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Blind Alick

From: The Boy's Scrap Book
Creator: n/a
Date: 1839
Publisher: American Sunday School Union
Source: San Francisco State University, Marguerite Archer Collection of Historic Children's Materials

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This singular old man lately died at Stirling, and the age of about seventy-five years. Alick was blind from his birth, was a native of Stirling, in Scotland, and was so well acquainted with its streets and public walks, that he never, even in his old age, required a staff to direct his steps. But the most remarkable feature in Alick's character was his retentive memory, and the extreme acuteness of those senses on which the blind depend for compensating, in some measure, for the loss of sight. He had, at an early age, been supported and sent to the school of the late Mr. McLaren, by the guildry of Stirling -- the latter more perhaps with the view of keeping him out of harm's way than from the hope of his deriving any permanent advantage. But this was neither the intention of Alick, not of his worthy teacher. At that time nothing was known of Mr. Gall's admirable contrivance for teaching the blind to read: therefore, Mr. McLaren adopted the only plan left to him, that of causing some one of the boys to read daily a portion of the Scriptures to Alick, beginning with the Old Testament, and reading regularly through to the end of the New Testament. By these means, and attending to the classes while reading their lesson, Alick, from his powerful memory, became in due time and admirable scholar, so far as mere recitation went. Indeed, he soon became more than a match for some of the young fellows whose duty it was to read a chapter to him; for although he delighted in the exercise himself, it was often viewed in the light of an irksome task by the boys, who, in order to get the more speedily done with their labours, frequently tried to miss portions; but this, in the course of time, was invariably discovered by Alick, who, as a punishment, caused the boys to commence anew, and read the whole chapter again; a species of chastisement which Mr. McLaren never failed to enforce. We believe Alick continued to pursue his humble studies in this way till he grew up to manhood, and at length became so well acquainted with the books of sacred writ, that not only could he repeat any part of Scripture, but also on any part being quoted, he could point out the chapter and verse.


For the last forty years, the greater part of Alick's time was spent in perambulating the beautiful walks which surround the town and castle. Here he might be seen occasionally exciting the wonder of strangers by his powers of memory; and also, by the extreme delicacy of his sense of feeling, which was so very acute, that he could with wonderful accuracy, tell the colour of a person's coat by passing over it with his fingers. He was also not infrequently to be seen surrounded by a group of school-boys, busily engaged in drawing out their Bibles, and doing their best to puzzle Alick with quotations, but never without exciting their amazement ant the extent of that scriptural lore which baffled their best-laid schemes to detect him in fault. The truth, whoever, requires it to be told, that notwithstanding all his knowledge, Alick was nowise remarkable for piety. His memory was indeed powerful, since it enabled him to quote without hesitation, as already stated, any verse either in the Old or New Testament; but we suspect that he did not seriously ponder on its import.