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Bernard Alfred Morrison – “found employment at making telegraph boxes”

By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 7 June 2019

What I have to share about Bernard Alfred Morrison comes from a couple of autobiographical articles written for the British Deaf Times in 1923.  He tells us that he

was born at the coastguard station, Annagassan, Co. Louth, Ireland, on August 5th, 1897, and was baptized by the Presbyterian minister. He lost his hearing and speech through an illness when very young. His father served as coastguard for about six years at Cranefield, Annagassan, and Greenore, after having seen service in the Navy and cruised in Spanish, Chinese, and West Indian waters. In 1901 the family moved to Glasgow, where Mr, Morrison worked as a general labourer for two years. Then Mr. Morrison secured an appointment as caretaker of the old ship, H.M.S. Collingwood, anchored at Colintraive, Kyles of Bute, to which he removed with his family in 1903

It sounds like a great life for a child.  They lived on the old ship for three years, sometimes fishing with from a boat, and at times gathering shellfish on the beach. They had sailing excursions to Rothesay and Ormidale, and a steamboat journey to Rothesay every Thursday.

Visitors came in boats to see the ship and were shown over by Mr. Morrison; there had been six old ships at first, but now the Collingwood was the only one stationed there. Bernard’s eldest brother had joined the Navy in Ireland and was serving on H.M.S. Hampshire, when he contracted inflammation of the lungs and died in July, 1907. At the same time Bernard’s little sister died of an accident. Brother and sister were buried in the churchyard in the wood by the shore at Colintraive, Bernard helping his father to dig the grave.

H.M.S. Collingwood was consigned to the shipbreakers about this time, and Bernard’s father was transferred to another old ship, H.M.S Alexandra, but soon she also was condemned, and was towed round the coast via Liverpool and the Isle of Wight to London in December, 1908, to be broken up.

Bernard was sent to Donaldson’s Hospital, Edinburgh, in September, 1906,

under Miss Henderson, from whose class he passed to Miss Crockett’s, thence to Miss Rintoul’s. While here he learned lip-reading, drawing and day-modelling. A bad attack of measles sent him to the school hospital, after which he spent a month at convalescent homes at Davidson’s Mains and Mumps. His parents now living in London, he joined them there, saying farewell to Donaldson’s on April 8th, 1909, and travelling from Edinburgh to London under the care of the guard, to be met by his parents at Euston.

Being too old for the day school at Randall Place, he was sent to the Homerton Residential School in January, 1910, learning first from Mr. Taylor and then from Miss Chappell. Here he learned carpentry, wood-carving and French-polishing, and on Sundays attended Sunday School and the confirmation class. As first prize-winner in the examination he was transferred, together with John Allen, who was second, to Anerley School for the Deaf, Easter, 1912, the two attending as day scholars and being placed in the seventh class. Here he continued his carpentry, wood-carving and French-polishing, eventually again corning out first in examination.

On leaving Anerley School, Bernard was assisted by Mr. Bassett to find work at Messrs. Jones and Ffulbert’s piano factory, Brixton, where he stayed for seven months making piano legs and trays, leaving because he was set on piecework.

Meanwhile, a year before he left Anerley, he had come across St. Barnabas’ Church for the Deaf and Dumb, Deptford, during a walk (Sept. 26th, 1912), and became a regular attendant, attending also the Woolwich services. He was confirmed at the Bishop’s private chapel at Sydenham, Nov. 23rd, 1912.

When he left the piano factory, Bernard Morrison received four letters from the After-Care Association for Blind, Deaf and Crippled Children, and presently was apprenticed for four years to Messrs. Smith and Co., Woolwich, as a joiner. This occupation, however, proving too dangerous, he left in April, 1914, and eventually found work with Messrs. Parker, of Peckham, at making window-frames, doors, etc., staying with this firm for nearly a year.

It is interesting to see how he was moved to different schools, though I do not suppose his experience was typical.  The “After-Care Association for Blind, Deaf and Crippled Children” was a voluntary organisation that worked with the London County Council and included an L.C.C. person on its board, while it had some funding from the Ministry of Labour and from donations, and they used the money to help defray travel costs, pay for tools and boots to help a school-leaver get into work.  the earliest note I have found of this organisation is from the National Bureau’s handbook of 1913 – “After-Care Association for Blind, Deaf, and Crippled Children Apply to Miss Skinner, 91, Parliament Chambers, Great Smith Street, S.W.”

In July, 1915, Morrison took up war-work at Woolwich, “being accustomed to machinery and careful in its use” but this ended after eighteen months. He then did similar work with Messrs. Wheater and Sons, managing drilling and cutting machines, then after leaving that firm, Morrison

was helped by Mr. Pearson, the Government work-seeker, to a job at Woolwich Dockyard as leather-maker; he proved, however, too late for this job, so went back to Peckham and found employment at making telegraph boxes. After five years he is still working at Peckham.

Morrison has been a member of the B.D.D.A. for three years, and attends the bi-monthly meetings. When the war broke out he joined the C.E.M.S.

The remainder of Bernard Morrison’s articles is a listing of places he had visited; in 1919 “at Whitsuntide, he went to Margate by the ” Royal Sovereign ” steamer, and in the course of his four-days’ holiday saw the Institution for tho Deaf at Margate, and visited two deaf men at Ramsgate”; that same year “he visited Pett Scout Camp to see Joe Barnett with hearing scouts; went for a long walk to Battle to see the castle; viewed Hastings Castle and a German submarine, and returned to London with the scouts safe and sound.”

He was well acquainted with people in the deaf community, and with missioners to the Deaf, like the Rev. A. W. Blaxall and the Rev. F. W. G. Gilby.

His mother died on 29th January, 1921, and his father,

on 1st May 1922, met with an accident at work, and had to be taken to the Seamen’s Hospital, but has recovered. His youngest brother joined the Army on 16th June, 1919, and after training at Grantham for the Machine-gun Corps, was transferred to Chatham, and thence to Co. Cork ; then was transferred from the M.G. Corps to Army Reserve, and is now at Folkestone.

I was not able to find Bernard definitively in the www.ancestry.co.uk website, but from what Norma McGilp found it seems likely that he ended up living in an institution in south London.  Whether he really have mental health issues or was just put there as he was an inconvenience to others, we cannot say.  At least for a time he seems to have mixed with the London Deaf community, as I found him in several photos with other people.

Bernard Alfred Morrison, Edited by G.F. British Deaf Times, 1923. vol. 20, p.4-5, & 24-5 

Report of the Committee of Inquiry Into Problems Relating to Children with Defective Hearing, HMSO, 1938

 

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