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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

Hugh Dominic WStiles1 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

“His appearance is mild, but rather sullen” – a Manslaughter charge against a Deaf man in Manchester, 1853

Hugh Dominic WStiles25 October 2019

I came across the following story from the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser for Saturday the 10th of December, 1853:

Charge of Manslaughter against a Deaf and Dumb Boy.
John Flannagan, a deaf and dumb youth, was charged with killing a boy named John Stanley, on the Garratt-road, near Manchester, on the 17th September, by throwing him into the canal. The prisoner being deaf and dumb, the proceedings attendant on the investigation created considerable interest. Mr. Andrew Patterson, teacher in the Deaf and Dumb Institution, at Manchester, was sworn to act as interpreter. -It appeared the prisoner had been an inmate of this institution for three years, and was considered a lad of considerable aptitude and sharpness. Mr. Monk prosecuted, and Mr. Wheeler defended. After some discussion between the legal gentlemen, it was admitted that the evidence was insufficient to establish so serious a charge manslaughter. On investigation it appeared that the prisoner and another boy were proceeding along the road when they were joined by the deceased, who soon after attempted to take a stick from one of the boys, and the prisoner seized hold of him. A struggle ensued, and deceased was tumbled into the canal.

This is very interesting, but John Flannagan proved tricky to pin down.  The article says he was a pupil at the Manchester School for three years, so he ought to be on the list of pupils for 1851 and 1852, years we have school reports for, and one would expect he  would also be on the list of pupils for the 1851 census, but I could find no mention of him in either place. We have Andrew Patterson sworn in to interpret in court, although it is not clear that his services were required.  Furthermore, we see a Deaf person coming out the right side of justice.  A sad and unfortunate story, with an appropriate ending, or so I thought.

However, the story is more complicated.  Newspapers today frequently get facts wrong and misspell names, and that was equally true in the past.  When no amount of searching gave me a hint of John Finnigan, I looked again at that report.  I realized it said he ‘had been’ an inmate of the institution, so he was a bit older.  I looked at the earliest annual report we have for the school, 1850, and there is a John Finnigan, aged 15 in March 1850, from Manchester, “father a nailer, 2 deaf and dumb” admitted to the school July 28th, 1845.  Now we were getting somewhere, and a new search of the newspaper archive found an earlier version of the story, from September, just after the incident, which gives it a completely different slant.  This came from the London Daily News for Thursday the 22nd of September, 1853:

THE MURDER AT MANCHESTER.
John Finnigan, the deaf and dumb boy, charged with the murder of James Shanley, a child six years old, by throwing him into the Rochdale Canal, at Manchester, on Saturday, was again brought up for examination, yesterday, before the magistrates at the Manchester City Police Court.

Betsey Shanley, the mother of the deceased, said her son left home between 5 and 6 o’clock on Saturday evening, and she never saw him alive afterwards.

Thomas Shanley, the father of deceased, said, I live at 13, Taylor’s-court, Oxford-street. I called at all the police-stations on Saturday night, and did not return home till past two o’clock on Sunday morning, and on Sunday I made time same round again, also calling at the workhouses, without obtaining any information whatever of my son. I and another man found him in the canal on Sunday after- noon, between 2 and 3 o’clock.

Angus Thorley, a little boy, ten years of age, who in giving his evidence, displayed considerable dullness of apprehension, said, I was going up Garratt-road for a walk on Sunday, with another boy, when two boys came behind us. One of them was going to throw me into the canal, and the other got hold of the boy who was with me, by the clothes, and threw him into the water. I know it was Sunday.

Alderman Walker- What day did you say it was when you were here before ?

Witness – I said it was Sunday. I don’t know what time it was. We were going over the bridge. I go some- times to school on Sunday, but I could not go that day. There were no workmen or carts about. I don’t know when I told my mother about it. I had never before seen the boy who threw the deceased into the canal, but I know the prisoner is the same. I am sure he did it on purpose, and then he ran away.

Mr. Superintendent Taylor, of the Manchester police, said this boy (the last witness) came to the Police-office shortly after 10 on Monday morning with his mother and the deceased’s father, and stated that on Saturday [not Sunday] evening he was taking a walk up Garratt-road with another boy, when the prisoner came up and threw his companion into the water.

Mrs. Thorley, the mother of the witness Angus Thorley, said – My son came home on Saturday night about seven o’clock, looking very downcast, and laid his head against the wall. He has often been stoned and ill-used by other boys in the street, and I thought they had been molesting him as usual. On Sunday night, after the body had been found, I was putting him to bed, when he laid his head on his breast, and said ” Mamma, I have seen the little boy that was drowned;” and afterwards started up and exclaimed “I saw him throw him in though.”

There being no further evidence, the prisoner was remanded till Friday.

Mr. Pattison [sic], master of the Deaf and Dumb School at Old Trafford, interpreted the evidence to the prisoner, who seemed, by signs and gestures, indignantly to deny every- thing that appeared to criminate him. He is said to be a very intelligent boy, and can write very well. He is apprenticed to a joiner, and his father is a nail maker, residing in Chorlton-upon-Medlock. The prisoner was educated in the Deaf and Dumb School, where he had the character of a very headstrong and self-willed boy, but never manifested a disposition from which it could be inferred that he was likely to commit a serious crime like this. His appearance is mild, but rather sullen.

Further reports emerge, all with some slight variations of names and spelling, due to the mis-hearing of names & having to guess at spellings for names heard in court. The Sun (London), for Thursday the 22nd of September, 1853, repeats that report, verbatim.  The Stamford Mercury for Friday the 16th of December, 1853, has the victim as ‘James Shandley’.  One of the papers tells us the victim was six years and eight months old.*

Another version in the Manchester Times for Saturday the 24th of September, 1853, gives the fullest account of the original hearing [I have added some paragraphs not in the newspaper, to make it easier to read]:

WILFUL DROWNING OF A BOY IN THE CANAL
On Wednesday, at the City Police Court, John Finnigan, a deaf and dumb lad, aged eighteen, was again brought before the magistrates upon the charge reported in our last paper, of having caused the death of James Shanley, a child of six or seven years old, by throwing him into the canal adjoining Messrs. Bellhouse’s timber yard, Garratt Road. The prisoner’s parents live at 31, Leigh-street, Chorlton on Medlock, and he himself is apprenticed to Mr. M’Lean, builder, on the Stretford New Road; he has been five years in the Deaf and Dumb Institution, at Old Trafford, and, in despite of the deprivation of his senses, he is considered intelligent, and has been usually well conducted; he can read and write well. The child whose death was the subject of inquiry belonged to a poor man’s family, at 18, Taylor’s Court, Oxford Road. His mother states that he went out to play between five and six o’clock on Saturday evening last, and never returned. His father, Thomas Shanley, went in search of him on Saturday evening, and called at all the police stations in the town, but could hear no tidings of the child that night. On Sunday morning, he went out again early, and continued his search; went to the workhouses and other places, but could get no intelligence of the lost boy. It was between two and three o’clock on Sunday afternoon, when the dead child was found in the canal by his father, assisted by a young man of the neighbourhood. On Monday morning, the father of the dead child, accompanied by a little boy named Angus Thorley, with his mother, came to Mr. Taylor, the ‘superintendent of police at the Chorlton Town Hall, to make known the statement of the boy Angus Thorley. This witness, who is ten years old, told Mr. Taylor then, that, on Saturday evening, he was with the other child, James Shanley, whose name he did not know ; and that, in their play, they walked along the canal by the Garratt Road, and he there saw the prisoner, with another big boy ; and that, after a short time, although nothing had been done or said between them, the prisoner caught up the little fellow Shanley, who was with witness, taking hold of his clothes behind, and threw him into the water, and then ran away—that he (the witness) ran after the prisoner, but could not overtake him, and that some one told him it was “the dummy boy”. The mother of Angus Thorley described the manner in which her son came to tell her this story of what he had seen. She said: I was very strict with him, and frequently forbid him to go near the water (which might amount for his not mentioning the matter to his mother at first). On Saturday afternoon, be came home to be washed, about five o’clock, and when he came home he was not like as at other times, but he laid his head against the wall, and was very quiet. I noticed him then, but I thought it was because some of the Irish boys, who have a great antipathy to him, and have stoned him several times, had been at him as usual. I washed him myself, as I always do, and put him to bed, and nothing more was said by him that night, only that several times after be asked me for drink, and his aunt also gave him water to drink. On Sunday night, he was going to bed at the usual time, and I was up with him myself, and put him to bed ; but when he was undressed, he sat on the ground, and held his head on has breast; end at last he said to me, “Mamma, I’ve seen that little boy that was drowned,” and I said, “What little boy ?” for I had not heard then of the other child being lost; and he said, “The little boy that was thrown into the canal !” I said, “What do you mean, child ?” Then he looked up and said, “I saw him throw him in,— he’s black, mamma, and he had salt on his stomach.” This means the corpse of the child, which, when it was taken out of the canal, was discoloured, as commonly happens with dead bodies, so  probably, the boy, Angus Thorley, had been lingering about the place on Sunday afternoon when the dead child was taken out, and had seen salt rubbed into the abdomen, in the hope of restoring life. The boy having told his mother the story of what he had witnessed, she took him to the father of the dead child Shanley, and he brought them to the police superintendent. The boy was again examined by the magistrates on Wednesday ; Mr. Gray, of the office of Mr. W. P. Roberts, attending as attorney for the prisoner, and Mr. Patteson [sic], of the Deaf and Dumb Institution, to interpret the evidence to the prisoner.

—The young witness was evidently confused, but his manner was very childlike and simple; he said now, differently from what he had said on Monday, that it was Sunday afternoon, instead of Saturday. when he saw the prisoner throw the child who was playing with him into the water; the place was “just as they were going over the bridge beside where they wind the planks up.” He seemed quite sure, on looking at the prisoner, that he was the same person who threw the boy in,—and that he threw him in on purpose, not accidentally; he (the prisoner ), with another boy, were coming behind witness and the deceased, over the bridge, when the prisoner caught hold of the loose skirts of his clothes behind, lifted him, and threw him into the canal, and then “chased off”. No other person was near at the time. The witness repeated, that this happened on Sunday ; but he did not seem to know much of the days of the week; he went to a Sunday-School “sometimes,” but had not been to school that day. At present, no information could be obtained as to the other lad, who was stated to have been with the prisoner when this was done; and the prisoner had nothing to say for himself, or was advised by his attorney to say nothing. He was, therefore, remanded to Friday for further inquiry.

—He was again brought up yesterday, and discharged from the custody of the court.

–The coroner for the city, Mr. Herford, held an inquest on Wednesday afternoon, at the Royal Infirmary; when the prisoner, with his attorney, were present; and the boy, Angus Thorley, then repeated his original statement, in the following words:—On Saturday afternoon, me and the boy that is dead were going up the hill out of Garratt Road, and going across the bridge over the canal at the timber-yard; and that boy (the prisoner) and another boy came behind us. I said to the boy that was with me,”Cut away;” and he (the deceased probably) tried to take the stick from me; then, the master was coming, and the other boy (who was with the prisoner) ran away. The dummy boy then laid hold of the boy who was playing with me, taking him by the clothes, with one hand his neck and the other his back part, and threw him in; his feet went first into the water. The dummy boy then ran away and turned up an entry, but he did not get into Garratt Road. I did not see him again; I had never seen the “dummy” boy before. In reply to questions from Mr. Gray, the boy said: I know I told the magistrates that that this was on Sunday, but it really was on Saturday, it was about five o’clock, and as light as it is now. I had no quarrel about the stick with the boy that is dead; but he wanted it, and took hold of it.

—The superintendent of police stated that the witness had picked out Finnigan, the deaf and dumb lad, from amongst five others, and identified him as the one who threw the little fellow into the water. He had, also, shown them the place on the canal bank, which was about thirty yards distant from the place where the corpse was found; but if the locks were open there would be current strong enough to carry the body that distance, there is a coping stone three-quarters of a yard above the water.

—Mr. A. Paterson, surgeon, had examined the body, but found no marks of violence ; drowning was the cause of death.

—The inquest terminated by the jury finding a verdict of “Manslaughter” against John Finnigan, who has been, accordingly, committed for trial.

Further reported in the Liverpool Mercury for Tuesday the 27th of September, 1853, the writer says “The evidence was very meagre and unsatisfactory. […] The prisoner had a man with him, who also attempted to throw Thorley in. Prisoner and the man ran away, and Thorley says he ran after the prisoner, and saw no more of Shanley.”

Here we have Thorley saying someone else was there who attempted to throw Thorley in to the canal.

