the friend online
02 October 2009

October 10, 2006

Gandhi and Woodbrooke

We recently marked the centenary of Gandhi's wonderful peace concept of satyagraha. Eye, being of more recent birth, did not know of the historic visit the great man made to Woodbrooke in the 1930s – 1931 to be precise, during the weekend of 17 to 19 October.

Myths build up around such events, and Eye tried to confirm the little story in the Woodbrooke Tour booklet that Gandhi brought his own goat to the centre and cooked his meals on the floor, burning a hole in the carpet! Was it true?
We turned to the excellent account in the Woodbrooke Journal of summer 1997 by Chris Lawson, which detailed the visit. Gandhi was in England for the Second Round Table Conference on the future of his country (and tailed by British secret service personnel). Indeed, he drank goat's milk, but it was from a local farm animal, collected by the warden's son, Martin Cadbury. His meals were cooked by his own entourage, but no information is forthcoming about damaged carpets. Gandhi, however, did sleep on the floor.

But what caught our Eye was some of the candid statements he made during a large, gathered meeting held on the Sunday of that weekend in the Common Room. And this one in particular:

'The rate of interest charged by the Indian bania (moneylenders) is nothing compared to the loot carried on by the British bania through a juggling of currency and merciless exactions of Land Revenue. I do not know of another instance in history of such an organised exploitation of so unorganised and gentle a race… The extravagance of the princes was nothing compared to the heartless squandering of Ccrores of rupees in New Delhi to satisfy the whim of a viceroy in order to reproduce England in India, when masses of people were dying of hunger.' You can be a man of peace but still pack a punch.

September 27, 2006

‘We’ve HAD Meeting! We’ve HAD Meeting! We’ve HAD Meeting!’

The clear, almost piercing plaint of a blond three-year old, short on stature but long on memory. One Meeting a day is quite enough for anyone, thank you... especially three-year olds. Dad to the rescue and he is led out of Meeting and into the long green grass of Coanwood Quaker Meeting House burial ground and an early start to the children’s activities.

Some sixty Quakers, including seventeen children and young people, gathered for the third annual Coanwood Meeting for Worship and Family Picnic on a seriously sunny Sunday in September, pictured right. Owned by the Historic Chapels Trust, the Meeting House is nurtured by Hexham Quaker Meeting, who organise the picnic and by kindly neighbours, who keep the Meeting House open, welcoming, warm and dry. Brought back to life by the worship of Friends and the wonderful fidgeting of children, the Meeting House is a reminder of the plain living of early Friends, holding memories of sober ministry absorbed into the fabric of walls and woodwork.

Following worship, and afterthoughts in the spirit of worship, Friends broke into their mess tins and hampers, spread out among the Wigham family headstones and enjoyed sunshine, creepy-crawly beasties and good food – shared. Most Friends then did the energetic thing and went off for walks in the stunning Northumberland countryside around Coanwood before making their way home. Tired, but refreshed spiritually by that extra worship, good fellowship and the plain speaking of young children.

by Michael Long

September 22, 2006

We hear that the stag which gracefully guarded the Bernhard Baron Cottage Homes in Polegate, Sussex, has been the victim of a road traffic accident. Eye animal lovers can relax – the stag was a 100 year old statue. After an unfortunate confrontation with a delivery van the stag is now in pieces, but, we understand, renovation plans are already being hatched. You may remember that these homes came into Quaker care in 1945. Strangely, the Hartrigg Oaks retirement community in York is also 'guarded' by a stag – but this one might leave any contestant the worse for wear – it's bronze!

September 21, 2006

Never underestimate a valuation official. They can have a spiritual dimension too, as Ralph Hill of Bexhill Meeting points out. He has sent us a remarkable 'Quakerly' leaflet produced around the beginning of WWII, by staff members of London County Council Valuation, Estates and Housing Department for their tenants on council estates.

'It deals with love, truth and the leadings of God and seems straight from the first Advice', says Ralph. In mid-1940 the German army had overwhelmed France and there was a fear of invasion. The leaflet was headed Morale – How to Play Your Part.
Forget yourself in helping your neighbours, it advised, don't spread rumours, keep the moral standards of the nation high, and then – 'the secret of steadiness and inner strength is to listen to God and do what He says. God speaks to the heart of every man and woman prepared to listen and obey. Write down the thoughts He gives you. His voice can be heard wherever you are – in the home, in the factory, in the air-raid shelter, in the first-aid post.'

It quoted a British general: 'telephone wires may be cut, wireless stations be destroyed, but no bombardment can stop messages from God coming through if we are willing to receive them.'

Ralph wonders who these scribes were and if any readers know? 'I think that some of those valiant members of the LCC staff who composed this leaflet must have been Quakers.'

