Thomas James was known as The Blind Teacher. For over thirty years, he travelled many kilometres throughout Victoria, despite having never seen the Australian landscape through which he travelled. Whether negotiating his way along suburban streets and laneways, or along country roads and dirt tracks, he travelled with a faithful companion, a dog which he had trained to guide him safely.
I first came across the name Tilly Aston in an exhibition on Vision Impairment at the Victorian Museum in 2012. I later learnt more about this remarkable and inspiring woman by reading her Memoirs, as well as some of her poetry from her published collections.
James Holman was born in 1786 in his father’s apothecary shop in Exeter. Exeter was a prosperous, inland port in south western England.
The shop, a forerunner to what we now know as a chemist, was full of unfamiliar things from all around the world. It played a big part in determining James’ childhood decision to one day travel the world and explore the places from which all these strange items came. It also stirred his lifelong fascination with the unfamiliar and uncertain things in life.’