In the Kentish Gazette for Tuesday the 27th of September, 1853, Thorley’s mother said that he

has often been stoned and ill-used by other boys in the street, and thought they had been molesting him as usual. […] Mr. Pattison, master of the Deaf and Dumb School at Old Trafford, interpreted the evidence to the prisoner, who seemed, signs and gestures, indignantly deny everything that appeared to criminate him. He is said to be a very intelligent boy, and can write very well. He is apprenticed to a joiner, and his father is nail maker, residing in Chorlton upon-Medlock. The prisoner was educated in the Deaf and Dumb School, where he had the character of very headstrong and self-willed boy, but never manifested a disposition from which could be inferred that he was likely to commit serious crime like this.

It seems to me that there is far more going on here than has emerged in any of the court sessions.  All I have is various suspicions and more questions.  Clearly Thorley was the subject of bullying ‘by the Irish boys’ which perhaps might include Finnigan, but whatever the story was with the stick, we can only guess.  Did Thorley invent the story to cover an argument he had with Shanley? Who was the fourth person, the young man with Finnigan, and what was that about “the master was coming” – who was the master?  Why did Thorley run after Finnigan and not cry out for help?  Why do we hear nothing from Finnigan, if he was innocent?  Thorley was supposed to be 10, however the only person I can find on the census who seems to match, is an Angus Thorley who became a porter, dying aged 38 in 1885.  There are not many Angus Thorleys, so I am confident that this is him.  That suggests that he was only six years old at the time of the death of James Shanley, rather than ten.

Was the victim James or John, Shanley or Shandley or Stanley?!  You see the problem with using newspapers as historical sources.  The Morning Post for Thursday, the 8th of December, 1853, has a name that is impossible to ready but must be James  —ley.  I have not definitively found his death record, or his family.

There is more to be found on Finnigan.  In 1859, at Manchester Cathedral, he married a Deaf girl, Eliza Barlow (1837-78).  Eliza was born in Staffordshire, at Newcastle under Lyme, and was described as Deaf and Dumb on the 1851 census. She was at the Manchester Deaf school as well.  John Finnigan was born in Manchester, according to the 1861 census, but in Ireland, according to the 1871 census, when he was living in Hulme as a Pattern Maker.  The 1881 census has his age as 30, with him born at Salford, Eliza being dead by then.  His marriage record tells us that he was a son of Thomas Finnigan, nailer, so we can be sure that he is the right Finnigan.  I cannot find him in later census returns but an ancestry family tree has him dying in 1924.  John’s brothers were also pupils.

In the school register, on a page kindly sent to me by our great Deaf History sleuth Norma McGilp, it tells us John was born on the 25th of March, 1835.  It adds in the comments field, information from the Rev.Downing who ran the Manchester Adult Society, presumably added in 1878 –

The eldest of the four Deaf and Dumb in the family, and probably the best of them, but he married a Deaf and Dumb woman of intemperate habits, by which she hastened her death, and whom I buried last week. Their eldest daughter is the mother of an illegitimate child.

I do not know Manchester so pinning down the locations with name changes of streets is not easy, but this is where the Bellhouse building was here but was I assume not where the timber yard was, which must nonetheless be in central Manchester.  Please comment if you know where Garratt Rd. was, or can pinpoint the spot where the tragedy occurred.

In addition to the papers quoted above –

*Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – Saturday 24 September 1853

Morning Post – Thursday 08 December 1853

Manchester, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1930 (Cathedral)

Eliza Barlow

1851 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 4002; Folio: 19; Page: 31; GSU roll: 846101

John & Eliza Finnigan –

1861 Census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 2921; Folio: 31; Page: 6; GSU roll: 543050

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 4002; Folio: 19; Page: 31; GSU roll: 846101

John Finnigan –

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 3962; Folio: 7; Page: 7; GSU roll: 1341946

Angus Thorley – 

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 3887; Folio: 47; Page: 41; GSU roll: 1341928

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

Hugh Dominic WStiles7 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

 

“A letter arrived in May which sent me to Psalm 46:10” – Mary Corbishley’s Oral School at Cuckfield (1937-96)

Hugh Dominic WStiles5 April 2019

It seems peculiar, but there were a large number of privately run Deaf Schools in Sussex in the 19th century.  We might suppose it was the comparative closeness to London and the rural setting – also perhaps cheaper large buildings or houses suitable as small schools – that made it attractive.  Cuckfield House was one such.  It was founded by Mary Stephens Corbishley (1905-1995).  She was born in Worcestershire, and was a sickly child, enduring a number of bouts of illness.  She began working as a nurse to a Jewish family in Brighton in 1928, then the following year started to look after the 5 1/2 year old daughter of a doctor in Worthing, a girl who was then discovered to be going deaf (Stewart, p.14).  Mary taught herself lip-reading by watching herself in the mirror.

Around that time she met Frank Barnes (1866-1932), the Teacher of the Deaf who had recently retired to the south coast, after being head of the Penn School.  She had no school diploma and was therefore ineligible for a teacher training course such as that in Manchester, however, Barnes was sufficiently impressed by her to nominate her for associate membership of the National College for Teachers of the Deaf in 1929/30 (Stewart, p.18).  She was offered a trainee teacher post by Mary and Ethel Hare’s Dene Hollow School, in 1931.  While at that school she met and made friends with Miss Jessie B. Hancock, who had gone to America as nurse to a deaf boy, then trained and taught at the oralist Central Institute for the Deaf, St. Louis for a while (Stewart, p.31).

Some years previously, Corbishley had had a ‘spiritual’ conversion and became quite religious (Corbishley, p.25).  It seems that eventually this spirituality began to conflict with the more secular nature of Mary Hare’s school, and Corbishley resigned on the 10th of March 1937 (she called it her ‘Thanksgiving Day’), although Mary Hare wrote her a nice reference (Stewart p.21-3).  She soon happened upon a bed-sitter flat in Hassock, and was asked to take on teaching an eleven-year-old girl, Jean.  Two more pupils quickly appeared, along with the threat of legal action by her former employer – “A letter arrived in May which sent me to Psalm 46:10” (Corbishley, P.40). Her landlady’s son who was studying law, helped her with advice and the firm of solicitors he worked for wrote a letter in return and the matter was quickly closed (ibid).

