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Henry Phillips (1829-1884) and Margaret Thomson (neé Stobo) (1852-1892) and the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institution
Henry Phillips was the son of William Phillips and Sophia (nee Yates) who were both transported to Australia for fourteen years for “Having & Forged Banknotes.” Both arrived in the colony of NSW in 1820, but William came on the Coromandel whereas Sophia came on the Janus with their seven children aged between 2 and 16 years (including some from William’s previous marriage). Sophia was then assigned to William as a convict, and they recommenced family life in the colony. He was granted a ticket of leave in 1821 and a conditional pardon in 1827 on the recommendation of Chief Justice Forbes, his wife Mrs Forbes, and Judge Stephen. That William received such support from these prominent and respected citizens, especially from Mrs Forbes, is remarkable. Somehow, he must have come into sufficient contact with them that they could form the view that he was worthy of a pardon. A further nine children were born to Sophia and William with Henry being born on 17 July 1829 and dying on 13 March 1884 during a severe outbreak of typhoid fever in Sydney.
Margaret Thomson Stobo (known as ‘Maggie’) was aged 19 when she married Henry, aged 42, on 7 June 1871 at St James, King Street, Sydney. Maggie was born in Greenock, Scotland, in 1852 and was part of a large family; she died in 1892.  She came to NSW in 1854 with her mother Mary in order to join her father, Captain Robert Stobo. Stobo was the Captain of an Illawarra Steam Navigation company (ISN) steamer William IV and he later became the ISN agent and harbour master at Kiama, NSW. Together Maggie and Henry had six children: Halcyon Mary Spears (1872-1873), Henry Stobo (1873-1897), Beatrice Sophia Yates (1876-1933), Robert Stobo (1878-1890), Irene Victoria (1880-1972) and Frederick Stobo (1884-1916), born shortly before his father’s death.
The Phillips family had a long association with St James King Street, maintaining a family pew there from 1833 until at least 1861 which, considering William only received a conditional pardon in 1827, is remarkable. William’s funeral in 1860 was organised by Charles Beaver ‘undertaker, St James’ Church’ and in 1871, Henry was married there by Canon Allwood. Henry did more than occupy pew No 86 at St James, however, for around 1846 and aged 17, he began to teach Sunday School, eventually becoming the Sunday School Superintendent. He took an active interest in Sunday Schools through his active participation in the Church of England Sunday School Institute. At one Institute meeting, he advised his fellow teachers that ‘he found it a good plan of keeping up attention was to have the children ranged around him, and set them to find passages of Scripture’. He also pointed out the ‘several advantages that arose from the teacher visiting at the residences of the children’ who were attending the Sunday School’. In addition, he suggested that ‘every member of the church might be serviceable in the cause of the Sunday-schools even though they were not mentally capacitated for being teachers.’ They might, he said, ‘inform the people in their neighbourhoods that a Sunday-school existed in the parish and urge the people to send their children there.’
John Hay Goodlet was born in Leith, Scotland in 1835 the second son and one of eight children of George and Mary Goodlet (nee Hay). He was educated at the Edinburgh Institution for Languages and Mathematics. After he completed school he went to work for a time at the Edinburgh Roperie and Sailmaking Company in Leith.
In 1852, not yet seventeen years of age, he left Scotland for Melbourne Australia arriving in June of that year. He found employment as a clerk in the firm of some fellow Scots, Charles and John Smith who were timber merchants. Within a year he was a partner in the business. In June of 1855, possibly due to a depression in the commercial scene in Melbourne, he went to Sydney and commenced a timber yard and saw mill in Erskine Street in partnership with the Smiths which was known as JH Goodlet and Company. The business did well and by early 1859 the partnership had been dissolved and another entered into with James Smith, a brother of his former partners, and in late 1860 the name of the firm was changed to that of Goodlet and Smith.
