« ZurückWeiter »
ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE BLIND IN THE INDUS
SERIES II._SECTION J.
THERE is, perhaps, no calling in which it may become necessary for us to act, where sight is so necessary, as in the manual labor pursuits. In rude stages of society, when mechanical operations were all performed by hand, it may have been more possible for a blind person, in some branches, to compete with the seeing. But in an age like the present, when steam and other natural agents, have usurped the place of muscular power, and the manufacture of all articles of profit is monopolized by large capitalists, this possibility seems almost entirely to have vanished. The facility with which a seeing person will manufacture articles by the aid of machinery, from which those without sight have been entirely excluded, appears to have left this class of laborers utterly without a hope of gaining even a livelihood. But it seems to us that with a little kindly aid, this inequality might, in a great measure, be remedied. That the blind have sufficient ingenuity, and can also acquire the requisite knowledge of any mechanical pursuit, necessary
to success, will not be questioned by any one, in the least acquainted with their history.
But, in any branch requiring the use of numerous tools, change of position, and bringing together many parts into one whole, they must necessarily lose more time, in feeling over their work, selecting, using and replacing their implements, than one who has his eyes. Here, then, arises their only inability to compete with other laborers. Facility is what they have lost, and not skill. It seems to us that, in those manufacturing establishments where labor is so divided among the operatives, that each person has but one distinct part of the whole to perform, and where no change of
position is requisite, the blind might perform some portions of the process with but little or no inconvenience. Should manufacturing establishments of this kind be erected, in connection with our Institutions, where machinery would facilitate labor, we think, with the aid of a few seeing persons to perform the most difficult parts, a more profitable and honorable operation might be conducted, than in the few simple trades at present selected for, and taught to, the blind. Complex mechanism seems never to have frightened them, but on the other hand, when left to their own inclination in this respect, they have almost uniformly selected those pursuits in which great ingenuity and delicacy of perception were most indispensable.
WILLIAM HUNTLY, a native of Barnstaple, in Devon, who was born blind, spent the principal portion of his life in watch and clock making. His father seems
to have possessed great skill in this business, and brought up his son to the same craft. He was considered by the inhabitants of his native place, a very superior hand in his profession, especially in repairing musical clocks and watches. It is said that he seldom met with any difficulty, even in the most complicated cases; and it often occurred that when others failed in repairing a clock or watch, Huntly found no trouble in discovering the nature of the malady, and presently administered the proper nogtrum. Had not our own experience and observation taught us to what an astonishing degree the sense of touch may be cultivated, the idea of making it supply the place of the eye, and a powerful magni. fying glass, (which is generally used by jewelers,) might, to us, as well as to others, seem preposterous. Besides, these facts will appear still more reconcilable, when it is remembered that Huntly lived in the days of huge wooden clocks, and watches about the size of a Moravian biscuit.
Neither is he the only blind person who turned his attention to this art. WILLIAM KENNEDY, who became sightless in childhood, had the reputation of being one of the best clock builders, both common and musical, of his time. This mechanical genius was a native of Tanderagee, Armagh, and lived in the latter part of the seventeenth century. When a boy, he was master builder and projector for all the children in his native town, nor did maturer years relax his desire to engage in useful employments. When at the age of thirteen, having been sent to Armagh for the purpose of receiving lessons in music, and while there, residing with a cabinet maker, his mechanical propensities were newly awakened, and he soon made himself acquainted with the tools of his host, and the manner of working them. Although this more congenial employment occupied much of his time, he also made a very satisfactory progress in music; but, on his return home, his first care was to procure tools, with which he fabricated many articles of household furniture. He also constructed Irish bagpipes of a very improved patent, together with other wind and stringed instruments; and so perfect was his knowledge in this art, that he was, by a sort of common consent, elected repairer and builder-general, for the entire musical order, over a large section of country. In the alternate occupations of clock and cabinet making, building looms, with their various tacklings, and his other mechanical accomplishments, he maintained and raised a large and respectable family.
Another genius of the same kind, not altogether without fame, was THOMAS WILSON, a native of Dumfries, who lost his sight in very early infancy. His intuitive fondness for mechanical pursuits, early enticed him to gain a knowledge of the wood-turning trade, in which occupation he spent most of his life. So well did he succeed in this business, that his rolling-pins and potatoe-mashers gained great reputation among the good wives of both town and country; and
in making tinsmiths' mallets, lint-breaks, and hucksters' stands, honest Tom was acknowledged on every side to be without a rival. He also made a lathe suited to his purpose, and the numerous tools which this business requires, he had so arranged that he could take from his shelf any one he might need, without the least difficulty.
It is related of Cæsar, the ambitious Roman, that, on passing through a small country village one day, in company with some of his courtiers, he turned to one of them, and said, “ Believe me, I had rather be the first man in this small town, than the second in Rome.” If Wilson was inspired with any such desires of superiority, he had the good fortune to have them early gratified; for, in addition to the Donor arising from his mechanical genius, he was elected principal, not of a college or university, for why should he have his peace of mind disturbed by the impertinent trickery of mischievous students ? but principal of the high situation of bell-ringer in the mid-steeple of Dumfries. And to prove to all future generations that a blind man can be true to high situations, as well as any other man, he died at his post, in the mid-steeple, at the age of seventy-five years, and the sixty-third year of his bell-ringership. He was respected and beloved during the whole of his life, by his fellow-citizens, and all who knew him. It appears that he was never married, but lived the enviable life of a bachelor, doing his own cooking,