Corbishley found a permanent home for the school in Cuckfield in May, 1939.  A copy of the school brochure from an uncertain date, but perhaps 1940s, tells us that fees were £50 a term.  A brochure tells us,

The Aim of Cuckfield House is that deaf children should grow up in a healthy environment, with a variety of interests and the ability to enter into the normal activities of hearing children. To achieve this, special attention is given to Language, Speech and Lip-reading. A wide experience of the needs of the deaf has proved the necessity for constant intercourse with hearing people. A child accustomed to read only the lips of the teachers is at a disadvantage in both social and business spheres. Cuckfield House is fortunate in that it has a large circle of hearing friends, who frequently visit the School. The School stands in its own grounds, with playing fields adjoining, and is situated in the village of Cuckfield, one mile and a half from Haywards Heath.

During the war Ian Stewart tells us that Deaf London pupils from the Randall Place L.C.C. School, Roan Street, Greenwich, were evacuated to Cuckfield, but although orally taught (under a Miss G.A. Kirby in 1939), Corbishley was ‘disturbed’ to see them signing, so they were segregated from her pupils, lest they teach them signs (Stewart, p.42)!

Miss Hancock left in 1947 and worked privately  in Midhurst, before moving to South Africa (Stewart, p.59).

The school closed on July 19th 1996, shortly after Corbishley’s death.

http://cuckfieldmuseum.org/buildings/millhall

School Brochure, circa 1939/45?

CORBISHLEY, M., Corby. 1980

Stewart, Ian M., Mary Stephens Corbishley M.B.E.: A biography of her life and work at her Oral School for Deaf Children in Cuckfield, East Sussex, the U.K. 2010

“How doth the little busy bee Improve each shining hour” – Mary Ann Frances Burnell – A Sampler, 1870

Hugh Dominic WStiles15 March 2019

Mary Ann Frances Burnell was born in Cosgrove, Northamptonshire, in 1857, daughter of a labourer, William Burnell (aslo Burnal) and his wife, Elizabeth.  She was not described as deaf in the 1861 census when she was three, but a later census says she was ‘deaf from birth’ (1891).  She had at least one hearing brother and sister surviving, but many more that died very young.

This beautifully done sampler was made by her when she was a pupil at Edgbaston School, which she entered aged 9 in 1867, and left in 1873.  It says,

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower
Mary Ann Frances Burnell
Aged 14 years 1870
Deaf and Dumb School
Edgbaston

It may not surprise you to know that she became a lace-maker – Northamptonshire being famous for its lace at that time.  In the 1881 census she was living with her parents in Cosgrove.  By the late 19th century however, modern materials and methods of mass manufacture had ruined the old lace-making trade, and she and her mother were working as laundresses, a very tough job.  Mary died in Oxfordshire, in 1947, never having married. 

I wonder if the sampler came to us via Selwyn Oxley.  He went on several mission trips to Oxfordshire and worked there in some capacity for a while on a voluntary basis.

On the left is a list of some of the pupils in the school in 1872.  Click onto the image for a larger size.  It is possible that we could find her in some of the mission news, but it seems likely that as an adult she was the only Deaf person in her immediate area, and she lived in a village rather than a town where she might have had the company of other Deaf people as she had at school.

The Embroidery & Seamstress pictures come from the 1857 book, An Illustrated Vocabulary Prepared for the use of the Deaf and Dumb.


1861 Census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 927; Folio: 29; Page: 16; GSU roll: 542722

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 1537; Folio: 28; Page: 13; GSU roll: 1341370

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 1189; Folio: 20; Page: 7

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 1413; Folio: 25; Page: 13

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 8351; Schedule Number: 79

Free BMD Deaths Mar 1947 Burnell, Mary A F aged 89 Oxford 6b 1242

Harry Wellington White, oralist “When I went to Manchester… the tone of the institution was undoubtedly sign…. it was like a fever lurking about”

Hugh Dominic WStiles17 August 2018

Harry Wellington White was born in October, 1854, son of Wellington White, a ‘quartermaster of militia,’ born in Tipperary, and his wife Anne, from Kildare. The oldest sister was born Van Diemen’s Land, then a brother was born in Dover, a second brother was born in Lancashire, and his younger brother in Hampshire, so presumably the father was being sent around the empire for his work.

Harry White began working as a clerk, presumably when he left school. He was employed as a clerk in the offices of the Great Western , at General Manager’s office at Paddington in November, 1876. He remained an employee there until February, 1879, when he resigned.  He would then be aged a little over 24, and we might suppose that it was then, or shortly after, that he enrolled as a trainee teacher of the deaf at the Ealing ‘Society for Training Teachers of the Deaf and for the Diffusion of the German System.’  He took a two and a half year course there, and qualified in 1881 in the same cohort as Mary Smart, and was it seems the only male teacher to qualify there, which seems extraordinary.  I seem to recall reading somewhere that there were far fewer me interested in becoming teachers in the latter years of the 19th century.  Previously I think male teachers had often gone into teaching as pupils who became teachers, then learnt on the job in deaf schools, but this would require research to confirm.

Having qualified, he was appointed Vice-Principal under Arthur Kinsey.  He was sent out from Ealing as an acolyte, and Benjamin St. John Ackers who lead the society as Honorary Secretary, wrote in the annual report for 1884 (p.10) –

Somewhat earlier in the year your Honorary Secretary attended the Annual Meeting of the Manchester Schools for the Deaf and Dumb, as a subscriber to that Institution, where it will be remembered Mr. H. W. White, our late Vice-Principal, was engaged in the work of training the teachers employed there, to carry on the German System.  Mr. White had represented to your Society that certain changes in the arrangements of the Manchester Institution were absolutely necessary for the ultimate success of the work.  Your Honorary Secretary’s attendance, upon the occasion referred to, was to urge the adoption of these proposed changes upon the Manchester Committee, and also the further engagement of Mr. White for another twelve months ; this latter proposition, we are sorry to learn, has, from want of funds, not been accepted.  The period of Mr. White’s engagement with your Society having expired, we were in strong hopes of seeing him at the head of some British Institution, carrying on successfully the work for which he has been trained.  About this time the Head Mastership of the West of England Institution, at Exeter, fell vacant, and Mr. White was at once advised to apply for the post, but he did not feel at liberty to do so.  Shortly afterwards a similar vacancy occurred at the Liverpool Institution ; again he was urged to apply.  Owing, possibly, to delay in forwarding his application, he was not successful in obtaining the appointment.  Upon the termination of the Society’s agreement with Mr. White an agreement was executed with Mr. Alfred Batchelor to train at the College, and to give his services to the Society in such ways as might be required for their work.

