A Deaf man, George Mackenzie (who was born in Liverpool) married a Deaf lady and they moved to Cambridge. George asked the Church for a place for Deaf people to meet. The Church asked him “Where are the Deaf people in Cambridge?”.” My wife is Deaf also, and our Deaf friends come to our house. ” At that time, George was working in an office in Hardwick Road in Cambridge.
In 1912, the Bishop from the Diocese of Ely (Cambridge came under the Diocese), had its first meeting and George Mackenzie became its first President and Missioner for the Deaf.
The Isle of Ely and Cambridgeshire Association for The Deaf and Dumb opened on 16th June 1927 at Hope Hall, 8, Romsey Terrace, Cambridge. In the meantime, George Mackenzie had moved to Wales and the new Missioner for the Deaf named Harry Rowland and his Deaf wife had come to live in Hope Cottage next door to the building.
Harry was responsible for the social and welfare of all Deaf people in Cambridgeshire. He even cycled to Wisbech once a week or so, to look after the needs of the Deaf in that area!
In 1957, Harry Rowland retired and Mr Bradford acted as a temporary Missioner.
In 1958, Mr Bernard Gollop, a hearing man, became the new Missioner.
At that time, Bishop Gordon Walsh started to raise money to build a Chapel on the grounds of Hope Hall. The Chapel cost around £11,000 and it was consecrated by Bishop Walsh on 17th March 1962. Mr Gollop took Church services for the Deaf and I can remember going to St. Peter’s in March for a service taken by Mr Gollop.
Mr Gollop’s wife was a very good worker and she was involved with many voluntary groups who helped the Association. Mr Gollop retired in 1980.
Over the years, times had changed and it was felt that the days of Missioner to the Deaf was no longer, who were on call 24 hours of the day to help the Deaf.
Ms Caroline Taylor, who was Social Worker to the Deaf at the time was the next person to be appointed and became the first Community Worker for Cambridgeshire Deaf Association (even the name of Isle of Ely and Cambridgeshire Association of The Deaf and Dumb had changed).
Now referred to as CDA, Caroline had to cover the whole of Cambridgeshire, which included as far north as Peterborough. Eventually, a new Community Worker was appointed for the Peterborough area, Michael Knight.
Michael Knight had an office in Broadway. Later, Michael Knight left, and CDA felt it was too costly to appoint another Community Worker as the expenses worked out too high with office rent and travelling expenses.
After Caroline left, Bernadette Hempstead took over. She was hearing, but she was one of 10 children and her parents were the well known Deaf couple in Cambridge. Her father Willie Hempstead ran the Cambridge Deaf Club for many years. Bernadette did not stay very long.
The next person appointed was Ali Gordon. Ali became well known around Peterborough as she was the first Community Worker for the Deaf to do training and work for Deaf clients who visited the Citizen Advice Bureau. Around this time, Social Services had set up the Asian Deaf Group. Ali occasionally called in to see them, which was run by a Deaf coordinator. Ali stayed for about 5 years then we had a new Community Worker.
In October 1999, Jamie Billam was appointed the First Deaf Community Worker. (George Mackenzie and Harry Rowland were Deaf Missioners).
To date, Jamie Billam has worked very hard for the Deaf all over Cambridgeshire. He is well known in the 4 Deaf Clubs in the area. Cambridge (who hold their Deaf Club on the CDA premises), March, Papworth and Peterborough.
Jamie has a great understanding of the needs and issues of Deaf People. (During the restructuring of the council boundary line in Cambridgeshire when Peterborough council became a Unitary Authority separated from Cambridgeshire County Council). Jamie has always supported the needs of the Asian Deaf Group, which is overseen by CDA.
Cambridgeshire Deaf Association is Jamie Billam’s employer. CDA looks after Jamie and needs to receive up-to-date information on his work on behalf of CDA. That is why every 3 months (4 times a year) there is a CDA meeting when he publishes his Community Development Officers report. The Chair, Secretary, Treasurer and Committee members are there to support Jamie in every way.