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Charlotte Rolfe, dressmaker – “So fair is the earth, both by night and by day!”

H Dominic W Stiles14 February 2020

Charlotte Rolfe, or Lottie, was the youngest daughter of Charles Rolfe, a tailor, and his wife Maria Rolfe.  She was born in Bury St. Edmunds on the 2nd of February, 1856.  There is no suggestion on the census returns that she was deaf until the 1901 census, so we may assume she had a form of progressive hearing loss, though it rendered her almost completely deaf.  At earlier stages of life she was a servant, but later worked as a dressmaker.  There were a lot of Rolfes in Suffolk, so they can be confusing, but I am sure of my identification of the right Charlotte Rolfe.

I came across her in the British Deaf Monthly (BDM), where she wrote what might be considered an anti-war poem –

LONGING FOR PEACE.
BRIGHT is the moon, and the wind, softly blowing,

Wafts the sweet scent of the newly mown hay :

I feast on the scene till my heart is o’erflowing—

So fair is the earth, both by night and by day!

 

So peaceful the scene, can it be (ay, too truly !)

That War’s mighty standard’s still reared o’er the world ?

Oh, when will the nations become less unruly,

And the Banner of Peace be for ever unfurled ?

 

Who can forget how our soldiers are lying

Sick, wounded, distressed, from their friends far away ?

And daily are added more sick and more dying—

For them and their kindred I’ll cease not to pray !

 

In war a dear brother—I still mourn him—perished,

Who toiled and served nobly his Queen for awhile—

Deep, deep in my heart is his memory yet cherished

While he peacefully sleeps on the bank of the Nile.

 

‘Tis late, nay, ’tis early ! soon day will be dawning :

I’ll rest for awhile—gather strength for the day,

And in the bright sunshine I’ll spend the glad morning,

Then Zephyrus ! winnow my sorrow away.

CHARLOTTE ROLFE

I think that is a very good amateur poem.  That she submitted a poem to the editors, suggests that she was familiar with the BDM, and felt herself  a part of the larger deaf community.

I take it her brother had died a few years before, perhaps serving under Kitchener, but I have not identified him – her parents had a lot of children and I have only a limited time to research this.  I then found nothing more, until, that is, I looked in the British Newspaper Archive.  That turned up another sad story, this time concerning Charlotte’s sister.  I think the writer or printer added an incorrect age for her sister, who was I think 47 rather than 57. *

This story appears in the Hackney and Kingsland Gazette, for Wednesday the 9th of September, 1903 –

HOMERTON WOMAN’S SUICIDE

A SAD STORY

An inquest was held the Hackney Coroner’s Court Monday morning on the body of Mary Ann Dennison. 57, the wife of John Dennison, a silver finisher, of 31. Church-road. Homerton, who died from the effects of oxalic acid poisoning.

The husband of the deceased said his wife had no trouble of which was aware. When he left home on Friday morning she appeared all right, but returning the evening he found the room in darkness. He struck a light and then saw his wife lying dead on the sofa – dressed, with the exception of boots and stockings. On a chair near was a bottle and beside it a bill in which the bottle had evidently been wrapped by the chemist. Curiously enough, however, the name of the chemist had bean cut out. On the back of the bill the following note had been written to deceased’s sister, Miss Charlotte Rolfe, of Kentish Town : –

“Dear Lottie, – My head has been bad for years, and then I say and do foolish things. Poor old Jack is not to blame; he has been goodness itself to me! I can’t do so — l am best out of the way. God will call for my dearest of children! Don’t let them know I have taken my own life. – Tiny.”  Tiny, explained the witness, was the name by which his wife was familiarly known.

The Coroner: The jury will naturally ask, “Why did she take her life?” What reason can yea give for that ?

Witness; Well, sir, I can only say I have found her come home now and again the worse for drink. And that upset her mind ?- I don’t know, sir, but I have seen her reeling now and again.

How often ? Pretty often, lately, sir.

Once a week ? -Once a day, sir, and been going for years on and off.

During that time she has threatened to take her life several times ? -Yes, sir.

What reason did she give ? -She said she was tired. I always asked her what she meant by it, and I never could get anything out of her.

Charlotte Rolfe, to whom the note was addressed, said she last saw her sister on Friday week, when she made the curious remark that a number of people had committed suicide lately. This witness was so deaf that the Coroner had write down the questions he wished her to answer.

Dr. J. C. Baggs said he found the bottle referred to contained a small quantity of oxalic acid. Deceased’s mouth was burned by some corrosive poison, and death was due to oxalic acid poisoning.

A verdict of Suicide whilst temporally insane was returned.

Mary Ann clearly had a form of depression of long standing, and was unable to articulate it, even to her family.

She was retired at the time of the 1939 register, and living at The Sycamores, Beck Row, Mildenhall.  Her death was registered in Birmingham – perhaps she was visiting family or friends – noted in the Suffolk paper The Bury Free Press,

ROLFE.—On January Ist. 1945, CHARLOTTE ROLFE passed peacefully away, aged 89 years.  Service at St. Marylebone Crematorium. North London, Jan. 22nd.

but she was cremated in London.

If you discover more about Charlotte, please  do contribute in the comments field below.

* NOTE: Thanks as ever to Norma Mcgilp who found her in the 1939 Register, and when she died.

Also, apologies but I somehow lost the ends of two sentences in this version, now corrected.

