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‘He was a “father” of the profession’ – Andrew Patterson (1803-83) of Manchester, Teacher of the Deaf

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 3 October 2014

Andrew Patterson (1803-1883) was highly regarded in his day as a teacher who had learnt his trade as an assistant to Bingham.  Born in Berwick-upon-Tweed in 1803, he started work in the printing-office of The Berwick Advertiser (Buxton 1885).  On finishing his apprenticeship he moved to London, where for a time he worked alongside Douglas Jerrold, then himself an apprentice.  He left London for Devon, becoming a school-master, there making the acquaintance of Henry Brothers Bingham, who had himself trained with Thomas Braidwood at Edgbaston before becoming the first headmaster of the Exeter Institute (1826-34).  They were were close in age and must have got on as Bingham invited Patterson to join him when he started work at Manchester.  The Manchester Institute, founded in 1825, was “situated in an obscure street on the banks of the Irwell” (Deaf and Dumb Herald) – Stanley Street.  The Institute was later moved to a more suitable location in Salford and opened officially in June 1837.

For a short period from 1839-41, Patterson ran the school at Newcastle but returned to Manchester as headmaster when Bingham departed, encouraged to found a private school by wealthy parents who did not like to send their offspring to a charitable institution (Bingham, p.14).

Patterson

Patterson also introduced Sunday services for deaf adults, under the auspices of The Manchester Adult Deaf and Dumb Society. He remained at the new Salford home of the Institution for most of the remainder of his life, retiring after he had seen through the introduction of oral education in the school.

In his obituary, Buxton calls him an original teacher and a leader,

He had none of the ambitions of a leader, and none of his self-assertiveness; a more modest man never existed. He did the work which came before him because it was the duty of the day. If it became a precedent and formed an example, that had never been in his mind, and furnished no part of his motive. Its modesty enhanced its value, and this excellence it had in common with the work of others – the “fathers” of our profession, indicated in the words with which this article begins.

In a paper read at the Social Science Congress held at Nottingham in September, 1882, and which was published in the Annals for January, 1883, I joined, in the same sentence, speaking of “the oldest teachers of the deaf in England, France, and Italy,” the names of three men who shortly afterwards, within the space of a few months, disappeared from among the ranks of the living.  They had all been sign teachers; all became strong advocates of the Oral System; all, by example and teaching, most strongly influenced the new developments in their respective countries; each was the patriarch amongst the teachers in his own land, and all were at nearly the same time called to their account. […] Tommaso Pendola, Léon Vaïsse, Andrew Patterson. ((p.20-21). 

Patterson was also a pioneer in the education of the deaf and blind, after being inspired by the account of Charles Dickens writing about the education of Laura Bridgman.  He found a blind child called Mary Bradley in a workhouse, “being teased by the other children with whom she was, screaming and trying to catch some of the offenders” (Deaf & Dumb Herald, p.50).

Mr. Patterson then applied himself to the task of teaching her the names of objects, and after daily efforts during some weeks, and making various experiments to establish a means of communication without any apparent success, he was almost about to give up the matter in despair, when suddenly her countenance brightened up- the connection between the name of the object flashed upon her mind, and from that time she made considerable progress, and at last was able to converse with others; she also wrote letters to him and his family when they were away during the midsummer vacation.

It is interesting to read how Patterson says (at the Milan Congress, quoted by Buxton p.27) he became an Oral advocate only after visiting Mr. Schöntheil’s school after the previous conference – so it seems his was a Damascene conversion.

Buxton, David, Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education, 1886, 1, 20-30 (reprinted from American Annals of the Deaf, 1885)

Bingham, Fanshawe, A Memoir of Henry Brothers Bingham (ca. 1929)

Deaf & Dumb Herald, 1876 vol 1 no. 4, 49-51 – photograph

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