I was born in Aberdeen and was adopted at one year old. Shortly before the War my parents took me to Sumatra, where my father was a tea-planter. During the War my father was imprisoned in a concentration camp and remained there until the end of the War. My mother and I were evacuees from the Japanese takeover of the island, and were very fortunate to be able to board the very last American plane to leave Sumatra. My mother and I went to live in India with my father’s brother who tried to get us home to England. We stayed in India for about two years and finally got transport home in a convoy in 1941.
My upbringing was very religion-orientated. All our friends seemed either to be nuns, priests or teachers. My mother was a devoted Catholic and I was brought up as such. As my father returned to Sumatra to rebuild the tea factories and plantations, my mother, who was working at the time, sent me to various convent schools where, I am sad to say, I was very unhappy and consequently did not do as well academically as was hoped.
Time passed by and the years moved on.
In 1982 I went to live in Somerset with my husband ‘Dusty’. Around January or February 1992 I turned on the television, or it might have been the radio, to catch the lunchtime News. I carried on with the preparation of our Sunday meal, when some people began to talk about their religion – the Bahá’í faith. I was, at that time, uninterested in the subject, as I had left my childhood religion several years previously and was very happy without it. However what these people were saying stopped me in my tracks and I started to listen. I said to my husband, ‘now that is what religion should be all about, I must see if I can find a book about it.’ I looked in bookshops in Taunton and Minehead, Somerset, but no one had ever heard of the name so, as one does, I let it drift, and got on with my life.
I lived in a tiny hamlet in Exmoor at the time. Annually in April we held our ‘Grand Jumble Sale’. I was helping at it and took the chance before the doors opened to have a quick look around, heading, as I always do, to the book stall. There on top of a pile, was a very worn-out copy of Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era by J.E. Esslemont. The hair went up at the back of my neck, and I tingled all over. In my mind I thought I heard the words “well, you said you wanted to look it up”. I bought the book for the princely sum of about 10 pence. I then read the splurge on the back of the book to find out that it was an introduction to a ‘new’ faith. I further noticed that it seemed to come from the USA (the book that is) and at that time there were some dodgy TV Evangelist programmes, which I did not want to know about, so I hesitated as to whether I wanted to read on. However, I thought about the amazing way in which the book had come into my hands and realised that I must be meant to read it.
I loved it, and wanted more, so I wrote to the American publishers asking for a list of further reading. This I received around May or June that year and I ordered all six books recommended by the U.S. Bahá’í Publishers in Wilmette, and I read them all. I then had the belated idea that I might see if there was a telephone number for Bahá’ís in the local phone book! Yes! I rang a lady who, I feel, became my ‘spiritual mother’, Ngar Whiteford. She invited me to meet other Bahá’ís but I was still a bit hesitant, so I said ‘no’ but could she tell me of any other books I could read. She told me of H.M. Balyuzi’s book Bahá’u’lláh: The King of Glory and where I could get it from. Well, to cut a long story short, I read halfway through this, saying to my husband as I did so, ‘This is amazing, it must be true, no human being could write like this. I must meet with these people.’ I phoned Ngar again and was invited to my first ‘fireside’ at Ken and Kena Bunton’s home on the other side of Taunton which, from then on, I attended every week.
I became a Bahá’í in September 1993. I was an isolated believer in Minehead so joined all the activities in Taunton and Bridgewater area, where I made many friends: Ken and Kena Bunton, Linda Higgins, Alun and Andisheh Dawson, Mr and Mrs Kordian, Farhad Shahbahrami (who helped me set up my monthly discussion group in Minehead), Hazel Fleming and many more names that slip my mind. Dusty and I attended feasts, picnics, talks, Sunday school at Puriton and anything else going. We also held Bahá’í activities at our home. We used to visit Australia for several months each year and I joined the Tewantin Bahá’ís in Queensland each time we were there.
We moved back to Surrey in 1998 (we had previously lived in Chiddingfold for 13 years). Sadly, in 2009 my husband Dusty died.
Bahá’í friends from Cranleigh, Guildford and Godalming have been very kind. I still attend events when I can and visit Mr and Mrs Lamakan at their feasts sometimes and am slowly getting back to doing more with them again. I have been to summer schools in the past, my first being at Ardingly, West Sussex in 1994, a Spring School in Malta, and then to several at Sidcot School. In 1995 I was privileged to go to on a nine day pilgrimage to Israel with Dusty.
Patricia M. Field
Surrey, March 2015