1861 Census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 1141; Folio: 142; Page: 22; GSU roll: 542762 

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 14; Folio: 7; Page: 8; GSU roll: 838752

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 863; Folio: 73; Page: 42; GSU roll: 1341204

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 1451; Folio: 152; Page: 30; GSU roll: 6096561

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 204; Folio: 10; Page: 11

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 9881; Schedule Number: 76

BDM vol: 9, no. 107, September 1900 p.245

“After a great struggle he managed to rescue her” – George Biddle (b.ca. 1912)

H Dominic W Stiles24 January 2020

I came across yet another example of a Deaf person who heroically rescued a drowning person – George Biddle (b.ca. 1912) of Glasgow.

DEAF AND DUMB HERO Award to Glasgow Rover Scout The Silver Cross for Gallantry has been awarded to a deaf and dumb Rover Scout, George Biddle, aged 24, of the 154th Glasgow (Handicapped) Group, by the Boy Scouts Association for his outstanding bravery in rescuing a woman from drowning in the River Clyde at Bridge Wharf, Broomielaw, Glasgow, at mid-day on March 12.  Biddle was cleaning a car when a man drew his attention by making signs and pointing to the water.  Seeing the woman in the water, Biddle unhesitatingly took hold of a lifebelt and jumped in fully clothed and with heavy boots on.  He caught hold of the woman, and the men on the side pulled them to the bank by the rope of-the lifebelt , which he had left attached to the ring. (The Scotsman – Wednesday 27 May 1936)

The Magazine for the Scottish Deaf covered the story –

Thrilling Rescue

The deaf are in the news, and for this we have to thank George Biddle, who at great personal risk saved a woman from drowning in the Clyde on 12th March. It appears that the woman for no apparent reason jumped into the river. Immediately George, without any hesitation, got hold of a lifebelt and dived in fully clothed and with heavy boots on. After a great struggle he managed to rescue her.

Feeling that public interest might be awakened as a result, here are some extracts from a letter sent to the Press :—

” It may be of interest to the public to know that the young man is a member of the Glasgow Mission to the Deaf and Dumb, and also, for 7 years, of the 154th Glasgow Crew of Deaf and Dumb Rover Scouts, attached to the Mission.

There can be no doubt that Biddle’s alertness and quick thinking saved the woman from death, and he deserves every credit for his gallant action. It should be noted that while there were several hearing people on the scene, it was left to one who is deaf and dumb to play the part of rescuer. My object in writing is to emphasise that the deaf can be as alert, and at times even more so, than others with all their faculties, a fact which is unfortunately very often overlooked.

There are many kids in and around Glasgow of Biddle’s type who, for lack of understanding on the part of employers, have been given no chance of finding their place in the industrial world.

Unemployment is the most acute problem the deaf, particularly the younger people, have to face, and I hope that, as the result of this incident, there will be a better understanding of the character of the deaf. I particularly appeal to employers to follow the excellent example of Messrs Taggarts, the well-known motor agents, who are Biddle’s employers.”

Well done, George! (Magazine for the Scottish Deaf, 1936, vol.6 (3) p.45)

As a scout, I am pretty sure he must be in this photo from 1928 of  the  154th  scouts.  I have no more information about George – do contribute if you can!

 

 

“One obstruction Sir Francis Baring had to contend with from his earliest days—an incurable deafness” the merchant banker, Sir Francis Baring

H Dominic W Stiles17 January 2020

I was interested to discover, that the famous merchant banker, Sir Francis Baring (1740-1810), was deaf, or ‘partly deaf’.

At Lee, Kent, aged 74, Sir Francis Baring, bart. one of the Directors of the East India Company, and formerly M.P. for Taunton. He was of a Devonshire family; came to London early in life, and studied mercantile affairs, if we mistake not, in the house of Boehm.  His talents were of a very superior cast, and highly improved by reading. Few men understood the real interests of trade better ; and it may surely be added, few men ever arrived at the highest rank and honour of commercial life with more unsullied integrity. At his death, he was unquestionably the first merchant in Europe; first in knowledge and talents, and first in character and opulence.  His name was known and respected in every commercial quarter of the globe; and by the East India Company, and other public trading bodies, he was consulted as a man of consummate knowledge and inflexible honour.  Throughout his long and respectable life, he acted on those steady principles which seldom fail to raise men to opulence and credit, although they may not always enable them to shine with such superior lustre.  One obstruction Sir Francis Baring had to contend with from his earliest days—an incurable deafness. By the usual helps, however, he contrived that this should very little impede this communications; and both in Parliament, and as chairman of the East India Company, his opinion was so highly valued that every pains was taken to prevent the subject in debate from suffering by his infirmity.  His private, as well as public life, if faithfully delineated would form a most instructive lesson to the mercantile world; and a lesson particularly necessary at a time when so many seem to forget or despise the genuine attributes of an English merchant, and aspire at sudden and unsubstantial wealth and credit, by the paltry speculations of mere fraud and low cunning.  On the contrary, the soundest principles and truest policy laid the foundation of Sir Francis Baring’s fortune and character, and guided him in all his transactions. In future annals, he will rank with the illustrious names of Gresham, Firmin, and Barnard, men who have formed the English character, and to whom English commerce is indebted for its superiority.  (my emphasis) (Obituary, in the Gentleman’s Magazine, LXXX, 1810, II, p 293)