The Manchester Schools Sixtieth Annual Report for 1884 (we have not got the 1883 Report) tells us that “the arrangement referred to in the last Annual Report as having been made with Mr. White, Vice-Principal of the Ealing College, is being brought to a satisfactory termination ; and it is gratifying to your Committee to find that the Oral Classes, as organised by their Head Master, [W.S. Bessant] are working so nearly upon the lines laid down by Mr. White in his lectures, that very little alteration in them has been rendered necessary. (Annual Report, 1884, p.6).

It seems Ackers was, however, rather disappointed with White.  He wanted to expand the oralist approach by getting his man into a big school.  Perhaps White felt that running a private school would be more rewarding.  In October, 1884, White published a booklet with W.H. Allen, publishers, Speech for the Dumb. The Education of the Deaf and Dumb on the “Pure Oral” System.  He laid out the oralist approach, and concluded with an appendix on ‘Hints for the management of a deaf child.’  This included ‘Do not allow him to shuffle his feet when walking.’  Interestingly, one of our regular visitors tells me that she was told the same thing at school – perhaps this was part of the long legacy of the Ealing College?  In the introduction to that essay, when he was living at 3, Blenheim Terrace, Old Trafford, Manchester, he says, (p.v) that “I am desirous of opening a small private and select school for deaf children of the higher classes, at Bowden, Cheshire.”  Of course he adds, needlessly, “signs and the manual alphabet being rigidly excluded.”

I am not sure if that school got going, as by July 1885 he was offering lip reading lessons and his address was 4 Osman Road, West Kensington Park.  Not long after, we find numerous advertisements for White’s private deaf school, at 115 Holland Road, Kensington, in The Times and London Evening Standard (see British Newspaper Archive), as well as mentions in The Lancet (by February 1886).  He was, that same year one of the witnesses for The Royal Commission on the Blind, the Deaf and the Dumb (1889).  (We have the full text, and electronic access through Parliamentary Papers database.)  He was asked about his time at Manchester on Thursday the 18th of March, 1886.  You may recall that Ackers was on the commission, so I do not think it would be unfair to say that there was already an oralist bias –

7969. When you first went there was that the commencement of the change ? — No, they had endeavored to introduce the system, and I suppose it would be
maintained that they had introduced it. Of course one is very delicate upon a matter of that kind; there are certain susceptibilities to consider; I think they claimed that they introduced the system; but I went there to assist them to carry it on to probably a higher pitch, and farther extent.

7970. Do you claim that you made great progress is the teaching of the teachers there ? — Undoubtedly.

7971. And also the pupils themselves ? —  Certainly.  Of course my individual efforts could not have shown very great results in the children except through the teachers that I trained.  I could not be expected to teach 160 children, nor would my results be very much in twelve months; but I think that, taking class and class with the teacher that was attached to it, the whole tone of the training showed itself clearly in the education of the children.

Further on he says (paragraph 8007),

When I went to Manchester, of course the tone of the institution was undoubtedly sign.  From the point of view of a pure oral teacher it was like a fever lurking about (that is a rather strong way of putting it), and it wanted removing before you could expect to do anything with the children on the opposite system.

8008. You mean tho fever of the sign system ? — From our point of view, though that is rather a strong way of putting it; but it certainly was very infections. The new children and the children taught on the oral system were very prone to fall into the ways of those who had a system of signs around them.  The consequence was that I saw it rapidly running through the whole institution.  In six weeks or two months the children who had newly entered were as full of signs as thosewho had been there for six years, though probably not knowing so many signs.  The only hope of introducing the pure oral system would have been the removal of the whole of those sign children, and that is what I advocated.  I wrote a letter to tho committee and advocated the taking of a new house somewhere in the neighbourhood for the purpose; but they said that they could not possibly do it, that the expense was more than they could meet, and that things would have to go on as they were going on.

[…]

8059. Do you think that the time will ever come when the sign and manual systems will disappear altogether ?  — I see no reason why they should not.

8060. Do you think there is every reason why they should ?—At present there are very few reasons why they should.  If the Government take the matter up and grant assistance to the work, I see every reason why the sign system should be stamped out, and the oral system entirely established in its place.

In both the 1861 and 1871 census records, Harry White was living at home with his parents in 7 Hackney Terrace, Cassland Road. He moved with them at some point after that, to 3 Poplar Grove, Hammersmith.  In January 1891 he married Emma Parrell, at St Mary Magdalene, Peckham, and at that time he was described as a teacher on his marriage certifiate, but in the 1891 census a ‘Teacher of the Deaf’.  In both the 1901 and the 1911 censuses, they were recorded as living in 13 Sinclair Gardens, Hammersmith.

After some years he seems to have turned away from being purely a teacher of the deaf, though he may well have still had deaf pupils, for he describes himself as ‘Speech Specialist’ in both 1901 and 1911 census returns.  He wrote a few other short items, one we have, The Mechanism of Speech (1897), and a book we do not have, Hearing by Sight (18-?) which is held in Aberdeen University, possibly a unique copy.

I cannot say anything of his later carreer, but that he had three children, one son who attended Cambridge university (Harry Coxwell White), and that he died in 1940.

The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Collection: Great Western Railway Company: Staff Records; Class: RAIL264; Piece: 6

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 332; Folio: 73; Page: 58; GSU roll: 818902

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 60; Folio: 19; Page: 32; GSU roll: 1341013

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 39; Folio: 182; Page: 34

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 50; Folio: 21; Page: 33

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 255

The Times (London, England), Wednesday, Oct 21, 1885; pg. 2; Issue 31583.

The Standard (London, England), Tuesday, July 14, 1885; pg. 8; Issue 19032

“Notwithstanding the importance attached to gesture-language by the teachers of the Combined Method, they do not teach it” – Zenas Westervelt

Hugh Dominic WStiles6 July 2018

We have a small collection of original annual reports for various United States Deaf Institutions from the 19th century.  There is for example a run for the Clarke School from the first report in 1867 all the way to 1961.  There are some shorter runs and odd volumes or single reports.  Here we have the Rochester, Western New York Institution for Deaf Mutes, Thirteenth Annual Report for 1890.

