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Alan Pole Allsebrook, Deaf, art student, fruit farmer, Canadian (1880-1976)

Hugh Dominic WStiles2 November 2018

Alan Pole Allsebrook was born in Wollaton, Nottinghamshire on the 26th of May, 1880.  His father was a farmer.  Alan lost his hearing aged six due to scarlet fever (Berg, 2017).  From Silent World we can say that he was educated “at Mr. Green’s Deaf School in Nottingham, afterwards going to Northampton, and thence studying art under Professor Sir H. von Herkomer, R.A., at Bushey, and at the Académie Julian.  By ‘Northampton’ we must suppose that is Spring Hill School, where the Re. Thomas Arnold had taught.  I would suppose H.N. Dixon was headmaster when Allsebrook was there. 

Nowell Berg tells us, I would suppose based on information from Alan’s daughter Naomi Miller, that he got a certificate in teaching at Nottingham School of Art, before going to Paris to study art, and then working on Liverpool Cathedral.  The Roe article tells us that he was a pupil of Sir Hubert von Herkomer, and that after his time in Paris he worked for a firm of ecclesiastical sculptors as a partner.   If we add those three sources together it makes sense, and we might suppose he was at art school from circa 1895 to 7 perhaps, then at Bushey, then in Paris.  In the 1901 census he was staying with his brother, Arthur, who was a barrister, in Inner Temple, where Alan was described as an art student.

He was certainly acquainted with the community of Deaf young men who formed the National Deaf Club, though I am not sure whether he was a member.  He must have know M.S. Fry as he was a regular contributor to The Silent World, the Fry-edited magazine that lasted from 1909 to 1910 before being absorbed into The British Deaf Times.  Allsebrook wrote a series of articles about his cycling holiday in France, and other articles such one entitled ‘Idling in Devon’ (The Silent World, 1910 p.85-7).

This article, A Deaf Art Student in Paris (Silent World, Vol 1 p.3-7), is written as Jules de Languedoc, but it is pretty clear to me that it is AllsebrookIt gives us a vivid picture of the life of a poor student.  From that we know it was ten years since he left, so he must have been there in about 1899.

In 1911 Allsebrook emigrated to British Columbia, “to try his luck in fruit farming” (Roe, p.220)

After sixteen weary days and nights of travelling, I landed at Nelson. It is a delightful little town of 8,50o inhabitants, and has some good shops and cosy houses, all built of wood. I was only there for two-and-a-half days, however, for the very first man I called upon, the morning after my arrival, took me on at his apple ranch at Kaslo, forty miles higher up the lake.

I was introduced to Carl Johansen, a Swede, who worked on the farm. We soon got to business, pruning and spraying six acres of apple trees. My first night’s sleep in my little ‘shack’ was somewhat restless, owing to the antics of a little squirrel who had got in and was squatting on the eaves over my head, regarding me curiously with his bright little eyes. Then I was rather cold ; and I might well be, for I found on getting up in the morning six inches of snow on the ground, the ice in my wash-basin one inch thick, and the contents of my kettle a solid block of ice.

There is one great discomfort here. The air is so dry that gloves are a sine qua non in working out-of-doors. Just imagine an English nurseryman in gloves! At first I set to work gaily, enough with bare hands, but in a few days every finger-tip and some of the joints cracked and oozed blood.

It is just a month since the door of my little ‘shack’ on the mountain side was pushed open one night as I was baking potatoes on the stove, when in walked my boss, and behind him showed my brother’s cheery, strong, brown face, just arrived from England. That was the end of my ‘hitching’—doing for your-self in a ‘shack ‘—for the time being, for within five days my brother had taken a rapid but thorough survey of all the likely lands round Nelson, and bought a lovely two-acre apple ranch, cleared and planted, at Balfour.

At his request I gave up my berth to go and spend the summer with him, helping him to knock his place into shape and get a house built. We saw on the plot many beautiful birds and magnificent butterflies, three to six inches across. By the way, we have not had any shooting yet, but the surveyor of Kaslo ran against two bears on the mountain side a week ago, but, not having his gun, he hurried away. Small blame to him, for these bears arc as big as a cart-horse. It is strange to see the people at church in unimaginable clothes and a dozen dogs sitting quietly by their owners.