In 1867 Goodlet and Smith expanded their interests and began producing bricks, pottery and earthenware in Riley Street, Sydney. In 1870 the site was expanded with state of the art labour saving machinery. By 1872 a Hoffman Annular Kiln had been installed and the works continued to produce earthenware until it was closed in 1915. In 1873 the Waterloo Brickworks were opened and operated until the mid 1890s. In 1884 Goodlet and Smith purchased the Junction Brick Works at Granville and later Goodlet showed his entrepreneurial attitudes by introducing the first successful colonial production of Marseille roof tiles. He also produced the first commercially viable high quality Portland cement at this site. All of Goodlet’s manufacturing activities were charactised by the use of up to date technology and labour saving devices. This enabled Goodlet to produce excellent products which sold well and produced good profits for the company.
Although Ann Alison Goodlet at her death attracted much praise for her charitable works, her kindness and loving concern, little appears to have been known about her background by either friends, acquaintances or admirers. Even the stained glass window that was erected in her honour at the Ashfield Presbyterian Church spelt her name incorrectly. It seems to have been a characteristic of Ann and John Goodlet that neither said much about themselves. Ann is the forgotten Mrs Goodlet for while Elizabeth Mary Goodlet (nee Forbes), the second wife of John, has received some notice, Ann has been overlooked.
According to her death certificate, the simple facts about Ann Alison Goodlet are that she was born in 1827, arrived in New South Wales (NSW) in 1855 and died on 3rd January 1903. The background of Ann is, however, somewhat more complicated for Ann Alison Goodlet, the daughter of William Panton and his wife Ann Jane (nee Kent), was actually born in 1822 shortly before William and Ann left Scotland for the colony of NSW. Their ship was the Andromeda and the Reverend John Dunmore Lang, who was on his first voyage to NSW, was also a passenger. Lang noted in his diary that (more…)
Charles Nightingale (1795-1860), Edward Ramsay (1818-1894) and James Druce (1829-1891) Charity Collectors
Obtaining funding for the work of the various nineteenth century philanthropic organisations was always a challenge. There was little government financial assistance available, and the various organisations were dependent upon the generosity of the public for financial support. In order to gain that support the many charities who wished to collect money from the public engaged in a number of activities and strategies. Prominent among their activities was the public annual meeting, often chaired by a socially important person, where the activities of the organisation were reported and supportive resolutions passed. At the meeting someone, usually the secretary of the committee, would read a report detailing what had been achieved in the year past, often giving encouraging examples of success as well as underlining the difficulty of the task which the charity had undertaken. Such reporting made the committee that ran the charity accountable to the public and to its subscribers. It also showed what had been achieved through public financial support, educated the community on the continuing need for the charity, and gave hope for success in the future so that there might be continued interest and increased financial support given by individuals.
Nineteenth century newspaper editors, at least up until the 1890s, gave very sympathetic treatment to such organisations and often printed extensive reports of the meetings which gave further publicity. Printing the annual reports of these organisations and circulating them to their subscribers was also a vital part of the strategy. Such documents contained the secretary’s report, a financial statement, the lists of subscribers and the amount of their subscription, and newspapers often printed subscriber and donation lists as well. It has been suggested that the existence of these subscriber lists is evidence that nineteenth century philanthropy was a morally approved way of self-aggrandisement. Motives are difficult to determine and it may well be that, for some, giving was motived by being seen to have done the ‘right societal thing’ or by a desire to gain praise for the size of a donation. For others, however, such support was undoubtedly a response to need and a desire to help without any ulterior motive. From the organisations’ point of view, it was an effective means of giving a receipt and perhaps a means of encouraging (more…)
William Crane, (1826-1914) Magistrate and Governance Philanthropist
William Crane was born on October 5, 1826, at Castlereagh Street, Sydney. He was the son of William Christopher Crane (1799-1876) a publican who was the landlord of the Leather Bottle Inn in Castlereagh Street and Sarah McAvoy (1802-1857). He was educated at the Sydney College under the headmastership of William Timothy Cape and his fellow students included Sir James Martin, William Bede Daley, Sir Henry Stephen and Thomas Alexander Browne (aka Rolf Boldrewood). In his youth William was a keen sportsman. He was a cricketer and active member of the Newtown Cricket Club from its formation in 1858, a boxer, and a strong swimmer, frequently swimming the considerable distance from The Fig Tree, Woolloomooloo, to Garden Island and back.
