SELWYN AMOR NATHANIEL OXLEY, ENGLISH EDUCATOR of the BLIND
This cover has several points of interest, the English couple that were addressed, the printed kangaroo in the top left corner and the unusual name of their house in the address. There is a red King George V Silver Jubilee stamp depicting the King on the horse “Anzac” postmarked with a slogan cancel of ADELAIDE/ 1 JUN/ 430 AM/ 19(35) ‘AIR (MAIL)/ SAVES (TIME). The cover is addressed to Mr. & Mrs Selwyn Oxley, Ephphatha, 5 Grange Rd, Ealing, London W5, England, and the reverse was not seen (Figure 1).
The house name of Ephphatha, (as well as the name given to the trailer Oxley used to travel 25,000 miles in 20 months in 1924-26) is the Greek form of a Syro-Chaldaic or Aramaic word, meaning ‘Be Opened’ uttered by Christ when healing the man who was deaf and dumb (Mark 7:34). It tells of the story of how Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears and turned him into a hearing person. The term turns up in many papers concerning deafness.
The Oxley’s home at 5 Grange Road was purchased by Selwyn’s mother and was renamed “Ephphatha” in 1928 shortly before Selwyn married Kate Whitehead Oxley. According to Kate the home was intended originally as a Guild House, to house overseas visitors and to hold the Guild Library. Selwyn gathered up a considerable library related particularly to the education of the blind, and these were bequeathed by Oxley in 1957 to augment the library of the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNID, London).
Kate Oxley in her biography of Selwyn spends considerable space on his father, the Reverend William Henry Oxley, [B.A. (1870), M.A.(1874), Vicarage. Petersham, Surrey; Chaplain for Deaf Work & Warden of Guild of St. John, Beverley] known as W.H.O. Both he and his son had an eager and restless outlook, both were like the “Wandering Jew”, forever on the go, insatiable, always wanting to experience something new. Kate Oxley wrote: to understand Selwyn one had to go backward and study his background and upbringing. To know him, you had to know his father who was an even greater character than his son . A photograph of the Reverend and Selwyn Oxley is seen in Figure 2.
Selwyn Oxley was a pioneer educator of the deaf who worked at the Guild of St. John of Beverley for the Deaf, whose headquarters were at Ealing London, Selwyn being the Superintendent. He was also known as the Honorary Organising Secretary of the Guild. He had an international reputation, and his contributions to the education of the deaf was recognised by the fact that he was given an honorary Master of Arts degree by Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C.
Oxley was hard to research without access to his biography, for information on him revealed only very fragmentary data. The most information to be found was in a paper published by Selwyn Oxley in The Silent Worker, 1927 Volume 39 No. 9, pages 132-3 recounting his “Twenty-five Thousand Miles by Car for the Deaf”. The main purpose of this series of trips was to disseminate Guild pamphlets, British Deaf Times, back issues of The Deaf Quarterly News, copies of The Teacher of the Deaf , and other educational material at various centres in the UK caring for the deaf.
I wish to acknowledge the assistance of Rachel Barker, Librarian R.N.I.D., London, England and Nora Gaskin, Research Help Desk, Mills Library, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario in researching Oxley.