Posted by: helenrobertsbradford | September 30, 2009

Peace web

Before I had worked my way through Barbara Bruce’s papers, I had no idea that her connection with Commonweal was based on anything more definite than her having known Gandhi and Devi Prasad, one of the first Commonweal trustees.  Then in letters from Margaret Barr in Kharang and her sister Mary Barr in Kotagiri, I found scattered references to the founder of Commonweal, David Hoggett (1929 -1975), working in India in the early 1950s and later joining the Garthnewydd community in South Wales.  In fact Mary Barr made arrangements for David to stay with Barbara Bruce at her home in Upton-on-Severn, in a letter of 29 April 1955.

But it was not until I began cataloguing the archives of Commonweal itself, that I came across evidence of something more.  The archives revealed the existence of a web of Quakers, pacifists, followers of Gandhi, people who were ‘going back to the land’, setting up communes and engaging in direct action.

David Hoggett and Barbara Bruce were both part of this network, and specifically of the Fellowship of Friends of Truth, a group originally formed in India in 1949.  It was through the FFT that the idea of setting up a community based on Gandhian ideals of satyagraha (nonviolence in pursuit of the Truth) and sarvodaya (welfare of all) took shape in the late 1950s.  The result was Garthnewydd Community House in Merthyr Tydfil.  Barbara Bruce helped to set up the community, as did Molly Tandy, who had worked with Barbara at the Friends Mission Hospital in Itarsi, and her daughter Mary Tandy.  David Hoggett lived at Garthnewydd with his carer Alfred Heselgrave until 1961 and the development of the Commonweal Collection as a resource for peace activists has its roots in this experiment in community living.

The FFT no longer exists, but its successor in spirit would seem to be the Quaker Universalist Group.

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