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James William Arthur Sturdee, R.A.D.D. Chaplain to the Deaf, Deptford – “As an interpreter he was valuable”

Hugh Dominic WStiles10 May 2019

Born in Deptford, Kent, in 1846, and son of James Sturdee, a tailor, and his wife Maria, James William Arthur Sturdee (1846-1910) was educated at Dartford Grammar School (which Gilby has, probably erroneously, as Deptford Grammar School). “By some means he came into contact with the Rev. S. Smith, and on his advice went to the Institution at Newcastle-on-Tyne, where he learned to teach the deaf for a space, and returned to London later, where he became a student missionary to the deaf, attending lectures at King’s College, and was ordained Deacon by the Bishop of Rochester in 1876.” (Gilby, 1910)

In 1875, the Kentish Mercury for Saturday 5th of June, 1875, relates a Royal Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb meeting, in which a lecture was interpreted by Sturdee.  The lecture was by Mr. T. Brain on “The Manners and Customs of the East.”

Mr. STURDEE said after such an admirable lecture, it was not necessary for him to say much to them, but he was in duty bound to thank the assembly for the interest they were taking in his work amongst the poor afflicted people in their midst. Had it not been for the sign language, many present would have gone any perfectly ignorant of the nature of the lecture, but now they were perfectly acquainted with all that had been said by the lecturer, and in consequence would be able to read their Bibles with greater attention (applause). There were over 50 deaf and dumb persons in that neighbourhood, and he was afraid when be went to Woolwich and other places he would find many more who had not been brought under the influence of the Association.

It seems however, that the congregation found Sturdee unsatisfactory because he was, at least early on, rather poor at signing.  He was then at some point dismissed by the Royal Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb, then later re-employed.  Gilby does not say that, and gives Sturdee some credit at least in the Ephphatha obituary:

The erection of the little Church of St. Barnabas was due to his energies, and as a Freemason he found his connections of-much use in raising the funds. The foundation-stone of St. Bamabas’ was laid by W. J. Evelyn, Esq., the donor of the site, on May 13th, 1882 and the church was opened on St. Barnabas’ Day, June, 1883

Gilby only mentions the Rev. Sturdee four times in his incomplete memoir, and then only in passing.  He says in 1888,

I left London on April 30th for my third and last term at Durham, breaking the journey this time at Birmingham in order to see the Edgbaston Institution for deaf children.  Mr. Edward Townsend, the Head Master, was already known to me.  Our friendship was to last many years.  I lunched with Canon Owen Vicar of St. George’s, Edgbaston.  (He is now Dean of Ripon).  Very soon after this he became Chairman of our Committee in London.  He told me he was doing all he could to get me licensed to St. Saviour’s the following Christmas.  I was surprised, knowing there was another Chaplain, the Rev. J.W.A. Sturdee, of Deptford, much older than myself. (p.80)

In 1892 Sturdee was offered the living of Compton Dundon, in Somerset.  The Silent World, says he left London for health reasons, but perhaps he felt he had been passed over.  Later, in 1898, he moved on to the large parish of St. David’s Church, Edgbaston, Birmingham.  He died in Edgbaston in February 1910.

The Silent World says, “As an interpreter he was valuable, and was always a welcome preacher at the Birmingham Adult Deaf Mission Hall.”

John Lyons of Bristol University kindly sent me the following, which I reproduce in full.  Many thanks to him.

Sturdee is a very interesting, if rather peripheral, figure. He tried to become Chaplain at St Saviour’s in 1888 as Charles Rhind’s replacement. He was asked to demonstrate his signing ability in front of around 50 deaf people—“a good proportion from Deptford”, where he was chaplain—along with another candidate, a Mr Hill.

Sturdee’s signing abilities had long been questioned, had led to him being let go by the Association after the appointment of William Stainer in the early 1870s, before returning, first as a shared missionary between East End and South East and then as full-time missionary for the Greenwich and Deptford Auxiliary.  So even though this was taking place after some dozen or so years working in South East London, Sturdee still had to prove his skills.

