Brigitte Beales

Brigitte Beales

Growing up as a Bahá’í child

My mother came into the Faith first.  This was in April 1934 after she had attended a dance arranged by the London Youth group. She had been interested in this and that, and had something to do with the Theosophists, and a woman who knew her vaguely said to her “You should come to this dance that the Bahá’ís are giving”.  She wasn’t particularly interested in going to dances but she went to this out of curiosity.  She said that she didn’t dance but she became very interested in what she heard and quickly realised that this was the real thing.  She soon became Secretary of the Bahá’í Assembly of London. At the time she was secretary to a man who was head of a firm which imported oils and margarine, so she had a lot of experience in the secretarial field.

It was two years before she was asked to sign any card.  It seems what happened was that in the early days people wrote letters of declaration and after that they stated their intention to the Assembly. The National Spiritual Assembly had to start compiling a list of believers, then the War sort of formalised it and new believers were then asked to sign a card.

World War II broke out and, as with everything, that had a fairly detrimental effect on the activities of the Bahá’ís. My mother was living in Central London and at that time she was sharing a flat with Marguerite Preston – I don’t know where.  My Gran was living in Streatham and she wanted my mother and my aunt to be back home every night, basically to see that they were still alive.  Up until about 1941 they used to have great difficulty getting into work as they had to walk great distances, get a tube (underground train) so far, then walk the rest of the way when the buses weren’t running due to bombing.

It was during that time that my father heard about the Faith. A friend – I think he was called Coffman – had told him about the Faith.  My Dad was brought up in a Liberal Jewish family but he had many interests.  His friend said, “You might be interested in the Bahá’ís”.  All he knew was the name, so he looked it up in the local library, found a book and in it was the address of the Bahá’í Centre so he went round there.  The Bahá’í Centre was barely attended because of the Blitz, but my Mum and Hasan Balyuzi would go there to pick up the post. Eventually he found Hasan there and spent a long time talking to him.  Public meetings were held at the Bahá’í Centre on Saturdays and he went to one. Feasts were held on Saturdays and Assembly meetings on Sundays.

The London Local Assembly carried on meeting at this time, but some people obviously moved out of London during the War. Hasan was moved out to Evesham where he stayed at the home of Ethel and Stan Hobbs. I’m not sure exactly where Hasan’s wife Molly stayed.

My parents got to know each other when both of them were decorating the Baha’í Centre. They married in August 1943. At the time they were married my Mum had managed to move back into London.  She had a flat and was living on her own in St. John’s Wood on the top of a tall building.  It was cheap as no-one wanted to live high up when the bombs might drop on them. They lived on the fourth floor for a little while. In about 1947 they moved out as by then I had been born and  it was a strain hauling a pram up all those stairs.  Also my Gran had a house in Streatham and as she was living on her own was likely to have people billeted on her.  So we moved in with my Gran and  lived there until 1949.  We travelled a lot from there.  I remember we used to go all over the place to assist the teaching during the Six Year Plan.  Nearly every weekend my Mum and I used to get the bus to Thornton Heath station, then the Southern railway to London, then a tube and a train to the Midlands or the North somewhere. I used to spend a lot of my early years on a train. We used to arrive at the station and get into these compartment trains.  My Mum would put down the bags and place me next to a nice lady who looked respectable and then she would get off and go and buy a newspaper.  You could do that in those days as people looked out for each other, but I was very nervous. With steam trains it took most of the day to get to wherever you were going. Once we were on a train which was quite crowded – people were standing – we were going up an incline when the train started to roll back down the line. The carriages had become detached from the engine and people were panicking like mad.  It must have been really alarming. (About this time a train disaster happened at Harrow and Wealdstone, in 1952.)

My mother served on the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles from 1941, and served in an officer post for some years.  Soon after I was born, my father became Secretary and my Mum took the minutes. She found writing up the minutes to be quite difficult once I got a bit older.  We moved in 1949 from Streatham to a house in Morden, near Wimbledon.  The back room became an office and when my Dad became full-time Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly around 1951-52 he worked from that office with all the files there. But they always had time to see that I was part of Bahá’í life.