In the 1850s, Crane and a number of companions went to the Ophir and Turon goldfields where he appears to have been unsuccessful in his gold prospecting unlike his younger brother, Christopher, who struck it rich at Gulgong. He returned to Sydney and became a law clerk in the law practice of solicitor Joseph Frey Josephson  after which, in 1853, he entered the New South Wales civil service as a clerk in the Department of Police. He was appointed clerk of Petty Sessions, Water Police in 1861, a magistrate of the colony in 1869, and then in 1875 Clerk of Petty Sessions in the Central Police court. In 1882, Crane was appointed one of Sydney’s first stipendiary magistrates and officiated at the Central Court until his retirement in 1885. He was highly regarded and an able magistrate as illustrated by, for the time, an unusual occurrence in his court when a young man stepped into the witness box, and when the Bible was tendered, shut the book. Said Mr Crane to him: “Why did you shut the book?” He said: “I am a Liberal or Freethinker.” He further stated he had no belief in the Bible, and there was nothing binding on his conscience, and he objected to take an oath. This at first seemed rather puzzling and brought the proceedings to a sudden standstill.
James Start Harrison (1837-1902) Accountant and Governance Philanthropist
At his death it was said of James Start Harrison that
many benevolent and philanthropic institutions that today are in a flourishing state owe their existence to his energies and valued labours.
The nineteenth century saw the development of many important community services which were commenced and conducted by interested individuals and financially supported by the community. Harrison is an example of one of the many citizens of New South Wales (NSW) whose names have largely been forgotten but who gave voluntarily of their time and effort in the governance of various charitable organisations in order help those in need. As with so many such citizens his commitment arose out of his Christian faith which found its expression in using his gifts and abilities to help others.
James Start Harrison was born in London in 1837 the youngest son of Layman Harrison (1799-1882) and Honor Pitt Curtis (1796-1860). In January 1849, Layman and Honor and their family of six children arrived in Sydney after a voyage of 157 days on board the Penyard Park. After living for a short time in Glebe, the family took up residence in Abercrombie Street, Chippendale. In 1866 James, aged twenty-nine, married Angelina (nee Macdonald), aged thirty-nine and the wealthy widow of Thomas Cooper whom she married in 1852, and prior to that the widow of Edward Henry Gregory whom she had married in 1847. In 1868, Angelina gave birth to her only child, a stillborn daughter, and Angelina herself died in 1873. Her striking death notice testifies to the relationship of Angelina and James and of their shared Christian faith (more…)
Elizabeth Mary Goodlet nee Forbes (1854 – 1926) Missions activist and Presbyterian.
Elizabeth Mary Forbes was born in Singleton, New South Wales, on the 15th of October 1854 to Alexander Leith Forbes and Jean (nee Clark). The Forbes family were of Free Presbyterian background and while Alexander was ordained at Methlick Free Church, he resigned in 1852 just prior to coming to Australia. When he and his wife Jane arrived in Sydney on ‘The Boomer’ in July 1853, he commenced a new life as a school master.
Alexander Forbes was conservative in theology, a strong-minded and honest man, fearless and straightforward and outspoken to friends and foes alike, but he was not a ‘people person’ which may explain why he did not persist in the ordained ministry. John Walker, who knew Alexander well, described him as
a man of competent knowledge and strict integrity, with a warm heart. As a friend, he was as true as steel, and hospitable to a degree. Those who did not know Mr Forbes were often misled by his manner; but those who knew him best, loved and trusted him most.