A special Trustees meeting on Feb 14th 1888 received a report drawn up by Mr Bather, Mr Davidson, Mr Bright Lucas, and Mr Salmond about the event which had taken place that afternoon. The materials selected were the general confession, the collect for Ash Wednesday and the Gospel for that day.  Sturdee went first.

“He spelled through the General Confession. He says it has been his practice always to do so because he expects the congregation to join in it. The other prayer and the gospel he signed, and he then gave a short address or sermon. His spelling is distinct enough but there is no fluency in it – every word and letter is spelt alike without variation of tone or emphasis. He succeeded best in his address.”

Hill followed but struggled to convince the audience he had the relevant skills.

When audience comments were solicited, “several said Mr Sturdee was a good hard working man but no one distinctly stood up for his signs or spelling.”

It was proposed at the event that a temporary appointment be made or that the Association wait for Gilby.  If pushed, the sub-committee recommendation would be for Sturdee.  But instead Stainer was appointed as a temporary chaplain under the direction of the local parish vicar, J W. Ayre.  Sturdee, pushed out by Stainer and later by Gilby and with his skills still deemed inadequate, eventually moved into a hearing ministry in Somerset.

His brother was a professional photographer, who worked for the Daily Mirror in his later career.

Kentish Mercury for Saturday 5th of June, 1875

Gilby, F.W.G., Death of J.W.A. Sturdee, Ephphatha, 1910, p. 78

The Late Rev. J.W.A. Sturdee, The Silent World, 1910, vol. 2, p.32

Thanks to Norma McGilp @DeafHeritageUK, and Sarah Crofts, for additional information.

WEDDING PARTY AT A BRIDE’S CREMATION – 1933

Hugh Dominic WStiles16 April 2019

Doris Florence Morgan was born in Acton on the 13th of August, 1906, daughter of a ‘glove cleaner’ (later a dry cleaner) Henry Morgan, and his wife, Florence.  The 1911 census, at which time they were living at 34 Goldsmith Road, Acton, tells us she was ‘deaf and dumb from birth.’  George William Munday was born in 1905, son a Albert (a cabman) and Annie Isabella.  The 1911 census tells us that he was ‘deaf and dumb from 1 year.’  The two were married in April, 1933.

This story is simply told as all I have apart from this information, what I have is two newspaper clippings with Selwyn Oxley’s inimitable scrawl, which tell the sad story:

WEDDING PARTY AT A BRIDE’S CREMATION
Forty people who were guests at the wedding, ten days ago, of a London deaf and dumb girl, will reassemble on Saturday at Golders Green, N.W., when the young bride is to be cremated—in her bridal gown.

The girl, Doris Morgan, of Mansell-road, Acton, W., married George Mundy, of Hendon, N.W., also a deaf mute.

After a short honeymoon at Hastings, they returned to their new home last Saturday. On Sunday she was taken ill and became unconscious. She died next morning without recovering consciousness.

“She was a bright girl, strong and capable at her work,” said her father last night. “She was the last person one would have thought would meet with so sudden a death.” (Daily Herald, 20/4/1933)

A second report says –

Wedding March at a Funeral
DEAF AND DUMB BRIDE CREMATED IN WEDDING DRESS
Mendelssohn’s Wedding March was played by the organist and the funeral service was translated into the deaf and dumb language at the cremation at Golders Green to-day of Mrs. Doris Florence Munday, aged 26, of Mansell-road, Acton, W., the deaf and dumb bride who died nine days after her marriage.

Her husband, who is also deaf and dumb, attended the service with friends who were at the wedding. The dead woman was cremated in her bridal clothes in a white coffin.