At that time the principal was Zenas Freeman Westervelt (1849-1918).  Born in Columbus, Ohio, Westervelt‘s New York born mother mother Martha Freeman was matron of the Ohio Institution, and he grew up there, so we must suppose he was very familiar with sign language – or gesture as he calls it.  He became a teacher of the Deaf in the Maryland School (1871-3), before moving to the New York Institution (1873-5) (American Annals of the Deaf, 1918 p.226).  In New York he was one of “five bright young teachers under Dr. Isaac Peet, who later became principals or superintendents and of whom Dr. Westervelt was the last survivor” (ibid.).

Westervelt had been gathering names of Deaf children in western New York state who were not in school, and Mrs. Gilman Perkins, who had a Deaf daughter Carolyn, and asked Westervelt to start a school there (1872).

He chose to use the manual alphabet, spelling English, as the medium of instruction –

to the exclusion of the sign language […] thus placing the pupils in a constant environment of the English language.  He was also an advocate of oral teaching. (ibid. p.227).

In the thirteenth Annual Report for the school, Westervelt wrote an article called The American Vernacular Method (p.43-60) as he termed it.  He discusses what he calls The American Combined Method, and how it used –

the language of gesture, and the idea of the idea of the combination is that through this medium the attempt shall be made to teach English composition and reading, dactylology, speech and speech-reading on the lips, and aural apprehension.[…]

Notwithstanding the importance attached to gesture-language by the teachers of the Combined Method, they do not teach it; that is, there is no systematic instruction looking to the mastery of the language by the little deaf child.  The teachers, however, use it to the little ones, expecting them to understand; the older pupils use it with the same confidence that the children will learn its meaning through use, as it is the vernacular of the Combined-Method schools. […] One not familiar with the work of the profession might be justified in asking,: at what grade in the Combined-Method schools is the limit (p.47-8)

He develops his argument, and I cannot do justice to it so include the whole of this, the first of two articles (1890 and 1891?).  I suppose the second part is in the following annual report – unfortunately we do not have that.

His relationship with sign language is complex.  He does not appear to have been anti sign language, indeed he call it “ingenius [sic],” and says of De l’Epee that “What he accomplished was giving to the deaf signs for ideas, words, which they could readily use and comprehend” (ibid. p.48-9).  Yet he says gesture is more restrictive in expression and vocabulary, and that (p.52) “No books have been written in gesture.”  Further on, he says-

Yet when the educated gesturer is compared with the deaf mute as he was before the invention of the gesture-language of De l’Epee, the incalculable good that it has accomplished  is manifest.  Under the circumstances which prevailed during the early years of deaf mute instruction, when those admitted to the schools were adults or fully grown youths, and the time allowed at institutions was but four years, there was doubtless need of gesture language.

It seems clear that he did not mean oral education – “the following summary of the reasons which have led me to oppose the “Combined Method,” which teaches through “signs,” also the “German Method,” which teaches through speech” (p.45).  What he wanted was for Deaf children to acquire English and an ability to read and write English using the manual alphabet – finger spelling – later called the Rochester Method.  “It were better for every child who is to spend his life among the American people that he should be brought up an American and not a foreigner.”  He wanted Deaf children to fit into American life and language as immigrants did – or at least as some did if you read the footnotes in his article (see page 60 particularly).

Presumably in that second part he explains his attitude to the “German Method,” and then his system.  There must be copies of all these reports in U.S. libraries.  Perhaps if someone comes across it they could scan it and make it available online.

From 1892 passport records we know Westervelt had at that time brown hair, an aquiline nose, grey eyes, a square chin, and was 5′ 8″ tall.  He was twice married, firstly in 1875 to Mary H. Nodine (died 1893) then in 1898 to Adelia C. Fay, whose son Edmund he adopted.  He died of heart failure on 17th of February, 1918.

As to how anyone could have lip-read him with that beard, we cannot hazard a guess.

Obituary, American Annals of the Deaf, 1918 Vol.53 (2) p.226-7

Padden, C. and Gunsauls, D.C., How the Alphabet Came to Be Used in a Sign Language. Sign Language Studies vol.4 (1) 2003

Westervelt, Z.F., The American Vernacular method, (p.43-60) in Thirteenth Annual Report of the Western New York Institution for Deaf Mutes, 1890

1860 Census – Year: 1860; Census Place: Columbus Ward 3, Franklin, Ohio; Roll: M653_964; Page: 127; Family History Library Film: 803964

1900 Census – Year: 1900; Census Place: Rochester Ward 17, Monroe, New York; Page: 1; Enumeration District: 0137

1910 Census – Year: 1910; Census Place: Rochester Ward 17, Monroe, New York; Roll: T624_992; Page: 16B; Enumeration District: 0159; FHL microfilm: 1375005

Passport Records – National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 396; Volume #: Roll 396 – 24 Jun 1892-29 Jun 1892

John David Willoughby & Ernest Warr – teacher & private pupil

Hugh Dominic WStiles15 June 2018

John David Willoughby , was a teacher of the deaf and first vice-president of the National Association of Teachers of the Deaf.  He was born in Liverpool in 1863, son of John Willoughby, a grocer, and Harriet Gay, from Manchester.  His career seems to have been settled upon early in life.  In a biographical sketch written in 1896 in The British Deaf-Mute, we are told that twenty-two years before then he began as a pupil teacher in an Elementary School doing a five year apprenticeship.  He would have been around eleven years old when he began.  After that, he worked at Manchester School at first under the oralist convert, Andrew Patterson, then under Patterson’s successor, Bessant (ibid).  The BDM article tells us that he acquireds “a complete and comprehensive knowledge of the intricacies of the system.”  In 1885 he sat for the first examination at the new College of Teachers of the Deaf in Paddington Green.

Willoughby married Florence Toothill on the 18th of September, 1886, and they had three daughters.  That same year he began to take on private pupils.  From where his children were born we can assume he was in Hyde, Manchester, in 1888, in York in 1893, in Lewisham in 1895, and according to the 1901 census, when he called himself ‘Professor of Oral Education of Deaf,’ he was living at 86 Blackheath Road, Greenwich.  The BDM says,

When the government at last decided to do something towards helping forward the education of the deaf, Mr. Willoughby became anxious to return to Public School work, and he accordingly applied to and was appointed by the London School Board. Being now once again in a Government School he lost no time in qualifying for the Elementary Teacher’s’ Certificate, taking the first year’s papers in December, 1894, and the second year’s in June, 1895.

I wonder whether the fact that on the 1901 census he described himself as a Secretary was a contributory factor?  Running a small private school cannot have been easy.