The great portraitist, Thomas Lawrence, cleverly represented Baring’s deafness in his group painting of Baring, his brother, and Francis Wall, from 1806/7, where the three men are in discussion and Francis has his left hand up to the side of his face, as if to cup his ear.  In his biography of Lawrence, Sir Thomas Lawrence: The Artist (2005), Michael Levey says, “He clearly felt no inhibition about being so depicted, and both he and Lawrence may have recalled that one of Reynold’s self portraits similarly showed him as deaf.” The following page is from the Life and Correspondence of Sir Thomas Lawrence by D.E. Williams –

In his memoirs, the business man Vincent Nolte, wrote, 

He had become somewhat feeble, and very deaf, when I first got personally acquainted with him. (Fifty Years in Both Hemispheres, p.158)


I have struggled to find additional sources as to his deafness, most seemingly going back to this obituary or another version of it, as newspapers often reprinted articles from other papers in full with no credit.  Unless someone can point to a contemporary source in his lifetime, such as a letter for example, we will have no idea of the extent of his deafness or its cause.  If you know of any additional sources for his deafness, please add a comment  below.  As with so many areas connected with things I come across in writing these pages, it is deserving of far more research than I can give it.

Thanks to the Baring Archive for this reference, from Anecdotal Reminiscences of Distinguished Literary and Political Characters by Leigh Cliffe

Sir FRANCIS BARING was a person of vast importance in the commercial world, and of some influence in the House of Commons of which he was an opposition member; he was the particular friend of Lords Lansdowne and Ashburton, Colonel Barry, Jekyll and many other names well known to the world, and was, though troubled with an inveterate deafness, which prevented his hearing even common conversation without the assistance of a pair of ear trumpets, constant in his attendance at St Stephens, whenever any question of interest was before the house.

I did come across this anecdote, in The New Monthly Belle AssembléeA Magazine of Literature and Fashion, Volumes 10-11, p.308 –

The late Sir Francis Baring, father to the present Lord Ashburton, was very deaf, and on one occasion, the bells being out of order at his residence, a man was sent to arrange them properly, and he, having completed his task, requested Lady Baring to try them.  Like most fine ladies who dislike to be troubled about trifling concerns, she asked him somewhat angrily why he could not try them himself, when he pleaded excessive deafness as an excuse.

There is a recent book, Disability and Colonialism: (Dis)encounters and Anxious Intersectionalities (2015), edited by Karen Soldatic and Shaun Grech, that may be of interest.  It has a chapter by Esme Cleall on ‘Orientalising deafness: race and disability in imperial Britain,’ that mentions Baring, who made a considerable amount of money in the slave trade, and via the East India Company.

It may interest you to know that Francis Baring is a 5 x greats grandfather of Prince William, through a daughter of his grandson, Edward Baring, 1st Baron Revelstoke.

https://www.studiointernational.com/index.php/painters-paintings-from-freud-to-van-dyck-review-national-gallery-london

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baring_family

The Baring Archives

Orbell, J.  (2009, May 21). Baring, Sir Francis, first baronet (1740–1810), merchant and merchant banker. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 17 Jan. 2020, from https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-1382

The Hampshire Archives have some documents that may be of interest – 92M95/NP3/1/1 contains a birthday memorial written for him as a child and 92M95/NP3/9/5 is a news cutting dated 1805 entitled ‘Interesting anecdotes of living characters – Sir Francis Baring Bart’

A Deaf Welsh Swimming Hero, Charles Payne, 1923

H Dominic W Stiles17 October 2019

In the British Deaf Times for 1923, right below that for Herbert Roxburgh, is the following article on Charles Payne (1894-1979), as another one one of those Deaf swimming heroes.  They got his name wrong of course, as newspapers do…

A WELSH HERO.
Charles Pain [sic], of the Manchester Arms, Menai Bridge, has been presented by Mr. John Edwards, chairman of the local Urban Council, with an illuminated address, the silver medal of the Royal Humane Society, and £3 in recognition off his bravery in rescuing from drowning off the Menai Bridge Pier, on June 28th last, the young daughter of Mr. John Owen, Greenbank, Menai Bridge.

Councillor Captain Davies said Pain’s act spoke well for his swimming powers.

It transpired that this was Pain’s fourth rescue of persons from drowning, two of them at Menai Bridge. Pain, who is deaf and dumb, handed in a written acknowledgement of the presentation, and also expressed his thanks briefly by means of the deaf and dumb alphabet.

He was born in Menai Bridge, Anglesey, on the 22nd of December, 1894, son of an Essex born mariner, Charles Payne senior, and his Welsh born wife, Margaret.  They were living in Anglesey by 1881, though in a quick search I did not identify Margaret’s maiden name.  They had ten children, five living in 1911.  At least three were deaf, Charley or Charles, Jenny born around 1886, and William, born around 1885.  I do not know where they went to school – if you discover that or know more please tell us in the space below.  In the 1911 census, Jenny is said to be Jenny Jenkins, married for three years with a son Charles William Jenkins who was a year old and born in Cheshire.  I have not tracked Jenny down elsewhere.  William sadly died aged eighteen, in 1902.

I know Charles married Annie Hughes (born 1895) in 1925, and they had several children.  He became a house painter (1939 register), and died in 1979, but that is all I can add, so he is yet another person who was perfectly ordinary and anonymous for most of his life, but when an opportunity presented itself, did something remarkable.

