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Matthew Robert Burns, Deaf Teacher and Missioner (part 2)

H Dominic W Stiles14 May 2020

Continued from Heathen Bristol

Burns moved back to London “engaged by the committee” of the then ‘Adult Institution for providing Employment, &c. for the Deaf and Dumb,’ where he served until June, 1845, when he was obliged to join the old congregation, who, under the Rev. Robert Simson, M.A., appointed him biblical instructor and assistant secretary.” (ibid)*

After 1849 he was the head and honorary secretary of this organization.

Aldersgate St 1852TO THE DEAF AND DUMB AND THEIR FRIENDS. Price 2s. 6d.. A FAITHFUL AND CHARACTERISTIC LITHOGRAPHED PORTRAIT of MR. MATTHEW ROBERT BURNS, DEAF AND DUMB FROM BIRTH, AND FOR THIRTY TEARS Church of England Biblical Instructor to the Deaf and Dumb. THIS PORTRAIT is not only valuable to his admirers and to the earnest reclaimers from misery and degradation of this section of waste mind, but to the Phsycologist and Philanthropist. Its Photographic correctness gives evidence of the unusual energy of mind and health of body enjoyed at 61 years of age by one who has been educated to active and elevated exertion, whose fellow-sufferers, when neglected and undeveloped, are doomed to much below the averaged period of human existence. Apply, by letter, to Mr Thomas Jacob Cook, 76, Fore-street, City. EC. (1860).

DEAF AND DUMB. THE gratuitous Dinner will given to those of the Mutes who are in indigent circumstances of Shaftesbury Hall Chapel. Aldersgate-street, Thursday, the 26th Inst., at 1 o’clock, the Gate of St. John of Jerusalem, Clerkenwell. The Committee trust that the subscriptions of the benevolent supporters of the above will enable them to provide the poor Mutes with their usual plentiful supply of Christmas fare.  In such a work of love we shall greatly rejoice, we know the deaf and dumb labour under a threefold affliction, namely want of hearing, want of speech, and want of money. Inscrutable wisdom has placed them amongst the speaking commu-nity, and perhaps this for the very purpose of exercising Christian sympathies; and if we neglect them, we are truly also doing evil to our own souls. Further atletnpts to influence the public we would refrain from. A sweet scripture says, “He that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.” MATTHEW ROBERT BURNS. Biblical Instructor, and Secretary the above Chapel. (Clerkenwell NewsWednesday 25 December 1861)

In 1866 J.P. Gloyn took over this role, and the remainder of his life was apparently lived in obscurity, with Burns surviving on £40-£50 per year.  Gilby recalls how Burns would visit his parents, who would help him out when they could.  He died of bronchitis on 21st of January 1879.

………..

Note

The Action on Hearing Loss archive contains a small selection of his letters from his latter years. I speculate that someone also had a scrapbook thats seems to have had a lot of Burns memoranda and there are photos of documents in the Action on Hearing Loss collection that may no longer exist.  Someone could use these disparate sources to put together an iteresting sketch of his life and work.

*Unusually I have failed to compile bibliographic notes or references for this or the much earlier Burns item.  This section was intended to use his remaining letters, and I cannot say where the top quote was from as I  wrote this item over two years ago.  Without full access to the collection, that is  unfortunately now impossible.

This may well be the last blog I write here, due to various circumstances including the closing of the libraries and the Covid-19 lockdown.  I had a stack of potential items that would have been put up here in the remaining time we had.  They may or may not see the light of day in another space, depending on access to research matrerials and resources.

Copyright on what I have written in these blogs resides with me as author, however when it comes to images used on the blog it is a whole lot more complicated.  Broadly, where images are photos the copyright resides with the image taker, and continues for 70 years after the death of the author.  This is complicated when the work is anonymous and it becomes an ‘orphan work’.

I hope the items in the blog have been of some interest and I would be especially pleased if they encouraged young Deaf people to take an interest in Deaf History.

