Records of Aberdeen Institution for the Deaf and Dumb

Scope and Content

This is a small collection, but the records contain a great deal of information about the Institute and its work over a sixty year period. Directors' minutes, 1840 - 1979, and weekly visitation committee minutes, 1864 - 1918, provide a detailed record of the daily running and organisation of the school, but also include information about individual pupils and teachers, and the developments in teaching methods for deaf and dumb children which took place in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Reports submitted to the Directors of the Institution and to Aberdeen School Board contain further information about teaching methods for deaf and dumb children, 1883 - 1903, and the relationship between the Institution and the new [Aberdeen School Board] School for the Deaf and Dumb, 1913 - 1914. Miscellaneous loose papers, 1862 - 1878 and undated, include extracts from the last will and testament of Alexander Calder, 20 Sept 1862.

Administrative / Biographical History

Aberdeen Institution for the Deaf and Dumb was established in 1819. It provided specialised education for deaf and dumb children throughout the north of Scotland, for many years being the only such establishment north of Dundee.

Its constitution states that it is the sole purpose of the Society to provide, in the best and most efficient manner, for the education of Deaf and Dumb children and for this purpose a permanent fund shall be raised, by Subscription . The funds were to be applied towards the establishment and support of a seminary in Aberdeen for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb, in the payment of a qualified Instructor to supervise the Institution and in giving Aid as far as circumstances may permit, to those parents or guardians of Deaf and Dumb children who are unable to defray the whole expense of maintaining them in the Institution (Aberdeen Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, An Account of the General Institution for the Education of Deaf and Dumb Children on the principles of Abbe Sicard, established in Aberdeen (Aberdeen, 1822)).

Subscriptions were raised chiefly from private residents and local organisations in Aberdeen and neighbouring counties, though generous donations were also received from wealthy patrons abroad, including the Rev. Dr Bryce of Calcutta, and John Angus Esq. of Calcutta. From inception, the Institution enjoyed strong support from influential local dignitaries, The Marquis of Huntly being its first Patron, with the Duke of Gordon, Earl of Fife, Earl of Aberdeen, George Skene, Esq. of Skene, and John Menzies, Esq. of Pitfodels, each appointed Director for life.

The opening funds of the Institution provided for the training of its first Instructor under the tuition of Abbe Sicard, Director of the Royal Deaf and Dumb Institution of Paris, and for the purchase of a house in Aberdeen to accommodate living and teaching quarters for pupils and staff. Early attendance figures are not available, but in 1921, 12 pupils were attending the school, and by the end of the nineteenth century this had increased to an average of 16 day pupils and 14 boarders. Regular contact was maintained with similar establishments in the south of Scotland, namely Langside school in Glasgow, and Henderson Row in Edinburgh. Indeed, it had originally been intended that the Aberdeen Institution should be attached to one of the Edinburgh Institutions.

Under the Education of Blind and Deaf and Mute Children (Scotland) Act responsibility for the education of deaf and dumb children was vested in the newly created Local Boards of Education. In its early years, Aberdeen School Board met this responsibility by paying maintenance for pupils to attend the Institution; but by this time high running costs had begun to deplete the Institution's funds, and in December 1900 the Directors submitted an application to have it adopted by Aberdeen School Board. Although the Board initially rejected this, later, in 1903 it expressed an interest in running the school under the Oral, or German method of teaching. The Directors advised against pursuing this as the sole method of teaching, favouring instead the Combined System of education, which was partly oral and partly sign-manual, and had been successfully followed in Aberdeen and elsewhere for some time. Fearing that the Board may establish a second Institute in the City following the Oral method, the Directors suggested that a classroom in their Institute be set aside for such teaching, on condition that all expenses incurred in its running would be funded by the Board. The School Board rejected these proposals, and in 1904 established a new School for the Deaf and Dumb, based on the lip reading or purely oral system, at Beech Lodge, View Terrace, Aberdeen. The two schools ran independently for several years, during which time the Board continued to maintain a small number of pupils at the Institution.


This collection has not been fully listed, but is available for consultation.

Access Information

Open, subject to signature accepting conditions of use at reader registration sheet

Acquisition Information

Deposited in the University in Aug 1993 by James Hunter, Grampian Regional Council

Other Finding Aids

Very brief collection level description available on Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online

Alternative Form Available

No copies known

Conditions Governing Use

Subject to the condition of the original, copies may be supplied for private research use only on receipt of a signed undertaking to comply with current copyright legislation.

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Head of Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail: and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. Where possible, assistance will be given in identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures

Custodial History

Nothing is known of this collection prior to deposit


No accruals expected

Related Material

Annual reports for the Institution for the years 1844/5, 1860 - 1864, 1868 and 1885/6, and Aberdeen Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, An Account of the General Institution for the Education of Deaf and Dumb Children on the principles of Abbe Sicard, established in Aberdeen (Aberdeen, 1822) are in the University Pamphlets and Local collections. The Account ... contains information about the establishment of the Institution, a list of donations and subscriptions, and rules and regulations. Information about the Institution's relationship with Aberdeen School Board will be found in the Aberdeen School Board Triennial Reports, also held in the University.

Papers of William Harvey, relating to Magdalene Asylum and Home for the Deaf and Dumb, Aberdeen, 1840 - 1880 have been deposited in the University (reference MS 3039).

Full reference details for all of these records will be found in the University Library On-line Catalogue


No known publications using this material

Additional Information

This material is original

Geographical Names