Collection this Month
Freedom From Torture- which has emphasis on therapy sessions with traumatised refugees, involving sessions of art, music, drama and creative writing.
If you wish to donate but can’t attend at the Meeting House, please send a cheque to Rachel Bach made out to “Ipswich Quakers”. Please send this before the end of the month concerned.
This year passages from Quaker Faith and Practice will alternate monthly with short poems by the American poet Carl Sandburg.
Look out how you use proud words.
When you let proud words go, it is
Not easy to call them back.
They wear long boots, hard boots; they
walk off proud; they can’t hear you
Look out how you use proud words.
Film Evening: 28 July- “Agora” .
This film is set in Alexandria, Egypt, in 391 AD and explores the relationship between the pagan rulers and the increasing numbers of Christians. The film has subtitles too.
Films coming up:
- 28 July- Agora – set in Alexandria, Egypt, 391 AD and exploring the relationship between pagan rulers and increasing numbers of Christians-subtitles
- 25 August- The Crucible- film version of the famous play about the Salem witch trials- subtitles
- 22 September- Blackfish- documentary about the treatment of performing and captive orcas- no subtitles
- 27 October- Selma- Martin Luther King and the American civil rights marches- subtitles
- 24 November- The Boy With The Striped Pyjamas- exploring the growing friendship between the son of a Nazi death camp commandant and a boy inside the fence- subtitles
- 15 December- Quartet- lightening the atmosphere with a very positive film about old age- retired opera singers in a home, plus a superb soundtrack- subtitles
Quaker Quest Discussion Group May 2017 – “Journey of a Lifer”
Mr Cornish attended the Ipswich Quaker Meeting House on Wednesday evening and gave a talk concerning his life sentence prison journey and his research into the Kings Fund Dying Rooms.
There was lively, relative questioning as the talk progressed toward discussion groups being set up and posed with the dilemma of “Can there ever be such a thing as a “good death for a life-sentence prisoner in a secure prison environment?”
There were about 25 people in attendance and after the discussion topic feedback was given by each group. The general consensus was that there has to be security but also dignity being upheld at the same time but it would be hard to uphold the balance of both due to environmental cultures and constraints.
The evening was closed by a short true story to change the topic area from its discussion subject to a lighter hearted mood.
Mr Cornish thanked all for their presence and contributions and says that he is always approachable in the future when attending meetings: in case anyone even wants to ask a question in either discussion sphere from the evening’s talk.
Journey of a Lifer
Stanley is at “Lifer” at H.M.P. Hollesley Bay, which is a D category open prison. Stan, who is around 6o, has reached the end of his tariff. (The minimum amount of time he must serve, though his “life” sentence is longer)
Stanley managed to get leave to come and hear Tim Newell speaking about Restorative Justice at the Friends Meeting House, and on that occasion offered to come and talk to us. We already had a forum for this, as Quaker Quest appealed so much to our meeting that we have continued it indefinitely, inviting speakers from many backgrounds to come and open our minds a little with their stories.
Stanley is hoping to be released by the end of this year, and is keen to establish contacts, friendships, and support systems in the community. In fact he now attends Woodbridge Meeting, with two other Hollesley Bay men, every Sunday. I think he saw the talk as a good way of making an impact….and he did. It was intriguing, different, and at times gruelling, and the faces around the circle of Friends were often genuinely pained for Stan and his fellow prisoners. He is an enthusiast and a story-teller by nature, not afraid to put himself forward and ask for whatever he requires, and charming with it: he has engaged many people in trying to get his needs met as he prepares for release.
The talk took us through prison life and Stan’s progress away from despair and into study. He vowed to save himself from a meaningless life behind bars, and over the years has collected an impressive cv of study courses, largely directed towards therapy and counselling, but also practical courses like Braille translation. He claims that the Quakers, through the Shaw trust, have supported him financially through this long course of study, and he is very grateful to the Society, and was keen to encourage us to go out and get involved in things that are important to prisoners, especially as Prison Reform is one of our areas of concern.
