Pounds, John (DNB00)

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POUNDS, JOHN (1766–1839), gratuitous teacher of poor children, was born in St. Mary Street, Portsmouth, on 17 June 1766. His father, a sawyer in the royal dockyard, apprenticed John, at twelve years of age, to a shipwright. In 1781 Pounds, then a youth six feet in height, fell into a dry dock, and was crippled for life. He put himself under the instruction of an old shoemaker in the High Street, and in 1803 started as a shoemender on his own account in a weather-boarded tenement in St. Mary Street. In 1818 he took charge of one of the children of his sailor brother, five years of age. Feeling that companionship for his nephew was desirable, he added first one child then another to his pupils. With a natural power of teaching and love of children, he thus became voluntary and gratuitous schoolmaster to the poorest children of Portsmouth. His numbers averaged about forty, including twelve little girls. His modes of teaching were chiefly interrogatory and realistic. He taught reading from handbills, and preferred old school-books to new. In arithmetic he taught up to the double rule of three. He instructed children how to cook their own food, mend their shoes, and make their playthings. He was doctor, nurse, master of sports, and companion on excursions into the country. His philanthropy also displayed itself in relieving his poor neighbours in winter notably in 1837-8, a winter of exceptional severity and his sympathy with and power over animals were remarkable.

In 1838 a characteristic portrait was painted of Pounds by H. S. Sheaf of Landport, a journeyman shoemaker. It is in the possession of the family of the late Edward Carter, esq., of Portsmouth. There was a lithograph, drawn by W. Mitchell and engraved by W. Charpentier. Pounds died on 1 Jan. 1839.

After his death came the recognition of his influence. Schools were established as memorials; publications in England, Scotland, and America extolled his virtues. In 1847 Dr. Guthrie wrote his 'Plea for Ragged Schools,' and proclaimed Pounds as originator of the idea. In 1855 a memorial stone was erected to Pounds, and placed on his grave in High Street Chapel burial-ground.

[Hawkes's Recollections of John Pounds; Blessley's Memoir of the late John Pounds of Portsmouth; Saunders's Annals of Portsmouth, pp. 169-72.]

F. W.-n.