By contrast, his wife Jean Forbes (born April 1, 1827 and dying April 3, 1889), was modest, shrinking and unobtrusive in disposition with a faith that delighted in the ‘old paths’, in the Sabbath and the Bible. She had been the one who was the homemaker of the Forbes household, finding satisfaction in the domestic sphere and in hospitality. Elizabeth Mary was effectively an only child as a brother had died in infancy. In character and opportunity she was much more like her father than her mother, and her mother’s commitment to the domestic sphere permitted Elizabeth to pursue her own Christian interests. In 1877, the Forbes family moved to King Street, Ashfield, and joined the newly formed Ashfield Presbyterian Church December 4, 1877.
In a church such as Ashfield where John Hay and Ann Alison Goodlet were prominent, the Forbes and the Goodlet families had many interactions. The connections between the families were ones of faith, church, Scottish origins, common ministry and ideals. In particular, by 1883, ‘Bessie’ Forbes was teaching Sunday School where John Goodlet had been the superintendent since 1877 and she was the Sustentation Collector in the district which included the Goodlet family. The Goodlets and the Forbes were both involved in the YWCA, local political activity, temperance organisations, the Ministering Children’s League, the Women’s Missionary Association, the Band of Mercy as well as the Trusteeship of the Ashfield Church property. (more…)
Frederick Ropier Robinson (1815-1899) Ironmonger and for 38 years a member of Deaf and Dumb and Blind Institution
Ellis Frederick Leathwick Robinson (1839-1905) for 41 years Secretary of the Deaf and Dumb and Blind Institution
Frederick and Ellis Robinson were both devoted members of the governing committee of the Deaf and Dumb and Blind Institution for nearly forty years from its founding and into the twentieth century. Their tireless work helped provide invaluable assistance in the commencement, maintenance and growth of an organisation that was to become the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC). The story of the Robinson family in Australia begins with Thomas Leathwick Robinson, Frederick’s father and Elllis’ grandfather. It is his life and his descendants’ success in business that forms the backdrop that enabled Frederick and Ellis to contribute philanthropically to the RIDBC.
According to the narrative supplied to the author of the 1888 article on FR Robinson in Australian Men of Mark, Robinson arrived in the colony of NSW in the early part 1829 with his parents who were ‘determined to come to Australia in order to enable them to better their fortunes in that distant and little known land’. This account of his arrival was less than candid and was aimed more at protecting the respectability that the Robison family had attained rather than giving an accurate account of his origins in NSW. The arrival of the Robinson family in NSW was in fact, as with so many, due to a conviction at the Old Bailey. Thomas Leathwick Robinson was convicted of selling four silver bottle labels with forged and counterfeit hall-marks. He had, as a silversmith, also forged these silver hallmarks but because he provided information that was helpful to His Majesty’s Stamp Office this second charge was dropped. He was 40 years of age and was sentenced to fourteen years transportation arriving in Hobart on board the Competitor on August 2, 1823. He must have been an educated man as he was employed, in 1824, as a school master using the Madras system at the Public School, Campbelltown NSW. He gained his ticket of leave for the Airds area south of Sydney on December 29, 1829 and his certificate of freedom in 1836. Thomas was followed to NSW five years after his transportation by his wife Mary Jane and their three children, Susannah, Lucy and Frederick who arrived in Sydney in December, 1828 on the Borneo. The family lived together at Campbelltown and Mrs Robinson from 1829, as was common for the master’s wife, assisted in the teaching of needlework. For this work Thomas was paid £40pa and Mary £10pa. After 1838 he acquired leases in the Maneroo area adjacent to the Snowy River and ran stock on these pastures, eventually taking up residence in the Eden Monaro area where he died in 1864 at the age of 85.
