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Prize Letters from Abraham Fink, Catherine Lewis, and Edith Dingley, to ‘Our Monthly Church Messenger to the Deaf’, & a Deaf Private School

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 1 November 2019

Our Monthly Church Messenger to the Deaf  was a London-based magazine, that was intended as a national church magazine for the Deaf.  One of the main editors was the Reverend Fred Gilby.  They had a regular children’s page written by ‘Aunt Dorothy’ and the editors offered prizes – we cannot say what – to letter writers.  It seems there were some regular writers.  In the June edition, there is a letter from Abraham Fink – not the first from him that year.

Abraham was, he tells us, 15 years and 5 months old, so would have been born in 1880/81.  His birthplace was Russian Poland, and he was the son of Solomon and Rebecca Fink.  I assume that the came to London in the 1880s.

The Finks had nine children altogether, and were Naturalized on the 7th of April, 1903, at which time Abraham is said to be twenty, and so ‘under age.’  He was in fact about 23, but presumably this saved him having to undergo the same process as a Deaf person, which might have been more difficult.  Note that I spell naturalized with a ‘z’ – this is because the act was the ‘Naturalization Act.’   The family lived for many years at 49 Buxton Road – presumably now lost or with a changed name, but near Brick Lane.

Abraham attended the Summerfield, or Somerford Road School, and was a pupil of Mary Smart.  After leaving school Abraham became a Cabinet Maker, his job in 1901, but later he became a Furrier, which was his job in 1911, at which time he was living at 8 Leman St, Aldgate.  He married Deborah Cohen, a hearing girl, in 1908, and they had I think two sons, Bennett, and Gerald.  He died in Harrow Hospital on the 7th of October, 1956.  Another Deaf life that was unspectacular, but which illustrates the British Deaf experience in the last century.

Edith Maud Dingley was born in Birmingham, on the 17th of December. 1885, and was deaf from birth according to the 1911 census.  Her father, Richard, was a Birmingham jeweller, and in 1911 they lived at 330 Hagley Road, Edgbaston.  She never married, and she is given no occupation on the census return.  She had lost a brother at Arras in 1917.  The 1939 register says she was ‘incapacitated’ so perhaps she had other health issues, or was that just a code for her deafness?  She died in 1943.

Catherine Lewis, was born in Bangor, North Wales, in 1884.*  In the 1891 census, she was living in Sutton Coldfield, at a school in someone’s house, with five other deaf children.  She was only seven at the time, and the household, headed by George Masters, a commercial Traveller, was at 70 Anchorage Road, Sutton Coldfield.  I was fascinated to see that this was yet another private Deaf school, run by Fanny Masters, nee Fanny Armitage Rutherford (1860-1945) the wife of George.  Her nephew, Albert Rutherford, son of her brother, was also Deaf, and living with the family.

1891 Census –

George Masters Head Male 42 1849 Cirencester Gloucestershire
Fanny A Masters Wife Female 31 1860 Nottingham Nottinghamshire
Jenny A Jones Servant Female 26 1865 Birmingham Warwickshire
Albert M Rutherford Nephew Male 19 1872 Birmingham Warwickshire  Deaf
Harriet F Wacker Pupil Female 15 1876 Wolverhampton Staffordshire  Deaf
John H Croxford  Pupil  Male 14 1877  Gloucester Gloucestershire  Deaf
Henry Lowe  Pupil Male 9 1882  Birmingham Warwickshire  Deaf
Arthur R Tatlow  Pupil Male 9 1882  Glasgow  Deaf
Catherine Lewis  Pupil Female 7 1884  Bangor Caernarvonshire  Deaf

In the 1881 census, Fanny Rutherford and her nephew Albert, were at the oralist Ealing Training College, the Society for Training Teachers of the Deaf and for the Diffusion of the German System.

In the 1901 census – (at Gravelly Hill, Erdington)

George Masters Head 52 1849 Male Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England
Fanny Armitage Masters Wife 41 1860 Female Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England
Albert M Rutherford Nephew 29 1872 Male Birmingham, Warwickshire, England
Ethel Perkins Boarder 11 1890 Female Astwood Bank, Warwickshire, England
Minnie Pountney Servant 19 1882 Female Birmingham, Warwickshire, England

In the 1911 census –

George Masters Head 1849 62 Male Married Companys Secretary Cirencester 72Kingsbury Road Gravelly Hill Birmingham
Fanny Armitage Masters Wife 1860 51 Female Married School For Deaf Children Nottinghamshire 72Kingsbury Road Gravelly Hill Birmingham
Mildred Rutherford Sister 1839 72 Female Widowed Living On own Means Cirencester 72Kingsbury Road Gravelly Hill Birmingham
Albert Masters Rutherford Nephew 1872 39 Male Single Merchants Clerk Birmingham 72Kingsbury Road Gravelly Hill Birmingham
Cecil Hull Jordan Pupil 1895 16 Male Single At School Handsworth, Birmingham 72Kingsbury Road Gravelly Hill Birmingham
Dorothy Violet Lepage Sanders Pupil 1895 16 Female Single At School Crudwell Nr Malmesbury 72Kingsbury Road Gravelly Hill Birmingham
James Gordon Calder Pupil 1901 10 Male Single At School Smethwick 72Kingsbury Road Gravelly Hill Birmingham
Winifred Adams Servant 1892 19 Female Single Domestic Servant General Walsall 72Kingsbury Road Gravelly Hill Birmingham

It would make a really interesting project, to trace all those Ealing teachers and see where they ended up, then look at census returns and map and follow through with all their pupils.

Anyway, we can also now see that Edith Dingley was one of Fanny Masters’s pupils as well.  It seems that middle class families were the people who most feared sending their children to ‘ordinary’ public Deaf Schools, and chose instead small private schools.

I do not know what happened to Catherine after leaving school.

*Thanks to John Lyons for identifying Catherine Lewis in the 1891 census, and enabling me to write a bit about her story.

Abraham Fink

Naturalization – Class: HO 334; Piece: 35

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 265; Folio: 30; Page: 55

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 304; Folio: 18; Page: 28

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 1489

Edith Dingley

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 2390; Folio: 47; Page: 3

1901 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 17917; Schedule Number: 237

1911 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 2814; Folio: 150; Page: 13

1939 Register – Reference: RG 101/5526A

Catherine Lewis

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 2438; Folio: 90; Page: 13

Fanny Masters

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 1344; Folio: 48; Page: 51; GSU roll: 1341327

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 2875; Folio: 130; Page: 41

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 18341

1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/5490G

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