One issue of special interest to Stan, because he is himself a cancer sufferer, is that of terminal illness and death within the prison system. He took the course in Dignity in Dying, and talked vividly to us of his fear of being sent off to a specialist hospital prison (he tells us there are three in the UK) where he will be apportioned a “dying room”, away from family, friends and jail mates, and away from his cell, which at present is the only “home” he has. Offenders who need medical or surgical interventions, when they are admitted to public hospitals, are always attended by one or two prison officers and are handcuffed onto a 6 foot chain. All ablutions and toilet needs are carried out in this condition, sometimes with only a curtain for privacy. Sometimes the officers (who may be of either sex), will remain present and not even turn away, thus depriving the prisoner of normal dignity. Stan expressed anger and disgust at what he himself had suffered, and returned to the one real conflict for those who work with the seriously ill in custody: how can the balance be kept between the human right of the prisoner to dignity in dying, and the right of the public to be kept safe from harm by men and women who have committed crimes in the past and may be capable of doing so again.
At this point in the evening, we divided into smaller groups in order to wrangle with this dilemma. It was an eye-opening experience, as we realised that an offender might be a risk to himself, as well as to the public, and that even at the moment of death some people are capable of surprising physical and destructive energy. We returned to the main group without resolving the conflict, but with much food for thought.
And Stan returned to Hollesley Bay to await his Parole Board in September.
From an attender at Stan’s Talk “Journey of a Lifer”
Thanks for last night, it was really excellent. I think the Quakers are unique in both attracting speakers from backgrounds and experiences who would not comfortably appear elsewhere, and in that their open inclusive format allows free and powerful expression for them (both points probably amount to the same thing). I am thinking also of Andrea Needham and the talk you have coming up too from Bal Kaur.
From our point of view it allows us to hear a wholly new perspective on things which can only come from you such speakers who have lived differently and are able to articulate it. So we are hearing something wholly new and then able to reflect and discuss it.
In Stan’s case, apart from the main thrust of his story, it is remarkable to think of someone being academic in isolation. Most people are doing it in an environment where they are, whether they realise or not, absorbing much from contact with others. There are pros and cons there of course! Obviously the internet helps to temper the distinction, although presumably use of that is also controlled and monitored in prison? I would be grateful if you could pass this message on to him if you can as I read the rest of his handout when I got home.
There are two more sections we could not cover on ‘Words in Death’ and ‘Hegemonic and Discursive Power’ which had some resonance for me and my interests of late. The former referenced directly Native American thinking which is interesting but the latter seemed to reference not only that (symbolism) but also Sartre and existentialism to a degree that I would be very interested to know, given my comments, whether it was conscious reference. Not just the topics but even the phrase ‘things- in –themselves’ (Sartre: ‘etre en-soi’) not ‘producing knowledge’ but ‘the discourse of them’ doing so. I hope he also got back in time for his ‘exit pass’ time which I think was 10.30!
The Long Life Of Hilary Thomas
When Marie and I first started attending the Ipswich Quakers in the early 1990’s Hilary and her husband Charles were established members, seen by us as ‘weighty Quakers’. Hilary came from an artistic family and at school was encouraged, in those days of restricted female activities, to play lacrosse and enjoy many artistic activities. Once when she won an art prize it went to financing riding lessons. Hilary was a Froebel trained teacher and she and Charles had already taught outside Suffolk, Charles in a Quaker school. Charles then went to teach at Woolverstone Hall and they lived nearby in ‘The Holt’. By then Hilary had two daughters, Caroline the oldest and Cathy, who was about five and a half when they moved to Woolverstone in early 1957. Hilary subsequently taught at Amberfield and the Ipswich High School for Girls, which ironically, at a much later date, moved to Woolverstone Hall. Hilary was the founder, with a friend, of a playgroup at nearby Shotley and this subsequently moved to the village hall at Woolverstone. Such was the demand that an overflow had to be arranged in a village house. Andrew Sterling remembers his daughter Anna being part of this group and this early learning through play included involvement in the early days of the Pre-School Playgroups Association. This developed to a point where Hilary moved on to be their area organiser, using buses and trains to visit new groups starting up and offer advice as appropriate. She did eventually pass her driving test, in an ‘automatic’ car, at the age of seventy.
