The Ulster Society for Promoting the Education of the Deaf and the Blind, or simply the Ulster Society was officially created in 1836, however earlier versions and information about it can be shown as far back as 1831.
In 1831, there were attempts by some to try and educate the deaf children in Belfast. The initial school was based in the Congregational Church building on Donegal Street Belfast, within which a single room acted as a classroom. The teacher was only 17 years old, however, George Gordon was the brother of the person in charge of the School of the Deaf based in Claremont Dublin, which had been established 15 years previously in 1816.
Two years after the Belfast schools early and humble beginnings, the school moved to a different location. In 1833, the school was then based in a room in a building on King Street in Belfast. While initially it had been set up to school the deaf children of Belfast, some students came from outside the city and so boarded near the school in a small house owned by the same person who rented the room to the school.
The early committee which had established the Belfast based school in 1831 struggled to seek finance to support the school and its needs during the early days, and so in 1835 there was a meeting held to discuss whether the school should be closed. However, during this meeting a proposal was suggested that blind children should also be allowed to attend the school, not only increasing numbers, but potentially public interest and support as it would reach a wider audience, due to the increased number of people and their families who would be benefited by the school
Prior to this proposal, there had never been an attempt made in Belfast to teach blind children. Following the meeting there was an appeal via newspaper adverts to the public seeking their support to set up a school for Blind and Deaf Children. The public appeal was successful, to the surprise of the committee who had previously thought closure was the only option due to the lack of financial support. A public meeting was held, and public support meant that this meeting resolved to erect a building as quickly as possible within which to house the school.
The Belfast Charitable Society made a site in College Street Belfast available, and the new Belfast School for the Deaf and Blind was soon erected and complete for £800 by 1836. The new school was named “The Ulster Institute for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind” with the Committee and supporting members calling themselves “The Ulster Society for Promoting the Education of the Deaf and the Blind” (also known as the Ulster Society). It is from this point that the official school was created and the official history of the current model of the school is drawn from.
Canavan, Y.M., Jackson, A.J. and Stewart, A., 1997. Visual impairment in Northern Ireland. The Ulster medical journal, 66(2), p.92.
Jordan, A., 1990. Voluntary Societies in Victorian and Edwardian Belfast. Irish Economic and Social History, 17, p.96.
Pritchard, D.G., 2013. Education and the Handicapped 1760-1960. Routledge.
Pritchard, D.G., 1963. The Development of Schools for Handicapped Children in England during the Nineteenth Century. History of Education Quarterly, 3(4), pp.215-222.
Wilde, W.R., 1853. Statistics of the Deaf and Dumb in Ireland. Journal of the Statistical Society of London, 16(1), pp.69-77.
Unknown, Jordanstown School (2018) <http://www.jordanstownschool.org> [accessed 5 November 2018].