Thomas’ son Frederick Ropier Robinson did not go on the land with his father but after spending two years on the dairy farm of a relative went to Sydney where he ‘acquired a full and complete knowledge of working in metals’. Aged 23 in 1838 he married Caroline Jemima Phillips (1814-1891) and went into business in Sydney in October of that year as a Tin–Plate worker producing dish covers and various articles. The business did well and diversified from its simple beginnings and within nine years was offering to the public, though manufacture or importation, brass lamps, bell and flat weights, pumps, chemical and scientific apparatus, shower baths, wine warmers, binnacles for ships and various other items of manufactured ironmongery. After ten years in business Robinson reminded customers that the business could manufacture every article in the various branches of Tin, Iron, Brass and Japan Ware which indicated that Robinson, in order to remain profitable, had expanded into the manufacture and distribution of a wide range of products to meet the increasing aspirations of colony of NSW. He also advertised his business as licensed plumbers and gas fitters which was an essential service required by customers of their manufactured products. From 1884 to 1895 he was the Marine Board’s Inspector of Lights which required him to periodically visit light houses up and down the NSW coast to check and repair lighthouses and pilot lights.
Ellis was made a partner in 1876 and the firm’s name changed to FR Robinson and Son. The business closed its’ shop front to concentrate on importation and manufacturing and while they produced a wide range of goods they began to concentrate on the production and importation of stoves, both domestic and commercial, cooking and heating, gas or coal or wood. Around this time the firm was employing some 24 hands and as a manufacturer and importer Robinson was very interested in the current issue of free trade vs protectionism. Frederick was a free trader and was confident that his business could compete without the benefit of tariff protection saying of protectionism that ‘it is the gain of the few by the robbery of the many’. By 1879 the other sons were admitted as partners, though Frederick no doubt maintained effective control, and the business became FR Robinson and Sons. In 1885 due to the increased prosperity of the business, land was purchased and new and larger premises were constructed in Castlereagh Street which then became the centre of the business. (more…)
Thomas Pattison (1805-1899) Coach Painter and Founder of the Deaf and Dumb Institute, Sydney
While others discussed the need for a school for the education of deaf children in NSW it was Thomas Pattison who took the initiative and opened in Sydney on October 22, 1860 what was to become a successful organisation. Apart from his brief time founding and teaching for 6 years at what was initially called the Deaf and Dumb Institution (DDI) and was later to become the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) little is known about his life. This paper seeks to fill out some background and detail of Thomas Pattison’s life.
Pattison’s background and schooling
Pattison was born in Edinburgh on January 5, 1805 the second son and the fourth child of Thomas Pattison, a weaver and Elisabeth Lorn. As an adult, Pattison was reported as being 5’ 6” tall and deaf, either from birth  or from early childhood. He went to school at the Edinburgh Deaf and Dumb Institution (EDDI) spending time there under the instruction of Robert Kinniburgh with class mates such as Alexander Drysdale and Joseph Turner who were later to have significant roles in the development of the education of the deaf in Scotland.
The amount of experience as a teacher that Pattison had before he came to NSW is unclear. A report at the end of the first year of operation of the DDI, said that Pattison ‘was an experienced teacher, who passed twenty three years of his life in the Edinburgh Deaf and Dumb school, as an assistant teacher’. Another secondary source says that he had been educated at the Edinburgh Institution for the Deaf and that ‘he seems to have been a pupil for five years and then a “monitor” for two more years, leaving in 1820’. As Pattison was fifteen in 1820 this would give a commencement date of his schooling as 1813 when he was 8 years of age. This view is supported by Walter who says that he was dismissed (i.e. finished his schooling)
in 1818, but he was still listed in the printed Annual Reports as a ‘Pupil under Tuition’ until 1820. Pupils were sometimes retained for monitorial duties, and Pattison carried out such duties between 1818 and 1820.