“Jordan’s waves are rolling At thy palsied feet” Ebenezer Chalmers, Teacher of the Deaf in Scotland, Ireland & Australia (1823-81)

H Dominic W Stiles13 December 2019

Ebenezer Chalmers (1823?-1881) was a Scottish teacher of the deaf, born in Edinburgh in 1823 (or perhaps a little earlier).  He worked under the famous Teacher of the Deaf Robert Kinniburgh for 9 years in Edinburgh, according to his essay, Remarks on the Deaf and Dumb, 1849.  That would suggest that he started as a pupil-teacher, in other words, a boy-teacher (circa 1838 perhaps, depending on when he was born).  The 1841 Scottish census says that he was 20, and that could be accurate, however it may have been rounded up as we find quite often in the 1841 census.  It seems that he left the school when Kinniburgh retired (1847) – maybe he was forced out, perhaps he saw another opportunity.  I am not clear where he was working from then until 1851, but that year he was at Sandyknowe, Smailholm, near Kelso, probably as a private teacher, in the house of James Hewett (Heweit), a “Farmer Of 600 Acres.”  I wonder if it was his two younger children who were deaf, as they were living together and both unmarried many years later (see 1891 Census).

At this time, the Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb was looking for missionaries to work with the deaf of London, as we can see from this note, written by the Secretary Mr Charles Bird, on a copy of the laws of the Association in November 1854.  Presumably this was sent to potential candidates for the post(s).

On December the 13th of December, 1854, Ebenezer wrote from ‘Sandy Knowe,’ Kelso, to Major Butts of the Association (later RADD), accepting a position as a missionary in London, to start on February 1st, 1855.  He did start, being the very first missioner, and made a report for the Association summarised in the Annual Report here, dated the 30th of April – Association Report 1855.  However, he did not last long.  In the RADD materials at the London Metropolitan Archives, there is a resignation letter dated the 27th of June, 1855, written at 4, Bloomfield Terrace, Pimlico. “I am under deep obligations for your various expressions of kindness towards me since I came to London” and “I have, from a sense of duty, been led to take this step” – but what sense of duty encouraged him to resign?

He was later assistant head at the Institution for Deaf Mutes in Belfast, but I am not sure exactly when, as we have incomplete reports. It would seem he went from London to Belfast, and applied by letter on the 25th of September, 1856, for a job with the Association as Principal of a proposed Infants School, but we may assume that came to nothing.  We may speculate that he was not settled happily in Belfast at that time.  Perhaps he stayed there until 1869, or maybe returned to Scotland – if you know please contribute below.  It is possible that he advertised and worked as a private teacher.

On the 2nd of December, 1869, be sailed on the Asia from Glasgow, bound for Hobson’s Bay in Australia, arriving on the 23rd of April, 1870.  Form newspaper reports below, we gather that he was employed for a while as a teacher in the Victorian Institution, Prahan, Melbourne.  The Deaf man who founded the school was Frederic John Rose (1831-1920) who had emigrated  to Australia in 1852.  Rose had been a pupil in the Old Kent Road Asylum.  Shortly after Chalmers arrived, he must have approached Rose, unless he had contacted him before he left Scotland. According to a card index of Selwyn Oxley’s in the library, one of Kinniburgh’s sons or grandsons emigrated to Australia in 1849, but I am not clear which and whether the move was permanent.  If it was, that person might have been a contact or an example for Chalmers, although it was twenty years later.

Curiously, the ship’s manifest says Chalmers was Irish, rather than from Edinburgh.

This advertisement appeared in an Australian local paper in June 1870 –

EBENEZER CHALMERS, for 30 years teacher of the Deaf and Dumb In Great Britain, and late head assistant In theInstitution for Deaf Mutes, Belfast, Ireland, is anxious to procure private TUITIONS! Apply to F. J. Rose, Esq., Victorian Institution, Prahran. (The Argus, Sat 25 Jun 1870, Page 1 )

Chalmers also tried his hand at writing poetry – perhaps this gave him a few shillings –

THE DYING MUTE.

