Chapter 14

Chapter 14

Meanwhile I went home, and on April 14th Bridget was born. As promised, I had to tell Fried Geuter that Hugh and I had a daughter, and were calling her Bridget Nichola. He wrote me a long letter in reply, describing the social impulses of both the Saints Bridget and Nicholas, and congratulating me on the choice of just these names. Amongst the Celtic legends retold by the Scottish author Fiona McLeod was the one about Brighid, or Bride of the Isles. Fried studied this story again, and advised me to do so as well.

As a result of studying Brighid’s life, it was decided that we should write a whole new Christmas play around the impulse of St. Bride. Now Brighid, or Bride, had a pre Christian life amongst the ancient Celtic legends, and her appearance at the time of the birth of Christ was like a fulfilment of early Celtic prophecies. We simply took this “fulfilment” story and made a play out of it for the children at Christmas. Fried and I wrote all the words during my visits to the home at Sunfield. His wife, Maria, wrote poems for the songs. She had arrived with their three children: Herbert, 14; Berthilde Johanna, 10, and Berthilde Elizabeth, 10. (The girls had been given their names by Rudolf Steiner). Michael Wilson composed some truly magic music for the play. It was all of necessity a little primitive in presentation, as the sitting room in which it was performed was only just big enough for the audience of children, and the few players and musicians. But in spite of these disadvantages, our little play was most effective and gave a warm start to the Christmas Festival. All my own children were there, of course. Bridget, who had been the original inspiration of it, only eight months old sat as good as gold through the whole performance.

When Herbert became very engrossed with the story of Parcival, he said he wanted to make a play about Parcival for Easter. So that was the next project, and again Fried, Maria and Michael co operated in the creation of it. For the theme song, “In the Quest of the Holy Grail”, Fried wrote the words and Michael the music. It became very well-known and in time could be heard worldwide, expressing as it does the aims and ideals of all those working out of the Anthroposophical impulse.

I went, whenever I could get away from home, over to Sunfield for lectures and to share in the festival activities. At this time, it was becoming increasingly difficult for many Anthroposophists to carry on their work in Germany, owing to Nazi persecution, particularly if they were even remotely tinged with Jewish blood. Many of them were sending their children over to England. Among those who came to Sunfield were the two daughters of Dr. Hauschka, Wallburga and Friedl; Clarissa, the daughter of the scientist Dr. Stein; and Dr. Kaelin’s daughter, whose name I can ‘t remember.

Working at Sunfield then was Shirley Hutchins, whose sister Eileen was headmistress of a girls’ school near Liverpool. There was also a flourishing study group of the Anthroposophical Society, and Eileen had been to many of its meetings. What had impressed her most deeply were Steiner’s Mystery Dramas, in spite of their not very good translations. Knowing that Eileen was a teacher, Fried Geuter wrote and invited her to come to Sunfield to teach these children from Germany. Eileen was very glad to accept the invitation. The three Geuter children also joined this group.

The Wilsons made rooms available for Eileen and the children at Elmfield, and so the embryo Elmfield School was born. I was very anxious that my own children should benefit from this Waldorf education, and in a room at Sunfield a small kindergarten class had been started for children who were not handicapped. I asked if Idonea and Tiggy could join this class; and, young though they were, they were accepted. Our chauffeur, Davis, drove them in and brought them home. Tiggy wasn’t even talking a great deal at that time, but was very happy painting wonderful pictures. Idonea at that time used to suffer from nightmares and would be found sleep walking. These painting sessions proved to be very helpful, reducing her bouts of tension, and she was really happy in the atmosphere of this little class.

After 17 or 18, the pupils have developed their egos, and they welcome the use and stimulation of their intellectual powers.

It was because of this teaching of the human being as a spiritual being that I was so determined that my children should have the Waldorf education. The whole subject of Education is so complex and so important, for the social future specially that I hope you will read Steiner’s lectures on it. I observed my children very closely and we talked together a lot, but I wanted their schooling to be an extension of what we did at home. In discussion with Hugh about the children’s progress at school, my arguments in favour proved the most sensible and practical, so the children were allowed to stay.

Rudolf Steiner has described Anthroposophy as a path of knowledge leading from the spiritual in the human being to the Spiritual in the Universe. This is what one finds it is. It is unique to each individual, but one finds companions in those also following such a path. I have described my main search on this path as being for an ever-growing understanding of the Christ Being. In the world of agriculture, the earth itself is the Body of Christ, and therefore care of it is a sacred trust. Studying the events of Good Friday and Easter Day over and over again, there is built into one not only the sense of horror at the crucifixion itself, but the fact of the resulting sanctifying of the earth. Underlying all I have done in my work for the bio-dynamic movement have been these thoughts.

