912

Mission work in a constituted form did not however begin in Aberdeen until the late 19th century, something we see in other parts of the country.  The Aberdeen Deaf and Dumb Benevolent Society (1895-1959) was founded in 1895, later becoming The Aberdeen & N.E. Society for the Deaf (1960-? ) and The Aberdeen and North East Deaf Society (?-2010). Money problems were a constant issue for these missions, which have always lived on public generosity or small assets, and sadly the Aberdeen society crashed in 2010 with large debts.

We have the following annual reports –

1899-1922 (Bound volume), 1900-1970/71, 1976/77-1980/81 loose

One person of note connected with the mission was  William Wright (1859-1941). The son of deafened parents, he became Missioner at the Aberdeen Deaf and Dumb Benevolent Society in 1896. His son Hugh was Missioner at the Glamorgan and Monmouth Institute from 1931-39 and his daughter-in-law became Matron at Castelview Home in Edinburgh from 1945-62.

WRIGHT, T. William Wright. Deaf History Journal, 2001, 4(3), 18-20.

5 Responses to “Aberdeen Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb”

  • 1
    Ian Jamieson wrote on 11 July 2012:

    Great bit of history, thanks. My mother also worked at the school and speaks fondly of her time there.

  • 2
    JUNE EWIN wrote on 26 October 2012:


  • 3
    Jo Weddell wrote on 6 January 2013:

    Doing some family history research and discovered that I have 3 sisters who I think attended here. 2 died at the school in 1891, are there any historical records?

  • 4
    Hearing_Library wrote on 7 January 2013:

    It could well be that there are proper school records from 100 years ago & if the school itself does not have them they might well be kept at the local archives
    but I could not see much

    Try the National Archives of Scotland

    The University has some


  • 5
    June Ewin wrote on 5 May 2020:

    My Great Uncle is Alexander Pender.Headmaster 1909.Deaf and Dumb School Aberdeen.My Grandfather knew many deaf and dumb people and knew the language.well.Grandfather and his family emigrated to Australia about 1920 .We never knew what happened to Alexander.later. June Ewin Melbourne Victoria Australia