“What an uneducated deaf mute can do” – Joseph Watson of Ayrshire
By H Dominic W Stiles, on 27 March 2015
Joseph Watson was born circa 1811, and was unfortunate to never have the opportunity to get an education. In a publication of the Ayrshire Mission (bound in the library as Talks about Jesus to our silent ones) we are told
He grew up without any knowledge of reading, or writing, or language. He learned his trade as a weaver, and afterwards started on his own account as a barber with wonderful success until his death. He was intelligent and industrious. He possessed a measure of wit, which could make long faces “laugh and grow fat”. Any hearing or deaf person could easily understand him by signs. He often lamented his want of education. He made correct models of scenes in the land of Burns. The models, which are shown at Kilmarnock, are said to be the best and most correct that were ever made. It cost him many years’ labour to finish them
In the article before this one, the Ayrshire Mission reprinted an Address on What an uneducated deaf mute can do, first published in the Ayr Observer of 15th May, 1886, in which the writer describes an address by the Ayrshire Deaf missioner James Paul, we learn that, in addition to his model making skills,
How skilful he is as a canary breeder, and also as a cultivator of flowers. What do you think of the fact that this uneducated deaf mute bought a small property with his savings, and how able he is in attending to the duties of a landlord? How intelligent he is as manifested by his conversation in signs with any one who can understand him.
Our Deaf and Dumb (published by Roe at the Derbyshire Institution) adds, “The fact that his birds were amongst the best warblers in the district puzzled many of the barber’s customers but the secret was that Watson had been careful to get a good whistling bird to set the example to the others, and so he had no difficulty with his young birds.”
His end, sometime on the night of the 22nd to the 23rd of September, 1888, was however tragic.
The body of an old man was found on the railway near Auchinleck, on Sunday morning, 23rd September last. The name of Joseph Watson on a slip of paper, with £15 and a gold watch, were found in the deceased’s pockets, and the remains were supposed to be of Joseph Watson, deaf mute, who resided in Ayr, and being away from home, was expected back on Saturday but did not return. The watch had stopped at 9.30, which had just allowed time to walk from the traiin to the spot where he met his death. He had been to Edinburgh by the excursion viaMuirkirk, on Saturday. He had evidently left the train at Cumnock, where the engine of the train was being supplied with water. The reason for his leaving the train is unknown, but it is supposed he might have mistaken Cumnock for Ayr, and proceeded along the line towards the bridge where his body was found. There was no parapet wall, and in the darkness he had missed his footing and slipped over. Apointsman at the Templand Viaduct identified him as a man he had called to not to proceed along the line, but of course his warning was not heard.(see Death of Joseph Watson)
Above one of his models. I wonder if any survive? Any Scottish readers in Ayrshire, let us know!
1841 census – Parish: St Quivox; ED: 5; Page: 8; Line: 1390; Year: 1841
Death of Joseph Watson, p.21 of an unnamed issue bound in Talks about Jesus to our silent ones.
The Late Joseph Watson, Our Deaf and Dumb, vol.2, p.200-1