I was born in Folkestone, Kent on 24 April 1930 to Robert Joseph Wright, a hospital officer in the prison service and Margaret Ellen Wright, housewife. Father was transferred to Wakefield for training when I was a baby, but by the time he was moved to Winson Green in Birmingham I had a little sister two years younger.
When war broke out in 1939, we were evacuated and I missed my parents dreadfully, so I relied on the Catholic prayers my mother had instilled into me for some level of comfort.
However, our parents missed us both so much, that they requested a move away from Birmingham to somewhere safer, so that the family could stay together. Eventually our whole family, including our new baby sister, was evacuated to Stafford, right opposite the Lotus shoe factory. My prayers had been answered.
I do not remember a great deal about that time, but I do remember taking my first communion at the Sacred Heart Church nearby. My mother was a devout Catholic and ensured we went to mass every Sunday without fail. Mercifully we had the rest of Sunday free once we had been to early morning mass. However, I must admit that my faith was a dutiful hand-me-down from my mother and I did not mind it, but it brought me little joy.
At the end of the war my father was transferred to work at Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight and as a family we moved into Parkhurst prison accommodation. I finished my education there and, after taking evening classes at Newport Secretarial College, I began work as a typist at the aircraft factory. Following on from this, I worked at a builders’ merchant’s where I met my first husband. We married on 20th July1950. I continued working for a while before we had our two girls, reducing my hours to part time, because, interestingly, it paid more.
Although in 1969 I divorced my first husband, I had two lovely daughters as fruit of that relationship. They proved to be such a Godsend in my latter years. I moved to Ryde, where I was a practice manager for a group of GPs followed by a short spell in Seaview. I then moved to another GP practice in Romsey Hampshire. I did not want to be too far from the Isle of Wight as my father was very sick and needed visiting. It was a period in my life that was excruciatingly challenging, but work at those medical practices was a great confidence builder for me.
Then I met a lady. Sadly I cannot remember her name, but she was a medical secretary from the Association of Medical Secretaries and we had become friends when she was handling my references. She encouraged me to go to a Bahá’í public meeting, somewhere near Southampton.
I found the Bahá’í Faith very strange at first, but I began to read Thief in the Night by Bill Sears and gradually came to accept the truth of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation. I do not remember ever signing a declaration card, but I did consider myself a Bahá’í. I adored the Bahá’í prayers and they sustained me through the most difficult of times. When loved ones died, I was bereft and only kept going by that beautiful prayer, ‘Oh God! Refresh and gladden my spirit…’
Then I landed a fascinating job. I went to work for Earl Louis Mountbatten in Romsey, as one of his two personal assistants. In 1979 my post was horribly terminated when the IRA assassinated the Earl along with several members of his family as they were holidaying in Mullaghmore, County Sligo, blowing up his yacht, the Shadow.
The consequences for the Mountbatten family were unthinkable, but I was now jobless and homeless. In Morfa Nefyn on the Lleyn Peninsula, lived my mother’s brother, who agreed to allow me to share his home. I kept house for him for several years, supplementing my income by doing sewing repairs in Pwllheli. I remember two Bahá’í friends being particularly kind to me. They were Rostom and Badieh Behi, who owned a fruit shop in Pwllheli. I thought of myself as a Bahá’í, but I knew nothing about the administrative order or belonging to a group, so I did not even officially register as a Bahá’í, or go to meetings.
In 1983 I enjoyed a period of part time work as staff welfare officer at the nearby holiday camp of Butlin’s. I laugh when I remember winning a glamorous grandmother competition there, shortly after my first grandson was born in August 1983.
In 1982 I had had the good fortune to have a holiday in the Caribbean with my eldest daughter and I fell in love with the people and island of Barbados. I returned to live there in 1987 and met a wonderful Bahá’í called Marcia Stabler, who was then secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Barbados. She took me under her wing and found me somewhere to rent.
It was there that I studied the Bahá’í Faith in depth with the Friends in the parish of St James and really began to understand the broad sweep of the teachings. I declared some time during the early 1990’s and in1991 I was able to make my first pilgrimage to Haifa in Israel. Following that wonderful experience I was encouraged to pioneer to Barbados permanently. It was to become the most fulfilling and happiest time of my life.
As a member of the Local Spiritual Assembly of St James, I was very active in establishing the first local Bahá’í centre for that parish where we held many teaching events for prominent persons and all who expressed an interest in the Faith. I served on the Local Spiritual Assembly for several years holding different offices and supported all of its activities.
I then answered the call of the National Spiritual Assembly for local pioneers and moved to live in the parishes of St Lucy and St Peter. Along with my fellow Bahá’ís Carlton Ishmael, Jeffrey Hinds and others we were able to fill it with children’s classes, feasts, study circles and firesides. I was soon elected to the National Spiritual Assembly and was secretary from 1992 to 1993. It was during that period that I had the wonderful privilege of travelling to International Convention in Haifa to elect the 7th Universal House of Justice.
I was kept incredibly busy with voluntary work in Barbados. I taught crafts at a local children’s home and we won awards in a national exhibition being praised by the Prime Minister’s wife. We rented “Faraway” in Saint Philip, and established a weekend retreat for 14 children from the Nightingale Children’s home and the BIDOS disabled organisation. It was great fun and very valuable experience working with the children.
My work on the Bahá’í teaching front was now very focused on children and I had a toddler group in my home, which flourished into a junior youth group as they grew. How I appreciated their shining faces and unconditional love.
In 1995, I married for the second time, but sadly it did not last and we inevitably parted. Again, the Bahá’í prayers sustained me through a very difficult time, as did my wonderful friends and daughters.
During my stay in Barbados I believe I rented at least eight properties, becoming a “home front pioneer” and always enjoyed opening my home for visitors and Bahá’í events such as study days with the Ruhi books and children’s classes.
When I pioneered to St Peter I named my house ‘Bahá’í House’. It was then very clear to the local people that Bahá’ís lived there. My car was ever on duty to ferry people and things about. The Bahá’ís of Barbados were such friends to me and my memories of happy occasions are legion, including planting Royale palm trees on the Bahá’í temple land and a deepening at the Italian Consulate’s home.
In 1998 I decided to return to the Isle of Wight to help with a women’s retreat, but I returned again to my beloved Barbados in 1999.
In the week beginning 10th June 2001, I journeyed to the Holy Land on my second Bahá’í Pilgrimage. It felt wonderful to be at the sacred shrines again and I met Mr. Kiser Barnes, a member of the Universal House of Justice, who was very encouraging about our work in Barbados. I remember that the new Pilgrim Reception Centre at Bahji was under construction and I was very impressed.
As I travelled home, I was shocked to learn that my ex-husband had been fatally stabbed by three youth on the 10th June. The murderers were apprehended, tried and jailed. Again it was the Bahá’í teachings on life after death that sustained me, as did my friends in Barbados and my lovely daughters.
In 2004 I left my life in Barbados and returned to the U.K. to live in Navenby, Lincolnshire to be nearer my daughters and live out my ‘old age’. My daughters helped me to buy a home there and I was extremely comfortable, until a stroke made it necessary to move into a residential home nearby called ‘Holmleigh.’
I enjoy visitors and appreciate occasional outings with members of the nearby Lincoln and Grantham Bahá’í communities. Regular visits to my daughters’ homes and news of my growing extended family remain my sustenance along with my Bahá’í prayers.
Lincolnshire, November 2013 (assisted by Margaret Grant)
Pat Wright passed away on 29 May 2015.