The Rev. Herbert Trundle, chaplain of the Crematorium, read the service aloud which was interpreted in the deaf and dumb language by the Rev. H. M. Ainger, assistant chaplain to the Royal Society of the Deaf and Dumb, who officiated at the wedding of the couple a fortnight ago. (Evening Standard, 21/4/1933)

1911 Census (Morgan) – Class: RG14; Piece: 6958; Schedule Number: 493

1911 Census (Munday) – Class: RG14; Piece: 7109; Schedule Number: 286

The Rochdale Mission – “from advice in filling in forms to extensive case work with problem families” – the importance of mission work

Hugh Dominic WStiles8 March 2019

The Rochdale Mission to the Deaf was an offshoot of the Bolton Mission, which had started in 1869.  In 1907, Rochdale became a separate society, and the building illustrated here was built.  The earliest mission report we have is for 1927, when the ‘Lady Superintendent and Missioner’ was Mrs Hoyle, who was still there in 1944 but had made way for Mr C. Crabtree by 1947.  It seems that the previous year (1926) they had become affiliated with the National Institute for the Deaf, which had founded its own regional associations, including the Northern Counties Association for the Deaf.  “This branch consists in the union of all the societies for the deaf in the six Northern Counties, and its object is mutual help and encouragement” (127 Report, p.2).  That same year they celebrated the golden wedding of Mr & Mrs C. Birtwhistle, who were pioneers of the society.

The 1960s reports have these attractive drawings of Rochdale on the covers – I think the signature is Harold Hemmingway.

The 1962-3 report shows us the importance of local missions went way beyond ‘spiritual welfare’ or the social club.  The Superintendent was the Rev. T.B. Murray.

GENERAL WELFARE
The word “welfare” is used here as a general term. covering a wide range of services for the deaf, from advice in filling in forms to extensive case work with problem families. It would be impossible to mention every detailed piece of work which might be included under this heading so the following paragraphs are intended merely to outline the different types of problems encountered in welfare work for the deaf.

Interpretation
The complicated set-up of present-day social services means that all social work agencies have as an important function the interpretation of these services to the general public. The deaf general public, like the hearing. often do not know what help is available for a particular need, nor how to set about applying for it, but three consequencies [sic] of their disability further complicate matters for the deaf. Firstly, the difficulties of communication often prevent them from making use of the services even when they know they exist. Secondly, as a result of their limited education, they are often poor writers and readers, unable to cope with letters, papers and forms. And thirdly, as a consequence of their inability to understand and be understood by hearing people, the need for interpreting extends to more aspects of life than the social services. Religious and civil ceremonies, business transactions, legal work and many other matters have to be interpreted in two senses, i.e. the meaning has to be explained and the whole translated into language the deaf person understands.

Over the past twelve months the Superintendent of the Society has been called in to assist by interpreting in courts of law, in hospitals and doctors’ surgeries. opticians and dentists. He has been called in by probation officers, hospital almoners. officers of the National Assistance Board and Ministry of Labour, lawyers and solicitors, and officers of other Voluntary Societies. The deaf have enlisted the help of the Superintendent in dealing with hire purchase, National Health Insurance matters, pensions, income tax returns and refunds, trade union matters, and many other matters the deaf have found difficulty in understanding without assistance. (1962/3 Report, p.5)

We have reports for 1927-34, 1936/7, 1943/4, 1947-52, 1955-1966.

“he used to interpret in court cases” – Edward Bates James (1863-1936)

Hugh Dominic WStiles2 June 2017

Edward Bates James was born in the Commercial Road, East London, on March the 5th, 1863.  His mother, Isabella Dorothea Bartlet, born in 1839, was a pupil at the Old Kent Rd School –  you can see her named there in the 1851 census as Bartlett. His father Edward Francis James (b.1826) was in business, having once been a servant, but although not mentioned by Gilby in his memoir, the 1881 census says he was sexton at St. Saviour’s Church when he and Edward were living at 272 Oxford Street.  His parents had married in 1862.  His mother was an upholstress in 1861, when she was living with her widowed mother at 150 Tottenham Court Rd – approximately where the Cafe Nero is opposite Sainsbury’s.

He did mission work in his spare time, from the age of 13 helping the Rev. Samuel Smith.  His obituary says that,

Owing to the fact that his mother was deaf and dumb, he used to accompany her to all meetings at the old Polytechnic in Regent Street, the last Mission Centre in London before St. Saviuor’s was built.  There he used to meet those, early in London history of deaf work, who were active in the religious and social welfare of the Deaf, especially Samuuel North and the Rev. Samuel Smith, and the latter was a frequent visitor at his parent’s’ home.  When quite young he used to interpret in court cases, and assist in the missions (Ephphatha, 1936, p.1849).