Brigitte aged 7

Brigitte aged 7

I used to help address envelopes for mail-outs, and help with filing. At that time people were saving to put the golden dome on the Shrine of the Báb.  The main structure was built and the dome was being placed on top so the friends were contributing towards it.  Some simple leather purses had been made – two bits of leather sewn together with the Greatest Name embossed on it – and a slit at the top in which to put coins.  I had one of the these and I would put some of my pocket money into it.

When my Dad was Secretary the address that was given out was our house so anyone abroad coming in to London had our address.  One day a Persian family turned up thinking that this was the Bahá’í Centre and needed to be accommodated. We travelled quite regularly up to the Bahá’í Centre which was in Earl’s Court. My parents used to take it in turns to go there  when I was small and in the early days my Gran was there to look after me. There were committee meetings, NSA meetings and many weekends were taken up with Bahá’í business. My Mum used to have some local ladies – not Bahais – who were typists, to whom she would dictate the letters and they would type them up; they also acted as childminders. There was a family called Goldsmith who lived not far away and I used to stay with them; another family was called Blowers and I used to spend time with them sometimes.  If there was an NSA meeting I used to go and stay with the Balyuzi family. Hasan served on the National Spiritual Assembly and Molly was on her own and we used to travel from Morden at one end of the Northern Line to Hampstead at the other end. It was from Friday to Monday and I used to miss a bit of school. It was interesting staying with the Balyuzis because they had five boys, who were quite lively.

While we lived in Morden I attended Wimbledon High School which was a private school. My Dad was working for Mass Observation, an early market research firm and he used to take me on the bus to Wimbledon and then he would get the tube to London. When he stopped working there, I used to travel to school on my own.  I was only 6 or 7 but I used to walk to the bus stop – two bus stops actually – and my Mum would meet me when I got back, so from an early age I used to get myself to school on a bus. It was fairly safe for children to do so then as there was not nearly so much traffic in those days. When we moved to the Hazíratu’l-Quds in Earl’s Court Road, London in 1954, I was 9 years old and I transferred to Putney High School, which was a two bus journey across London.

We didn’t have children’s classes in those days, but the children would go to the Feast and gather in the kitchen at the back of the building while the consultation took place. There were quite a lot of people at the Feasts that were held in that basement at Earls Court Road. It was the London Feast for all the Bahá’ís in London.

I used to go with my parents to the Africa Committee meetings.  At that time they used to try and find some child minders for me.  They found a couple of artists and they had a large Alsatian and that didn’t last long. I used to be taken to the meetings and I would just sit there and crayon away.  It was quite interesting listening to what was going on though.  I would be hearing about the mass declarations in Uganda through Enoch Olinga and people were saying “what are we going to do now?” My Mum was Secretary of the Committee and also there were Mr and Mrs Henry Backwell (Dick Backwell’s parents), Joan Giddings, Ian Semple, and my Dad. It was the first time there was more than one NSA collaborating on a Plan, albeit a short one, and the culmination of much of that work was the conference in Kampala in 1953.  Pioneers were going out and we were always seeing people going off to Africa.  There was Claire Gung and Eric Manton, and I forget who else, but they used to go by train to get the boat, I think from Southampton. I remember going to a central London station to see people off to Africa.

I was 8 years old at the time of the first inter-continental conferences.  There was one held in Stockholm my parents went to and I remember I went to stay with Betty Goode’s parents, Jean and Arthur Pitcher in Wales. My parents also went to the conference in Kampala.  My Dad became quite ill at one point as he suffered from sunstroke. My Mum went travelling round the villages. That time I stayed with my Gran, who was very nervous because they were going on an aeroplane, especially as there had been several recent crashes. One such crash killed Hand of the Cause Dorothy Baker (10 January 1954).

