William Walter Adamson, Missioner to the Deaf in Northumberland, (1867-1947)
By H Dominic W Stiles, on 25 October 2018
William Walter Adamson was a Geordie of Scottish extraction. He was born in Newcastle in 1867, son of Thomas (a draper) and his wife Elizabeth. He was educated at Dr. Bruce’s Academy, according to a note by Selwyn Oxley. He seems to have remained in the city all his life, dying in 1947 at the age of eighty. In 1885 he formed a club for poor boys in the city, and a Deaf boy came along. As he lived near the Northern Counties Institution (school), he went along and this began a life-long interest in the Deaf (Teacher of the Deaf, on which much of this is based). In 1895 he gave up work in a local shipping company, and became a candidate for ordination. The Rev. Gilby mentions him several times in his memoir – they worked quite closely together in the ten years following, Adamson becomomg a co-editor of Our Monthly Church Messenger to the Deaf (Gilby memoir p.172).
Adamson was made the first chaplain to The Northumberland and Durham Mission to the Deaf and Dumb, a post he held until 1920.
His obituary says that he disliked publicity, and “fought firmly all exploitation of the deaf.” It continues –
He taught all manner of subjects at the Mission and interested the members in athletics, in-door games and hobbies. He sought out deaf children who were not attending school and brought them to the notice of the Authorities. These self-appointed tasks were carried out with enthusiasm and the work he began 50 years ago is now well established.
His understanding and knowledge of the problems of the deaf placed him in a unique position in the North. He had a large circle of influential friends and he was able to cover much ground in his efforts to improve matters for all handicapped children. In addition to the work he did for the deaf, a lively interest was taken in blind and crippled children. During his life-time he saw many changes, and thanks to his efforts light and colour brightened innumerable lives. The spiritual life and general welfare of the deaf were his constant care and he was often consulted with regard to improve-ments in schools and administrative affairs.
Adamson never married but lived for many years with a sister.
Below is a page from the local mission magazie, D & D from 1903, and a photograph that appears to show him to the left of Sir Arthur Fairbairn at a ‘sale of Work’ for the mission.
Click onto the images for a larger size.
Our Monthly Church Messenger to the Deaf, 1894 vol.1 p.15-16
Obituary, Teacher of the Deaf, 1947 p.205