Later on he became a teacher of the deaf, training with William Neill at the Northern Counties School for the Deaf in Newcastle.  The Ephphatha article tells us he regarded Neill with a mixture of “awe and admiration,” and he would never forget the “good caning of half a dozen big fellows late at night for some wrongdoing,” administered by Mr Neill (p.297).  The article does not tell us when he left, but at some point he returned to London on the death of his mother.  He worked, we are told, “in the City in the day, spent a good deal of his time in deaf work, and saw St. Peter’s School, Islington, first opened for them” (ibid).  I have never heard of that school – was it a proper school or only a Sunday school?  He also carried on services at Morley Hall in the absence of Jane Groom.  His ‘City’ work would have been as an accountant or accountant’s clerk, according to census returns.

Marrying in 1889, his wife Ellen bore two children but died after only three years of marriage, on their wedding anniversary, which meant he had to withdraw from some of his mission work to look after his sons.  One of his sons was Walter Melville James – perhaps named after Alexander Melville?  His other son was Alfred.  His wife, Ellen James, who was ten years older than him, was like his father was born in Kettering, which suggests she was perhaps a cousin – I have not had time to conform this.

After meeting old friends at the 1905 Bazaar that Gilby organized at the Grand Central Hotel*, his desire to work with the Deaf community was re-kindled, and he joined the R.A.D.D. on the 1st of February, 1906, becoming ‘Parochial Reader’ of St. Mark’s, North Audley Street, near where he had been a pupil at a school (ibid p.298).  He helped fill in when R.A.D.D. missioner John P. Gloyn‘s health was failing –

in the matter of success in finding work for the deaf he has probably had no equal; and the friendliness and suffering, perhaps in many cases not well skilled, have had great cause to bless him for opportunities afforded them of getting their living. His heart has always disposed him to help again and again those who truly do not deserve it – and who, under his superintendence, have become self-supporting and something like industrious people. His has truly been a work of rescuing the perishing, and though often disheartened by the downright wickedness and perversity of some of his cases, he has never turned back or entirely despaired. On leaving North London recently to become the right-hand man of the Chaplain at St. Saviour’s, he was presented with a gold chain and illuminated address containing signatures by old friends who valued his earnest and helpful ministrations and admired his faithful devotion to duty.

He seems to have taken on a lot of Gilby’s work when he was ill during the Great War.  He died on Sunday, the 9th of February, 1936.  Gilby only mentions him in passing, saying of him, ‘more anon,’ but only then mentions seeing him before going to South Africa in 1934.  They may well have been acquainted since childhood.  He was buried in Brookwood cemetery, Woking.

EB James

*The obituary says 1905, but Gilby’s memoir says 1904.  there were however several bazaars around that time.

Edward Bates James, Ephphatha, 1914, No.22 p.297-8

Edward Bates James, the Great Missionary and Friend of the Deaf, Ephphatha, 1936, April June, No. 109 p.1849-50

The Late Mr. Edward Bates James, British Deaf Times, 1936, Vol.33 p.34

Census 1861 – Class: RG 9; Piece: 102; Folio: 131; Page: 24; GSU roll: 542574

Census 1881 – Class: RG11; Piece: 92; Folio: 57; Page: 31; GSU roll: 1341021

Census 1901 – Class: RG13; Piece: 1257; Folio: 30; Page: 6

Census 1911 – Class: RG14; Piece: 7385; Schedule Number: 245

Ernest Seton Thompson, William Tomkins, & sign language of the American Indians

Hugh Dominic WStiles1 May 2015

Before Europeans went to North America, it seems there were already extensive sign languages there, which were used for inter-tribal communication.  In the introduction to his book Universal Indian Sign Language of the Plains Indians of North America (1st ed. 1926), William Tomkins says,

There is a sentiment connected with the Indian Sign Language that attaches to no other. It is probably the first American language. It is the first and only American universal language. It may be the first universal language produced by any people. It is a genuine Indian language of great antiquity. It has a beauty and imagery possessed by few, if any, other languages. It is the foremost gesture language that the world has ever produced.