He was also one of the founders of of the Association of Teachers of the Deaf and Dumb – later ‘National’ and now BATOD.  I wonder if he is mentioned in their archives?  His obituary tells us that he did not stick with state education however.  He had been a petitioner to the Government to recognise Certificates of Teachers of the Deaf (BDM), but the obituary says “Had the teachers’ claims for better conditions moved at the pace of Mr. Willoughby’s hopes and ambitions the profession might have retained his services; but, as a consequence,, he sought and found another field for his abilities.”

In 1911 he was living in Deal, Kent, and in his role as a Freemason, he was an ‘inspector.’  Perhaps it was in connection with Freemasonry that he became a Freeman of the City of London in July 1913 (see online records) at which time he was living in ‘Highfield,’ Chertsey, Surrey, where he was head of Highfield College, Walton-on-Thames.  This is presumably a long gone private school.  Willoughby was a victim of the 1918 influenza epidemic.

In the 1901 census, Ernest Stanley Daniel Warr (b. 1890) was living with the Willoughby family as a private pupil.  Interestingly, he was still with them in 1911 when they were in Deal, and when he was described on the census as a ‘mechanical dentist’ whatever that might be.  Perhaps it means he made false teeth?  In 1916 Warr lived at 9 Albion Road, Lewisham, and was still there in the 1930s.  That summer he married Mabel Johnson, and the Rev. William Raper baptised their daughter at St. Barnabas’s Church for the Deaf that December.  He was described as an ‘engineer’ on the baptismal register.  I have been unable to track down Warr on the 1891 census, though I did find the registration of his birth in Forest Hill (Camberwell registration district), in the last quarter of 1890, so I have no idea about his family background.

Ernest Warr died in 1967 in South London, so I expect he remained a part of the Deaf community there.  If you can add anything on him please comment.

British Deaf-Mute, 1896, 5, 124. (photo)

The Teacher of the Deaf, 1919 p.50

1911 Census Class: RG14; Piece: 4568; Schedule Number: 67

1901 Census Class: RG13; Piece: 538; Folio: 41; Page: 8

1891 Census Class: RG12; Piece: 3888; Folio: 136; Page: 26

 

Soviet Education for the Deaf

Hugh Dominic WStiles26 January 2018

Half a century ago the Mayor of Moscow called deaf mutes “living creatures who cannot properly be called human beings, but who only bear an outer resemblance to them.”

Five years later, in 1917, the workers and peasants assumed power in Russia.

The new social system accepted the deaf as useful citizens, and erased the brand that made them outcasts.

The Soviet Government not only recognised the legal rights of deaf mutes, but also provided all the conditions for those rights to be realised. (Pavel Sutyagin, Of those who cannot hear, 1962)

I cannot vouch for the source of Sutyagin’s quotation, but the official was likely to have been Alexander Adrianov, Governor-General of Moscow (1908–1915).  This booklet was produced in 1962, after a vistit to the U.S.S.R. by the World Federation for the Deaf.

After the revolution, all schools came under state control, and a Decree of 10th of December, 1919, ‘the Commisariat of Education was given responsibility for deaf mutes, blind and mentally retarded children.’  The Soviet Education Bulletin continues,

In 1926 and 1927 the Council for People’s Commisars laid down statues for establishments where deaf, dumb, blind and retarded children were educated and called for an improvement in this field, particularly in the training of such young people for socially useful work. Recognising the difficulty of this work, the Soviet Government instituted various incentives to induce teachers to qualify for it (higher saleries, pensions and so on).

Further decrees were issued in 1931 and 1936.  That of 1936 criticised the application of bourgeois “theories which were holding back the correct development of special schools.  This decree abandoned pedology and distributed most children classed as “difficult to educate” among ordinary schools.

In the post-war period special attention has been paid to children needing special education.  New types of vocational schools have been built for the further education of deaf-mutes. (p2)

I suppose ‘pedology’ is an error for pedagogy.  We have a collection of Russian language books, most of which are about to be catalogued by a colleague from the UCL SSEES Library.  I think they were donated by Russian visitors in the 1950s, and 1960s, while I expect some came from visits of groups to the U.S.S.R. by people like our former Librarian, Pierre Gorman.  Most seem to be oral in approach.

Below are some examples from beautifully illustrated books for teaching.  First, a 1965 book with a chapter on space and Yuri Gagarin, the classic soviet hero.

Next a reader for the second class, with gorgeous animal and bird pictures. Note the story of the crane and the fox.

Finally a book that looked to me to be from the 1950s, but is in fact from 1987, again with really good illustrations.

Lenin appears again, as do lots of nature pictures.

After writing this, we came across yet another publication, Overcoming the Silence Barrier by Ilya Gitlits, (1975).  It includes photos by the Deaf Russian photographer, Yuri Polkhovski.

Gitlits, Ilya, Overcoming the Silence Barrier, Novosti (1975).

Vartanyan, Eduard and Gitlits, Ilya (introduction by Sutyagin), Of those who cannot hear, 1962

SCR, Soviet Education Bulletin, 1955 vol 2 (1)

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/deaf-hear-russia-like-it-really-is-sign-language-moves-with-times-1427249.html

Job Platt Barrett, F.E.S., Teacher of the Deaf & amateur entomologist -‘signs turn this dreary world of ours into a “little heaven”’

Hugh Dominic WStiles12 January 2018

Job Platt Barrett (1838-1916), or J.P. Barrett as he was known, was a long serving and influential Teacher of the Deaf.  Born on the 29th of June, 1838, at Marsden, he began his teaching life with Charles Baker at Doncaster, and was, according to The British Deaf-Mute ‘“articled” after a rough and ready fashion’ on the 6th of January, 1851, when he was 12 (p.170).  He is to be found on the census for April 1851 as an apprentice teacher, on probation, along with Edward Bill of Birmingham, then aged 15, and with two older full apprentice teachers, Samuel Smith and Noah Freeman, both from Leicestershire.  Colleagues of his at Doncaster included Alexander Melville, J.W. North, and Samuel Smith was called, ‘his particular friend’ (British Deaf Mute, p.170).

Leaving Doncaster in June 1857 he became a tutor to a ‘ward in chancery’ but when the child became ill Barrett lost that position.  On the 25th of January, 1858 he was engaged by Thomas James Watson and moved to the Old Kent Road Asylum – we are told as ‘the first teacher from the provinces’ (ibid).  He married Sarah Dodson in Canterbury in 1861.  In 1881 he moved to the new school in Margate, living with his wife Sarah at the nearby village of Birchington, where in his spare time he pursued antiquarian interets in local history, writing historical articles as ‘John Pharos’ (see various obituaries).  He remained at the school until retirement in 1908.  By now a widower, he then moved back closer to London and according to probate records his last address was in Forest Hill (Ephphatha p.469).