A Welsh Hero.  British Deaf Times, 1923, 20 (239/240), 105.

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 5574; Folio: 33; Page: 25; GSU roll: 1342338

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 5277; Folio: 91; Page: 12

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 34471; Schedule Number: 156

1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/7516H

Stolen watches, & an experiment that didn’t happen: William Cheselden, the Deaf Countess, & Charles Ray

H Dominic W Stiles9 August 2019

William Cheselden (1688-1753) has been called “one of the most brilliant operators whose achievements are on record” (DNB 1921-2, p. 192)He was born in Burrough-on-the-Hill (but in the parish of Somerby), Leicestershire,  and trained under William Cowper (1666-1709), an anatomist who was  involved in an early plagiarism scandal.

Cheselden became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1712, and in 1713 published a student book, The Anatomy of the Human Body.  He married Deborah Knight on the 24th of July, 1713, at St Olave, Bermondsey.  She appears to have been the daughter of Thomas Knight, and niece of  Robert Knight, the chief cashier of the South Sea Company, who escaped prosecution in connection with the accompanying ‘bubble’ in 1720.  (Sir Robert Walpole’s rise to power was linked to Knight, the South Sea Company and its demise.)  It seems that Cheselden invested £1,000 in the company in 1714, the same amount as Sir Isaac Newton.  Perhaps he was ‘encouraged’ by his wife or her family.

Henrietta Howard (1689-1767), Countess of Suffolk, was born Henrietta Hobart at Blickling Hall, Norfolk.  She had  a very interesting life, but a very difficult one.  She married Charles Howard, later 9th Earl of Suffolk.  He was a gambler, and was violent towards her.  Whether her hearing loss was caused by being abused by her husband, or from some other reason we cannot say.  Her hearing loss was however central to her life, already seeming apparent in 1721. In 1727 she told Swift she had ‘a bad head and deaf ears’ (Borman, p.97).  Alexander Pope wrote this of her –

I know the thing that’s most uncommon;
(Envy be silent and attend!)
I know a Reasonable Woman,
Handsome and witty, yet a Friend.

Not warp’d by Passion, aw’d by Rumour,
Not grave thro’ Pride, or gay thro’ Folly,
An equal Mixture of good Humour,
And sensible soft Melancholy.

‘Has she no Faults then (Envy says) Sir?’
Yes she has one, I must aver:
When all the World conspires to praise her,
The Woman’s deaf, and does not hear.

She was known for her discretion it seems – probably as she could not follow much of the gossip of court (ibid. p.98).  Henrietta became a friend of Queen Caroline before the accession of George II, and later became one of the king’s mistresses.  Cheselden became Surgeon to the Queen in 1727 (Cope, p.32).  At that time doctors still had a very imperfect understanding of the hearing system, and new discoveries were being made.  Cope says that Queen Caroline herself was “rather deaf” (Cope, p.32), and that as a consequence a ‘test’ operation was planned as an experiment on a prisoner, to find a cure or rather a treatment for deafness.  This hearing loss or deafness is something unsubstantiated by any other source I have been able to find.  Either Cope misunderstood, and substituted the Queen for the Countess, or he had some other information.

Charles Ree, Rey or Ray of St. Martin’s in the Fields was a barber.  In 1730 he was “indicted for feloniously stealing 5 Silver Watches, value 30 l. in the Dwelling-House of Paul Beauvau, the 29th of October” (Old Bailey Records).  he was sentenced to death, which was commuted to transportation.

According to Horace Walpole,

“(112) Lady Suffolk was early affected with deafness. Cheselden, the surgeon, then in favour at court, persuaded her that he had hopes of being able to cure deafness by some operation on the drum of the ear, and offered to try the experiment on a condemned convict then in Newgate, who was deaf. If the man could be pardoned, he would try it; and, if he succeeded, would practise the same cure on her ladyship. She obtained the man’s pardon, who was cousin to Cheselden, who had feigned that pretended discovery to save his relation-and no more was heard of the experiment. The man saved his ear too – but Cheselden was disgraced at court.”

Here we have the report from the Monthly Intelligencer for January, 1731.  It seems that Ray was to be reprieved from his sentence in return for being the guinea pig in an experiment to understand the role of the tympanum, in order to try to treat deafness.

The same volume of the Monthly Intelligencer continued the story, with an attack by ‘Quibus’ in an imagined lecture, which was written by Thomas Martyn, botanist.

And then continued on page 19 where a defence of the operation at the Royal Society is quoted.

The older Oxford DNB 1922 article says,

In December 1727 Cheselden was appointed surgeon to Queen Caroline. Later on he would appear to have been out of favour at court, and was not called in during the Queen’s last illness. An improbable story is told that Cheselden gave offence in high quarters by neglecting to perform a certain experimental operation on a condemned criminal. The proposed experiment consisted in perforating the membrana tympani, or drum of the ear, so as to show whether this part is the seat of hearing, and whether the operation could safely be done to relieve deafness. Cheselden in his Anatomy tells the story as follows : ‘Some years since a malefactor was pardoned on condition that he suffered this experiment, but he falling ill of a fever the operation was deferred, during which time there was so great a public clamour raised against it that it was afterwards thought fit to be forbid.’ Proposing the operation, rather than neglecting to do it, was more probably the offence.

