[Part 1 of Kevin’s story can be found here.]
After attending several meetings addressed by Hand of the Cause Bill Sears I decided to pioneer to Bangor. Bill Sears encouraged youth who were about to enter higher education to pioneer to university towns that needed Bahá’ís so that they could combine pioneering with gaining their education. I had just finished what was a gap year volunteering in Scotland and Leicester and so I decided to go to Bangor which was unopened to the Faith and had a university. I left for Bangor in early September 1968 and when I got there I walked down the High Street from the station and called in to an estate agent where I was able to get a flat. Then I went to the job centre and got a job at Denis Feranti, a factory on the Caernarvon Road and I think the only factory in Bangor at the time. Thus with a job and a flat I was settled in Bangor. There had been a Bahá’í student in Bangor before but he had left some years earlier after completing his studies. I recently discovered that it was Rafie Mavaddat whose daughters have been friends of Mina and myself for many years. Rafi and his wife currently live in Perth, Australia.
The only other Bahá’í in the area was Dr Ernest Miller who lived with his wife Erica in a wooden cottage in a remote part of Anglesey near Benlech. I visited them quite often which was a delight and when Mina and I married we continued to visit them which was always so uplifting. After retiring, Ernest had pioneered to Orkney and then to Cardiff and Chester and possibly other places in between. This was in the early fifties. I know when he was living in Cardiff because after I had visited him a few times he said that if I could make it go, I could have the car slowly disintegrating on his drive. It was a 1953 Ford Prefect and he had bought it new in Cardiff. It only needed a new battery and tyres and so I drove it for about a year, making frequent visits to Chester. The windscreen wipers didn’t work so I operated them manually by putting my hand under the dashboard. Luckily Richard Bury in Chester knew what the problem was and fixed them for me. A memory of being with Dr Miller was watching on television the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales. It was 1st July 1969 and only a few miles away in Caernarvon. It was amusing to see the jets overhead that we had just seen on the television making a fly past. Dr Miller told me that when he was pioneering in Cardiff he met David Lewis who eventually became one of the country’s longest serving Auxiliary Board members. He had a home/surgery down by the docks – at that time one of the roughest areas of Cardiff. Each time the tide came in the cellar flooded. Later Erica told me the circumstances of their meeting: ‘As well as being a GP, Dr Miller worked as a locum for a mental hospital in Cardiff where her grandfather was the chief executive. At the time her mother was dying, so her grandparents were living with them in order that her grandmother could look after the family. Her grandfather invited Dr Miller to the house where he told David Lewis about the Faith and gave him an invitation to a fireside at the home of David and Marion Hofman which he attended. He also attended firesides at Dr Miller’s home. David always regarded Dr Miller as his spiritual father and was eternally grateful for the care he gave in teaching him the Faith.’
Shortly after I moved to Bangor, Allen Ireland from Burnley joined me. He shared my flat with me but was unable to find work and so after a few weeks he returned to Burnley. From that time, October 1968 to September 1969, I was on my own in Bangor. I made frequent visits to Chester and stayed with Richard Bury and Ananda, a Mauritian Bahá’í who sang with his guitar. One memorable occasion was a trip to London in Dr Miller’s old car for a Bahá’í meeting there. I forget now what the meeting was but the date was 19th July 1969. The reason I know this is that when we got back to Chester we stayed up all night to watch the first moon landing on 20th July at about two or three in the morning which was Monday. After watching it I had to drive to Bangor and go to work after a night without sleep.
Another memorable event was being asked at work to drive to Stoke-on-Trent to deliver some machinery. I was happy to do this but after about one hundred miles realised that I had forgotten my wallet and the van was running out of petrol. Eventually it ran out of petrol under the M6 motorway. I decided that my only solution would be to phone Ken and Betty Goode in Stafford. Ken arrived an hour later with a can of petrol and money to buy more.
In August 1969 I attended both a youth school in Holland and Harlech Summer School in North Wales. It was at Harlech that I met Mina. I had read a lot about Mina’s Bahá’í activities in South Wales in Bahá’í Yng Nghymru, a journal edited by Mina’s brother Cyrus. Adib Taherzadeh was one of the main speakers and one day when he was leaving Geoff and Ena Coulson’s house in Duffryn he left his brief case in the road. Ena assured him in the evening that it would be in the police station. When he went there the policeman said ‘how do I know it’s yours?’ Adib said ‘because there is a book inside you can’t read’. Indeed there was a book in Persian as well as the manuscript for the first volume of Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh. After Harlech Summer School four youth, Farhad and Shahram Firoozmand, Towfiq Rushdi and Brant Hardy made a travel teaching trip to Bangor. They stayed with me in my small flat. As it was summer and the university was closed and Bangor very much a student town, there were few opportunities for teaching but during the few days a lot of prayers were said. The boys went around the town looking for opportunities to mention the Faith whenever possible. We made a visit to Dr Miller on Anglesey and he was delighted to receive us and tell us many interesting stories about his service. We also visited the home of John Hunter in Amlwch. His parents made us very welcome and John took us to see the nuclear power station close by. John had declared while studying with Felicity Earnshaw at Atlantic College. On their way home the boys visited Bahiyyeh Rashidpour who was the lone pioneer in Shrewsbury.
