Our main concern on the Council became the question of how the Centenary of Steiner’s birth should best be celebrated. It was decided that a thoroughly comprehensive Exhibition should be set up, which could be so constructed that it could be dismantled and transported to different towns and cities in the U.K. Kenneth Bayes, an architect and member of the Council, was given the job of creating this Exhibition, and this he did with great success. The different activities, developed out of the impulse of Anthroposophy, were illustrated by pictures, photographs, and descriptive letter press on separate folding screens. In this way it was possible to see the astonishing range of activities, in the realm of the sciences, arts including the new art of Eurhythmy, and religion. After a great deal of discussion, about how the Exhibition was to be transported round the country, my own suggestion was finally agreed to, namely that Pickfords should have the overall job of this transportation. The expense was great, of course, but Mr. Fletcher offered to finance the whole project. I was deputed to be in charge at the different locations. This proved to be a most wonderful experience for me in various ways. During the time that the Exhibition was at Steiner House, it became clear that there was something special about it. Through the way Kenneth had designed each section, these developed a real life of their own, which became apparent to many people. For instance, as I travelled with the Exhibition and put it up in the various halls, the wardens or “keepers” of the place would stand silently in front of some section. During my stint as a keeper, I heard the comment that there was something different about this Exhibition, which was somehow “speaking” to them. A great many books sold from the large selection displayed, and there were mostly good audiences for the lectures.
I think it can truthfully be said that this travelling Exhibition was a good idea, well carried out. It gave the opportunity to a great many people to inform themselves about the individual Rudolf Steiner. What he gave was not just another intellectual philosophy, but a clear pathway to a new way of life so sorely needed today for a human society world-wide rapidly falling into decadence.
Eventually, after I left the Council, I left London and bought a house down Broome Lane, Garden House. From there I carried on my work as secretary of the B D A.A. and was in close co operation with David Clement and Maria Geuter. I made a wonderful garden at this house, including making a fairly large pool, with lilies and many goldfish. Adjoining the garden was a two acre portion of field, which I very much wanted to develop as a B D experimental plot. But unfortunately I could get no cooperation from George Coorin, the B D consultant, in spite of him passing weekly on his way to work with David. Because of this and my general feeling of frustration over the work I was prepared to do, relations became rather strained. I decided to buy the house in Clent opposite the Woodman Inn, which had belonged to old friends, and which was within walking distance over the fields to the Grove. I set about making another garden at this Sycamore Cottage and worked closely with David, having handed the B D secretaryship on to John Soper, who lived at Holy Cross.
From now on, this story of my life will be more of an account of episodes, as my memory for dates is atrocious and I find it difficult to place events in their chronological order.
After a few years at Sycamore Cottage, I decided to go back to Wales, but this time to Criccieth, where an Anthroposophical friend, Dulcia Hemp, lived. But before I got to Criccieth, Jeremy made me an offer I was very happy to accept. He and Tiggy had bought a farm, Rhosgyll Fawr, about six miles out of Criccieth, and were planning to move out there and farm. But before having bought this farm, they had bought a smallholding nearby. There was an old cowshed on the land and Jeremy applied for and got permission to convert it into a cottage. Knowing that I planned to come and live up here, he offered it to me, and I gladly accepted the offer. Jeremy then himself drew up plans for its conversion and these were followed almost exactly to make a perfect cottage for me. While it was being built I lived in their cottage storing my furniture up at the farmhouse which they were also in process of altering.
I called my cottage Cae Brwyn, which is the Welsh for Field of Rushes, as the field in which the cottage stood was in fact very marshy. The cottage was roughly in the middle of an acre of land, and my first job was to get it drained, with the water running off into the surrounding ditches. To save some outdoor work, I had put a conservatory up outside the sitting room, so that I could work in the Winter in ease and comfort. It was also a nice extension to the sitting room.
The work of converting the cowshed into a cottage was done surprisingly quickly by a firm of building contractors, Povey Brothers, from Portmadoc. One day one of the builders at Cae Brwyn told me that if I wanted help in making a garden, one of them, Will Williams from Garndolbenmaen, was just the man I needed. He was a small man with a humpy back, caused I was sure from humping the very large stones used for building the walls at his work. Will did indeed prove to be just the sort of man I needed, and together we did create a very good garden from what had simply been a field. The soil was good, as it had been grazed since ever, and was therefore very well manured.
