12 January 2023

Hennessy's School in Cork - Deaf Children in a 'Mainstream' School?

Through the course of my research, I've come across examples of places in Ireland where Deaf education took place in the nineteenth century that most people aren't aware of. Some of these are not necessarily Deaf schools, but groups or classes within 'mainstream' schools. I've found these in Tralee, Limerick - and one early example in Cork City. Of course Cork City had a Deaf day school since 1822, as Graham O'Shea has described in his excellent research. But it turns out that a school ran by a Cork teacher named Patrick Hennessy accepted Deaf pupils as well, according to newspaper advertisements of the time.
Hennessy's school was established about 1823, and by 1839 was located in 18 Devonshire St, Cork City. The school delivered “commercial and mathematical education", and was not specifically for Deaf children, but by 1834, it was advertising its willingness to take on some deaf pupils. Hennessy “from time to time, [had] successfully educated some deaf and dumb Children" and "could accommodate a few Boarders of that description, who would enjoy in his family domestic care and parental kindness."
Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier, 30 December 1834, p. 1

It looks like this was similar to the 'parlour boarder' system that other schools like Claremont had, where well-off families paid for their deaf children to be educated in the family of tutors. Certainly, Hennessy's advertising always emphasised that it was for 'respectable' children. In 1837 Hennessy advertised that he had "fitted one [deaf pupil] for the profession of a Civil Engineer - on this point unquestionable references can be given."
Southern Reporter, 28 March 1837, p. 1
Significantly though, the school did not seem to use sign language; Hennessy's Deaf pupils were “not allowed to practise signs, mimickry or awkward gesticulation as in other Schools". This may have been a dig at Patrick Kehoe's Cork Day School, which was one that used sign language. 
Southern Reporter, 25 July 1839, p. 3

Eight years later in 1847 it was still strongly emphasised that Hennessy’s “Mute Scholars are initiated in a similar Course [as hearing pupils], and that too without using symbolical or awkward gesticulations as practised in other Schools."
Cork Examiner, 5 April 1847, p. 2.
Advertising for the school in Cork newspapers ceased in 1848 as far as I can tell. I don't yet have any names of Deaf pupils of Hennessy or any documents about how the school was run - maybe some of you can follow this up!

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