Rose Jones as a young girl

This story was recorded in 1991 when Rose was 86 years old I think it was about 1918, or maybe before this date, that I first heard about the Bahá’í Faith.  I never made an official ‘declaration’.  Mrs George, who was also known as Mother George, was a very fine artist and she lived in King’s Road, Chelsea.  She had a maid named Rachel Champion and she asked her if she knew of any young children because she was thinking of starting a children’s class.  Rachel had two young sisters and as I was a playmate of them I also was included.  I think we were five or six children and gradually the numbers rose to about nine or ten.  I loved these classes and the people, but the real understanding of the Faith grew as I got older.  We used to attend these classes each Wednesday and we learnt prayers and verses from The Hidden Words and stories about `Abdu’l-Bahá. We had many visitors from Iran who had close associations with `Abdu’l-Bahá and a very frequent visitor was Dr Lutfu’lláh Hakím, who was at university in England.  [Dr Hakím was later to become a member of the first Universal House of Justice – Ed.]  It was from Dr Hakím that I first heard Persian chanting.  I have a leather-bound notebook with Bahá’í quotations, dated 1919.  During these classes I wrote to `Abdu’l-Bahá about our classes and He replied.  In His letter He said that you must honour your parents and your teachers. (This letter is now in the Archives at Rutland Gate).  About seven years ago my daughter asked me if I still had the copy of that letter?  I couldn’t find it so I wrote to the National Office asking if I could have a copy.  They sent me a photocopy and kept the original.  At that time we did not really know the significance of how great a bounty it was to know of the Faith.  We also used to put on small plays, mostly Dickens, to which our parents and older Bahá’ís were invited. I was brought up a Christian.  My father was invalided when I was quite young, as a result of falling from a tree.  My mother and family were not Bahá’ís but many, many Bahá’ís came and stayed with us on various occasions and they liked them all – my other sisters, who used to go to 27 Rutland Gate sometimes, also would receive visitors.  Initially my family’s reaction was undecided about the Faith because of all the nationalities that attended the meetings, but once they had met them, they were overjoyed.  My mother used to say she was a Bahá’í but she couldn’t think that anyone could take the place of Christ, but she loved all the Bahá’ís. Some years later Mrs George travelled to Paris and Haifa and when she came back, she wrote and said she would like us to attend her Sunday afternoon classes, which we did.  There we met those early Bahá’ís, Miss Rosenberg, Miss Herrick, Mrs Ginman, Miss Elsie Lea, Miss Yandell (an American lady), Miss Gamble, Mr and Mrs Asghazadeh and many more.  We also attended the Unity Feasts given by Lady Blomfield and Miss Herrick.  We also met Dr Esslemont and Sister Challis and also the American Bahá’ís Mr and Mrs Romer, Mrs Hanford-Ford, Mary Hall and Claudia Coles.  I knew Alma Gregory’s mother (Mrs Ginman – Madam Charlot – a lovely lady).  I remember going to her house for dinner with Miss Lea to celebrate a Holy Day.

I heard of `Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing on our crystal set (radio receiver).  We had this primitive set, when the whisker kept coming off the crystal, and one pair of head phones, so it wasn’t often I got the chance of listening in, especially as I was the youngest in the family – but it was to be that I heard the announcement in November 1921.

Everything about the Faith attracted me – it was such a common sense religion.  Early public meetings were held at Notting Hill Mews, and on Sundays at Mrs George’s. In a way, I think we started the first summer school.  Miss Lea lent us her bungalow – she lived in Chelsea but used the bungalow at weekends.  It was when I was with her at her bungalow that she said our Youth Group could use it for a week.  It was in Shoreham-by-Sea.  Hasan Balyuzi, Mrs Brown and  her daughter Molly, Mr and Mrs Alizadeh, a Persian boy, an English lady, my sister and myself attended.  My sister, Emily Le Grey (always known as Cissie) was 15 years older than me and she became a Bahá’í much later in life. I remember so well that Hasan took the Shiite Moslem as his talk.  Later on Molly became Mrs Balyuzi and Mrs Brown became Lady Hornell. I did see Shoghi Effendi when he paid a visit to Mrs George.  He was then at Oxford and he came in late when everybody was about to leave and I remembered everyone greeting this young man.  However, as small children we made our departure, not knowing until the following Sunday who the distinguished gentleman was.  I never met him again. I never wrote to the Guardian.  Lots of people used to write to the Guardian on small, trifling, matters, which they could have worked out for themselves, and it used to annoy me – it wasn’t necessary.  The Guardian had so much to do and so much to worry about.  But when Shoghi Effendi sent his letters to the whole community, we would receive copies of his cables.  Sometimes the Guardian’s letters seemed to focus on something you were thinking about and saying.  It was marvellous and miraculous how these things came about.