My Mum was secretary of the Summer School committee so sometimes we used to go and look at prospective venues. Each year we would spend two weeks at summer school.  The Bahá’í community was smaller then and most people used to attend for some of the time if they could. Some of the venues were very large, with grounds like stately homes, as they had been sold after the War. We did not have many children’s classes so we used to roam around the grounds and make our own amusement. May and Mark Hofman were usually there, amongst others.

In 1954 the community wanted to buy a Hazíratu’l-Quds as a goal of the ten year crusade, and Shoghi Effendi had said this should be in Knightsbridge.  We went round looking at various places.  I remember one place we went to that wasn’t suitable as Mr Wilkes, the surveyor, walked in and fell through the floor because it had dry rot! My Mum said that was the one quite near the Iranian Embassy – it was a good job we didn’t get it! Then the Bahá’ís settled on Rutland Gate.  Previously it had been a children’s home for actors on tour and some of the upstairs rooms were decorated as children’s rooms. The people who had run it – the Riders (she was French from Algeria and he was from Yorkshire) had a small boy my age and they stayed on as caretakers, living in the basement, for some years.  I used to hear about the history of the building from them; they used to look after Petula Clark (singer/actress) when she was young along with various other children of actors.

Having this building in Rutland Gate made things much easier as there was a lot more space for the office. We lived right on the top floor.  There were two door bells – one rang in the flat and if the door bell rang when we were having a meal, I was the one to answer the door.  There were many flights of stairs so I used to slide down the banisters to get down quicker!

I was with the family upstairs from 1954 until 1959-60 and I stayed until 1963.

We used to have lots of visitors. If there was a NSA meeting we would go out for dinner together with all the NSA members which included all sorts of conversation and jokes.  In the early days of the Faith there were some strong personalities, determined people who did an awful lot.  There were committee meetings as well, and because there was a guest room, and we had a spare room, we could have as many as three people staying overnight, so Saturday and Sunday mornings we would have them come up and join us for breakfast.

There were always the Thursday evening meetings and a lot of people came to those meetings  or were passing through.  In general I used to help with the meetings such as having to wash up after Feasts, and at one time I would help with stapling the youth newsletters; Farhang Afnan used to be involved with that. There were youth meetings held every fortnight and there was a room at the back of the building, then used as the library, and the youth would gather there and sit on the floor. A topic was chosen and a speaker and people would bring their friends along. There were a number of declarations as a result of those meetings. Youth then were somewhat older than the youth we think of today. Some had done National Service or had been in jobs for some time. There were Marina Nazar and Geoff Bridle who had been in the RAF, and there was Andrew Gash and Stewart Sweet. There was a girl called Julie Town from Lancashire who was working in London, and there were various people living in London then who later pioneered to Cambridge, including Jan Mughrabi.

My father was appointed a Hand of the Cause in 1957.  I remember my Mum coming into my room and saying, ‘Your Dad has been made a Hand of the Cause’.  That was in October 1957.  I was very surprised, and so was she, but at the time it didn’t mean much change as he carried on being Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly.

The time when the London Bahá’í Centre was absolutely crucial and busiest was the time after the passing of the beloved Guardian. I was about 12.  It was early November and my Mum came and said that something incredible had happened – that Shoghi Effendi was in London and he had passed away. My Dad was out all day involved in various activities.  It was November 5th and I was due to go over to my friend’s for a bonfire party that evening.  It worked out quite well as I stayed overnight and it enabled my parents to get on with things that needed doing. Once the Guardian’s passing became known, then the friends came flying in. In the back room at 27 Rutland Gate (that was the library) there were some Persian ladies sewing and hemming around this enormous piece of silk for the shroud and they sat there for days.