The author lectured on Indian problems to many audiences, and at all times the keenest interest was shown in sign language demonstrations, and he was asked, hundreds of times, to make the record permanent, and to thereby preserve and perpetuate the original American language which otherwise is fast passing away.

This is shown by the fact that in 1885 Lewis F. Hadley, at that time a foremost authority on sign, claimed that as a result of extensive investigation he had determined that there were over 110,000 sign-talking Indians in the United States. (ibid p. 3)

Tomkins grew up, he tells us, in Dakota Territory, at Fort Sully. I have been unable to uncover any further biographical information about Tomkins (please contribute below if there is anything you can add), but his book was adopted by the Boy Scouts of America and used at the World Scout Jamboree of 1929.  I suspect that is when this copy was signed by him.  Tomkins is pictured with one of the last great Sioux chiefs who helped preserve his nation’s culture, but whose life reflects his nation’s eclipse, Chief Flying Hawk.

TTomkinsSouth Shields born Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946), was a skilled artist and writer who started modern scouting in America, inspiring Baden Powell, and was one of the pioneers of the conservation movement.  He was also father of the historical novelist Anya Seton.  There is plenty to be found about this fascinating man so I will not repeat it.

We have a copy of Seton’s book, Sign Talk, A Universal Signal Code, without Apparatus, for Use in the Army, the Navy, camping, Hunting, and Daily Life (1918), that was owned by Sir Richard Paget, and perhaps influenced his sign system.  Here we see some of his marginal notes – click on the image for a larger size.

Scanned from a Xerox Multifunction Device (6)
Sign Language – Indian Sign Language [accessed 1/5/2015]

Davis, Jeffrey E. Hand talk : sign language among American Indian nations, CUP 2010

Tomkins, W., Universal Indian Sign Language of the Plains Indians of North America, 1st ed. 1926 and 4th ed. 1929

Seton, Ernest Thompson, Sign Talk, 1918

NOTE: I use the term ‘American Indians’ because that is the term Seton and Tomkins used.

‘He was a “father” of the profession’ – Andrew Patterson (1803-83) of Manchester, Teacher of the Deaf

Hugh Dominic WStiles3 October 2014

Andrew Patterson (1803-1883) was highly regarded in his day as a teacher who had learnt his trade as an assistant to Bingham.  Born in Berwick-upon-Tweed in 1803, he started work in the printing-office of The Berwick Advertiser (Buxton 1885).  On finishing his apprenticeship he moved to London, where for a time he worked alongside Douglas Jerrold, then himself an apprentice.  He left London for Devon, becoming a school-master, there making the acquaintance of Henry Brothers Bingham, who had himself trained with Thomas Braidwood at Edgbaston before becoming the first headmaster of the Exeter Institute (1826-34).  They were were close in age and must have got on as Bingham invited Patterson to join him when he started work at Manchester.  The Manchester Institute, founded in 1825, was “situated in an obscure street on the banks of the Irwell” (Deaf and Dumb Herald) – Stanley Street.  The Institute was later moved to a more suitable location in Salford and opened officially in June 1837.

For a short period from 1839-41, Patterson ran the school at Newcastle but returned to Manchester as headmaster when Bingham departed, encouraged to found a private school by wealthy parents who did not like to send their offspring to a charitable institution (Bingham, p.14).

Patterson

Patterson also introduced Sunday services for deaf adults, under the auspices of The Manchester Adult Deaf and Dumb Society. He remained at the new Salford home of the Institution for most of the remainder of his life, retiring after he had seen through the introduction of oral education in the school.

In his obituary, Buxton calls him an original teacher and a leader,

He had none of the ambitions of a leader, and none of his self-assertiveness; a more modest man never existed. He did the work which came before him because it was the duty of the day. If it became a precedent and formed an example, that had never been in his mind, and furnished no part of his motive. Its modesty enhanced its value, and this excellence it had in common with the work of others – the “fathers” of our profession, indicated in the words with which this article begins.

