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UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries


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Sign alphabet exhibition – Royalty and the Deaf

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 2 August 2013

Another item I did not get around to posting during the exhibition.

Royalty and the deaf, with some striking facts about the deaf and dumb, their alphabet, and a few signs. Watford, H.Ash, 18–?

The author of this pamphlet, Harry Ash (1863-1934) was clearly following the pattern of the Deaf artist William Agnew (1846-1914) who painted a series of pictures showing Queen Victoria using finger spelling to communicate with a deaf woman on the Isle of Wight; the “Royal Condescension” paintings of 1883, 1889 and 1900.

In an autobiographical piece for The British Deaf Mute (Vol.4 (44) p.113-4, 1895) Ash describes how the education system changed while he was at the Old Kent Road School.

At sixteen I left the home paradise with three first prizes – for general proficiency, for religious knowledge, and for good fellowship, besides a prize for freehand drawing. Perhaps I should have written better English had there not been a complete change in the system of Instruction, from sign-manual to oral.

Click onto the images for a larger size.

Ash Royalty 001


One Response to “Sign alphabet exhibition – Royalty and the Deaf”

  • 1
    Julia Rumble wrote on 15 November 2016:

    Thank you for highlighting this pamphlet and short history of Harry Ash. He is my Great Grandfather. As a child my mother would tell me that her grandfather was “deaf and dumb”. One of his four children, Rosa, is my Grandmother. Harry’s wife was also deaf and dumb. I was told that he was an artist but his life was difficult and they lived in poverty in their later years. The details were sketchy but I eventually tracked down your website and I was thrilled to find this information.