Silent child of sorrow,
All thy pains are o’er,
Thine, a bright to-morrow
On Emmanuel’s shore.

Lowly now thou liest
On thy couch of death,
Welcome ! from the Highest,
With expiring breath.

Jordan’s waves are rolling
At thy palsied feet,
But ONE stands consoling,
Ready thee to meet.

Deaf, and sight receding,
What is this I see ?
Moving fingers pleading,
” Jesus died for me !”

Now the scene is closing,
Angel throngs are nigh –
In their arms reposing,
Wafted to the sky.

EBENEZER, CHALMERS,
Prahran, Aug. 5. Teacher of the Deaf and Dumb

(The Telegraph, St Kilda, Prahran and South Yarra Guardian,Sat 13 Aug 1870 Page 8)

This next poem shows his Presbyterian religious views –

THE DIAMOND

There is a gem above all gems
Which darkness cannot screen,
It shines in glowing brilliancy
When all gems are unseen.

This princess of the jewel world
Has deck’d the brow of kings,
And sparkled on fair lily hands
And diadems of queens.

Hidden till cut – this peerless gem
Lies buried out of sight,
Like spirits that most nobly shine
In dark affliction’s night.

But there’s a gem that’s brighter far
Than diamonds of earth,
Eternal in its principles
‘Twas heaven that gave it birth.

This Diamond is the WORD OF GOD,
Its rays can pierce the soul;
Destined to shed its matchless rays
With power from pole to ‘pole.’

Its God-given rays for long were hid,
And darkness had its reign,
But Truth eternal rose from dust
In glory, once again.

*    *    *

A monk sat in his lonely cell,
This diamond on his shelf,
He swept the dust of ages off
He read it for himself.

Its rays pierced grand good Luther’s soul,
And darkness wing’d its way,
And heaven and earth hail’d with delight
Blest “REFORMATION” Day.

Oh! may this diamond shed its light,
‘ O’er earth’s remotest bound,
Then sects shall fade like dying mist
And Paradise be found.

EBENEZER CHALMERS, T.D D.  (The Telegraph, St Kilda, Prahran and South Yarra Guardian Sat 4 Nov 1871 Page 8 )

Things began to go wrong for Chalmers, presumably as he could not get sufficient money to have somewhere to stay.  The complex story of alcohol and homelessness is a vicious circle, that the local papers describe best –

A man named Ebenezer Chalmers, a teacher, aged 51, living at Prahran, was yesterday afternoon admitted into the Alfred Hospital, suffering from a fracture of the right leg, the result of a fall whilst walking up Chapel street. He was immediately attended to by Dr Cooke, and is progressing favourably. (The Argus, Thu 31 Dec 1874 p.5)

POLICE CASES.- Ebenezer Chalmers was remanded for a week on the charge of having no lawful visible means of support. (The Telegraph, St Kilda, Prahran and South Yarra Guardian Sat 21 Oct 1876 Page 3 )

POLICE CASES. Henry Mores was fined 5s for being drunk and disorderly, and Ebenezer Chalmers was sent to gaol for three months on the charge of being an idle and disorderly person. (The Telegraph, St Kilda, Prahran and South Yarra Guardian Sat 10 Aug 1878 Page 5 )

Ebenezer Chalmer, a man who is said to have once occupied a high position and is only a few days out of gaol was charged with being idle and disorderly. The man was found wandering about the street and was arrested. He was sent to gaol for three months. (The Argus, Tue 25 Feb 1879 , p.7)

MINOR OFFENCES. -Ebenezer Chalmers, who was only out of gaol for a week, was found by Constable O’Connor on Sunday morning last lying in Chapel-street, totally incapable of taking care of himself. The Bench considered, it would be to the benefit, of the unfortunate fellow to send him back again to Pentridge, which they accordingly did for twelve months. (The Telegraph, St Kilda, Prahran and South Yarra Guardian  Sat 6 Dec 1879  Page 5 )

