Sir George Trevelyan: memories and observations

Recollections of my time with Sir George at Attingham Park, 1963-1968

Peter Palfreman

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I was 31 years old when I joined the staff at Attingham in 1963 as a driver/handyman. After marrying, leaving the Merchant Navy and spending several years living and working abroad I had returned to England prepared to consider any sort of work. It was whilst I was employed in a small saw-mill near Oxford that the Deputy Warden at Attingham, Bryan Podmore, brought the vacancy at Attingham to my attention. I was already acquainted with Bryan as his wife and mine had been long-standing friends.

Whilst a capable driver, my ability as a handyman was questionable, and when offered the post I did have concerns regarding the practical aspects of the job. There was however a strong hint of destiny about my arrival at Attingham as I quickly discovered that Sir George and Ruth, his secretary, shared my interest in the more spiritual aspects of life.

As Sir George daringly increased the number of courses and conferences devoted to esoteric themes and as more and more interesting and remarkable people were drawn to Attingham events I personally was carried along on a huge revelatory wave that, at a personal level, was, simultaneously, both painful and inspiring.

At the same time I was drawn more closely into what might be termed the 'inner team'. Thinking back to that time it seems remarkable how this came about so naturally. Yet this was typical of Sir George who was always prepared to trust, dare and share and break down the barriers of conventional attitudes.

In my personal involvement with Sir George he was always unfailingly helpful, considerate and understanding. At times it seemed that, as seekers along the way, we enjoyed an almost brotherly relationship or perhaps that of a knight and his squire. Despite his wide understanding and his charismatic public presence Sir George never professed to 'know it all'. He was eager to learn from others and maintained an innocent humility about his own knowledge.

Sir George was already a practising member of the Subud movement when I started taking an interest in this spiritual technique. He encouraged my interest and in 1964 I spent a few days at Coombe Springs where I was 'opened' by John Bennett who had been instrumental in introducing and furthering the Subud movement in Britain.

Unfortunately Sir George and I were not in a position to practise the Latihan, as it is called, with a group as none existed in the area at that time. Typical of his willingness to share however, Sir George invited me to practise with him in the powerful environment of his octagonal study. To a fly on the wall the contrast in our individual responses must have been amusing. For Sir George the experience was in the nature of a silent, static, intense meditation whereas I frequently had powerful physical movements the energy of which, perhaps due to the shape of the room, occasionally knocked me off my feet. But Sir George patiently put up with all this activity and serenely pursued his own inner experience.

Perhaps time has blurred my memory but thinking back it seemed that Sir George was always infinitely patient towards me. He evidently trusted me too, for on a couple of occasions when no-one else was available he asked me to take the short Sunday morning service.

We were both equally more daring when during a weekend course on Darkness and Light I asked Sir George if he would be prepared to give me a half hour slot in which I could demonstrate the dynamic aspects of this theme through music. Courageously Sir George agreed. I recall that at the outset I blanked out totally with stage fright but pulled myself together and by the end I think Sir George was pleased and relieved that both I and the reputation of the College had survived.

Adverse critical comments have no place in my recollections of Sir George. We all work within imperfect personality vehicles and Sir George was no exception. What matters is that, in addition to his many other achievements, Sir George stuck to what I consider the most important aspect of his life's work, that of helping very many people, myself included, to be better prepared for the spiritual opportunities and demands that impinge upon us all at the present time.

Sir George was a beacon of light to which many were drawn; a latter day John the Baptist who kindled with his enthusiasm our own inner sparks of spiritual awareness. There could be no 'deaf ears' to Sir George's passionate exhortations but of course what we all did with what we heard is another matter.

Sir George was a visionary who had the courage to accept and fulfil the spiritual demands that were placed upon him. Nothing, not even the sudden physical disability that curtailed his physical movement for several years, could quell the impetus of the enlightening message he brought to his listeners.

Sir George was not alone but his was one of the clearest voices to herald the surge of new understanding that was breaking upon humanity. That wave is now well and truly with us. The vision is no longer to be spoken about but lived as an everyday reality. Sir George did his bit - splendidly - can we now do ours?

Peter Palfreman
January 1999


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