Monday, 7 August 2017

Things I wish I had known when I was younger...

This morning was a morning of ironing and gardening.  Gardening I like but ironing I don't.  I got introduced to them both from a very early age when I got myself a little job in the village of Keinton Mandeville working in Castle House which then was a dark and forbidding house but which is now a light and airy modern old people's home.  I was employed to garden and iron on a Saturday morning and as I was saving money so that I could go to Canada and visit my mum's brother and family this was great.  In the 1970s Castle House was home to a very mysterious man called Mr Heaver who was bedridden and the house was managed by Mrs Woods - who was scary in true Mrs Danvers style.  I remember that the house was dark and cavernous and I was taken to meet Mr Heaver once - he was huge and I could just about make him out sat in bed from the light coming through the partially opened shutters.  It was my job to keep the flower bed the other side of the shutters clean and tidy and to iron the massive pyjamas that Mr Heaver wore in bed.  There were no other clothes for him so I guess he never ever got out of that bed or that partially lit room.  Mrs Woods made it clear that my ironing had to be perfect and it would be scrutinised and she didn't have one of those new fangled steam iron things so I had over-dry, very heavy-duty thick cotton pyjamas the size of a football pitch to iron into some sort of shape.

Some 40+ years later whilst struggling to iron some over-dry, heavy-duty, thick cotton shorts of John's my mind wandered to that shadowy figure in Castle House and I wondered whether the mighty tintyweb might shed some light on the man.

Apparently the man was A R Heaver (Ronald Heaver) and quite an interesting man at that...

Ronald Heaver was closely associated with Glastonbury and the Garden Tomb of Joseph of Arimthea in Jerusalem and a whole generation of spiritual teachers were influenced or inspired by him.

He was born in London in 1900 so would have been in his 70s when I met him - he came to be in Somerset because he had been sent to a prep school in Taunton and apparently on half-day holidays he like to climb a hill from which he could make out Glastonbury Tor some 15 miles away.  This distant view held an irresistible fascination for him and subsequently he learned about the legend of Joseph of Arimathea founding the first Christian church there.

When Ronald was 16 one of his brothers was killed in the Battle of the Somme and although Ronald was underage he managed to get himself into the Royal Naval Air Service.  He had only three and a quarter instruction before making his first solo flight.  He joined a squadron in France where his Sopwith Camel was shot down in a dog fight and he crashed over enemy lines.  Although he escaped relatively unscathed the shock to his spine caused bouts of paralysis in later life which is why I guess he was bedridden when I met him.

He was a prisoner of war until 1919 and apparently experienced a 'spiritual transformation' whilst walking over Westminster Bridge in London.  1n 1926 during the Great Strike which paralysed the nation Ronald found himself completely paralysed and given just 48 hours to live - he believed his paralysis was as a result of being in tune with the 'soul of the nation'.

He survived, only to be told he would never walk again which he refused to accept waiting for the Lord to renew his strength.  Under orthodox medical treatment he made no progress at all so he rejected them and under his own methods made a remarkable recovery - within 2 years he was driving a car to Barcelona.

Nine years after his paralysis, at the age of 35, he became appointed to an executive position in the British Israelite movement which let to his involvement in negotiations to preserve the site which claimed to be the garden of Joseph of Arimathea and therefore the site of the Holy Sepulchre.

He became involved in deep spiritual matters and set up National Days of Prayer during the 2nd World War using his extraordinary contacts in government and royal circles.

In the late 1950s he made his home at Castle House in Keinton Mandeville where he set up a "Sanctuary of Avalon" hoping that its spiritual influence would counter nuclear Armageddon which was a real threat in the Cold War at that time.

I don't know if the Sanctuary existed when I was there - I don't remember it - apparently it was sparsely furnished and dedicated to Silence and the Power of the Divine Name.  It was constructed in silence and no word ever spoken within.

Apparently Ronald Heaver passed away in 1980 and is buried in the churchyard at Keinton Mandeville.  His history explains why the house was so very quiet and why he seemed so mysterious.  I wasn't interested in finding out anything about him when I was a young teenager but I am glad I have done so now.

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