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Wednesday 10th March BBC2 1pm

SH Line Producer | 15:13 UK time, Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Ten years ago Graham Moxon lost the hearing in his right ear as a result of a virus.  At the time it didn't impact on his life too radically.  But last summer overnight, Graham totally lost his hearing.  He shared his story with See Hear and told us how he'd adapted his life to accommodate his sudden deafness.  Our cameras were there at the pivotal moment when Graham discovered whether or not he was suitable for a cochlear implant, an operation on which he was pinning his hopes.  Graham started writing a blog to document his own story:



We find out how young jockey, Philip Prince, overcame the hurdles in his way to win his battle with the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and become officially recognised as an amateur competitor.  Philip was born with a condition that caused him to have only one ear.  Sound could get in and though he had a hearing aid in his younger years he coped better without.  He then got into pony riding and racing.  Racing was something that he could do the same as anybody else.  After a promising career in pony racing Philip suffered a massive blow.  The BHA denied him a jockey's licence as they felt his poor hearing could make him unsafe in a race.  He appealed and after a long fight he made his debut as an amateur jockey in December 2009.


Also, there's another chance to explore the fascinating story of British Sign Language in the first of a four-part series with Clark Denmark.


Research into the history of British Sign Language is difficult as it has no written form.  Evidence of its early use was reported by hearing observers who came across signing and recorded their impressions.  The first factual evidence emerges in the 8th Century when scholarly monk the Venerable Bede left records.  It's thought that monks may have developed signing to communicate with each other having taken a vow of silence.  The signs were nothing like those used today. 


Fast forward to 1576 and the first ever written record showing evidence of sign language connected to deaf people is in the Leicester Parish Archives.  Deaf man Thomas Tilsye, used signs at his wedding to Ursula Russell.  Back then signing was accepted in law and by the church just like the spoken and written word.  The records show that Tilsye used gestures such as the tolling of the bell for 'til death us do part' in the wedding vows.


1595 is the next written evidence of signing.  Richard Carew details in a history of Cornwall how a deaf man Edward Bone, servant to an MP, signed to his boss and to his deaf friend John Kempe.  Carew writes that Bone communicated in different styles with each man.  This was the first description of natural deaf language. 


From roughly the 1640s most of the evidence of sign seems to be in the form of finger spelling.  A possible reason for this is that finger spelling is related to English which meant it was easier for hearing people to access and to record.  One of the most intriguing records is in a book from 1641 - "Mercury the Secret and Swift Messenger" - which has some of the earliest records of finger spelling.  But these records are not about deaf people but its use by spies during the English Civil War.  The military realised that finger spelling could be used by spies to communicate secret messages to each other.   One particularly ancient method described in the book is Arthrologie - the first form of finger spelling.   This guide for spies clearly showed the roots of the modern BSL alphabet using the same vowels as today.


Next week we continue our journey with the establishment of the first deaf schools and we see when Sign Language went on trial for its very existence.




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