The Dorking Issue

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Jill Mytton
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Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:02 pm

Re: The Dorking Issue

Post by Jill Mytton » Sun Sep 10, 2017 6:01 pm

goodness this thread takes me back a few decades. I remember all this - my family left in 1960 as did my aunt's family and they lived in Dorking. There was a lot of hushed shocked talk going on between my parents and my aunt and uncle - I think they hoped the debacle would cause more members of our family to leave - sadly it didn't. Still when I drive past that hall I shudder as it reminds me of those difficult days for us as a family trying to find our feet in an alien world.

Peter Flinn
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Joined: Mon Feb 22, 2016 6:26 am

Re: The Dorking Issue

Post by Peter Flinn » Mon Sep 18, 2017 8:39 am

I can very much understand Jill’s reaction of shuddering when she passes what is now called “Dorking Halls”, due to what happened there in the 1960s.

I have the same reaction when I occasionally drive past 27 Prospect Hill Road, Camberwell (in Melbourne, Australia). This is perhaps a little weird, given that the former EB “Roundhouse” was demolished on that site many years ago, and was replaced with what looks like a series of smart apartments. However, last time I looked, the original palm tree was still there!

Some time ago, I wrote on another thread about the various public halls I remember from childhood, in which EB meetings were held. It’s funny, but I have no negative reaction when I see Hawthorn Town Hall, where monthly Fellowship Meetings were held for many years (up to 1960), or the grand old Royal Exhibition Building, where 3-day meetings (mostly at Easter) were held until 1963. In fact I have quite happy memories of those places. But, with one exception, that was pre-JTJr.

Anyway, in regard to Dorking, I have some interesting “links” to report – well, interesting to me, at least. We all know how important “links” were in the EB – both the positive ones (“would this scripture link with what you are saying, Mr X?”) and the negative ones (links with the evil outside world).

I have previously pointed out the statue of British composer Ralph Vaughan-Williams outside Dorking Halls, with which he was linked for many years. For example, I believe Vaughan-Williams once staged Bach’s wonderful St Matthew Passion there – which would have been far more edifying and pleasant than 3-day meetings with JTJr. The history of Dorking Halls, which opened in 1931, can be found at:

It seems the annual Leith Hill Music Festival, which was conducted by Vaughan-Williams from 1905 to 1953, was held at Dorking Halls for many years. Leith Hill is a beautiful place, a few miles from Dorking, and actually the second-highest point in south-east England. My wife and I had a very pleasant walk there through the woods and gardens a few months ago. The whole area is now managed by the National Trust, and includes an 18th century Gothic tower on the summit, and also Leith Hill Place, the childhood home of Vaughan-Williams – due to the fact that his mother Margaret was a great-granddaughter of the famous Josiah Wedgwood, who bought the place in 1847. Also (shock, horror) Margaret was a niece of that dreadful man whose name was steeped in infamy for all of us who were brought up in the EB – Charles Darwin! (Is that a negative link?)

It is interesting to note that Vaughan-Williams, although the son of a vicar, was for a time an atheist, but later described himself as a “cheerful agnostic”. However he treasured the Authorised Version of the Bible all his life, and a lot of his music was of a religious nature, including some hymns.

And now, another link. Some readers may know that tune number 95 in the 1954 edition of the Little Flock Tune Book is called “Tallis’s Canon”, composed by Thomas Tallis (1510-1585). Well, one of Vaughan-Williams’s most famous works is “Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis”. I recently came across a marvellous performance of this work on YouTube, by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, in the evocative location of Gloucester Cathedral, where it was apparently first conducted by Vaughan-Williams in 1910.

Now a final link: the above performance (see link below) was conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, who is currently the brilliant Chief Conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, whose concerts I frequently attend. It is my therapy!

I realise that this music will not suit all tastes, but I think it is marvellous, and for me acts as an antidote, not only to Exclusive Brethrenism, but also to a lot of other insane things happening in the world, including Australia, at the present time.

So, Jill, I suggest that next time you drive past Dorking Halls, arrange to have a CD of this music playing in your car. Even if it does not completely wipe out unpleasant memories, it should help you cope with British traffic!

Ian McKay
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Re: The Dorking Issue

Post by Ian McKay » Mon Sep 18, 2017 9:33 am

Thank you Peter for that great music set within great architecture. It brings back memories.

One evening in 1968 after I had told the Brethren about my objections to Brethren teachings, and specifically those of Mr Taylor, but had not yet been withdrawn from, I did something that seemed very bold and daring at the time: I attended my first ever performance of classical sacred music. It was given in Glasgow University Chapel by the wonderful Chapel Choir, and one of the pieces they sang was Ecce, quomodo moritur iustus by Jacobus Gallus, a late renaissance composer from Slovenia.