The quote seems to be from the 1740 edition of the work. 

In Sir Zachery Cope’s 1953 biography of Cheselden, he says that Walpole is incorrect, and that such an incident would be unlikely to lead to a loss of favour at court.  “From the point of view of the health of the Queen her change of surgeon may well have been unfortunate for, as is well known, she died from the results of a strangulated umbilical hernia and Cheselden had already published an account of his successful treatment of such a hernia”. After her death Cheselden continued to be referred to as ‘surgeon to her late Majesty’ (p.35).

Gossip though he was, Horace Walpole knew the Countess well, so surley his information would have come from her?  Borman says that Henrietta would listen to Walpole’s questions with a tortoiseshell ear trumpet, and almost whisper her replies (p.252).  It seems unlikely that there was a familial relationship between Cheselden and Ray, but the rumour must have persisted.  It is possible, but we would need to trace records for Ray before he was prosecuted.  Is it possible that as Ray was a barber there was a connection with the barber-surgeons?

Cheselden was buried at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea.  The Countess of Suffolk was buried in Berkeley Castle, with her second husband.

As for Charles Ray, the Ipswich Journal for Saturday the 6th of March, 1731, says “Charles Ray, who received Sentence of Death, but upon his submiting to have an Experiment try’d upon his Ear, by an eminent Surgeon, for the better finding out the Cause and Cure of Deafness, was afterwards order’d for Transportation; is continued in Jail, his Transportation being stopt.”  The Caledonian Mercury for Tuesday the 30th of March, 1731, says “The Experiment that was to have been made on the Ear of Charles Ray, is now laid aside, and he is to have a free Pardon. ‘Tis to be feared, that as there has been so great a Clamour against this Experiment, neither this nor any other useful Experiment will ever be made this way.” 

I wonder what became of him?

Here I have tried to sketch out the relationships between the people mentioned.

Borman, Tracy, Henrietta Howard, King’s Mistress, Queen’s Servant. Jonathan Cape, 2007

Charles Ray, John Winslow, Theft – theft from a specified place, Theft – receiving, 4th December 1730 Old Bailey Records

Cheselden, William.  Anatomy of the Human Body. London: William Bowyer, 1712

Cope, Sir Zachery, William Cheselden, 1688-1752, E & S Livingstone, Edinburgh & London, 1953

Dictionary of National Biography, Volumes 1-22 London, England: Oxford University Press; Volume: Vol 04; Page: 192 1921-2 edition

Horace Walpole’s Letters p.141 & 148

John Kirkup, ‘Cheselden, William (1688–1752)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2006 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/5226, accessed 22 Sept 2017]

https://epdf.pub/a-political-biography-of-alexander-pope-eighteenth-century-political-biographies.html

https://words.fromoldbooks.org/Chalmers-Biography/c/cheselden-william.html

https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-75056?rskey=roxYmw&result=3

Annie Scandrett of Liverpool – a supposed miracle cure of a ‘deaf’ woman, 1923

H Dominic W Stiles19 July 2019

In 1923 the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lancashire sent a group of people to the shrine at Lourdes with Archbishop Keating.  Among them was a soldier, Jack Traynor, badly wounded in the war, and supposedly a man who was then miraculously cured.  The visit was filmed as a short reel film called “Our lady of Lourdes” and was shown in cinemas in Liverpool.

One story in the Liverpool Echo, has a photo of Traynor and Scandrett, with the following note –

WALKING AND HEARING AFTER LOURDES.

Mr. Traynor. of Liverpool, who was taken to Lourdes in a bathchair, pacing the deck of the Channel boat on the way home, chatting with Miss Scandrett, also of Liverpool, who says Lourdes has cured her of her deafness. Mr. Traynor, an ex-naval man, was wounded in the war, and paralysis followed. Miss Scandrett had been practically deaf for 12 years.

Traynor is only of passing interest to us as he was not deaf, and I have nothing to say about his ‘miracle,’ but Annie Scandrett is worth investigating a little more.

Traynor said to the Rev. Patrick O’Connor,

a Protestant girl from Liverpool had come to the Continent on a holiday tour.  She got tired of all the usual show places and happened to come to Lourdes. She was a trained nurse and, seeing all the sick, she offered her services to help in the ‘Asile.’  Her parents in England, upset at her decision to stay as a volunteer worker in Lourdes, sent out her sister to keep her company.  The two girls went down to see the Liverpool pilgrims.  They remembered having seen me sitting in my wheelchair outside my house at home and they volunteered to take care of me. I gladly accepted their kind offer, and they washed and dressed my sores and looked after me during my stay in Lourdes. (see I Met a Miracle)

Note that he fails to mention her name, even though he knew it.  Annie was born in Liverpool on the 24th of September, 1884.  At some point the family moved to Aston, Birmingham, where she was living still in 1911.The film seems to have been propaganda for the church.  At one film showing at the Egremont, Annie was persuaded to stand up and talk (The Bioscope).  It would be interesting to know if the film still exists.

Her story was revived in 2016 when a former neighbour spoke to a local paper.  He related what Annie had said –

She said she had been sat by his bedside in his room one day when a white dove came through the window and circled right round.  It then landed on the headboard of the bed.  Annie had been deaf but the next morning when she went down to breakfast she realised she could hear again.  The first words she heard were ‘please can you pass the butter’.

