I was born George Francis Bowers on 3 December 1925 in Liverpool. My parents were Frances Mabel and George Henry. Ours was a Catholic family, mainly working in the building industry. Mother took care of us, a large family of nine children. I would describe myself as creative and industrious. I established a painting and decorating company, which kept many men employed and where I trained numerous apprentices. I was Company Director until I left for Haifa and the Bahá’í World Centre in 1975 to establish a Works Department to take care of maintenance of Bahá’í Properties. Later I was a member of the Properties Department responsible for Bahá’í-owned and rented properties under the jurisdiction of the Universal House of Justice.
Before hearing of the Faith, I was a lapsed Catholic, having become disenchanted particularly during the war years in the Pacific Ocean when I sailed into Japan aboard HMS Duke of York, a British battleship, which accompanied the Missouri, a US Battleship, for the signing of the peace terms to end hostilities with Japan. I found difficulty in being segregated for church parade and believing my religious persuasion to be the only true one when the world was full of wonderful people attached to some religion or other by accident of birth. I felt I could take no part in organized religion. I could not associate myself with a religion that would not embrace all mankind without prejudice.
I encountered further problems in preparing for marriage. If Elsie and I married in the Church of England, my mother would not attend the wedding; if we married in a Catholic church, Elsie’s father would not attend the wedding. That was a recipe for confusion, as all professed to be Christians, which enhanced my conviction and perhaps unconsciously sent me searching for truth without parochial limitations.
I first heard about the Bahá’í Faith through our lovely neighbours Lou, John and young John Turner. Lou’s mother, Hagar Wall, had heard about the Bahá’í Faith from friends in Canada, Jessie and Nick Echeverria, prior to 1962 though they did not respond to the Faith at that time. (The Echeverrias were friends of Lou and John, and had written at length about the Faith and sent tapes.)
However, Lou and John, then active in Daulby Street Spiritualist Church in Liverpool, heard an address by Madeline Hellaby, and from then on things started to happen. Lou handed me a small yellow pamphlet entitled Bahá’í Faith. On opening this at the centre page which illustrated the principles, I discovered this was what I had been looking for all my life.
Hagar Wall was one step ahead of us as she was attending the Liverpool Bahá’í Centre at 3 Langdale Road, Liverpool, and had declared her faith in Bahá’u’lláh on the anniversary of the Birth of the Báb. Lou and I would constantly discuss the teachings at every opportunity while John and Elsie described themselves as observers, sitting on the fence.
One day Lou announced that she had an invitation to a fireside in Southport and she followed up by saying she would try and wangle us (Elsie and me) an invitation too. Little did we know, at that time, how hard the friends were working to attract enquirers. The firesides were held at Betty and Joan Clegg’s home in Southport.
The sincerity, unity and warmth of the friends formed the first impression. Denise (later Fox after marrying Jeremy Fox), who we learned later was a pioneer to the area, attended the meetings and patiently explained and answered questions as did Bahá’ís at the fireside. Eventually we attended deepening firesides at the home of Madeline and Bill Hellaby in Prescot, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for not pulling any punches when it came to explaining the laws of Bahá’u’lláh as applied to the Western Hemisphere. Deepenings, firesides, and meetings at the Liverpool Centre must have continued for some six to twelve months, and these were interspersed with social gatherings and meeting our fellow Bahá’ís from the region.
When I met some Bahá’ís returning from Pilgrimage at the Holy Shrines in Bahji, Akka, and viewed some breathtaking slides presented by Aldie Robarts, I was in no doubt about the station of Bahá’u’lláh. I believe I said, ‘All I need to do is to dot the ‘i’ and cross the ‘t’,’ as by then the creative Word of God had so permeated my soul that I could not stop talking about the Faith at every opportunity to every possible person. Elsie and I both declared our faith in Bahá’u’lláh on the 1st of July 1962 at the home of Madeline and Bill Hellaby. Words can in no way describe the spirit we were clothed in.
Some members of my family became mildly aggressive. Mother said she would pray for me. Eventually, Mother and Father, my sister and also members of her family became Bahá’ís. A cousin also became a Bahá’í. One member of her family became very aggressive to my mother upon her acceptance of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings. Colleagues and friends were indifferent, though most friends assumed I knew what I was doing.
My thirst has continued to this day to immerse myself in the ocean and discover the pearls of wisdom found in the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. I was elated. I could not understand how the generality of mankind could not see that the Bahá’í Teachings are the panacea for all mankind.