The traveller

Viscount Cranbourne

Since 1799, we’ve always pushed back against what society expects from people with disabilities. One person who certainly believed in that was Viscount Cranborne. 

Viscount Cranborne was elected Vice-President in 1849, and had a severe visual impairment that meant he was almost completely blind. But that didn’t stop him living an active and adventurous life. 

Cranborne travelled all round Europe, writing a journal and a series of essays under the pseudonym ‘The Blind Traveller’, with his sighted friend Edmund Johnson. They visited almost all the major institutions ‘devoted to the care of the blind’ over the course of their travels, including Haüy’s blind school in Paris that had originally inspired the founding of SeeAbility. 

On one occasion during their travels, the pair spent thirty days in an uncomfortable horse-drawn carriage travelling from St. Petersburg to Odessa – a journey from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south.  

After Cranborne’s death in 1865, his family remained close to the school. His son, who took over as Vice-President from 1873 until 1903, was the Marquess of Salisbury and served as Prime Minister three times in the late 19th Century. His friend, Edmund Johnson would become a keen advocate for blind people, and ended up working for SeeAbility for 45 years! 

Cranborne’s story is an amazing parallel to one of our current Patrons, Amar Latif OBE, who runs Traveleyes, a company offering holiday adventures for people with sight loss!