Traynor does not mention a dove, the accepted typical bird of ‘miracles,’ representing the holy spirit.

It certainly seems curious that she chose to holiday in the area in 1923, as it was quite unusual for working people to go on holiday to the continent at that time, so I suspect that her visit was planned, but of course we cannot know now.

There is no mention of deafness on any of the three census returns.  She claimed her ‘deafness’ had lasted for twelve years, from around 1911.  If we had the 1921 census that might be revealing, however her ‘deafness’ is undefined, and I would suggest that she probably was never ‘deaf’ as we might understand it.  At any rate we can agree that it was probably a defining moment in her life.

Annie lived in Norris Green, Liverpool, until her death in 1961.

1891 census – Class: RG12; Piece: 2422; Folio: 132; Page: 25

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 2885; Folio: 104; Page: 9

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 18328

1939 Register – RG 101/4390D

The Bioscope – Thursday 13 September 1923 p.64 

Liverpool Echo – Monday 30 July 1923 p.6

The above picture is from our photo collection – Probably from the Liverpool Daily Post.

Robert Smithdas, American deaf-blind poet -“Blindness takes you away from scenes. But deafness takes you away from people.”

H Dominic W Stiles7 December 2018

Robert J. Smithdas was the first deaf-blind person to gain a master’s degree when he graduated from New York’s St. John’s University in 1953.  Born in 1925, Smithdas caught cerebro-spinal meningitis aged four and a half, and lost hearing and sight as a result.   He became director of Services for the Deaf-Blind at the “Industrial Home for the Blind,” and at the Helen Keller National Center.

We have a signed copy of his poetry book, City of the Heart (1966).  In the preface he says,

I composed these poems because my heart sang them to me over the years – because poignant moods, or powerful emotions, made me crystallize my thoughts and feelings into verbal expressions.  Sometimes inspiration was so spontaneous that the words came flooding into my consciousness and shaped themselves into song; but far more frequently I found myself searching through the labyrinthine meanings of language to find the most convincing words , and the most plausible rhythms, to serve as crucibles for my themes.  Yet I always knew the intrinsic essence of the thing I wanted to express in a sonnet, or a lyric, or the nobler passion of blank verse.

This is a clip from an interview theat Barbara Walters did with Bob Smithdas.

Barbara Walters: The lives of the deaf-blind have changed remarkably since the era of Helen Keller. She was never able to live by herself without sighted help, never able to be independent.

Bob: And today, it’s a tremendous difference, we can communicate, we can cook, we can go out and it is a wonderful type of progress

Barbara Walters: In spite of the good things Bob, what is the hardest part of be being deaf and blind?  What is the most frustrating?

Bob: At this stage of life, I am very used to being deaf blind, but I will admit that I miss not being able to see my friends’ faces or hearing their voices. Remember deafness takes you away from sound, from music. Blindness takes you away from scenes. But deafness takes you away from people.

Robert Smithdas died in 2014.

His poetry book, Christmas Blessing and Other Poems, (1959) is available on Archive.org

“Gently the snowflakes fall

Fragile and thin and light…”

https://nationaldb.org/pages/show/in-memoriam-robert-j-smithdas-advocate-for-the-deaf-blind

The photo of him above is the same as that at the back of the poetry book.  Unfortunately, when an external contractor tagged all of our books, the #### people doing the task were so slap-dash that they place the tag neatly over the photograph.

Please note, the chief U.K. deaf-blind charity is Sense.

Michael Reed OBE, teacher, psychologist, & RNID Chairman 1975-85

H Dominic W Stiles23 November 2018

Michael Reed, (1913-99) was a psychologist, audiologist, and teacher of the deaf, and was the first educational psychologist in England to work with deaf children.  He was employed at the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital, Gray’s Inn Road, London, from 1949-1961.  He then moved to the Inner London Education Authority as Her Majesty’s Inspector for Special Education, with responsibility for deaf pupils.  He remained there until his retirement in 1978, and then settled in Canada in 1989.

Michael Reed was the author of the Reed Picture Screening Test (see below) and Educating hearing impaired children, published by the Open University Press in 1984.

He had a long involvement with the NID/RNID.  He was co-opted onto the NID Medical and Scientific Committee in 1956, then elected onto the Council of Management in 1957.  He became Vice-Chairman of the RNID in 1972, and Chair from 1975-85.

In 1986 he was awarded the OBE and created a Vice-President of the RNID for life.

Here we see him in 1984, in the centre, flanked by Tom and Brenda Sutcliffe, from the then RNID magazine, Soundbarrier.

AKHURST, B.A. Michael Reed OBE 1913-1999. Psychologist, 2000, Jul, 2000, p.338.

REED PICTURE SCREENING TEST FOR HEARING This was a set of pictures of everyday objects for screening primary school children’s hearing, devised by Michael Reed and published by the RNID in 1960.

He uses the language of the time – ‘defect’ sounds uncomfortable to us now, and probably did in the 1960s to some.

