Frank Ross Maguire, a deaf artist executed this painting of The Last Supper in 1916.
The painting was originally executed by Maguire as a start towards an all-round design of a fresco for the bare lower walls of St. Saviour’s Church in Oxford Street, London. “He had a great and earnest desire to make the Church more beautiful, and to carry on for it some of the work he had executed at Cabra Institution Chapel” 1 in Dublin, Ireland. The frame was procured much later as a remembrance of the late H. Bass who was a Lay Reader for many years under the Rev. F. W. G. Gilby. When St. Saviour’s Church was pulled down in 1922 to make way for new shops and offices, the painting was transferred to St. Bede’s Church in Clapham, then St. Barnabas Church, Lewisham, and its last resting home was at St. Saviour’s, Acton, West London. The painting came to the Deaf Museum along with other paintings and artefacts upon the closure of St. Saviour’s, Acton, in 2014.
The Passing of Saint Saviour’s, (The First Church for the Deaf and Dumb), Oxford Street, London 1873-1922, Royal Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb, .
A 14 inches long gash was found on the painting and it was believed that a hearing group had hired the hall and had placed a row of chairs in front of the painting and some persons rocking their chairs resulted in this deep gash.
The painting was repaired by a professional restorer and is now in excellent condition.
Who was Francis Ross Maguire?
Francis Ross Maguire was born deaf in London in 1855, the son of an engineering surveyor, Thomas H. Maguire. Francis, known as Frank after he married, had a sister, Teresa and a younger brother, Walter, who were also born deaf. They were originally admitted to the London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb in Old Kent Road but because the family was Roman Catholic, Francis’s mother was concerned about their religious education. After the death of Thomas, there was no Catholic school for deaf children in England so Francis at the age of 13 was admitted to St. Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys at Cabra in August 1868 after being recommended by Viscountess Castlerose. His sister Teresa was admitted to St. Mary’s School for Deaf Girls at Cabra in 1869. The Brothers sing the Irish Sign Language educated Francis and he stayed only for two years.
He returned home to London and attended the Lambeth School of Art to study painting, sketching and stained glass techniques. He started working as a stained glass artist for a religious firm, Burns,Gills and Oates of London, for which he painted many religious pictures, oil paintings and icons for mainly Catholic Churches in the British Isles and abroad including Canterbury Cathedral.
The Last Supper on wall in St Saviour’s
Church, Oxford Street, London
He married Annie O’Brien, a deaf Irish woman, in 1887. He went to Cabra and stayed there from 1912 to 1915 where he did several murals for the school chapel and refectory. Francis did not ask for payment for his work at St. Joseph’s.
After his wife’s death in 1909 Frank increasingly became senile as he grew older and was admitted twice to the Brookwood Mental Hospital near Woking, Surrey, and eventually died there in March 1934 at the age of 79. He is buried in the St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery in London with his wife, his mother and sister Harriet.
Photograph of Francis Ross Maguire with his pet dog.