‘We were nearly never born thanks to blind prejudice’
SIBLINGS who recognised their mum and dad in old photos published by the Evening News have revealed their parents were nearly sterilised because of prejudice against people without sight.
Andrew Hunter and Catherine Leslie said they were stunned when they saw parents Andrew and Louisa in photos released by the Capital’s Royal Blind School which date from the early twentieth century.
They said the pictures sparked painful memories of the struggle endured by the couple to live a normal life and give birth to their children in 1930s Edinburgh.
And they paid tribute to the unstinting support provided by school staff – even years after Andrew and Louisa left.
Catherine, 71, said: “That school helped them enormously – it was a saviour to them.”
The school, run by charity Royal Blind, is the organisation chosen for this year’s Evening News Christmas Appeal.
The campaign is aiming to raise as much as possible to help provide vital equipment and funding for the many services the charity provides.
The siblings said the school played a key role in bringing their parents together and enabling them to live independently.
Andrew, 68, said: “My father had left the Blind School and was working in Gillespie Crescent at the blind craft workshop. He taught people how to make baskets.
“He went back to the school for a reunion tour and my mum was a senior school pupil.
“When my dad met her again, he knew there and then that he would marry her and turned round to the friends he was with and told them that.”
Andrew and Catherine said their parents kept in touch and it is believed the couple tied the knot in 1937.
But although Louisa and Andrew set up a happy home in their first flat in Moncrieff Terrace next to the Meadows, life was far from plain sailing.
Andrew said: “There was a lot of stigma attached to being blind back then. I know they had difficulty getting married. I think the city council told them not to. They also didn’t want my mum and dad to have kids.
“And when they were about to get married, the authorities wanted my mum to have an operation so she wouldn’t be able to have any kids.”
But the couple were defiant, with Louisa giving birth to Andrew and Catherine, and older brother Stuart, now 74.
The siblings said their parents’ success in raising a family amid deep-seated hostility and prejudice was due in no small part to the efforts of staff at the Royal Blind School.
“Even after they had left and got married, staff from the school would visit them to ask if they needed anything,” said Andrew.
“It was so emotional to see those photos. They were great parents – I couldn’t have asked for better.”
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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