PICTURE SCREENING TEST OF HEARING By Michael Reed, B.SC.
THERE IS NO DOUBT that the earlier a hearing defect is discovered the more the handicap caused by such a defect can be alleviated. The picture presented by severe or total deafness is all too obvious, but in the case of slight or moderate deafness, the picture is sometimes more obscure. Many children have been thought to be mentally very dull when, in fact, they have been partially or severely deaf. Frequently they had become frustrated and non-co-operative and therefore it had become difficult to establish the true facts. Many simple cases of deafness have been misdiagnosed because a complete understanding of the effects of distorted hearing or slight hearing losses has been lacking. Children with slight hearing losses which are not obvious may become educationally retarded in the adverse noise conditions of a class-room. Therefore it is extremely important to discover any significant hearing loss as soon as possible in order to be aware of the problem and so help the child. If there is a slight loss of hearing for all frequencies throughout the speech range, or severe loss for frequencies above 1000Hz, there will be some disability in discriminating between consonants. The R.N.I.D. Picture Screening Test has been designed around this simple fact. It is interesting to children and therefore fairly certain of ensuring their co-operation, and is easy both to carry around and to use.
The test is made up of several separate cards each of which has four pictures. The names of the pictures conform with the following conditions.

1. The words must be monosyllabic so that the rhythm of that word does not give a clue.

2. The words in any one row must contain the same vowel sound.

3. The words must be those within the vocabulary of the children to be tested.

The test as designed here can be used for children with a mental age of four years and older and with many children of mental age of three years. To ensure that the child to be tested knows the name of the picture, he is told how to name the pictures first, especially with very young children. If the child calls the owl a bird, one says ‘That’s right but I am going to call it an owl.’ Similarly if the hen is called a chicken, or the sheep a lamb, or the lamb a sheep, he is told that it is to be called a hen a sheep and a lamb so that the words do have the common vowel sound. If the child does not know any words then one cannot test in this way and if in doubt, a full audiometric examination must be requested.

REED, M. A verbal screening test for hearing. proceedings of the 3rd World Congress of the Deaf, Weisbaden, 1959. Deutschen-Gerhorlosen-Bundes, 1961. pp. 195-97.

HOLDING, B., HOLDING, J. and OWEN, A. Prawf clyw darluniadol Dyfed. British Journal of Audiology, 1987, 21. 147. (Welsh version)

McCORMICK, B. Screening young children for hearing impairment. Whurr, 1994. pp. 76-77.

Holcroft’s “Deaf & Dumb; or The Orphan Protected” 1819

H Dominic W Stiles21 September 2018

Thomas Holcroft was born in Orange Court, Leicester fields on December 22nd, 1744, son of a shoemaker (see introductory remarks to the play, p.ii).  He was employed by a Mr Vernon riding his horses at Newmarket, but the continued to work in his father’s trade and educate himself in music and painting.  In his mid-twenties his interest was captured by the theatre.  In 1802 (according to the date on the cast list) he produced an adaptation of Bouilly’s 1799 play, L’Abbé de L’Épée.  A previous blog noted the prose version of this story – Harancour Place; or the Orphan Protected.  It is, we are told in the introductory note (perhaps by Oxberry I wonder), “a sort of sentimental pantomime, exquisitely happy in the construction of the fable and tender in the sympathy it inspire; and may be considered as a practical test how far situation and feeling alone will go to the production of the most powerfulb and even refined dramatic effect, without the help of poetry or impassioned dialogue.” (p.i)

The story involves the boy Thomas, educated by l’Epée, (spoiler alert) who is really Julio, Count of Harcour.  In the original French version, the Deaf boy uses gestures.  “These gestures do not replicate the sign language de l’Épée taught to his students, but neither are they conventional theatrical gestures. They are instead a hybrid: a theatrical gesture rendered so as to appear to replicate the manual language of the deaf as well as a transformation of de l’Épée’s manual language for the deaf into gestures that would work on a large stage” (McDonagh).  Holcroft’s version seems to have the boy – played by Miss De Camp in the original – doing something more akin to pantomime – as we see here, “Theodore makes signs with the utmost rapidity” but it is hard to know exactly how that would have worked in the production (p.9).

On page 33 of the Holcroft version, Theodore writes the answer to a question,

“In your opinion, who is the greatest genius that France has ever produced ?”.

Madame F. “Ay – what does he say to that?”

Marianne reads, “Science would decide for D’Alembert, and Nature say, Buffon; Wit and Taste present Voltaire; and sentiment pleads for Rousseau; but Genius and Humanity cry out for De l’Epee; and him I call the best and greatest of human creatures.” (Marianne drops the paper and retires to the chair in tears. Theodore throws himself into De l’Epee’s arms. M. Franval and Franval look at each other in astonishment.

Mrs Kemble, pictured here, was the first Julio/Theodore in the English production.

Holcroft, Thomas, Deaf and dumb: or, The orphan protected: : an historical drama in five acts. Performed by Their Majesties servants of the Theatre Royal, in Drury-Lane. Taken from the French of M. Bouilly; and adapted to the English stage. (1819)

McDonagh, Patrick THE MUTE’S VOICE: THE DRAMATIC TRANSFORMATIONS OF THE MUTE AND DEAF-MUTE IN EARLY-NINETEENTH-CENTURY FRANCE.  Criticism; Detroit Vol. 55, Iss. 4,  (Fall 2013): 655-675

 

“Edmond Searle, lately deceased, was so famous at curing all sorts of Deafness” – the Searls of Pye Corner & their Rival, Graves Overton

H Dominic W Stiles23 March 2018

Last year while searching for something completely different, I came across the name Margaret Searl or Searle, around 1700, in Smithfield, London.  She has a brief mention in the excellent book by C.J.S. Thompson, The Quacks of Old London (Barnes and Noble, 1993).  She was the last of her family it seems, who had carried out a business near Pye Corner, which is where the Great Fire of London ended. What we can glean from advertisements of the time, on Bills that survive and in contemporary newspapers, is that her father Edmund or Edmond, together with his nephew we must assume, Samuel, set up in business from at least 1668, ‘curing deafness.’  The first record I have come across for Edmund, is his burial on the 7th of July, 1695, at St. Sepulchre’s Church, Holborn, which is opposite the Old Bailey.  His son, Samuel, was buried in the same church on the 17th of December, 1699.

