Shropshire Star

How Lucy Lunt brought sunshine into lives of blind children

In her elderly, open-topped car, headmistress Lucy Lunt would take her young charges out for rides in the Shropshire countryside, delighting them as, with the hood down, 25mph seemed fast and exciting.

Story time with Miss Lunt at Overley Hall in November 1961.

They enjoyed many happy hours riding around the country lanes, and although the children could not enjoy the sights, they could enjoy the sounds, smells, and sensations.

One day David was in a serious mood, and asked her: "Will I be able to do this myself? Drive, I mean?"

Only a truthful answer would do. "No David." "Not ever?" "No David."

Miss Lunt suggested that a girl might drive him. After much consideration David responded "All right, that'll do," before thumping his hand on the seat and adding "But it'll be my car."

For eight years spanning the 1950s and early 1960s Miss Lunt was head of a nursery school for blind children run by the Royal National Institute for the Blind. Based at Overley Hall, near Wellington, it was one of six Sunshine House Nursery Schools run by the RNIB and Miss Lunt's role saw her striving to bring sunshine into the lives of the youngsters, boys and girls from all over the country.

Overley Hall

The children loved the hall, with its large gardens, and were fascinated when a tree blew down as, through exploring the felled pine, they could for the first time appreciate how high trees were. There were holiday trips to the seaside too.

During Miss Lunt's time there were normally 24 children living there, aged between two and a half to nine or 10, but most being in the four to eight age group, with the primary handicap being blindness, although not many were totally blind.

Story time with Miss Lunt at Overley Hall in November 1961.

When she first started some of the children were mobile, but gradually it built up as a household with children with various additional physical or mental impairments, or both.

On Saturday afternoons she would often take some of the boys to listen to the trains. Frankie got caught in a thorn bush and complained loudly.

"Shut up, Frankie," said Dennis. "If you make a noise I can't see."

That became the title of Miss Lunt's book published in 1965, three years after she had left Overley Hall, in which she told of her experiences and of the children under her care there.

Miss Lunt with the book she wrote about her experiences.

"My eight years with these children were probably the deepest experience I ever had in my life," she said.

And it was a varied life. Born in Shrewsbury, she was educated at Shrewsbury Girls' High School, and during the war she helped with the care of evacuees from Liverpool. In 1947 she founded the nursery nurses' training scheme at the old Shrewsbury Technical College.

It was a county council project in which she supervised the instruction of about 132 girls for a career in nursing. Previously she had been head of Leaton Knolls C of E School, and also in charge of Hodnet Nursery School.

There was also a long association with the Girl Guides, starting in 1933 when she became a guider at Church Stretton. She retired as the Shrewsbury district commissioner in 1977.

And along the way she served as a Shrewsbury town councillor for three years. She lived with her parents in Oak Street, Shrewsbury.

On leaving Overley Hall in 1962 she had intended to retire, but instead was asked to return to her previous role of training nursery nurses in Shropshire.

Children get to grips with a climbing frame in the grounds.

In her book she writes: "I hope my story will awake or foster an existing sense of comradeship and warmth with the children it describes, and create a willing and sympathetic wish to know and understand such children within your sphere.

"Most of them have so much need for unsentimental interest and encouragement, and want so deeply to be offered friendship."

The RNIB's Sunshine Home at Overley Hall which began in 1950 closed in July 1980.

However it marked the start of a new chapter, as the hall was immediately bought by Paul and Anita Brown, who set up a residential school for children with special needs.

Today Overley Hall School is an independent special school for children aged eight to 19, many of whom live on-site.

The book If You Make a Noise I Can't See by Miss Lucy Lunt
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