While in Bangor I visited the Maude family, Derwent and Nora and their children Mandy, Tim and Roderic. They held fairly frequent weekend events especially for the youth who all stayed in their lovely big house in Aberystwyth. At the youth weekend school held over 7th – 8th December 1968 we visited an animal sanctuary and attended a service at the Unitarian Church and a public meeting at the Bell Hotel. The weekend school at the beginning of February in 1969 had Bahá’ís from South Wales and North Wales there. I had a lift with Geoff and Ena Coulson and at the school John Odeka, a Nigerian living in Cardiff declared. In November 1969 a full weekend school was held in Aberystwyth coinciding with a meeting of the Welsh Goals Committee. That meant Alf and Margaret Morse were there from Swansea and Sally and Cyrus Rowshan from Pontypridd. Mina and Rita came up with Cyrus and Sally Rowshan and once again Geoff came fifty miles north to Bangor to collect Fuad Ta’eed, ‘Frodo’ Morgan and myself and take us the one hundred miles south to Aberystwyth and do the return journey after the weekend school. Thus, Geoff drove three hundred miles on slow winding roads through the beautiful Welsh mountain landscape. February 1970 saw another youth weekend school and Mandy Maude and I represented the Faith at a discussion meeting in the Ranger unit. Mina, Rita and Viv came with Sally and Cyrus and John Ball came from Birmingham.
In September 1969 Fuad Ta’eed moved into my flat to be a student at the university.
We started to have well attended firesides both at the flat and informally in the curved lounge in the university. In the autumn a public meeting was held in Bangor and fifty-eight people attended, sixteen of whom were contacts. Some of them attended the fireside held at 45 High Street on Sunday afternoons. The speaker was Richard Bury who was living in Chester. Bahá’ís came from Aberystwyth, Merioneth, Liverpool, Chester, Stafford, Wigan, Shrewsbury, Southport and by train from Birmingham. Two people who came to the meeting were Mr and Mrs Singer. Mr Singer was Jewish from Austria and had escaped the holocaust and come to Northampton in 1939. Mrs Singer before she was married was a friend and work colleague of Betty Reed and told us that she took Betty to her first Bahá’í meeting. It was Mrs Singer who was invited but she took Betty for moral support. When the Singers were married they befriended David and Marion Hofman who were then living in Northampton. The Singers had visited Haifa and had been living in Bangor for ten years. Later they were reunited with Betty Reed when Betty made a trip to Bangor to address a public meeting.
There was a declaration in Bangor – a student, Neil Morgan, who called himself Frodo after the character in ‘Lord of the Rings’. He heard about the Faith when he shared a lift with Fuad Ta’eed to South Wales. He was a student of marine biology at the university. By an amazing coincidence Mina nursed his sister Lynne in Cardiff. Having discovered the link Mina later visited Lynne and met her parents who lived in Chepstow. The parents discovered Mina was a Bahá’í and invited her to their home in Chepstow. At the beginning of 1970 Sima and Jila Yousefzadeh moved to Bangor from Iran. They arrived via Wigan and Aberystwyth and with the help of the Ta’eed and Maude families registered for training at the hospital in Bangor. Sima now lives in Lincoln and Jila in Greenwich.
On 24th February 1970 Fuad and I received a telegram saying Linda Marshall (who later married Sohrab Youssefian and lives in Italy) would arrive by train at 5.30. It was 6.30 when we got the telegram. Eventually Linda was found in a hotel. Linda was an established actress in the U.S. and was at the time appearing in a television series. In the evening we took her to meet Mr and Mrs Singer and the following morning to the student’s union where she was able to meet many students. At 11.30 she set off for Aberystwyth. John Netherwood, who was studying Physics with Fuad, declared in Bangor. Later John spent many years working at the World Centre in Haifa where he met his wife Parvin, and they now live in the Wirral. On 28th June 1970 a public meeting was held, addressed by Betty Reed. Betty arrived from Liverpool with a large group of Bahá’ís and their friends from Liverpool and Kirkby. Dr Miller from Anglesey and Geoff and Ena Coulson joined us. After the meeting one of the contacts from Kirkby declared. Fuad Ta’eed left Bangor to pioneer to Sierra Leone in the summer of 1970. As Mina and I were planning to get married in August 1970 in Cardiff, Viv invited me to stay with him in Newport for the summer and got me a job at his factory so as he worked hard at his machine we could talk about spiritual matters while I swept round him! In August Mina and I married at the Temple of Peace in Cardiff and after honeymooning at Harlech summer school returned to life in Bangor.
March 2013 (revised January 2014)
Recently moved to Leicester from Northamptonshire after spending a year in Gibraltar (with plans to spend more time there in future).