Blind Welfare in Keighley
The history of Blind Welfare in Keighley began on the 9 May 1907 when Miss Haigh, the welfare worker for the Town Mission to the Sick and Needy was asked to give the matter particular attention. The Town Mission was the only unsectarian mission in Keighley and was established in 1879. Miss Haigh began by hiring a room from The Mission at 1 Rook Street, Highfield Lane, Keighley (now Rosemount Flats) to which blind people came one evening each week where they were entertained with music and reading and later were taught knitting, basket work and Braille reading.
To help her in this work, Miss Haigh enlisted the aid of Miss Agnes Clough of the Knowle and Miss Mary Craven Laycock. These young ladies entered into the work with enthusiasm, they visited the blind people in their homes and sought instruction and advice at the Royal Institution for the Blind in Bradford.
In 1910 the room in Rook Street was replaced by one at 13 Scott Street, Keighley, where Mr Herbert Smith, the Blind tea agent was installed with his wife. The corner room overlooking Scott Street and Spencer Street became the headquarters of the blind work with Miss Haigh still as leader and mainspring of the work until sometime between 1911 and 1913 when it separated from the Town Mission and Keighley Institution for the Blind was born.
In the spring of 1919 the executors of the late Mr Wilson Bailey decided to sell the property comprising of No’s 13 and 15 Scott Street and No 5 Spencer Street Keighley and gave the Institution the option to purchase. It was decided to accept the offer and a Committee was formed to undertake the task of raising £1,500, which in a very short time was successfully completed.
In the Keighley News of the 29th November 1919 it is reported that on the 25th November 1919 at a public meeting held in the Mayor’s Parlour at the Keighley Town Hall, Miss Alice Clough, president of Keighley Institution for the Blind moved a resolution to the effect that the name of the Keighley Institution for the Blind should be changed to Keighley and District Institution for the blind, that the area of its operation should be the poor of Keighley and Skipton.
In 1959 The Institution became Keighley and District Association for the Blind. On the 9 of May 2007, the Association celebrated its 100th year of supporting local Blind and partially sighted people.
In 2011 Keighley and District Association for the Blind became sight airedale.
Pioneer Worker – Miss Haigh
Extract from the Annual Report of Keighley and District Institution for the Blind for the year ending March 31st 1924.
“Although not directly concerned with the year in question, it would be unfitting to omit mentioning the loss the Institution has suffered recently in the death of Miss Haigh – The pioneer worker among the Blind in Keighley.
Miss Haigh has been a member of the Committee during the whole of the institution existence. For two years previous to that however, she and two or three sympathisers whom she influenced, were entertaining the Blind people of the Town each week in a small room of a house in Rook Street.
Though for the past few years Miss Haigh has not been able, on account of ill-health to take a very active part in the work. Her sympathy and interest never diminished and she was one of the most regular in attendance at the Committee meetings to the last fortnight of her life.
The memory of her zeal and enthusiasm should act as a spur to those of us who are left to carry on the work, if at any time our interest should appear to flag.”