First Local Spiritual Assembly of Cardiff (1948) Back row L to R: Hugh McKinley, Joan Giddings, Suzanne Solomon, Fred Stahler Front row L to R: George Rowley, Claire Gung, Olive McKinley, Rose Jones, Ata'u'llah Khochbine

First Local Spiritual Assembly of Cardiff (1948)
Back row L to R: Hugh McKinley, Joan Giddings, Suzanne Solomon, George Rowley
Front row L to R: Fred Stahler, Claire Gung, Violet McKinley, Rose Jones, Ata’u’llah Khochbine

I went to Wales in 1942 and so by chance opened up the South Wales community.  I stayed there for nine years and returned to London in 1951. My two daughters were amongst the first Bahá’ís to be born in Wales.  Valerie was the first, the second was the son of Brian and Joan Giddings, and my daughter Irene was the third.   [Valerie (Rhind) pioneered to Southern Africa in 1969 and Irene (Taafaki) pioneered to the Pacific area, has served at the New Era School in Panchgani, India, and is presently living in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific.  Both are very active in the Faith – Ed.]

Bahá’í meetings continued during the War.  The war didn’t stop people going to work or doing their everyday activities and, as far as the meetings were concerned, they still went on.  There were many places where the meetings were held.  The first place was at Notting Hill Mews and there was Walmar House, a place at Earls Court, one somewhere near Hyde Park, and the last one, of course, at Rutland Gate.

Non-Bahá’í reactions I remember taking a girl in the office to a meeting at Mrs George’s in Chelsea and of course there were lots of nationalities there.  I said to her: “Did you enjoy it?” and she said: “Yes”, and this was during the week, so I said: “Will you be coming with me on Sunday?”  “No” she said, “My people at the church said not to have anything to do with her” – and me as well.  I think she thought I was leading her into temptation! Once we had a meeting in Cardiff when Mrs Basil Hall (Lady Blomfield’s daughter) was speaking. There were about eight or nine people there. They had all come with their Bibles under their arms, and they never said anything.  Mrs Basil Hall gave a nice talk and then when she was talking about the Return of Christ, they shouted, “rubbish, rubbish, rubbish!”  I am rather a timid person but I got up and I said: “Excuse me, if you read your Bibles, you will see that it says, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.  Howbeit when he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.”  And I said: “That’s referring to Bahá’u’lláh.”  And they called out and they said: “Liar, liar”!  Well, that was the biggest compliment I think I have ever had!  Mrs Basil Hall wrote to me a couple of days later and she thanked me for getting up, and hoped that I didn’t mind being called a liar!  I wish I had kept all these letters. As children we used to have letters from Green Acre, from Aunty Victoria (Bedekian) – little tracts, with all the quotations from The Hidden Words and from some of the readings.  And I thought to myself it was a lovely school and I wondered what it was really like?  Little did I know that in years to come I would go and visit that school in Maine, USA. We have said prayers in the room in which `Abdu’l-Baha stayed at Green Acre. In 1957 I attended the funeral of Shoghi Effendi, taking my two small daughters with me.   I have the memory of Rúhíyyih Khánum standing for hours at the graveside of her beloved husband, allowing everyone to pay their last respects.  We all knelt and kissed his tomb, children as well. When we were on Pilgrimage in 1964, we met the members of the Universal House of Justice and I have had the privilege of meeting and listening to about five or six Hands of the Cause. I attended the World Congress at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1963, and in 1992  I also attended the World Congress in New York. In recent years, I served on the Local Spiritual Assembly of Hounslow either as Treasurer or Chairman.  Since then I have lived in Axminster, Devon.

West London Baha’is gathered at the 1965 Convention

Standing: Hector Frostick, Valerie Jones. ??, Irene Jones, Farhang Rameshni, Goli-Golkar, Ruhi Rameshni, Ali Golestaneh, Mr Dabiri. Seated: John McIlree, Rose Jones, Roya Golestaneh, Vivian Isenthal, Mehry Golestaneh, Cissie LeGray, Hoda Golestaneh