Unfortunately for Samuel’s widow Margaret, who was I assume his cousin, a former servant or apprentice of Edmund’s, Graves Overton, gave out that Margaret was dead, and that he had the secret of the deafness cure [I reproduce the text with the orthography of the original] –

WHereas Mr. Edmond Searle, lately deceased, was so famous at curing all sorts of Deafness, this is therefore to Advertise all Persons that Graves Overton, his only Servant , lives at the Hand and Ear in Pye Corner, alias Gilt-spur-street, near Newgate, where he performs the same Cures by his Masters secret Method. There being now, none of his Masters Family living but himself, that performs the said Cure. (Friday the 1st. of March, 1700, Old Bailey Records)

Another advertisement says, “Graves Overton, who Cures Deafness and is the only Surviving Servant of Mr. Edmund Searle, who was famous in that art, lives at the Hand and Ear in Pye Corner, next Giltspur Street.” (May 29, 1701)

He must have had the first advertisement for a while in 1700, as a month before that, this riposte appeared in The Post Boy (Issue 753) refering to ‘The [Old Bailey] Sessions paper’ –

This ding-dong of rivalry must have gone on for a while.  Here is the text of one of Margaret’s bills which survive –

Margaret Searl, Wife to the late Samuel Searl, Famous for Relieving and Curing deafness, Depending on any External Obstruction Of the Organ of the Ear; Who had Practised This art above Thirty Eight Years past, and Communicated the Secret to me only, who Practis’d it with him, in his Life time, for many Years, after the same Way and Method. Still living in Pye-Corner, over-against the Golden Ball, by West-Smithfield, London; (though it is Reported that I was Dead, by some Pretenders to deceive the World) where I am ready, upon any Occasion of that Nature, to serve such as apply themselves to me: Being the Surviver of my Father Edmund Searl, and late Husband Samuel Searl. Whereas several Servants of my Father Edmund Searl, have put out Bills for Curing of deafness. This is to Certifie, That neither my Father, or Husband, ever Instructed, or Communicated this Secret to any of their Servants, or any Apprentice whatsoever. (1706, 18th Century Collections Online)

When Overton’s daughter Mary was baptised, on 17/12/1693-1694, he was living with his wife Rebecca on Snow Hill, just around the corner, and they were still there when his son John was born in 1696.  Overton had married Rebecca Walserd in Temple Church, on the 25th of November, 1692.  Overton died in 1704, and was buried at St. Sepulchre’s on the 4th of March.

Poor Margaret Searl – the quacks multiplied, as they tend to, and it seems Overton was not her only rival, for in The Post Boy for January 16th, 1701, we read (with spellings accurately rendered),

WHereas Graves Overton does put out Bil’s for Curing of Deafness; This is to certify all People, that Mr. Edmund Searl declared before his death, that he never did instruct him in that Art, especially being a Turn-over to him, nor any other of his Apprentices that were bound to him, if they would have given Two hundred Pounds down, as can be Attested by several Persons. Neither did Mr. Samuel Searl ever instruct Thomas Lamb, his Brother-in-Law in Curing of Deafness, nor any thing but a Barber’s Trade, nor any other Person but his Wife, who (being the Survivor of those two famous Men) lives still at the Old House in Pye-Corner, who practis’d with her late Husband Samuel Searl in his Life-time, and now does after the same Way and Method with good success.

From this then we learn the not surprising fact that the Searls (also sometimes ‘Serle’) were barbers, the trade with which surgeons in England had a close association for 200 years.  I wonder if he had any association with St. Bartholomew’s Hospital which is right opposite Pye Corner.  At any rate, it is perhaps unfair to call them quacks as their deafness ‘cures’ were probably harmless, while a doctor of the time was far more likely to kill you.

Margaret Searl[e] was buried in St. Sepulchre’s on the 29th of March, 1709/10, and what became of the ‘cure’ we can only guess!

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Church of England Parish Registers, 1538-1812; Reference Number: P69/SEP/A/001/MS07219/003

Post Boy (1695) (London, England), February 3, 1700 – February 6, 1700; Issue 753.

Post Boy (1695) (London, England), March 12, 1700 – March 14, 1700; Issue 769.

Post Man and the Historical Account (London, England), September 24, 1700 – September 26, 1700

Post Boy (1695) (London, England), January 14, 1701 – January 16, 1701; Issue 901.

Post Boy (1695) (London, England), May 27, 1701 – May 29, 1701; Issue 940

Title: Samuel Searl, famous for relieving and curing deafness, depending on any external obstruction of the organ of the ear; Date: 1680-1689 Reel position: Tract Supplement / E8:1[75]

Title: Margaret Searl, wife to the late Samuel Searl, famous for relieving and curing deafness, … Date: 1706 Reel position: Tract Supplement / E8:2[59]