A sad instance of the degrading effects of intemperance was brought under the notice of the Prahran, Bench on Monday, when a once respectable man, named Ebenezer Chalmers, was charged with being Idle and disorderly. It seems that but a short time since the unfortunate man occupied a respectable position, and was engaged as a teacher at the Deaf and Dumb Institution, but owing to his intemperate habits, he was dismissed from that post, and gradually reduced himself to his present position. Constable O’Connor found Chalmers in Commercial road in a most wretched condition, and removed him to the lock-up. The Bench sentenced the prisoner to twelve months’ imprisonment. (Weekly Times Sat 6 Dec 1879 Page 18 )

A painful instance of demoralisation was presented at the Prahran Court on 5th Dec, when a man named Ebenezer Chalmers, who at one time held the position of teacher at the Deaf and Dumb Asylum, was brought up, by Sergeant Parkinson, charged with being an idle and disorderly person. He was a well educated man, possessing the university degree of LL.D.  Having given way to drink, he had gradually fallen into the most miserable condition. He was sent to gaol for twelve months. (Illustrated Australian News Fri 31 Dec 1880 Page 246 )

GEELONG. (From our own correspondent.) Tuesday Evening. A magisterial inquiry was held to-day by Mr. Pardey, J P , on the body of Ebenezer Chalmers, 58 years of age, a teacher, who was admitted from tho Melbourne Gaol six months since whilst undergoing a sentence of 12 month’s imprisonment for vagrancy, and had been ailing since. Dr. Mackin deposed that death was caused by debility and dropsy, and the magistrate found accordingly. (The Argus, Wed 20 Jul 1881, p. 7)

From a detailed description of Ebenezer in the Victoria Police Gazette 1879 (AU7103-1879) we know he had a ‘fresh’ complexion, auburn to grey hair, and blue eyes (the police record below in the references said his eyes were grey).  We can never know what led him to his demise and the sad end of his life.

Poems –

The Deaf Mute Uneducated and Educated

Astronomy

The Old and the Young

The Mute at Prayer

Letters etc

Letter to the Editor 1870

Letter about Disraeli’s works

Bound with The Blind Deaf & Dumb, & some Yorkshire Institution Reports: Remarks on the Deaf and Dumb, 1849

Newspaper reports (also see links above for further reference)

The Argus, Thu 31 Dec 1874 p.5

The Argus, Tue 25 Feb 1879 , p.7

The Argus, Wed 20 Jul 1881, p. 7

Family History records

Death Record 1881

Australian Police Gazette

Series: VPRS 7666; Series Title: Inward Overseas Passenger Lists (British Ports) (via www.ancestry.co.uk)

1851 Scottish Census – Parish: Smailholm; ED: 3; Page: 7; Line: 16; Roll: CSSCT1851_203; Year: 1851

1891 Census Parish: Smailholm; ED: 3; Page: 4; Line: 10; Roll: CSSCT1891_388

Australian Prison Record 41717*

RADD records – LMA 4172/A/10 001*

1841 Census*

*all thanks to Norma McGilp @DeafHeritageUK, who waves her magic historical sources wand!

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

H Dominic W Stiles25 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

“translating with a fluent ease the addresses of ordinary speakers into the silent but expressive language of signs” – Edward Townsend, teacher at Edgbaston

H Dominic W Stiles5 July 2019

Edward Townsend (1846-1933) was a teacher of the deaf who became headmaster at the Edgbaston school. He was born in Battersea, son to William Townsend, a baker, and his wife Sarah.  It seems perhaps astonishing to us now, to discover that very often teachers began to learn their trade at the age of 14, as soon as they themselves had left school.  Townsend was that age when he started to teach – or perhaps learn to teach – at the Doncaster Institution, under Charles Baker and along with Walter S. Bessant, who went on to become headmaster at Manchester.