The mood of the music was sombre and contemplative, similar to how I was feeling at the time, but it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard in my life. I shall never forget the powerful emotional response it evoked in me. In particular the sound of the line Et erit in pace memoria ejus stuck in my memory for the rest of my life.

It put into perspective all the petty squabbles of Brethrenism, and confirmed my growing awareness that the best things in life and the best spiritual experiences were as far removed from EBism as light is from darkness. After hearing these words and music, I could never again be content with EB dirges, EB squabbles and EB falsehoods.

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Re: The Dorking Issue

Post by charles » Mon Sep 18, 2017 10:27 pm

Thank you, Peter, for pointing out Vaughan-Williams' 'Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis'. It will be a new discovery for me, like finding Massenet's 'Meditation' for the first time.

In my memory Dorking meetings August 1964 took place at a time when the Taylor Jnr Exclusives were facing adverse publicity in the national press. For over 10 years the Methodists had willingly let the Westminster Central Hall to the brethren for their big 3 day meetings and other occasions. Then in 1964 this was stopped due to the JTJnr ministry of marriages being split up in pursuit of the separation doctrine. The methodists would have picked this up from the newspapers. As mentioned above by Ian on this thread there was Gresham Cooke's Family Preservation Bill in 1964. We were told to write to our local MP saying that the Exclusive Brethren was a group full of happily married couples and united families.

I think there was a lot of tension in the brethren leadership as W Bruce Hales and John Hales were pushing their commerce system ideas, because JT Jnr was not including this in his ministry. I was surprised (I wasn't at the Dorking meetings) that when JTJnr went missing on the Dorking Sunday afternoon Jim Symington was given charge of the reading and not John Hales. It was a time when you had to watch what you said if you had reservations or you could be in trouble.

One date sticks in my memory, that is Wednesday 26th August 1964. On that afternoon all the staff at Stow Hill Depot, Kingston, went into the garden for a group photograph. They were a bit shell-shocked but cheerful as they said to each other, 'This is the picture of the staff at 2 pm on 26th August. Tomorrow, who knows, we might not have a job'. They were shocked because only a few days before the Trustees had come for a meeting. Afterwards Mr AJ Gardiner, the senior trustee, walked into the General Office and summoned all staff to go to that room as he had something to say. When they were all assembled he announced that the Depot Manager had been given notice with immediate effect, because of his opposition to Bruce Hales. Mr Gardiner then turned to Tommie Gratten, an employed proof reader, and wanted to see him privately. Mr Gratten had disagreed with Bruce Hales in public on a couple of occasions. No one knows what was said in this meeting. It was not many days after this that at a Park Street city meeting Mr Gardiner said, 'I have a letter from Mr Tommie Gratten to read to the brethren.' What the letter said was, 'I withdraw from all brethren associated with those meeting at 57, Park Street.' Tommie Gratten was quickly withdrawn from there and then, so that was another Depot staff member gone.

It wasn't long after this that Ralph Ball resigned his trusteeship. Who told the Trustees to sack the Manager ? Was it WBH, JSH or JTJnr or who ? We will never know and over 50 years later does it matter ?

The Dorking meetings 1964 seemed to herald an escalation of activity in pursuit of the Hales led commerce system. In October 1964 came open confession sessions when past misdemeanours and indiscretions of brethren of all ages were made public. JT Jnr was out of the way.

History teaches us how we arrived at the present time. What happened in those years early sixties onwards shows how the J Taylor Jnr Brethren started showing cultish tendencies. One mark of a cult is there is one autocratic leader whose word is law to those who follow him.
Last edited by charles on Tue Sep 19, 2017 10:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

The Questioner
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Joined: Wed Feb 27, 2013 1:23 am

Re: The Dorking Issuei

Post by The Questioner » Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:59 am

AJG is often quoted as the acceptable face of brethrenism. Perhaps he once was. But this story - and I recall other similar stories - shows that he (and other such as PL) - were fully paid up members of the cult, dispensing summary justice with all the horrible consequences for the victims. Both Gardner and Lyon would be well aware of what happened to people excommunicated.

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Re: The Dorking Issue

Post by fisherman » Tue Sep 19, 2017 3:51 pm

I know personally good men prior to 1960 who became contaminated by the EB thinking and while may have had initial misgivings,got 'in line' with what was being 'set on' amongst us joining the JTjr juggernaught that ruthlessly crushed everything in its path, the only other option -(and in hindsight,the right one) was to leave) ...cults can turn good people into monsters*.its almost like they become mesmerized and abandon all semblance to being a follower of Jesus and emulating his life and teachings.In some cases,once free from the 'systematized error',they came to their senses and reverted to what they once were ,even being shocked at what they once took part in.

* Hard as it is to believe,Symington, possibly the harshest and cruel despot to ever rule over the brethren,was once welcomed in our locality....but once in power he became a diferent man.Power corrupts,and absolute power currupts absolutely,no better example of which was JHS

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