On the day of the funeral the cortège gathered outside. We went on early to prepare the chapel. I was right at the back during the service. I could hear what was going on; the chapel was very crowded and many people were gathered outside. Then everybody processed out and it was raining – a constant drizzle – it was cold – I was never so cold in my life. Standing by the graveside, people came up and prostrated themselves by the grave and prayed.  It went on for a long time, and there were so many flowers. That night I went to stay with John and Rose Wade.  That night my Mum was with Rúhíyyih Khánum and Hand of the Cause Millie Collins, but during the next day or two we met up with Rúhíyyih Khánum and visited the grave. The flowers had been arranged in a large square and she was collecting the cards. At that time she was staying at the Hyde Park Hotel with Millie Collins and we went there for tea. Somebody had given Rúhíyyih Khánum a budgerigar as they knew she liked birds.  She couldn’t take it home with her so she gave it to me. My Mum actually hated birds… so I had this budgerigar with me in the Hazíratu’l-Quds.

As an unexpected benefit of the occasion Rúhíyyih Khánum gave a talk at the Bahá’í Centre a few days later.  Rose Wade did a transcript of it. Almost all the Hands of the Cause were there because at the time of coming up to the funeral they had a gathering each evening and they would stand up in front and say prayers. I remember Mr Samandari, a little man but with a powerful voice for chanting. Immediately the Hands of the Cause took charge they had to decide what to do and see if there was a Will. My Dad went off to Haifa and they soon issued a statement. They decided to have nine Hands resident at the Bahá’í World Centre.

A Conclave was held in 1958 and 1959 and in 1959 they needed another Hand to make up the nine.  Dr. Adelbert Mühlschlegel was chosen but he couldn’t go to Haifa because he had been a member of the Nazi Party during the War. (He couldn’t practise as a doctor unless he was a member of the Party, and it was still on his record. It worked against him on that occasion.) My Dad was the next in line. Basically he went in October 1959 and we didn’t see a great deal of him after that. My Mum had to pack everything up in the flat and send it off to Haifa. I remember it was soon after Christmas and the flat was empty. There was the television we had rented and one chair and we were sitting there on our own in the flat watching television. People often went to Haifa by sea in those days and my Mum travelled out with the furniture. My parents were wondering what to do about me as I had started my ‘O’ level studies and there were no English speaking schools near Haifa then.  Bobby and Egon Kamming  were moving into the flat to look after the building so I stayed on with them.  I had still got my things in my own room.

I went out to Haifa in the summer holidays of 1960, 1961and 1962. Our school had long holidays and I was let off early. I remember being in Haifa from June to early September and one year I had my birthday there on 21st September.  It was quite late really and Fujita made me some Japanese food.  In the summer of 1961 Egon Kamming was offered a job in Denmark and they left London while I was in Haifa. The National Assembly deliberated about what they should do about me.  It was at the time that Ian Semple, who was NSA secretary, had moved to Haifa to serve on the International Council. Betty Reed would live in the flat as NSA secretary, I would continue to live in the flat upstairs and Jean Campbell from Scotland would be the housekeeper and look after everybody. Marion Mihaelof, who was working at the Centre as a typist, would be living in the basement flat. This took a while to organize, so when I returned to London from Haifa I went to live with Donald and Edie Millar who had a daughter, Wendy, my age and two grown-up sons. They lived in Morden, not far from where I used to live and from there I could get to school. I lived with them for three months and then moved back to the Hazíratu’l-Quds.  There was this strange arrangement with me and three other people living there but it was nice as we used to have meals together and had lots of interesting talks.

In Haifa we lived in the Western Pilgrim House. We had the round room that faced downhill with a balcony as a sitting room.  Later it became the room where the House of Justice met. It was the first round room I have ever seen. My parents had a bedroom and when I arrived I had one of the bedrooms next to it, normally used for pilgrims. We would eat our meals downstairs. The cook who normally provided for the pilgrims still provided for everyone living there, like Jessie and Ethel Revell and Ian Semple, and we would all gather for the evening meal. Hand of the Cause William Sears was there with his wife Marguerite and also Hand of the Cause Paul Haney. There was also Hand of the Cause Leroy Ioas and his wife Sylvia, and Millie Collins too but they would go away for the summer so I didn’t see them.