September 20, 2006

Nostalgia or practicality

John Betjeman would have demurred (being the staunch protector of Victoriana/Edwardiana that he was) but our nostalgic relationship with elderly Quaker buildings might be undergoing a modernising influence.

Friends Hall in Walthamstow has just been sold by its owners, London & Middlesex Quaker Service Trust, for near on £1m. It was acquired 103 years ago for community projects in the (then) new suburb of Walthamstow. The Bedford Institute Association (now Quaker Social Action) carried the work forward, developing the ideas of the Adult School movement. One of the Hall's wardens was the distinguished pioneer of adult education, Ray Lamb, who was a Quaker. Ray's enthusiasm for adult life-long learning made the Walthamstow centre known throughout Europe.

Walthamstow Friends met in the hall from the start until they bought their own Meeting house in 1998, but the Quaker role in adult education ceased in 1972, when the local authority took over and ran services from there. Now Waltham Forest has centralised services for adults and Friends Hall has been empty for a year. The hall's new owner is the Emanuel Christian Church, a vigorously growing local church which wants to expand its community activities.

Rod Harper, the London & Middlesex Quaker Service Trust clerk, tells us 'another Quaker building has gone but it frees us up to do other things with the money. It may be a good thing to lose some of our 19th century defunct buildings.'

September 12, 2006

Dangerous Eye

As you know, Eye is something of a fan of the internet and has even made forays into the world of blogging. We always try to keep it tame and have never ventured into the sort of questionable material to be found on certain other Quaker websites (we're looking at you, Quaker-B) so we felt rather hurt to discover that The Friend was being blocked by one of the biggest online filter providers in the world, apparently for being an 'occult' site!
Our office web wizard was soon hot on the trail to get us unblocked ('we're a member of CTBI, I’ll have you know', she was heard to shout, peacefully) and much time was spent speculating what we could have written recently to get us lumped in with the Satanists and cult recovery sites. Was it Alan Sealy's fault, we wondered?
We’ve been assured by Synetrix, who provide most of the services for the country’s educational establishments, that we will have our category changed to something more respectable. We also found that schools and libraries can take the block off themselves, so if you find us being blocked again, do go and tell the IT people at the helpdesk that we’re not as dangerous as all that. Consider it your bit for outreach.


Should we Quakers get discounted porridge? Ronald Watts of Abergavenny Meeting has been reading an article in the bi-monthly magazine of the Friends United Meeting in Richmond, Indiana. The writer of this article appears to be a Quaker girl racer calling herself a motorcycling Quaker preacher, who pulls in at a truck stop cafe and engages in conversation with the – as we would call them – lorry drivers. The conversation is rather bizarre and revolves around the motorcyclist telling the diners that Quakers don’t look like the 'Quaker Oats guy any more' and maybe they should get a discount from the oats firm. All this reminded Ronald of the time he worked in South Africa. 'The Yearly Meeting did a little study of what first attracted attenders to come to a Meeting for Worship. I was astonished to read that a significant number said they first knew of Quakers because in their childhood they were given Quaker Oats porridge or saw the "Quaker man" on a cereal packet.' Perhaps we should be paying the company 'for a century more of publicity' says Ronald. In the meantime, the editor is now worrying that The Friend might not be catering for Quaker racers this side of the Atlantic. Just how many are there?

q-eye from The Friend

The collaborative online diary of The Friend: independent Quaker journalism from the UK since 1843. Currently in test stage, featuring items from the magazine and other bloggable snippets

Eye guide

Previous Posts

Gandhi and Woodbrooke

‘We’ve HAD Meeting! We’ve HAD Meeting! We’ve HAD M...

We hear that the stag which gracefully guarded the...

Never underestimate a valuation official. They can...

Nostalgia or practicality

Dangerous Eye


Teddies travel the world

Embrace the Base reunion

What canst thou cook? Suggest a link

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A testimony to Love
Judy Kirby, Editor
Circles of silence
Gerard Benson
A view of Quakers
David Wood
Testimony to peace
Helen Steven
Middle East witness
Ann Wright
Peace for all
Stephen Hanvey
Living the testimonies
Helen Drewery
Harvey Gillman
Testimony to Equality
Jonathan Dale
Committed relationships
Phil Lucas
Quaker thought in literature
Marina Lewycka
Quaker thought in poetry
Gerard Benson
Ros Smith
Marian Liebmann
Equality and social justice
Belinda Hopkins
Testimony to Simplicity
Jan Arriens and Marion McNaughton
Laurie Michaelis
Testimony to Truth
Linda Pegler
Integrity in public life
Tony Stoller

Things to do, where to stay, people to see etc...

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