At this time, I was studying much of what Steiner said about the growing child, and the influences that affect them. He spoke about the importance of recognising the seven year periods in their growth and development. For the first seven years, there is greatly physical growth, and particularly the creation of the permanent teeth; the child is born with its “baby teeth”, but loses these during the first seven years while producing a new set. These are created out of forces of the head, and Steiner stresses the harm to health in later years that is done if these forces of growth or life, ethenic forces, are used too early. In particular, Steiner had described how through educating children in this way, these forces could be fostered and strengthened, and most particularly through Eurythmy. For instance, there should be no teaching of reading and writing before the age of 6 or 7.

A physical body is really an artistic creation, and the child needs only artistic activities in its early years: singing, dancing, music, rhythmical games they can play in groups. In such games, they even have their first arithmetic lessons with adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. The children also have a lot of painting, all in watercolour, and it is fascinating to see how their imagination works. In their paintings you can observe their development over the years.

The second seven-year stage culminates in puberty, and during this time the emotional life is developed. All the usual school subjects are taught, but in such a way that the children can experience a personal involvement in events, even in science, so that they are not presented with a purely intellectual, abstract picture of human life.

One subject that cannot be taught is ethics and mortality [morality?], and here the children study the great Greek plays and also act in them.

But Sunfield soon grew too small for the numbers of handicapped children needing to come there, and a search was being made for a bigger house, outside Birmingham. Clent Grove was still for sale, and there was another property in Warwickshire, Chadwick Manor, that would have been suitable. Frau Dr. Wegman had come over from Arlesheim, and she joined the party looking in particular at these two properties. They decided in the end that Clent Grove would be really an ideal place, with its beautiful grounds, small home farm, and not too big a house. So an offer was made to purchase it, which Hugh accepted. Because of my close association with Sunfield, I felt that I had almost gained a second home, in the very house I had earlier rejected as being too big for us alone.

The school for normal children moved to Clent Grove, which was renamed Elmfield. Now the school included the kindergarten class as well. The Wilsons bought a house in Clent, and went to live over there.

The move of Sunfield to this larger house made it possible for a considerable expansion of the work being done for the children, and very quickly the value of the co operation between Fried and Michael showed itself. Fried was a brilliant teacher and innovator with a most lively imagination. Michael supplemented these imaginations with what, at times, seemed quite magical music. Having both musicians and artists as teachers and nurses, it was not long before Sunfield became widely known as an exceptional home for handicapped children. Frau Dr. Wegman visited frequently, teaching the teachers, one might say, always encouraging and helping by her inspiring presence.

Among the many visitors to Sunfield from home and overseas was a young man called David Clement. He had had a lot of contact with Anthroposophy through his mother and elder brother, both members of the Society. David at the time was at Oxford. But his mother had died and, not long after, his brother also, leaving David very alone but in possession of quite a considerable fortune. David knew Dr. Wegman quite well. As a result of long conversations with her while he visited at Clent, he decided to take her advice and come to work at Clent. He fitted in completely with Fried and Michael and soon became an integral part of the whole working group.

About this time another visitor arrived, from South Africa, Deryck Duffy. He had come to England to work for the Fairbridge Farm Schools which were founded to help young people in difficult circumstances through working on the land. His concern was for youngsters with either no or unsatisfactory homes, and working on the land seemed to him to be the right idea. But he had got very dissatisfied with their way of working at HQ, mostly on administration, as the money it was his job to collect was not being spent on the children. At that time he had been reading the book God is My Adventure by Rom Landau. Of all the projects and activities described in it, he was most impressed by descriptions of work carried out through the impulses given by Rudolf Steiner in his Anthroposophy. Among the places described was Sunfield Children’s Homes at Clent Grove, and he decided to visit this place and find out what was actually being done. The day he arrived, I happened to be visiting the Geuters and so was actually present during the whole of his visit. Through all that he could experience in just one visit, Deryck felt that these people had what he was looking for and decided he would like to join them. But Deryck was married, to a Russian wife, Lisa, and they had a baby daughter, Elizabeth, who were staying in Scotland at the time with friends. Deryck joined them and described all that he had found and his impressions. Lisa was very sympathetic towards what he described and his wish to join them. She agreed that they should go and work with Sunfield, and this they eventually did. I became very closely involved with both David and Deryck and their work.

But now, back to me at Caspidge! When Bridget was born, I had four children of age 5 and under, and was rather exhausted and lost a lot of weight. After John was born, I had gone down to seven and a half stone (five-foot six, 105 pounds), but neither my doctor nor family were at all concerned about this! Frau Dr. Wegman was visiting Sunfield when Bridget was under a year old, and she gave me much help and advice at that time. All four children were very strong and healthy, and I was immensely proud of them, needless to say.

Grandma Widdrington had been to visit us at the Court, before we moved to Caspidge, and I was always so sorry I did not have a photograph of her with her namesake Cecilia (Tiggy) on her knee.


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