All the stories we used to hear – Rúhíyyih Khánum would often come over and talk about the Guardian and there was a lot of interesting conversation. The second summer the International Bahá’í Council were there as well.  During the first and second summer May and Naysan Faizi were in Haifa so I had company that way. May was actually in an Arab school in Haifa, but the following year she went off to study in Cambridge. The third year Bahiyyih and Mehran Nakhjavani were also in Haifa.

The second year May and I helped Rúhíyyih Khánum.  She decided to clean the interior of the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh.  There were the Persian ladies in the pilgrim house at Bahji.  We placed the ornaments and the little chandeliers on the grass near the Pilgrim house and they would  clean them. I remember when we went back to Haifa Rúhíyyih Khánum said: ‘Since you have been so good you can take anything you like out of the stores for supper.’  We had a tin of oysters – we had never seen them before. We also used to go and help guide visitors to the Shrine of the Báb. Lotf’u’llah Hakim would sit by the entrance to the Shrine of the Báb with his clicker, counting how many people would come in to visit and we would be there to answer questions from the visitors and ask people not to  take photographs. The Shrine was open just in the morning and school parties would go in. The Hands of the Cause would go up and pray, and we would join them. I remember one occasion when I came over rather peculiar; I went outside to lie on the marble, feeling a bit faint, and Mr Faizi came out, very concerned.

In those days it was not so easy to get to Bahji or to Akka. The road was alright, but it wasn’t built up and there was still a big rubbish dump in the bay there; it was one part that wasn’t so pleasant.  I wasn’t ever there for a Holy Day as the dates they are commemorated there are different. During the first year they were still placing objects in the central part of the Mansion. Rúhíyyih Khánum had all the incorporation certificates from Local Spiritual Assemblies and she wanted them stuck on big pieces of cardboard, so she gave me the job of arranging them carefully. It was fantastic then as we would be staying in Mirza Abu’l-Faz’l’s room or John Esslemont’s room and the atmosphere would be absolutely incredible.  It was like nothing else.

The gardens at Bahji were not as developed as they are now. When my Dad went for the first Conclave of the Hands of the Cause, they had just knocked down the last house of the covenant-breakers.  This had been supervised by Shoghi Effendi, who had all the rubble arranged in a tier of banks which he landscaped. My Dad sent me a letter saying that they had just seen the last house come down, a task that Shoghi Effendi gave to Hand of the Cause Leroy Ioas.

We were all in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s house when Rúhíyyih Khánum called us to read the letter that announced the covenant-breaking of Mason Remey. It was surprising – people must have known it was coming – as there had been indications with his behaviour, and what he was saying, that all was not quite well, and it had been going on for some time. He was old, and I remember my Mum and Dad saying that Mason was at meetings, but he was asleep a lot of the time.

I signed my declaration card as a Bahá’í on my fifteenth birthday I think. I had been taken to the Liberal synagogue a couple of times by my paternal grandmother, I had attended a church service while in the Girl Guides, and attended a Catholic mass with a friend. Some of my friends attended a Church of England youth club. I felt that nothing I had seen had the same spirit as the Bahá’í Faith, nor did their teachings make sense in the same way, so I had already decided what to do some time before. I served on the Southern Bahá’í   Youth Committee for a while.

Around Christmas time in 1962 my Mum returned to London to help organise the Bahá’í World Congress, held at the Royal Albert Hall in 1963. She was appointed to the organising committee and so she came back and set up a bed-sitter and office in Earls Court.  She was very busy with the arrangements, as were John Wade and others, some from overseas. I used to see her once a week for lunch. She spent a lot of time at the Royal Albert Hall deciding where to house everything and how to arrange admission for the Bahá’ís etc. She was amazed at the building, which was designed by a naval commander, like a battleship, and with very thick walls. There are many levels, and the corridors are all circular. There were also unusual things in there like a dancing school. At this time, at Rutland Gate, Betty Reed and the other National Assembly members were making preparations for pioneers to move overseas to fill some of the last remaining goals of the Ten Year Crusade, especially in the Pacific. It was a busy time.