Pattison himself, in his advertisements to set up his school in Sydney described himself only as ‘late Secretary and Treasurer of the Edinburgh Deaf and Dumb Benevolent Society’ (EDDBS) and gives no indication as to any service as a teacher of the deaf. The only claim he ever made, apart from that of having been ‘founder and for six years Head Master of the Deaf and Dumb Institution, Pitt-street, Sydney’ is his association with the EDDBS.
The EDDBS was a benevolent organisation formed on November 16, 1835 and existed ‘for relieving deaf and dumb persons when in distress; and supporting such indigent individuals among them as are, from age or infirmity, unable to earn a livelihood.’ Pattison was on the Committee of the EDDBS and its Secretary/ Treasurer for twenty three years from 1835 until 1858. When in NSW, Pattison produced a booklet of his references and the only significant comment on his (more…)
Samuel Watson (1842-1911) Superintendent Deaf and Dumb and Blind Institution, Sydney.
As early as March 1853 in colonial New South Wales attempts were made to commence education classes for deaf children. These efforts met with limited success and were short-lived until Thomas Pattison commenced his classes in October 1860. This developed into what became known as the Deaf and Dumb and Blind Institution (DDBI), later to be known as the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children. The first decade of the DDBI was beset with difficulties as the organising committee sought to find a suitable person to lead the work and it was not until Samuel Watson was appointed in 1870 that the education of the deaf and blind began to thrive.
Life in Ulster
Samuel Watson was born in Glenhue, Ahoghill, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, on December 22, 1842, the fourth and youngest son of the eight children of William Watson a farmer, and his wife Jane McMaster. By 1857, both of his parents had died and the eldest son James (1827-1878) had assumed the role of head of the family. In May 1861, aged 18, Samuel was employed by the Ulster Institution for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind, as an assistant teacher and he remained in this position for seven and a half years until 1868. In this period of service he would, he said, ‘learn the art of teaching Deaf mutes and whatever power as well as impulses for good I have acquired.’ Samuel was well regarded by the Institution being considered by its Principal, the Rev John Kinghan, as ‘a young man of much amiable temper, good sense and good feeling, imbued with a sincere desire to Glorify God.’ In January of 1869, upon being recommended by Kinghan for the post, he commenced as a Teacher and Manager of the Church of Ireland Derry and Raphoe School for the Deaf and Dumb.
This institution, founded in 1846 in Strabane, was supported both personally and financially by the hymn writer Cecil Frances Alexander, the wife of the local minister. The proceeds of some of her hymns, such as ‘There is a green hill far away’ and ‘All Things bright and beautiful’, contained in her publication Hymns for Little Children, went to the support of the institution. Samuel was highly regarded by the Derry and Raphoe School, though he only served 18 months as its master apparently seeing that he would have greater opportunities and financial security in the colony of NSW. (more…)
George Augustus Frederick Lentz (1797-1883) Convict conman, Architect and co-founder of the Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, Sydney
Thomas Pattison is rightly credited with commencing a work that was to become the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC). George Augustus Frederick Lentz and his family, however, assisted Pattison in starting this work and their contribution, though of short duration, was significant. George was born to John and Elizabeth Lentz in London in 1797 and he became a musical instrument maker, a harpist and also played in a band. He kept up his musical activities all of his life and was thought by his family to have been a good musician having received a gold watch from King George IV for ‘his performances before him’. From George’s history, if he had a gold watch from his time in England, he most likely stole it for George was a thief and a conman.
At the age of 17 George Lentz, alias George Henry Douglas, was convicted at the Old Bailey in January, 1814, of the theft of a ‘silver watch and gold chain’ worth £4 and of forgery worth £138 in order to purchase a dressing case and gold scissars (sic) and other items. A newspaper recorded that Lentz
was taken into custody, at the Swan Inn, Knightsbridge, on his return in a gig, with a Lady – to the Lady (a woman of property) he had given the gold scissars, and she in return gave him as the old song says, “a far better thing,” it was “The ring from off her finger, Oh!”