In 1895 he was interviewed by the British Deaf Times –

Essentially a bright engaging man, of most expressive countenance, with great command of facial expression—all the features well-defined and, even when in exaggerated play, pleasing, intelligent, and always full of animation and of purpose; he is a man of enthusiasm in his work and in the doing of it, but with the fortiter in re qualified by the suaviter in modo of cultured gentleness. The very man to teach with energy and spirit, and with expressive kindly countenance those banished children of misfortune—the isolated deaf and dumb. “How then “—after seeing some of the details of his work and system—” how then did you become associated with this special branch of education ? ” we asked Mr. Townsend, with considerable curiosity as to his reply. ” Did you apply yourself to the work from any conviction or tendency towards it, or—” ” Simply drifted into it,” is the response.

Mr. Townsend, who had of course already determined upon, and qualified himself for, an educational career, heard quite by chance that an assistant-teacher was required at the Yorkshire Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, at Doncaster. He applied for and obtained the appointment and became the assistant of Mr. Charles Baker, the head-master, and brother of the late Mr. Alfred Baker. (British Deaf Mute, p.113)

According to the 1861 census his sister Sarah and brother-in-law Joseph Jones were national school teachers.  That suggests how it came to be an idea for a career.  From his obituary in the Teacher of the Deaf we can say he must have been at Doncaster until he was eighteen, then spent eighteen years at the Old Kent Road Asylum, where we find him in the 1871 census.  I looks as if all the teachers were bachelors, but Edward married, I think in 1871, and moved to the Margate branch of the school.  In 1882 he was appointed to replace Arthur Hopper, who had died, and presided over the rebuilding of the school.

He was, according to his obituary, “not opposed to Oral Teaching,” and was a strong advocate of finger-spelling.  The British Deaf Mute article also seems to stress he was – at least at that time – far from being opposed to the manual system –

Mr. Townsend is also opposed to the advocate’s for supplanting, or at least depreciating, the manual and gesture method of teaching by the undue adoption of the ” oral ” system. The “oral” system, although regarded as a novelty, is in fact identified with the earliest known efforts of communication with deaf-mutes, but this gave place in a large measure, and particularly is France and in England, to the use of gestures and the finger alphabet, and at the present time, either the manual method or what is known as the ” combined system ” is still largely employed in the United Kingdom, and also in America, where the education of the deaf and dumb is carried to a more successful issue than in any country in the world. (British Deaf Mute, p.115)


Above we see Edgbaston girls in a composition class, probably Edwardian period.

Of his fitness for the position he holds there can be, as we have said, no question. He has ability, enthusiasm, and tactical skill. The children love him and he has the confidence of all with whom he is brought into official relations. He is a member of the committee of the College of Teachers of the Deaf, and one of its examiners. He is also the vice-chairman of the National Association of Teachers of the Deaf, Dr. Elliott being the chairman. He is therefore largely in request at meetings of teachers—and of the deaf themselves, being a very Daniel to interpret visions of flying fingers to the hearing, and, vice versa, translating with a fluent ease the addresses of ordinary speakers into the silent but expressive language of signs for the benefit of the deaf. Concerning methods of education Mr. Townsend, for the present, maintains a discreet reserve. But the eclectic system—any method for good results—appears to be most in favour at the Edgbaston Institution and is meeting with encouraging success. That the school and the energetic principal, whose career we have thus faintly sketched out, will have many years of usefulness before them is our sincere hope and wish. (Ephphatha)

In the British Deaf Mute, he is quoted as defending the idea of Deaf Institutions against attacks by a eugenicist –

Mr. Townsend has quite recently controverted in toe local press a conclusion which Sir James Crichton Browne advanced in his lecture on “Heredity,” delivered in the Athletic Institution, viz. : “That the association of deaf-mutes in schools and institutions, the one in which Mr. Townsend’s charge is detrimental, because apt to encourage marriages between persons similarly afflicted, and thus tend through their offspring and the process of heredity to the production of a deaf and dumb variety of the human race.” Professor Graham Bell of telephone celebrity, was the initiator of the theory lately formulated here by Sir James Crichton Browne, but Mr. Townsend’s experience leads him to suppose that the theory is fallacious ; and that, except in very occasional instances, the offspring of deaf mutes are in possession of their normal faculties. He says, moreover, a much greater evil is consanguineous marriages, and on the occasion of our visit pointed out several pupils who were the children of first cousins and other close-blooded relationships. (British Deaf Mute, p.114-5)

Townsend retired to Bournemouth, where he died in 1933, and was buried in Witton, Birmingham.