Nearer the time, many people arrived to help. Arrangements were made with those bringing Bahá’ís from different parts of the world—we were still in the Ten Year Crusade and many had pioneered to far flung places which were a lot harder to reach than they are today. When seeing people go off to Africa  we had said ‘see you in Baghdad’ because this was where Shoghi Effendi had said the Congress should be held. This was before the Hands of the Cause realised that for political reasons the venue had to be changed.

About a month before the Congress commenced, visitors began to arrive.  They usually came to 27 Rutland Gate, so during the day a collection of people from all over the world would gather. This was distracting for me as I was just taking my ‘A’ level exams, so I used to walk along to Kensington Library in the morning and revise, and when I came back home I would find the building filled with people from all sorts of countries. This was the time when the ‘iron curtain’ was in place, and it was not possible to teach in the Eastern Bloc. The evenings would be spent talking to many people. At the time of the World Congress there was a room in a hotel in Bloomsbury booked for people to meet and assemble and there were so many different nationalities there. Many people also went out to the New Southgate Cemetery to visit the Guardian’s resting place.  Just before the Congress, after the International Convention to elect the first Universal House of Justice, my Dad came to London, and he and my Mum stayed in a hotel nearby.

I don’t remember the Universal House of Justice holding their first meeting at Rutland Gate, but I do remember that the Hands of the Cause used to gather in the evenings and meet with the friends and say prayers. Mr Samandari always chanted very impressively. I was given the job of serving tea to them one morning when there was a meeting of the Hands being held there. It was so wonderful to see them all. Some I knew from the time I had spent in Haifa during the previous three summers.

During the Congress, May Faizi (now May Moore), Aziz Yazdi’s daughters, and myself were given the job, by Massoud Khamsi,  of accompanying the two Bolivian Indian representatives back and forth to their hotel as they did not speak English and were not used to travelling. I had learned a little Spanish at school. They were Andreas Jachakollo and Julian Ugarte and they wore their South American costume which was very colourful and drew some looks on the underground trains. Julian was very concerned because he should have been at home in the Andes planting his crops. Andreas spoke Spanish, but Julian only spoke Quetchua. One day everyone who could was urged to come in national costume, and it was a wonderful sight, and they were photographed beside the Albert Memorial on the opposite side of the road from the Royal Albert Hall for the London Evening News, which brought out a souvenir edition. There were also posters about the Congress pasted on the sides of London buses, a publicity we had never dreamed of before. Everyone had to wear their World Congress badge during proceedings, and when on the underground one could somehow sense if fellow travellers were Bahá’ís as they stood out, and looked so happy. Outside the Albert Hall were parked some Iranian buses, which had brought people all the way from Iran. One evening I went to visit my Mum who was at a hotel opposite Kensington Gardens where all the Canadian Bahá’ís were staying. I remember also meeting a young Bahá’í who had pioneered to the north of Canada in the Arctic circle. We also met Uncle Fred, an aboriginal Bahá’í from Australia, who gave my Mum a boomerang, and I met a Bahá’í from Malaysia who was an artist. He corresponded with me for a while and painted watercolours of local scenes on the airmail letters.

I attended the Congress sessions, often being up on one of the higher levels. My Mum had an office on one of the corridors. It was all very amazing, especially when the members of the newly elected Universal House of Justice appeared on the stage. As I remember, everyone began to sing ‘Allah’u’Abha’ very softly. Ian Semple and David Hofman were British Bahá’ís whom we knew well, which was wonderful. There was such a feeling of happiness that we had achieved the goals of Shoghi Effendi’s Ten Year Crusade, and many people had been working tirelessly and making great sacrifices to achieve this, even in the last days leading up to Ridván. For the first time one could see the world wide nature of the Faith.

After the World Congress, luckily, with all this going on, I managed to pass my ‘A’ levels. It was decided that, with the Universal House of Justice in place, some of the Hands need no longer live at the Bahá’í World Centre in Haifa, so my parents made preparations to return to England. They decided to settle in Cambridge where my Dad had been at university, so he went on ahead and found a temporary flat and my Mum returned to Haifa and arranged for all the furniture and belongings to be shipped over. Once the school term was over, I went to join them in Cambridge, and after three months moved  to university in Sheffield to study dentistry.