Although Cae Brwyn was really “tailor made” for me in every way and I was occupied in creating a really good garden there, I began to feel it was becoming too isolated for me, and thought of moving into Criccieth. I tried to sell the house but was prevented on about three occasions. I could not find anything I liked in Criccieth, till one day George Goldman, the farm manager at Rhosgyll, said there was just the place for me near his own house. He was right – it was exactly what I wanted, and I was able to buy it from the old lady who had to go to Wern. As it happened, I had an offer for Cae Brwyn at the same time and was happy to sell it to a young Welsh couple, a teacher at the Criccieth junior school, who had two little girls.
The new house Min y Nant (which means beside the stream) was at the top of the Caernarfon road, and had a field both at the front and the back, so it was nearly like living in the country. I had to re wire the house completely and also put in central heating. I also had all the windows double glazed and the roof insulated, all of which made it a very comfortable house to live in.
There was no garden at all, only a very scruffy lawn all round the house. George Goldman proved to be a most wonderful helper in every kind of way, and together we set about planning some sort of garden. We began by digging out a place for a small pool and found two large boulders there, which had to have a tractor and crane to dig them out. We planted trees and flowering shrubs and made a herbaceous border by the fence next to the field at the back. There was no proper fence anywhere, so we got pailing to fence everything in and create some shelter. We also planted hedges for shelter. George is a wonderful gardener and everything that he planted, flourished.
My dwindling eyesight made it necessary for me to stop driving. I sold my Volkswagen to Victoria. I also transferred my number, I CHA, to one of Hughie’s two sons, Henry – that was as good as having a £5,000 present, as that is what it could have been sold for. From now on, George Goldman took me everywhere. We had a wonderful arrangement by means of which I could see Diana. George drove me to Welshpool where we met Bridget with whom I stayed. And from her, it was one hour’s drive over to Diana’s Halesowen.
About this time I was having a lot of trouble with painful knees and was advised to go to Park Attwood Clinic, near Kidderminster, for treatment. This I did, and stayed for three weeks. But there was hardly any improvement, and I was advised to see a specialist. He told me that the trouble came from arthritis in my hips and advised me to have the transplant operation. This I did, having the first, left, hip done privately at the North Wales Hospital in Llandudno. It was entirely successful. So six months later I had the right one done on the National Health at Bangor with the same surgeon. The knees were a lot better, but the original trouble, which I have suffered since I was expecting Idonea, persists. No surgeon or doctor can explain why. There seems no treatment.
After my operations, I needed a certain amount of looking after. Victoria, Tiggy’s eldest daughter, came, first just for a weekend, then stayed on for thirteen months. Victoria is one of those who cannot find her right place in the sort of life she is looking for. She has been to various institutions for treatment, and to psychotherapists, and though there is help for a time, nothing really permanent is achieved. While she was with me, she also belonged to a choir in which she sang alto, and this choir gave concerts at many different places. Victoria is very musical, and she has made good friends amongst other choir members, who came from as far afield as Barmouth. Victoria looked after me very well, being an excellent cook, and after a time did begin to feel stronger in herself. So, thinking she could really now stand on her own feet, she bought a house in Tremadoc and moved over there. It did not turn out to be a very satisfactory move, and eventually she accepted the invitation of choir members who lived in Barmouth, to go and live temporarily with them. Here she became settled and to a great degree happy.
80th Birthday: Simpler Times
I had my 80th birthday soon after moving into Min y Nant, and Tiggy and Jeremy had a large party for it. All my children were here, and many grandchildren. Among my presents was a little orange tree from Diana. Over the last decade, I have made marmalade from its oranges.
From now on, my life became very constricted, through not being able to drive myself. But I still carried on with our Anthroposophical Study Group. Amongst the members of this Group, there were some very serious students, and we were particularly happy to welcome Charles Lawrie who had been librarian at Steiner House in London, and his companion Eta Ingham, who made really fabulous tapestries. She dyed her wool herself, greatly from plants, and her work is to be found almost worldwide. Sadly we lost the Isaacs, who went down to Elmfield.
Many of our Group had been members of the Anthroposophical Society for a few years, and expressed a wish to belong to the First Class. Charles approached our Chairman with this request and the result was that several of our members were received into the First Class, and I was appointed Reader. This was a privilege I could never have imagined happening, a trust seemingly direct from the spiritual worlds, and for me the highest possible Karmic responsibility. We had the readings in the dining rooms of our homes, and we grew to feel ourselves a very closely bonded group.
