Peter became a Bahá’í in 1962 after meeting Dr Abbas Afnan in Burnley, Lancashire. He was working as a school dentist, and Abbas was the anaesthetist for him whilst he took out the teeth. A lot of conversations went on between the two about religious questions, and soon Peter was invited along to Abbas and Shomais’ home where they were having firesides. Peter spent two years carefully investigating the Bahá’í Faith, then made his declaration – not long after meeting Carole, who went along to the firesides with him as well. Peter had already been teaching her, and after three months she declared as well, at a large gathering (weekend school) held in Gawthorpe Hall, Burnley, where the inspiring speaker was Eric Hellicar.
When Peter and Carole decided to get married, Abbas and Shomais invited both sets of parents to a meal to explain about Bahá’í marriage, which at the time entailed two weddings. We had already planned a church wedding earlier so that was allowed to go ahead and Abbas and Shomais were at the wedding. We have a picture of them with Marion Pollitt (Whiteley then) as guests at the same table at our wedding reception. This was very significant, because Marion had been assigned to Carole at work to show her round and explain the routine when she started work at the Nelson branch of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance office. So Carole had invited Marion, and two other colleagues, Walter Cork and Frances Milton to her Bahá’í wedding and reception.
Our Bahá’í wedding took place directly after the church one, at Abbas and Shomais Afnan’s home in Burnley on 12th February 1963. Peter and Carole’s was the first Bahá’í wedding in Burnley, and was reported as such in the local press. Stan Shaw (husband of Mary, and father of Alison) made a beautiful cake, and Shomais put on a lovely spread. Carole had invited her three friends from work to the Bahá’í wedding. Abbas Afnan performed the simple ceremony, and Peter and Carole were married in spirit. They left for the Lake District for a honeymoon in thick, deep snow, as it was 1963 with the worst snow on record for a long time. There were huge banks of snow along the roads, and the smaller lakes were frozen!
We returned home a fortnight later to discover, to our amazement, that both the girls from Carole’s office had declared! Marion never looked back, and became a stalwart servant, but they don’t know what became of Frances who, they believe, went to Canada.
We set up home in Winewall, Trawden, and spent a year in a cottage there. Michael was born and then we moved to Fence, near Burnley, where we had regular activities and the house was always full of people. Even after our daughter Joanne was born at home there were people there having deep discussions as soon as she arrived!
Soon there was a call for Bahá’ís to make up Local Spiritual Assemblies and in 1966 we made the decision to sell our lovely house and move with our two young children into Burnley to make the number of Bahá’ís up to nine. We managed this with a few difficulties, but soon got settled in to Fifth Avenue, Burnley. We were there for three years and lots of meetings were held – the carpets and furniture wore out and they were brand new to begin with! Sue and Jim Grimshaw got married in our home, and Hand of the Cause Bill Sears visited, with his nine light bulbs on a circuit – excellent for displaying the effect if one bulb was taken out of the circuit! Dr. Mühlschlegel also stayed for a few nights with us. We had some delightful discussions.
In 1968 we offered our services as pioneers and were asked to go to Dundee, Scotland. When we arrived there we bought a house in Tircarra Bank, Broughty Ferry, Dundee, and we thought we were going to be alone there. However, soon others arrived: first Ruth Riding, then Katherine Villiers-Stuart, Massoud Afnan, Ronald Taherzadeh, and Carol Moorhouse. Beryl Hargreaves declared, and soon we had our first Local Spiritual Assembly of Dundee. Lots of activities went on, and there were several visits from Ernest Gregory, Betty Reed and Betty Goode and Richard St. Barbe Baker. Dundee is a central point, so we were popular as a venue for lots of meetings, and armies of visitors.
We also began to organise the first Summer Schools in St. Andrews and these were very popular. St. Andrews is such a lovely setting, and we managed to acquire perfect accommodation in the halls of Southgate and St Regulus Halls of Residence, over three years. Carole went to the Dundee College of Education and got her qualification in Primary School Teaching and worked in Inverarity School, and also began studying for an M.Ed. at Dundee University.
Peter worked in Dundee as a dentist in the city centre. We formed the first Local Spiritual Assembly of Dundee about 18 months after we arrived – to our great surprise. We thought we were going to be lone wolves for quite a while, but this didn’t happen. Dundee became an active community and we had several declarations, and regular firesides with lots of young people around us all the time.
We had been in Dundee for six years, when the Universal House of Justice asked for pioneers to go to the outer Scottish Islands. We offered to go, and the place we managed to get into was Shetland (not the Western Isles as we originally planned)!
Peter became a partner in a practice in Lerwick. Carole went into teaching again in Scalloway and then Lerwick.
We stayed in Shetland for six years, serving as L.S.A. members. Carole served as an R.E. representative alongside others for a while (in Education) for Shetland Islands Council.
From Shetland we went to Forfar, Scotland in 1981, and worked alongside the Dundee Community again for about two years.
We returned to Lancashire for a time (1985–90) and then made another pioneer move – this time to Orkney after the Universal House of Justice appealed again for pioneers. We stayed there for 17 years, serving as LSA members all that time, Peter as chairman, and Assistant to the Auxiliary Board. Carole was able to work as co-ordinator for the Ruhi Study Circles and act as facilitator and co-ordinator. There was co-operation with Shetland on this.
Peter worked as a dentist in Kirkwall and Carole worked as a teacher again. Peter was asked to serve on the Education Committee for Orkney Islands Council, as religious representative alongside others.
Carole was able to teach the Bahá’í Faith, first in her school on Shapinsay as part of the syllabus, with support from the then Director of Education, whose secretary was a Bahá’í – Colleen Macleod. He went on radio and said publicly that the Bahá’í Faith could be taught in schools in Orkney and would be a valued addition to the curriculum. This was very important for Orkney. After this, opportunities came for other presentations and lessons on the Bahá’í Faith to be made in several different schools, both Primary and Secondary in Orkney.
Whilst in our lovely home next to the sea we had several visitors, among them was Olya Roohizadegan who stayed for about a week and accomplished about a month’s work in that short time! She showed her fearless quality and went to schools, public meetings outlying islands and gave great publicity. There was a declaration whilst she was there as well!
When the call came for cluster development from the Universal House of Justice, as primary goals, we returned to Lancashire in 2008 to help the development of the A cluster there. We are currently in Nelson and are part of a group there. Both of us work a lot in Inter-Faith relations and on the core activities, and Carole currently serves as an Assistant.
We celebrated our 50th Wedding Anniversary by going on pilgrimage in May 2013. This was of course an amazing experience and very different to our last visit in 1974 with two young children. On that occasion Ian Semple and his lovely wife invited us for a meal and very thoughtfully offered to look after our children for the afternoon whilst we visited Bahji.
This visit saw huge changes, beautiful buildings, gardens, and such wonderful planning.
Our children, Michael and Joanne are very busy, Michael with his beloved science and Joanne with her legal work. We have twin grand-daughters, Rhiannon and Leila – one is in law and the other in publishing. Maia is our great-grand-daughter and nearly two years old now.
Carole and Peter Fothergill
Lancashire, May 2013