I am grateful to www.interpreterhistory.com for showing me correspondence of Townsend with Sibley Haycock from the Cadbury Archives in Birmingham.

Edward Thompson, Ephphatha, 1897, p.8-9

Mr. Edward Townsend, The British Deaf Mute, Volume 2 no. 20 p.113-5

W.H.A., Obituary, Teacher of the Deaf, 1933 p.55

1861 census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 2198; Folio: 117; Page: 3; GSU roll: 542934

1871 census – Class: RG10; Piece: 601; Folio: 111; Page: 3; GSU roll: 818907

1881 census – Class: RG11; Piece: 985; Folio: 69; Page: 21; GSU roll: 1341234

1891 census – Class: RG12; Piece: 2360; Folio: 120; Page: 7

1901 census – Class: RG13; Piece: 2816; Folio: 43; Page: 29

1911 census – Class: RG14; Piece: 5841; Schedule Number: 215

 

The ‘Thankful Hearts League’ School for the Deaf, Jerusalem, 1931-? – “This is a wonderful place, here little devils are turned into angels”

H Dominic W Stiles12 April 2019

Having previously covered Mary Chapman and her missionary deaf school work in south Asia, we recently mentioned her Jerusalem school in relation to the beginnings of Israeli Sign Language.  Chapman raised funds through the “Thankful Hearts League” to found a mission school for the Deaf in Jerusalem, and started the school in 1931 according to Höxter (p.118).  He continues,

Until now it has had but few pupils, mostly native Arab children, who receive their instruction in the English language from the directress in a small congenially arranged dwelling house. The school has a homelike atmosphere; the lovable directress cares for her small charges with affection and devotion. She has taught the deaf for thirty years in many lands. One of her former pupils from Burma instructs the children in manual training and drawing. With the younger children the method of instruction depends mainly upon observational activity, seeking to direct attention to training in lip-reading. Speech instruction is carried on by the single-sound method. The school should grow in the near future.

Chapman had the help of her long-time colleague Miss Martin, and the Burmese Deaf young man, Bolo.  She appears to have written regular newsletters to her Thankful Hearts League supporters in the U.K., and they must have assisted with both money and material items such as clothes. In 1937 the school had a visit for Sir Arthur Wauchope the High Commissioner, who gave £10 for the school.

The school taught the boys with lipreading, and they learnt to lipread both English and Arabic.  She says in the 1938 newsletter, “There are some sounds in Arabic which seem almost impossible to lip read, or to get a born deaf child to say, but we are persevering !!!”

Further on she tells us this story –

Two of the Sergt. Majors came to our help one Sunday morning, when a Moslem man brought his little son to our School. The Matron of the Government Hospital most kindly said she would take the boy, give him a carbolic bath, and get the Doctor to examine him, before we admitted him to school. Miss Walden and I were so relieved, as we were alone with the boys, all the others having gone to Church, but our joy was short lived, for the telephone went, and the Matron said she was sending Ally back, as his screams, and kicks were frightening all the patients, many of whom were seriously ill. We knew that once the father had left, Ally would settle down happily with the other boys, so I went next door, and these two Sergt. Majors gladly came in, took the boy from his father, and gave him a bath. The Matron sent an Arab policeman from the hospital to help the father bring the boy back to school, for the poor man could do nothing with his son, and he is only seven years old . The policeman asked to see the school, and was amazed to see such a happy well behaved number of deaf and dumb boys!! and great was his astonishment when the boys spoke to him in Arabic, and answered the questions he asked them ; he went away saying “This is a wonderful place, here little devils are turned into angels”.

