Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pioneers of Esperanto in Keighley

Pioneers of Esperanto in Keighley, Yorkshire

As we celebrate the 125th anniversary of Esperanto, we have an opportunity to take a look at the early years of the language in Britain. Esperanto was first published in 1887, of course. Its first adepts lived in the then Russian Empire, but it began to gain adherents in Great Britain from about 1900 onwards.

The names and addresses of early speakers of Esperanto in Keighley, with their registration numbers are as follows in the Adresaro de Esperantistoj (collection of addresses of Esperantists). In those early days of the language it was necessary to register, first with Warsaw, later with Paris in order to make full use of the language and have access to other speakers. The number given is a unique one for each individual. Indeed, early users of the language frequently signed articles in the press with that number alone, knowing that anyone wanting to contact them could easily find their address in one or another Adresaro.

Here are the names of those pioneers of over a century ago:

(Series XXI, January 1900 – January 1901).

5260 Joseph Rhodes, 54 Drewry Terrace

Rhodes (pictured) was one of only five British citizens to appear in this list of 541 names.

(Series XXII, January 1901 – January 1902).

6102 J.A. Woollard, Hartington Street 4 (sic)

6110 S-rino (=Mrs) Elisabeth Rhodes, 54 Drewry Terrace

6129 Smith-Terry (sic), Starkie Street 29 (sic)

January 1902 to January 1903 (Series XXIII).

6701 Jom (sic) Swire, Clerk, 3 Hartington Street

6725 James Morton, solicitor, Devonshire Street

6887 Mary M. Smith, 8 Lord Street

7123 Frank Wilkinson, 20 Drake Street

7239 James Watson, 265 Bradford Road

7240 H.W. Hamilton, 15 Nashville Terrace

7241 Alfred D’Eduarte Smith, 33 Rupert Street

7242 Allan S. Scott, Denbigh Hill, Oakworth

7243 Wm H. Hainsworth, 91 Eshton Terrace

7244 J. Edwin Lister, Apsley Road, Oakworth

7245 Duncan R. Carr, 39 Upper Green

7246 Wm. Armstrong, 6 Leaf Street, Lees

7337 Johnson Wilkinson, 8 Cartmel Road

7341 F.G. Rowe, 28 West View Terrace

7342 Fraŭlino (=Miss) Ellen Uttley, Masonic Buildings, Cook St

7343 Percy Midgley, 38 Enfield Street

7344 Fraŭlino (=Miss) Amy Green, 11 Cliff Street

7345 J.P. Henderson, Woodhouse Farm

7346 G.S. Laycock, Quarry House, Utley

7347 Andrew Smith, 52 Belgrave Road

7408 Tom Carr, 45 High Street

In fact, it was in Keighley that Esperanto had its first great success in Britain. Here Joseph Rhodes (1856-1920), a local journalist, established the first Esperanto Society in the UK, in November 1902, where he became the secretary and John Ellis the president. Presumably, some of those named above became its earliest members. The first textbook published for British students of Esperanto, First Lessons in Esperanto was a translation by Joseph Rhodes of Théophile Cart's earlier work in French. Joseph Rhodes also compiled The English-Esperanto Dictionary: Based Upon the Fundamento, the Esperanto, the Esperanto Literature, and the National Esperanto Dictionaries Bearing Dr. Zamenhof's Aprobo (1908). Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (translated by Joseph Rhodes, La progresado de la pilgrimanto de tiu ĉi mondo ĝis la venonta:Rakontita kvazaŭ sonĝo de Johano Bunjano (1628-1688), saw the light of day at Stead's publishing house in 1907.

In his The International Auxiliary Language Esperanto, Grammar & Commentary (1906), Major-General George Cox claimed wrongly that “Esperanto was first introduced into Great Britain by Mr. Joseph Rhodes”. Whilst this claim is not true, Joseph Rhodes was indeed a worthy pioneer and it thanks to his personality and his knowledge of journalism that the language thrived.

Also pictured here is a card in Esperanto (from my collection) sent in 1907 by Fred Waterhouse, a neighbour of Joseph Rhodes, to his correspondent in Vierzon, France.

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