The School for Spiritual Science and What It Means To Be In The First Class:
The School for Spiritual Science was founded by Rudolf Steiner for the teaching of the deepest sides of Anthroposophy for all who wanted to travel this path. In the year following the burning of the First Goetheanum, the different National Societies were encouraged to found their own separate Societies. A conference had been held the following Christmas at which all were united in the General Anthroposophical Society. Rudolf Steiner had decided that he should now become the Chairman of the Society and the movement, which were now one organisation. Steiner founded the School of Spiritual Science, which was to comprise three Classes. Those members with at least two years’ study of Anthroposophy behind them, were eligible to become members, and at first only Steiner admitted them. But he also appointed five trusted colleagues to be the Vorstand (executive of the Society), and later it was only by approval by the Vorstand that one could join the First Class. Dr. Ita Wegman was appointed the leader of this Class, and on Steiner’s death, only she took the Classes. Later George Adams also became a Reader, and as the members grew, it became necessary to appoint a Reader for each area. On one occasion when Dr. Wegman visited Clent Grove, she admitted me to be a member of the Class. There were special blue membership cards, signed by a member of the Vorstand, and presentation of the Card was essential for admittance to the Class. It would be right for us now to recognise ourselves as part of this whole school.
During these years, I was gradually losing my hearing till it became so bad that I had to resign from being the Reader of the First Class. This was a sad blow, an end to a certain phase. We had been a very close community. When it came to the appointing of another Reader, it seemed to me, after much pondering, also talks with members, and chiefly through correspondence with Dick Seddon, a council member and reader, that it would be right for us now to have a Reader outside our Group.
Waldorf School Comes to Wales:
Not long after I had moved into Cae Brwyn, Jeremy sold Ysgubor Fawr to Frank and Cath Griffiths, from Droitwich, and whom I had known when living in Clent. They told me of some friends living locally who were interested in Waldorf education. They had invited the head of the Schools Fellowship in England, Brian Masters, to address a public meeting and describe Waldorf Education. The Griffiths were going to this meeting, and knowing of my interest in Steiner, invited me to join them, which I did. The public meeting was in Portmadoc and quite well attended — about thirty people indicating an appreciative interest in the lecture. A few days afterwards, those who had called the meeting found that there was a wish to have such a school, and discussions were begun on all the problems involved in such a project. A house for the school must be found; teachers willing to come to Wales; most importantly, someone who could deal with the local Council for permission to start such a school. How to finance it; and finally it was realised that they needed someone who understood something about Anthroposophy and could speak to them about it. The only person with any knowledge at all was myself, so I was asked if I would take on this job.
I gladly accepted, and those interested came to Cae Brwyn, where we met once a week for regular study. Those who came were David Nash, a very well-known sculptor, Sheila and her husband Childs, who had been instrumental in calling the original meeting, Miriam and David Isaacs, Frances Magriel, Gill and Shaun Sheltinger, Judy Harris, David Heaf, Susan Harris and some others whose names I can’t remember. I found that there was an interest in Buddhism among many of them, and as it is important to understand how Buddha is active right up to today, we studied Steiner’s lectures on “from Buddha to Christ”. Also his lectures on the St. Luke Gospel, which helped to give a deeper understanding of Christmas. We also studied Volume III of Karmic Relationship in which Steiner describes previous incarnations of those who are finding their way into Anthroposophy today. Finally, we tackled Occult Science, but only got about half way, as many of the members had left to take up jobs. Otherwise, we met weekly without a break, even for a year or two after I moved into Criccieth. And some of the members became teachers in our school, and also joined the Anthroposophical Society.
The property called Tan-y-Rallt, just outside Tremadoc, had been left to Jean Livingston-Learmouth, actually with no provision at all for her father, Sandy. About ten years after her mother’s death during the war, Jean decided to sell the property. It was in the right locality, and the house was about the size the school was looking for, so a bid was made for it, which Jean accepted. The house was above the road from Portmadoc to Betws-y-Coed, and overlooking the wide estuary that had been drained by the previous owner Madox, who was famous for his work in developing this area, and for having built the “Cob”, to keep the sea from flooding the valley.
Shaun Sheltinger was mainly responsible for all negotiations about change of use of the house and other negotiations with the local council. Various other parents collected the necessary furniture, desks, chairs, blackboards, etc. Two teachers from Elmfield School had come to live in the district, Nicholas and Mrs. Joiner, and they agreed to be our main teachers.