In a paper read at the Social Science Congress held at Nottingham in September, 1882, and which was published in the Annals for January, 1883, I joined, in the same sentence, speaking of “the oldest teachers of the deaf in England, France, and Italy,” the names of three men who shortly afterwards, within the space of a few months, disappeared from among the ranks of the living.  They had all been sign teachers; all became strong advocates of the Oral System; all, by example and teaching, most strongly influenced the new developments in their respective countries; each was the patriarch amongst the teachers in his own land, and all were at nearly the same time called to their account. […] Tommaso Pendola, Léon Vaïsse, Andrew Patterson. ((p.20-21). 

Patterson was also a pioneer in the education of the deaf and blind, after being inspired by the account of Charles Dickens writing about the education of Laura Bridgman.  He found a blind child called Mary Bradley in a workhouse, “being teased by the other children with whom she was, screaming and trying to catch some of the offenders” (Deaf & Dumb Herald, p.50).

Mr. Patterson then applied himself to the task of teaching her the names of objects, and after daily efforts during some weeks, and making various experiments to establish a means of communication without any apparent success, he was almost about to give up the matter in despair, when suddenly her countenance brightened up- the connection between the name of the object flashed upon her mind, and from that time she made considerable progress, and at last was able to converse with others; she also wrote letters to him and his family when they were away during the midsummer vacation.

It is interesting to read how Patterson says (at the Milan Congress, quoted by Buxton p.27) he became an Oral advocate only after visiting Mr. Schöntheil’s school after the previous conference – so it seems his was a Damascene conversion.

Buxton, David, Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education, 1886, 1, 20-30 (reprinted from American Annals of the Deaf, 1885)

Bingham, Fanshawe, A Memoir of Henry Brothers Bingham (ca. 1929)

Deaf & Dumb Herald, 1876 vol 1 no. 4, 49-51 – photograph

Heroic Deaf Scout Saves Drowning Boy

Hugh Dominic WStiles19 March 2014

In around 1928 (I am not certain of the date) Jack Kellett of Water Street, Holbeck, a deaf scout from the Leeds 14th South-West Troop of Boy Scouts, was walking along the Leeds and Liverpool canal bank in Globe Road having been for a swim.  Another child pointed out a boy, George Henry Wright aged 4, who was struggling in the water.   Jack dived in, grabbed the boy’s coat, lifted his head from the water, swam with him to the bank and then pulled him out.  He immediately began artificial respiration until further help arrived.  The boy recovered, and Jack, who had learnt life-saving and swimming in the scouts, was given the Royal Humane Society’s Testimonial certificate, presented to him by the Lord Mayor, Alderman David Blythe Foster.

There are many fascinating things about this story.  Jack was a signer – that is he used BSL – and the presentation was interpreted, the mayor saying,

The deed was very fine and brave.  I am glad to know that you can swim.  That is one of the things I cannot do and I am now too old to learn.  I hope that all the girls and boys of the city will learn to swim, so they can render service in case of emergency, as you have done.

Jack would have been born around 1913 but I have not found him on the Free BMD website.  Perhaps ‘Jack’ is not his proper name.  There is a challenge there for someone to find out more about Jack, his family, where he went to school and so on.  Perhaps someone remembers him?  Kellet seems to be a common name in Leeds so there may well be relatives.

The Royal Humane Society‘s records are now in the London Metropolitan Archives and would certainly be interesting to check.

Finally, it is really curious to note that I have come across a number of examples of Deaf people rescuing others from drowning.  There is a fascinating article on “Heroic rescuing behaviour,”  which says, “Males with low socio-economic status were more likely to rescue in all the contexts (fire, drowning, violence and traffic accidents).”  The article links such behaviour to evolutionary theory.

Lyons, Minna, Who are the heroes?  Characteristics of people who rescue others.  Journal of Cultural and Evolutionary Psychology, 3 (2005)3– 4, 239–248

 This post is based on a photograph of a newspaper cutting of unknown date.