She and Charles were very active members of the Ipswich Quakers, not just regular attenders but in Hilary’s case being a doorkeeper, looking after the children and acting as an Overseer. Angela Schultz, who arrived as the warden early in 1983, remembered that Hilary was her Overseer and her practical concern extended to providing bunk beds for Angela’s young children when they first moved in. After the death of Charles Hilary eventually moved to a smaller house at nearby Chelmondiston and I can remember, from our visits, a wonderful colourful garden that she enjoyed. Her move was in 2003, at the age of ninety, which didn’t stop her joining the over-sixties club. She was by then finding it increasingly difficult to last the whole hour of our Meetings for Worship, so she started coming in halfway through and eventually stopped attending. She was also by then ninety five and further away, having moved to Oak House on the edge of Stutton in 2008. Her daughter Cathy soon got her moved from a room with limited light to a sunnier downstairs one, next to the garden. On one of our visits she expressed her disappointment at being discouraged from feeding the birds, just as lumps of white bread came down from the room above.
Initially we visited Hilary in groups of five or six and followed a routine of arriving about eleven, having drinks and biscuits, poetry readings- more of that later-then a short Meeting for Worship and saying goodbye after we had accompanied her to lunch. This was just long enough not to exhaust and disorientate her. However, as her eyesight, hearing and memory deteriorated, we restricted numbers to two or three, who had known Hilary for a long time i.e. Andrew Sterling whose mother was with Hilary at the Ipswich Quakers, Lydia with her dog and Frances who lived nearby. Hilary was always welcoming and interested in our personal lives as well as the progress of our Quaker Meeting. Even in her last days, when she found it increasingly difficult to remember who we were, she continued to surprise us. On one visit Marie and I were almost transfixed by her bright red nails, which she had agreed to have painted on by one of her helpers. Her room decorations included several of her own paintings and her love of nature and the countryside was represented by a series of ‘toys’ representing different birds, which when squeezed produced a remarkably accurate call. There were also several cards with bird photos and when opened they gave their individual songs. I always tried the nightingale one. Incidentally Hilary also wrote an unpublished book for children- Lydia can send an email copy to anyone interested.
Hilary also loved poetry, as could be seen from the volumes in her book collection. Whenever we visited we read poems by her two favourites, Walter de la Mare and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Until a few years before her death she knew almost every word of a long de la Mare poem and often joined in with lines from Hopkins poems such as ‘Spring’, ‘Pied Beauty’ and ‘The Woodlark’. On our last visit, just before her 103rd birthday late December 2016, she could still remember several lines from a Christmas poem Marie read to her. Hilary was able to see her great grandson but increasingly became frail and disorientated, falling over several times and finally suffering a dislocated pelvis. She died peacefully in her bed at Oak House on 2nd May 2017.
Four of us from Ipswich Quakers joined her family and friends at the Oakfields Wood Green Burial site in Wrabness, where her funeral included a very full life history and several readings, including poetry. It was a hot day with birds singing and a blue butterfly dancing nearby. On the next day, 26th May, a meeting to celebrate her life was held at our Friends’ Meeting House in Ipswich, attended by several of her family. This was a less formal occasion, allowing several who had known Hilary for a long time to recount tales from her long life, many of them amusing. I also read a favourite Hopkins poem, ‘God’s Grandeur’. Perhaps my abiding memory will be of Hilary on the occasion of a 100th birthday party held at Oak House. Dressed up for the occasion she sat almost regally at the entrance door, which enabled her without undue exertion to welcome all visitors and engage them in conversation. She was a lovely lady and Marie and I will miss our visits to see her. I will always remember her when I read a Hopkins poem or listen to the incredible song of a nightingale.
Hilary with Marie, Andrew and Richard
Hilary’s Favourite Paintings
On the left Hilary’s Flowers
On the right Hilary’s Still Life