The combined value of George’s fraudulent activity was a considerable sum for the time and he was found guilty and sentenced to hang, a sentence which was commuted to transportation for life to the colony of NSW. George arrived in Sydney on April 25, 1815, aboard the Indefatigable 2 and was sent to work for James Smith, a builder, at Parramatta. This appears to have been a stroke of good fortune for George as Smith taught him to be a carpenter and joiner. He worked with Smith for at least five years and was described by him as one who was ‘obedient to my order and his conduct was that of a sober and honest and industrious man’. In 1823, he was granted a Ticket of Leave for the district of Parramatta. The ticket was revoked in October 1826, however, as George was found in possession of a chisel, the property of William Clay, which had been stolen with other articles from the premises of Dr Dalhunty at Burwood. A further Ticket of Leave was granted in August 1827, and a conditional pardon was granted in September 1836. During this period George had worked on various building jobs earning praise for his work ‘for correctness in proportion, chasteness of design, and the very superior manner in which it is finished.’ It seems his past was not entirely behind him, however, as an angry partner, William Batman, claimed in a newspaper advertisement that George had absconded ‘after having received sums of money on account of work executed by both of us.’ (more…)
Sherrington Alexander Gilder (1828 – 1902) and the commencement of the education of the deaf in NSW.
In her work on the history of the academic education of deaf children in NSW, Barbara Crickmore points to three options available to parents of the deaf in Colonial Australia in the 1850s. They could send their children back to England or some other country for education, keep the child at home and face the prospect of supporting them for the rest of their lives or attempt to place them in an asylum for destitute children. In the late 1850s, says Crickmore, a fourth option became available through the establishment of special schools for deaf in Australia. This move for the provision of special schools is seen, by Crickmore, as commencing in Victoria rather than NSW. It began with some agitation in the letters to the Editor of the Melbourne Argus by parents of deaf children seeking their education. Fredrick Rose, an Englishman who had been deaf since he was four, read the letters and offered to start a school and did so in November 1860. In NSW, Thomas Pattison, formerly associated with the Edinburgh Deaf and Dumb Benevolent Society, commenced a school just prior to this on October 22, 1860 and thus by ‘opening three weeks ahead of the Victorian Institution became the site for the first school for the deaf in Australia.’ It was this work which developed into the Deaf and Dumb and Blind Institution (DDBI).
The history of the beginning of the education of the deaf in NSW is, however, a little more complex and earlier than this account would indicate. In December 1850, the Rev Samuel Wilkinson, the Wesleyan minister at Windsor, after having been in the colony for twelve years, wrote a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald advocating the formation of a public institution for the benefit of the deaf and the dumb. Such an Institution was needed, he said, for the deaf and dumb were more numerous than generally supposed and because of the ‘little success that has attended my own efforts, and the private exertions of others’. The letter was unproductive but on December 16, 1852 the Anglesay arrived in Sydney harbour and on board was William Thompson and his wife and three children. One of these children, a daughter, was deaf and so the family brought a tutor with them. The tutor was Sherrington Alexander Gilder who, it was said, had been the senior Master of the West of England Institution for the Deaf and Dumb (WEIDD) for the past six years. Gilder had deliberately exaggerated the importance of his position for in 1850 he is listed merely as the second of two assistants to Dr W R Scott who had been the master of the Institution for some time. The later description of Gilder’s role at the WEIDD, no doubt supplied to the journalist of the SMH by Gilder himself, as “having for seven years had nearly the entire conduct” of the Institution is highly unlikely as Gilder was, at the commencement of that seven year period, only 17 years old. While Gilder was prone to exaggerate his importance and role, he did work at the WEIDD and his presence there can be established for at least two years so he may well have commenced there in 1845 as a pupil teacher in order to learn under Scott. By early 1853, Gilder was advertising his services to teach, as boarders, both the deaf and the blind and later in 1854 he was offering evening classes for adults in French as a “Professor of French”. (more…)