The above image is from the 1907 Braille Review. This Magazine is published by the Secretary of Gardners Trust for the Blind, 53, Victoria Street, Westminster, S.W. ROYAL BLIND ASYLUM AND SCHOOL, WEST CRAIGMILLAR, EDINBURGH. Source: flickr.org
Michael McCarthy (#16), also referred to as “Blind Mike”, was born in Ireland in 1843 and immigrated to Canada sometime before 1860. Michael was listed on the 1861 Census of Canada where he was living with Alice McCarthy (1847- maybe 1872), potentially his younger sister, and a family of five: Edward (1819-1880), Eliza (1821-1892), Edward Jr. (1854-1920), James (1856-1919), and John Hennin (1858-). Edward Hennin was working as a labourer and the family, Michael and Alice lived together in a “board shanty” in Berlin. The census mentioned that the McCarthy’s are related to the Hennin’s and they are all from Ireland (except for the Hennin children who were born in Upper Canada), suggesting that Edward and Eliza could be Michael and Alice’s aunt and uncle or that Eliza was their mother and remarried Edward Hennin. Michael was listed as being blind and attending school along with the eldest Hennin child, Edward Jr..
He was committed to the Poorhouse four days after it opened on June 21st 1869, at 26 years old. He was listed as a labourer and his cause of pauperism was listed as blindness. His nationality is listed as Ireland, and the logbook states that he had been living in the Canada for 12 years.
In the Minutes for the Standing Committee on January 29 1873, it was ordered that an application for Michael McCarthy be made to admit him to the Ontario Institution for the Blind at Brantford.
Berlin 29th Jany. 1873
The Standing Committee on House of Industry & Refuge met this day –
Present Messrs Snyder, Betzner, Simpson, Tyson & Walter –
Mr. Snyder in the chair –
Ordered that application be made for the admission of Michael McCarthy, an inmate of the House of Indy & Refuge, into the Ontario Institution for the Blind at Brantford, and that his board be paid for out of the County funds at the rate of one dollar per week – That a report be presented to Council this day recommending the foregoing,
The application was then sent to the Council Committee for consideration.
At some point, the application was rejected by the council and Michael remained at the House.
Michael McCarthy is often referred to as “Blind Mike” in the 1893 investigation of the Poorhouse, where multiple reports of abuse were filed against Peter and Alvina Itter, the managers of the House at the time. There were a number of testimonies stating that Blind Mike was regularly abused by the Itter’s.
When Peter Itter was called on by the court to explain his actions, he said that he was punishing Michael for disobedience and that he was actually very nice to the “blink inmates”.
The Itter’s were acquitted of all accusations against them and asked to resign by the Council. For more information on the 1893 Scandal, please visit the House page.
Michael McCarthy died at the Poorhouse on September 19th, 1904 of paralysis. It is stated that he was buried at the Roman Catholic Cemetery in Berlin by his half-brother, who could have been Edward, James or John Hennin as they were related to Michael and Alice.