Born deaf at Dundee, Scotland; home schooled at first, then attended a local regular school for a few years until moving to London as a private pupil at The Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb on Kent Road.
There is a gap in his known life until 1830, when he was a co-founder of a new church for the deaf in Edinburgh. He opened a day school for the deaf in Edinburgh with two other deaf teachers, but left in 1834 to become headmaster of the Aberdeen Institution for the Deaf and Dumb.
In 1841, he moved to Bristol to head the newly founded Bristol Institution for the Deaf and Dumb in Tyndall Park, but left abruptly after 2 years under mysterious "hostile conditions".
He never taught in a school again, but in 1844 returned to Edinburgh, being appointed to work in a religious instruction society for the deaf; he was also active in deaf temperance societies. Forced into retirement in 1866 from the infirmities of old age; died at Barnsbury from bronchitis.