I was then serving on the Bahá’í Northern Youth Committee. Joan and Ernest Gregory were living in Sheffield and they pioneered to Nottingham after a year. They were very helpful to me. Every Tuesday we had firesides at the home of Anne and Fred Halliday, who later moved to Ireland and gave over their house to the successful teaching there. They were very kind to me and to Taraz Manavi who was also at the university and we used to try and take friends to the firesides. On my twenty first birthday I became a member of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Sheffield as there was a vacancy. I also served on the New Territories Teaching Committee. After two years I was getting behind with my course, had been ill and there were problems, so I switched courses to study sociology and psychology. While at Sheffield, a friend and I went out to Sardinia to visit Kathleen Hornell who was pioneering there, and I was to spend two more summers visiting the friends there.

In 1968  I went to Lincoln as a pioneer, to work in the Children’s Department, having worked in Lincoln on a summer teaching project the year before. Viv and Jack Crook and their children were there, and a few others in nearby areas. After a year I had to move to Nottingham to work, and found they needed one more for the Assembly so I made up the numbers. After I left, the Local Spiritual Assembly of Lincoln was gained. At the time I was serving on both the Goals Committee and the Midlands Teaching Committee. I was also a member of The Dawnbreakers, a group formed by Derek Cockshut which travelled around goal towns in the Midlands, each weekend going somewhere different. We would give out leaflets in the daytime inviting people to an evening event at which we performed a short play and sang songs.  We would then invite them to join the Faith; various people became Bahá’ís as a result.

After working in Social Services for a few years, and having met Graham, we got married. My Dad had passed away not long before, and my Mum later moved to Nottingham. We had several houses in mind but the only one available turned out to be in Lowdham, opening up a new district, Newark and Sherwood, in the Five year Plan which was just beginning. I spent a year gaining a social work qualification, and then we decided that I would stop work and start a family. It was not easy to work part time then. Chris was born in 1975 and Andrew in 1977.  My Mum had various health problems at this point so we had an extension built on the house and she came to live with us. I was expecting Veronica (Ron) who was born in 1981, the night after my Mum’s furniture had been moved in.

Later I returned to work part time, in Sutton-in-Ashfield, North Notts. We had a small Bahá’í group in Newark and Sherwood. We travelled to the Thomas Breakwell School near Loughborough each week and I taught a class there for some time. When the children and I went on holiday we tried to visit Bahá’ís in the area and so met friends in Corfu, San Marino, and Portugal. We were also able to spend some weeks in Sardinia, minding James and Hazel Holmlund’s flat while they were away.

My Mum passed away in 1994 and we all missed her a lot. Later that year Andrew, Ron and myself went with Paddy and Ann Vickers and the dance group ‘Youthquake’ to Poland and the following year to the Czech Republic. In 1997 there began a very successful teaching project in Nottingham, the ‘Lenton Project’ which focussed on taking the Faith to people of Afro-Caribbean origin.

Chris had gone to university in Manchester in 1995 and in 1996 Andrew went to Macau and mainland China for a year of service, and on to university in London. In 1999 I was able to go with him when we went on a short visit to northern China and Beijing and in 2001 we went again to Macau, Zhuhai and Beijing. In 2000 Ron (Veronica) married John Sampson and they lived nearby, in Nottingham.

From 1998 to 2003 I served on the Training Institute for England, just as the study circle process was unfolding. The first newly developed study circle in the UK took place in Nottingham and one person became a Bahá’í.

In 2001 the boundaries for communities changed, so our community is now just Lowdham and two other villages, not the whole Newark and Sherwood district.  Currently we have devotionals and study circles which include those from the area, and from Mansfield, where we had a teaching project a few years ago. I retired from work in 2009 and so have more time now for local activities.

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Brigitte Beales, recorded in August 2010 by Adam Thorne

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