In 1896 he estimated that 3,000 pupils had ‘come under his ken’ so he was probably quite influential. He held that the pupil was ‘the important factor for consideration’ and clearly was frustrated by what he called ‘”fads” of Committees, Inspectors, Head-Masters, and of individual teachers’ (British Deaf Mute, p.170-1).  He wanted an association for teachers that was ‘sufficiently powerful to prevent such ill-advised appointments as have recently taken place’ (ibid).  I wonder to whom he was referring?

The article shows him to have been in favour of sign language, in the perhaps paternalistic way that some in favour of the ‘combined’ method had.  I leave the reader to judge:

Another point that he is not afraid to speak out strongly upon, is the use (and misuse) of signs.  Whenever he hears anyone condemn the use of signs in toto, he invariably asks: Can the speaker sign fluently?  Has he or she a thorough acquaintance with the language of signs?  Without that knowledge the importance and the power of signs are unknown and unappreciated.  He adds that only an expert signer can fully recognise the pleasure that the afflicted congenital deaf-mute derives from signs.  To him, signs turn this dreary world of ours into a “little heaven,” they are both poetry and music to him, and for those intellects are not of the brightest, and their number is large, signs are an absolute necessity.

Much has been done for the deaf and dumb during the past century, but Mr. Barrett points out that the education of a deaf and dumb child still begins as it always has done at zero, and the pupils at the beginning of this century were equally well taught with these of the present day. (ibid, p.171)

His life was touched by tragedy after he retired in 1908.  On the 28th of December, on a holiday visiting his son Arthur in Sicily, where he spent time looking for butterflies, they narrowly escaped death in the terrible earthquake, only for his daughter-in-law Jemima, and his grandson Claude (born in April 1905) to be killed (see obituaries and www.ancestry.co.uk).   His son, a merchant, returned to England, and remarried in 1913.*

Barrett was an avid entomologist all his life.  I expect he was encouraged in that interest when he was with Charles Baker, as Baker had earlier produced a book on butterflies when he was at the Birmingham Institute in 1828.  Richard Elliott says in one of his three obituaries of Barrett that,

In the course of many years he collected and arranged a collection of British insects, which, we hear, he has left to the British Museum.  We believe it one of the most complete in existence, and is worthy of his fame as one of the first entomologists of the present day. (Ephphatha, Elliott p.469)

In fact the collection went to the Horniman Museum, at least according to the obituary in The Entomologist’s record and journal of variation (p.44).  There are two obituaries of him in Entomological journals.  He was one of the key people behind the foundation of the South London Entomological Society, which eventually became The British Entomological and Natural History Society.

It was at his house in Peckham the South London Entomological and Natural History Society was founded.  1872 is the accepted date but informal meetings were held there a year or two previously.  He was elected President in 1877 but resigned membership just before his removal to Margate, and did not rejoin til 1900. (H.M[oore])

Moore also tells us that

Since his retirement from active work, in 1908, he had for some years given an evening’s entertainment to the deaf of South London, to which he frequently invited the writer, who felt himself the only deaf person present.  Those who were at the annual meeting of the Entomological Society last year will remember the “tale of a tramp,” told by the President, that Mr. Platt-Barrett told on his fingers to his deaf and dumb guests shortly afterwards, who laughed as heartily as the fellows who heard it.

His friend of fifty years, G.T. Porritt, says in his obituary (The Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine) that he was one of the founders of the South London Entomological Society, “practically the founder […] The meetings were first held at his house in Peckham where he acted as the Secretary, becoming the third Presdient, in 1877” (Porritt, p.69).

He gets a mention in Michael A. Salmon et al’s The Aurelian Legacy (2000), though the authors, who gave him the wrong Christian name, thought Barrett had a hearing loss, probably assuming that as he was at the Doncaster Institution he was Deaf, whereas he was training as a teacher, and from a misunderstanding of the passage above, where Barrett was hearing a story then interpreting it to his Deaf friends.**

He died on the 27th of December, 1916.  His wife had predeceased him in 1883, and after retirement he went to live with his daughters.  He was buried in Burchington, at her side.

The top picture shows him in 1857, the second one is to be found in both his obituary in Ephphatha and Teacher of the Deaf.

He clearly had the respect of Richard Elliott, who says,

Mr. Barrett was a real friend of the deaf and dumb.  He was never tired of advocating their interests, or of trying to serve them.  He had a real knowledge of their mentality, and a full power of communicating with, and influencing them by that means.  (British Deaf Times, p.45)

https://www.ancestry.co.uk/family-tree/person/tree/1198262/person/24108738661/facts [log in required]

Barrett, J.Platt, Butterflies.  Ephphatha 1913, p.346-7

Biography. British Deaf-Mute, 1896, 5, 170-71. (photos)

Census 1851 – Class: HO107; Piece: 2347; Folio: 193; Page: 32; GSU roll: 87606

Elliott, R., Mr J.P. Barrett, Ephphatha, 1917 p.468-9 (photo)

Elliott, R., Mr J. Platt Barrett, Teacher of the Deaf, 1917 vol. 15 p.20-22 (photo)

Elliott, R., The Late Mr J.P. Barrett, The British Deaf Times, 1917, Vol. 14 p.44-5

H.M. [H. Moore], Obituary, The late J. Platt-Barrett, F.E.S., The Entomologist’s record and journal of variation, 1917 vol. 39 (2), p.43-4

The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Consulate, Palermo, Italy and predecessor: Miscellanea; Class: FO 653; Piece: 21

Porritt, H.M., J. Platt Barrett, The Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine, 1917, vol. 53 p. 69-70

  • There is often mention of ‘fosse comuni’ (mass grave), but my Sicilian born colleague is unsure where they are. The Cimitero Monumentale, where some of the dead were buried in Messina, has an English section.  The house was at Via Pozzo Leone, 5: https://tinyurl.com/y8cxvmo6
  • **This was then picked up on by Harry G. Lang and Jorge A. Santiago-Blay in their article ‘Contributions of deaf people to entomology: A hidden legacy,’ where they naturally assume that Barrett – Job not James – was Deaf.  That article is however well worth reading.