Seeing Our History

Seeing Our History is an RNIB Scotland project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

It explores the lives of people with sight loss in Edinburgh, the Lothians and the Borders of Scotland one hundred years ago.

Here you can discover the findings of our volunteer researchers. They have been exploring the lives of visually impaired people who lived in the wider community, sometimes known as the 'outdoor blind' because they didn't live in the blind institutions, or 'asylums' as they were known at the time.

Our research is based on The Register of the Outdoor Blind for the region from around 1903 to 1911. We matched entries against the census and birth, marriage and death records to build up life stories tracing the lives of individual blind people.


Through these six audio stories, you can experience their successes and struggles and find out more about the project.

Employment – and the case study of William Finlay

Dependence and Independence - and the case study of Robert Ponton

Lodging Houses – and the case study of John Richardson

Poorhouses – and the case study of Mary Howie

Education and Raised Type – and the case study of Bella Wood

Stereotyping and Mental Health - and the case study of Georgina McDonald


Our main accompanying book, ‘Feeling Our History’, explores these stories and their historical context in more depth.

‘Hearing Our History’ is a companion volume. It is a compilation of transcripts of the Insight Radio podcasts.

These books are available online, in print and in accessible formats.

To order in large print, audio or braille, contact

‘Feeling Our History’

Accessible Word Document Version –

Feeling_Our_History_Accessible_Word_Version.doc (right-click to open/save)

Accessible PDF Document Version –

RNIBFeelingOurHistory.pdf (right-click to open/save)

 ‘Hearing Our History’

Accessible Word Document Version –

Hearing_Our_History_Accessible_Word_Version.doc (right-click to open/save)

Accessible PDF Document Version –

RNIBHearingOurHistory.pdf (right-click to open/save)

The Theme Tune

Find out about the music behind the Seeing Our History podcasts by clicking here

The Team

The Seeing Our History team has worked and learned together on the project. Find out more about the team here.

Image: Picture of some of the Seeing Our History team out researching the project

Image of RNIB Scotland logo with the headline Supporting People with Sight Loss

Image of Lottery Funded logo and the logo for the Heritage Lottery Fund