Jack 001

Interpreter in Court, 1817: The famous case of Jean Campbell, alias Bruce

Hugh Dominic WStiles24 January 2014

The case of Jean Campbell should be of great interest to interpreters, Deaf people  and students of Scottish law.  The story is to be found in Peter Jackson’s Deaf Crime Casebook (1997).  Briefly, she was a deaf Glasgwegian woman who was accused of  throwing her three year old child into the river Clyde from the Saltmarket Bridge on the 19th of November 1816.  I will quote extensively here from the version of the story that appeared in The Dublin Penny Journal some years later (April 1832):

Some time since, in Glasgow, a woman, named Jane Campbell, alias Byrne, [sic] with an infant on her back, was observed on the bridge, leaning her shoulder against the battlements; shortly after, some person heard a heavy fall of something into the river. It was her child – it was drowned!  She was apprehended, on suspicion of having thrown it over intentionally.  She was deaf and dumb and was brought to trial with strong evidence against her.  She had never been taught anything; no one could understand her until Mr. Kinniburgh, the master of the Edinburgh School for the Deaf and Dumb, was sent for – he understood her. She made signs that her child had been supported on her back her cloak, the ends of which she held in her hands, drawn tightly across her breast.  Wishing to take some money out of her bosom, she forgot the child for a moment, and incautiously let go her hold of the cloak; the child fell out on the top of the parapet, and rolling over it into the water, was hurried away and drowned.  When he made signs to her, that people thought she had done it intentionally, and had thrown the child in; she expressed the utmost abhorrence of the supposition, and the sincerest regret for the child.  She had been betrayed and deserted.  She expressed the greatest indignation against her betrayer, whom she considered as her husband; but he was unknown, and she could not explain by signs how he could be discovered.  Mr. Kinniburgh gave it as his decided opinion, that she was not guilty of the crime imputed to her, and she was accordingly acquitted.  Fortunately, this happened in a country where the laws are executed in equity, where the innocent are protected, and even the guilty given the full benefit of investigation; but had it occurred in some foreign clime, where tyranny reigns, and individual rights are unregarded, the rich protected, and the poor despised, and even involuntary ignorance and accidental crime unpitied, she might have suffered a terrific sentence, and the life of a fellow-creature, whose situation excites the most poignant feelings of sympathy, might have been offered up a bloody sacrifice, upon the detested altar of villainy. If there had not been there ‘an interpreter, one among a thousand, to show unto man her uprightness,’ she might have found that ‘none that would be gracious to her,’ and say, ‘deliver her from going down to the pit.’ You shudder at the thought, prevent then the possibility of any Irish deaf and dumb female being exposed to such deception, danger, desertion, widowhood, by promoting the power of; this Institution [Claremont] to educate all that apply.

sign alphabet[Left – a sign alphabet from the same issue of the Penny Journal]

In fact, the pre-trial proceedings are equally as interesting as the trial.  Kinniburgh was brought in to try to interpret for the pannel and the court.  The ‘pannel’ (a Scottish legal term for the accused) was accordingg to Lord Hermand  not fit for trial.  Lords Justice Clerk, Gillies, Pitmilly, and Reston were of a different opinion, saying that she was doli capax that is capable of deceit, and having knowledge of right and wrong, quoting a case in England from 1773 (see below) where a jury had to decide if the accused man was wilfully mute or “mute from the visitation of God” and a woman who knew him acted as a sign interpreter.  Lord Reston opined that it was in her interests that she should stand trial as if she was found a ‘nonentity’ she would be ‘cont[a]ined for life’ whereas if she were tried and innocent she would be at liberty.  campbell

It is important to note that she was not found ‘not guilty’ but ‘not proven’, a verdict in Scottish law where there is evidence against the defendant but insufficient to convict.

After the trial Kinniburgh helped her to travel back to Argyll where her family lived.  It would be an interesting project to try to discover what became of her and her surviving children.

Trial of a Deaf amd Dumb Woman for the Murder of her Child – Dublin Penny Journal 

Before the trial:

HIGH COURT OF JUSTICIARY.

Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, Scotland), Thursday, July 3, 1817; Issue 14916

HIGH COURT OF JUSTICIARY.

Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, Scotland), Saturday, July 19, 1817; Issue 14923

The Trial:

CIRCUIT INTELLIGENCE .

Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, Scotland), Saturday, September 27, 1817; Issue 14971.