Alan Pole Allsebrook, Deaf, art student, fruit farmer, Canadian (1880-1976)
By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 2 November 2018
Alan Pole Allsebrook was born in Wollaton, Nottinghamshire on the 26th of May, 1880. His father was a farmer. Alan lost his hearing aged six due to scarlet fever (Berg, 2017). From Silent World we can say that he was educated “at Mr. Green’s Deaf School in Nottingham, afterwards going to Northampton, and thence studying art under Professor Sir H. von Herkomer, R.A., at Bushey, and at the Académie Julian. By ‘Northampton’ we must suppose that is Spring Hill School, where the Re. Thomas Arnold had taught. I would suppose H.N. Dixon was headmaster when Allsebrook was there.
Nowell Berg tells us, I would suppose based on information from Alan’s daughter Naomi Miller, that he got a certificate in teaching at Nottingham School of Art, before going to Paris to study art, and then working on Liverpool Cathedral. The Roe article tells us that he was a pupil of Sir Hubert von Herkomer, and that after his time in Paris he worked for a firm of ecclesiastical sculptors as a partner. If we add those three sources together it makes sense, and we might suppose he was at art school from circa 1895 to 7 perhaps, then at Bushey, then in Paris. In the 1901 census he was staying with his brother, Arthur, who was a barrister, in Inner Temple, where Alan was described as an art student.
He was certainly acquainted with the community of Deaf young men who formed the National Deaf Club, though I am not sure whether he was a member. He must have know M.S. Fry as he was a regular contributor to The Silent World, the Fry-edited magazine that lasted from 1909 to 1910 before being absorbed into The British Deaf Times. Allsebrook wrote a series of articles about his cycling holiday in France, and other articles such one entitled ‘Idling in Devon’ (The Silent World, 1910 p.85-7).
This article, A Deaf Art Student in Paris (Silent World, Vol 1 p.3-7), is written as Jules de Languedoc, but it is pretty clear to me that it is Allsebrook. It gives us a vivid picture of the life of a poor student. From that we know it was ten years since he left, so he must have been there in about 1899.
In 1911 Allsebrook emigrated to British Columbia, “to try his luck in fruit farming” (Roe, p.220)
After sixteen weary days and nights of travelling, I landed at Nelson. It is a delightful little town of 8,50o inhabitants, and has some good shops and cosy houses, all built of wood. I was only there for two-and-a-half days, however, for the very first man I called upon, the morning after my arrival, took me on at his apple ranch at Kaslo, forty miles higher up the lake.
I was introduced to Carl Johansen, a Swede, who worked on the farm. We soon got to business, pruning and spraying six acres of apple trees. My first night’s sleep in my little ‘shack’ was somewhat restless, owing to the antics of a little squirrel who had got in and was squatting on the eaves over my head, regarding me curiously with his bright little eyes. Then I was rather cold ; and I might well be, for I found on getting up in the morning six inches of snow on the ground, the ice in my wash-basin one inch thick, and the contents of my kettle a solid block of ice.
There is one great discomfort here. The air is so dry that gloves are a sine qua non in working out-of-doors. Just imagine an English nurseryman in gloves! At first I set to work gaily, enough with bare hands, but in a few days every finger-tip and some of the joints cracked and oozed blood.
It is just a month since the door of my little ‘shack’ on the mountain side was pushed open one night as I was baking potatoes on the stove, when in walked my boss, and behind him showed my brother’s cheery, strong, brown face, just arrived from England. That was the end of my ‘hitching’—doing for your-self in a ‘shack ‘—for the time being, for within five days my brother had taken a rapid but thorough survey of all the likely lands round Nelson, and bought a lovely two-acre apple ranch, cleared and planted, at Balfour.
At his request I gave up my berth to go and spend the summer with him, helping him to knock his place into shape and get a house built. We saw on the plot many beautiful birds and magnificent butterflies, three to six inches across. By the way, we have not had any shooting yet, but the surveyor of Kaslo ran against two bears on the mountain side a week ago, but, not having his gun, he hurried away. Small blame to him, for these bears arc as big as a cart-horse. It is strange to see the people at church in unimaginable clothes and a dozen dogs sitting quietly by their owners.
Then, as to letters, they only come three times a week. Lord Aylmer has a ranch not very far from here. I intend that Kaslo shall be my future home, and have purchased a ranch on the lake front, which appears to me to be an ideal spot, surrounded as it is by beautiful scenery, and dotted all about the hills with rich, beautiful orchards of the finest fruit trees.
It is glorious! Soft, green leaves, bushes of roses of every size and hue, sweet-peas, pansies and violets, snapdragon and clematis, and creepers of all kinds. Below, the sparkling blue water ; and above, crag, forest, and peak of snow. Yes, you must look far round the world, and far east and west across this wonderful Canada, to find a fairer spot than Kaslo.
It certainly looks very beautiful!
Berg tells us that Alan and his youngest brother Eric were drafted in World War 1. Alan returned to England in 1916, arriving at Liverpool on the 28th of May. It is interesting if that is the case, as almost all Deaf people were excluded from serving when their deafness was discovered, however perhaps the Canadian forces (generally more meritocratic that the British Army) put him into some non-combat role – if he served with them? I could not find any mention of him in online military records, but they are far from complete.
On a trip back to Britain, he met a friend of his sister Dorothy, Lucie Naomi Smith, and they got married and returned to Canada (Berg, 2017).
1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 2671; Folio: 145; Page: 4
1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 264; Folio: 104; Page: 13
1916 – Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 623
1924 – Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 761