Volunteers from Worthing Society for the Blind’s ‘A Journey in Time’ project were really impressed with the training session put on for them by Martin Hayes at Worthing Library. Not only did Martin show us how to use the digital search facility for local newspapers, he also introduced us to other source material that will be of great help in our research.
Back in the 1920s, staff at the library began collating pamphlets and magazine articles that they thought might be of interest to future historians. These were bound together in what are today known as the ‘Worthing pamphlets.’ As these volumes are not indexed they are underused but Martin helped us to find several publications that were directly relevant to our research. These included early reports from what was then Worthing Society for Befriending the Blind – the earliest one being from 1915. There was also an article from the Blind Record about life at the ‘blind home’ in Grafton Road. These were really exciting discoveries.
The Worthing Gazette now exists in digitised form for the years, 1883-4, 1901-1925 and 1939-1945. We will be able to search these years for any article or advert that relates to blindness or the experience of blind people. We are particularly hopeful of finding information about the plight of blinded soldiers who returned to Worthing after losing their sight fighting in the Great War.
Isn’t it amazing how times have changed over the course of one lifetime? Take school days: many of us can remember when an ink monitor would bring around the ink bottle to fill up the ink well each child had on their desk. Today children all use laptops and tablets. Years ago the teacher wrote on a blackboard now she uses a smartboard and no need for chalk! Fifty years ago unruly children where likely to get a ‘clip round the ear’ or they backsides whacked with a cane – any teacher doing that today would be arrested by the police and certainly lose their job.
A group of West Sussex school children proudly wearing their school attendance medals, c.1910
We would love to hear about your memories of childhood and of schooling. If you were blind from childhood we would be even more interested to learn about your experiences. If times have changed for children in the last 50, 60, 70 years, think how much more they must have changed for blind children. We really hope you can share your memories with us which we will film and record for posterity.
In exchange for your memories we will provide – free of charge – some tempting cream teas.
If the afternoon is a success we plan to hold similar events in the future. Please drop me an email or give me a call if you would like to discuss the memories day or if you have any questions about the project.
Last Tuesday (9th August), Chris Hare and Ann Feloy from the Journey in Time project were invited to the weekly meeting of West Worthing Rotary Club at the Tudor Close in Ferring.
Charles Pressley of the club demonstrated the ‘Blind Bingo’ created by past member and former town mayor, Arthur Bowles, back in the 1960s.
The blind bingo player, assisted by a sighted helper, was able to mark off their numbers as they were called out by correlating them to a series of pegs laid out on a small board in front of them. The idea was very simple but allowed the blind community in Worthing to enjoy one of the UK’s most popular games with ease.
Charles Pressley can be seen on the right of the photographs, seated and calling out the numbers.
Photos are reproduced courtesy of David Chapman of West Worthing Rotary.