Then, as to letters, they only come three times a week. Lord Aylmer has a ranch not very far from here. I intend that Kaslo shall be my future home, and have purchased a ranch on the lake front, which appears to me to be an ideal spot, surrounded as it is by beautiful scenery, and dotted all about the hills with rich, beautiful orchards of the finest fruit trees.

It is glorious! Soft, green leaves, bushes of roses of every size and hue, sweet-peas, pansies and violets, snapdragon and clematis, and creepers of all kinds. Below, the sparkling blue water ; and above, crag, forest, and peak of snow. Yes, you must look far round the world, and far east and west across this wonderful Canada, to find a fairer spot than Kaslo.

It certainly looks very beautiful!

Berg tells us that Alan and his youngest brother Eric were drafted in World War 1.  Alan returned to England in 1916, arriving at Liverpool on the 28th of May.  It is interesting if that is the case, as almost all Deaf people were excluded from serving when their deafness was discovered, however perhaps the Canadian forces (generally more meritocratic that the British Army) put him into some non-combat role – if he served with them?  I could not find any mention of him in online military records, but they are far from complete.

On a trip back to Britain, he met a friend of his sister Dorothy, Lucie Naomi Smith, and they got married and returned to Canada (Berg, 2017).

He lived to the age of 96, dying in Nelson, British Columbia, on the 17th of December, 1976.  We might say he had a long and fruitful life.

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 2671; Folio: 145; Page: 4

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 264; Folio: 104; Page: 13

1916 – Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 623

1924 – Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 761

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/188709766/alan-pole-allsebrook

Berg, Nowell, Histories Historian: The Story of Naomi Miller. The Village Buzz, August 2017 Issue 201 http://wasalake.com/News/TVB-08-2017.pdf

Roe, W.R., Peeps into the Deaf World, 1917

Questions on Astronomy – test yourself against Deaf pupils of the 19th century!

Hugh Dominic WStiles20 July 2018

Unfortunately we have no reports for the Halifax School, but it has a very interesting origin, which I found in Clifton F. Carbin’s comprehensive book, Deaf Heritage in Canada (1996, pages 125-7 in particular).  The officially recognised founder was one William Gray (1806-1881), a native of Scone in Perthshire.  Gray was, says Carbin, a pupil at the Edinburgh Institution, from the 26th of March, 1819, to 1824.  He married Isabella Blyth (ca. 1819-93) in Edinburgh on the 11th of November, 1845.  She was an Aberdonian who Carbin says was also deaf, and they had a daughter Isabella.  He worked as a tailor.  In 1851 they were living in Whitehouse Close, 276 Canongate, Edinburgh. In 1855 they emigrated to Halifax.  It was there he chanced to meet another deaf Scot, George Tait (1828-1904).  Tait, son of a Caithness farmer, had also been a pupil at the Edinburgh Institution, according to their records from 1842-9, but he claimed he was there from the age of 12 (ca. 1840) to 1844 when he went to sea (see Carbin).  Trained as a carpenter, according to his later account, the captain of ship he was working on in Liverpool dock allowed him to masquerade as a sailor to get past the customs officer, and he went to sea, travelling to the West Indies, then Maine.  He ended up joining his uncle who was also a carpenter, in Nova Scotia.

When Tait arrived in Halifax in 1856, he was asked to tutor a deaf girl called Mary Ann Fletcher (1845-59). She urged him to start a school, and when he met Gray, who he saw signing, or finger-spelling, in the street, he suggested to Gray that he become a teacher.  The school opened on the 4th of August, 1856.  Tait later claimed his contribution had been ignored, and in 1907 a committee voted to favour the Gray claim as founder.

The school was closed in 1861.

Carbin says that there is little evidence as to the methods Gray used to teach, but he does not appear to have been terribly good at it.  His time at the school ended in 1870 in disgrace, after he was charged with appearing in front of the pupils intoxicated, and threathening them with violence if they reported him.

We have a small green booklet that was printed for the use of pupils in the school Gray – and Tait – started in Halifax, Nova Scotia, called Questions on Astronomy for the use of the Pupils of The Institution for the Deaf and Dumb.   It was intended to test the pupils on their knowledge of the text book Calkin’s Geography, one of the books to be found here, so it was probably printed in the 1870s or 1880s.  The knowledge that they were expected to acquire would test a modern geography student.  Do you think that you could answer the questions?  A link to the full document appears above.

Who knew that Alcyone – in the Pleiades – was supposed to be heaven?

http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/hutton_james_scott_12E.html