The school was still going in 1948, as Miss Mary F. Chapman’s School for the Deaf and Dumb, at 135 St. Paul’s Road, Jerusalem.  I  wonder if the school closed with the crisis that saw war in Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel?  If you have any information, please add it below.  I include the 1937 newsletter as a picture, and the 1938 one as a pdf.  If there are other newsletters surviving, it would be nice to know.

As usual, click onto smaller images for a larger size view.

Höxter, Richard, The Deaf and Provision for Their Education in Palestine. American Annals of the Deaf Vol. 82, No. 2 (March, 1937), pp. 117-121

American Annals of the Deaf Vol. 93, No. 1 (January, 1948), pp. 48-60

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

H Dominic W Stiles23 November 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

H Dominic W Stiles17 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

H Dominic W Stiles6 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

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

H Dominic W Stiles12 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.

Oralist Arthur Alfred Kinsey of the Ealing Training College, “most uncompromising champion of the system to which he was devoted”

H Dominic W Stiles1 December 2017

Arthur A. Kinsey,  (1850–1888) was the Principal of the Ealing Training College, and an oralist teacher of the deaf.  He was born the son of an Arthur Kinsey, ‘gentleman’.  From his evidence to the Royal Commission we know that part of his education was in Germany. It may be that explains why I have been unable to find him in 1861 or 1871 or 1881 census returns.  He was the leading instrument for oralism in the period from 1877 to his death on Christmas Day, 1888.

When the Ealing Society was founded, he was introduced to Benjamin Ackers, presumably on account of his knowledge of German.  He was to be trained in the ‘German’ system, as oralism was also known.  From his testimony to the Royal Commission on the Blind, the Deaf and Dumb (pages 245-55) that would have been circa 1875.  He was to become the Principal of the academy when it opened in 1878, and to that end he travelled extensively in Europe, and was educated in Germany on the ‘oral’ system.  He remained for some time at Osnabrück, where he studied and then taught under  Rössler, who had been a pupil of Professor Moritz Hill of the Weissenfels school.  He also attended the school in Riehen, and visited schools in the U.S.A., where he studied under Bell (1876).  In 1877 he was one of those who led the oralists at the Conference of Head masters of Institutions and of other workers for the Education of the Deaf.

the rival systems were there brought face to face, and the great controversy between them began in England.  Mr. Kinsey entered upon the contest with all the fiery zeal of a combatant, and was, from first to last, a fearless and most uncompromising champion of the system to which he was devoted; ready to do battle in its defence at all times, in all places, and against all comers; giving no quarter, expecting none, accepting none.  Opinions will, of course, always be divided as to whether this is the best way in which to advance a new cause, but into such a question as this, beside a grave so prematurely opened and so newly closed, we do not enter here.  […] we cannot be surprised that in taking up a cause which at once came into conflict with that which so long had held the ground, opposition waxed warm in an ardent, able advocate like Mr. Kinsey.  Rightly or wrongly, this was his way: and no one will deny that he did possess in the fullest degree the courage of his convictions. (Obituary, p.60)

He was the secretary for the English-speaking section at the Milan Congress in 1880, and in Brussels in 1883, and the volume of proceedings in English was compiled from his official minutes as Secretary (ibid).

In 1882 Kinsey married Margaret Eveline Isabella Underwood, and after his death she continued at Ealing as Principal.  On his marriage certificate he described himself as ‘Professor’.  They had a son, Arthur Francis St John Kinsey (1883–1936).

His funeral was at Highgate cemetery.

Below, a page of his testimony from the Royal Commission report1889, vol.3.

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 1190; Folio: 124; Page: 18

Obituary. Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education, 1889, 2, 59-61.

Royal Commisssion on the Blind, the Deaf and Dumb

The Morning Post (London, England), Thursday, December 27, 1888; pg. [1]; Issue 36358.

https://www.ancestry.co.uk/family-tree/person/tree/6936422/person/6957008876/facts?ssrc=

[Updated with Mrs Kinsey portrait 8/2/19]