Alexander and Irene Ewing Papers

Scope and Content

Papers relating to the deaf educators Sir Alexander and Irene Ewing. The archive is by no means a complete record of the couple's academic and professional activities. It contains copies of some of their published articles, as well as unpublished papers relating to deaf education. There is also a small collection of correspondence, scrapbooks, photographs and ephemera concerning their work. There is also obituary material relating to Irene Ewing, and the Ewings' colleague, Tom Littler (1901-1969).

The archive contains a few papers of Ethel Ewing, Alexander Ewing's second wife, who was also active in the field of deaf education.

Administrative / Biographical History

Alexander and Irene Ewing were internationally renowned figures in the field of deaf education, and helped establish the highly-regarded department of education of the deaf and audiology at the University of Manchester.

Alexander William Gordon Ewing (1896-1980) graduated at the University of Edinburgh and worked at the Royal Institute of the Deaf there. In 1920 he took a one year course in Manchester under Irene Goldsack, and gained a first class in the teacher's diploma and certificate for teachers of the deaf. He was one of the first students of the University's department of education of the deaf, which had been set up in 1919, which had been endowed the cotton magnate, Sir James Jones. In 1922 Ewing returned to Manchester and married Irene Goldsack, opening an audiology clinic in 1922. In 1926 he became an assistant lecturer in speech training and carried on building up his reputation. With the encouragement of J.S.B. Stopford, (professor of anatomy) Alexander Ewing took a Ph.D. in the Faculty of Medicine at Manchester in 1929. Ewing was appointed director of the Department of the Education of the Deaf in 1944, being promoted to professor in 1949. Ewing developed the Department bringing in staff and students, and developing a research programme. The Department also undertook pioneering work in developing electronic hearing aids for the deaf. He was knighted in 1958. Following the death of his wife in 1959, Sir Alexander remarried in 1961 to Ethel Constance Goldsack (1899-1981), who had formerly worked at the Royal Manchester Schools of the Deaf. She too was a writer on deaf education topics.

Irene Ewing (né Goldsack) (1883-1959) was the first residential teacher at the pioneering Royal Schools for the Deaf, Manchester in 1912. She had helped develop an intensive programme of lip-reading and speech for pupils. Goldsack paid particular care to ensure students were given a broad-based education, and it was noted that her pupils performed better than those deaf children who had received a more traditional education. In 1919, when the University of Manchester established a lectureship for training teachers of the deaf on the oral method of teaching, Goldsack was appointed to this post. In effect this was the beginning of the Department of Audiology and Education in the University. She was promoted to reader in education of the deaf in 1934. The Department of Education of the Deaf became fully independent in the same year (as part of the Faculty of Education), and moved to new premises in Lime Grove. She married Alexander Ewing, a former pupil in 1922. Together they gained the Department a worldwide reputation for development and innovation in the field of oral education of the deaf. She was appointed OBE in 1944. Irene Ewing died on 16 July 1959.

The Ewings were particularly influential in promoting the use of spoken language as a means of communication by the deaf. They advocated early testing of children to identify deafness, and promoted appropriate educational and welfare tools to assist deaf children, such as parent guidance programmes, units for partially hearing children and educational integration programmes. The Ewings outlined their educational ideas in Speech and the Deaf Child (1954).


  • EWI/1 - Published and Unpublished papers of the Ewings
  • EWI/2 - Correspondence
  • EWI/3 - Scrapbooks, photographs.
  • EWI/4 - Documents relating to the work of Ewings
  • EWI/5 - Irene Ewing -obituaries
  • EWI/6 - Thomas Littler - obituaries
  • EWI/7 - Miscellaneous material

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader, unless otherwise stated.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the UML to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Open parts of this collection, and the catalogue descriptions, may contain personal data about living individuals. Some items in this collection may be closed to public inspection in line with the requirements of the DPA. Restrictions/closures of specific items will be indicated in the catalogue.

Acquisition Information

It is believed that the collection was donated to the Library by Alexander and Ethel Ewing in the late 1970s.

Archivist's Note

The archive has been recatalogued. Former references are included for each item.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.


None expected.

Related Material

No other archives of of the Ewings are known to exist.

Further information on the Department of Education of the deaf can be found in the University archives: annual reports, UOP/2; minutes of the Advisory Committee for the Training of Teachers of the Deaf USC/33, and vice-chancellor's files on the department, VCA/7/196.


Alexander wrote a brief account of the Department of Education of the Deaf's work from 1919 to the early 1950s, ""The Education of the Deaf", British Journal of Educational Studies IV.2. May 1956, pp.103-128.

Geographical Names