So the school opened and began holding weekly seminars, instructing those of our group who wished to become teachers at our school. Many local English parents decided to send their children to our school, very greatly because of the poor quality of teaching in the local schools and the fact that the lessons were mostly in Welsh, which our children could not understand. There were soon about 90 children in the school, but as it was not yet possible to develop an upper school for the over-14, this age left, some to go to local senior schools and some to other Steiner schools. The teaching staff changed over the years, replacements being experienced teachers.
The coming of the school made an enormous difference to my own life as those members of my original group had become close friends and now became teachers at the school. There were parents who were eager to know more about the spiritual background to the teaching. So by working with them, there became a real incentive for my own studies.
Mrs. Livingstone-Learmouth was a very keen gardener, and through her work on it, the very extensive gardens at Tan-y-Rallt became well-known. But neither Jean nor Sandy were interested in gardening, and at Mrs. Livingstone-Learmouth’s death the whole place deteriorated into a wilderness of nettles and briars, young ash and sycamore saplings. To my great joy, one of the parents, Judy Harris, was a keen and knowledgeable gardener and farmer; she said she would tackle the job of restoring this wilderness into a real garden.
It was to be a bio-dynamic garden. With a few others interested in this work, we began the study of Steiner’s Agriculture Course. The highly technical and specialised eight lectures, given at Koberwitz, the estate of the Count Keyserlingk on the Silesian border during Whitsun, June 1924, were for farmers and gardeners, and those working in agricultural science.
Judy had various helpers, none of them, alas, more than rather temporary. But it was a huge job as the garden had been completely neglected for ten years, so was a jungle of briars, nettles, sapling ash trees and unpruned apple trees. Her husband, Peter, a professional forester, was a tremendous supporter. In time he took on the management of the extensive woodland. Peter was also involved in another woodland trust, over near Barmouth, in which I also became involved. But the owner of the woods was not really interested in the educational and cultural aspects of this trust and sold it all. But it was possible to transfer some of the assets of this to Tan y Rallt, which thereby became a Charitable Trust, giving it many advantages financially. Judy obtained help for her formidable task, and soon certain order appeared. A large polythene “tunnel” had been acquired in which tomatoes and cucumbers and seedlings were raised. The aim was for this garden to develop so that it could be a financial asset to the school.
With the firm purpose of there being an upper school to take the children up to leaving age, a building project was inaugurated in the grounds of the school. There was an assembly hall, three classrooms, toilet premises, and a kitchen. This was all paid for by David Nash as he sold his sculptures around the world and gave seminars in various countries. Through this generosity, a wonderful building grew up. But, alas, it could not as yet be used for an upper school although the premises were always needed for conferences of various sorts: visiting classes from other schools, cultural conferences -very greatly from overseas – organised by David Nash and another member, Rosemary Tennyson, concerned with social problems. So the buildings are extensively used and contribute a substantial income for the school.
When I moved to Min-y-Nant, I made whole-meal bread in sufficient quantities to sell at the school: ten two-pound loaves at a time in my Raeburn gas cooker. This bread was most sought after, and I hoped to develop a small bakery for it. Bread-making has always been something like a sacred ritual for me. In Christianity, we have the words, “I am the Bread of Life” and bread in its various forms is the world-wide staple food.
The increasing deafness resulted in me having to live a very restricted life, in that I could not attend meetings or functions connected with the school on the one hand because I could not hear at all to participate in discussions. Chief among the ordinary affairs of life now cut off from me was the Criccieth Music Festival, created almost entirely out of the inspirations of Tiggy. She gathered many influential people in the music world around her, and a really significant addition to the Festivals of Music was created at Criccieth. I was able to attend many of the concerts of the first two Festivals, but sadly none during the third year.
However, I was fortunate that friends saw to it that I did not miss out on fun altogether. Members of our Study Group that had grown out of the School visited me to keep me in touch with developments and activities. Also, George Goldman, by now far more than a gardener, drove me over to look in at Summer and Advent Fairs and Festivals. A group of seven friends, knowing I had never been to the Druids’ Stone Circle at Penmaenmawr, arranged to take me there one Michaelmas Day, complete with wheel chair so that I could be taken right up to the top. This was a truly wonderful experience and I was able to walk all round the circle. As it was a clear day, I could see other sites in Anglesey. David Nash made some beautiful sketches of the circle, and gave me one of them.