‘I have lived and worked as a member of the Monkton Wylde Community since 2004. We each have special responsibilities because of our individual skills: mine is building maintenance, farming, gardening, but we all contribute to the daily chores. This morning I cut some hay using a scythe – nothing much changes here. This afternoon I’m on wash-up duties. We also have a volunteer coming this afternoon. I’m a ‘linker’ for her – I get the room ready, do the sheets, and welcome her.
The Monkton Wylde community grew out of the co-educational boarding school started in 1940 by Eleanor Urban, and her husband, Carl, a geography teacher. Carl, a German, was placed under ‘house arrest’ during the war, and had restrictions – he wasn’t even allowed his maps. The school catered for sixty children, some offspring of the rich and famous who sought a more peaceful education for their children. Larry Adler’s daughter, George Melly’s sons, some of the Gielguds, and nieces of Sammy Davis Jr were all taught here. With the closure of the school in 1980, some teachers stayed on to start weekend and summer schools for children; soon adults became interested in the ethos of Monkton Wylde.
I was born in 1930 in Bruton, Somerset. My parents were academics and strongly against war, influenced by their experiences during the First World War. My father was Frederick Kirkwood Makins, MA, a botanist specializing in plant and tree identification. His books included The Identification of Trees and Shrubs and A Concise Flora, intended for schools. He did not rely on other sources: his objective was primary research, beautifully illustrated with his own drawings, and often used as a resource by others. He was a scientist and Fellow of the Linnaean Society: one of the original conservationists.
Before the Second World War my father promoted The League of Nations, and gave lectures aimed to move people away from going to war. He had received some education in the Black Forest in Germany while studying forestry and knew not all Germans were bad. With the start of war father was seconded to do Forestry Work.
My mother was Ethel Knight, and her father was the first headmaster of Sexey’s School in Bruton. The politician Henry Hobhouse, who drafted the 1902 Education Act, inspired the school. He founded it as a Trade School, funded by a charity. It became a boys’ grammar and, later, a state school. A qualified teacher, my mother had educated us at home for a while, but I started at Mrs Eyles school when I was six, and later went to Sexey’s School when it was just boys.
Father, being in India on important government work in the timber industry, escaped military service. Mother in England knew some boys killed in the first war – school kids from her father’s school – and was devastated. She supported Votes for Women, and regarded herself a Suffragist: non-violent, and not part of the extreme element of the Suffragette movement, while sharing its main objectives.
Mother was also against alcohol, though my father and grandfather both drank a little. She had seen too many men make over-time money in the factories, spend it in the pub, and then be too ill to work: it was a significant social problem. The government and railway industry supported the ‘corrugated iron hut’ non-conformist churches, which provided activities to keep people occupied and away from the pubs.
After failing my medical for National Service at 18, I started to look for a practical training – a reaction against academic parents I think. I’d always wanted to know about farming. This was the time that horses were being replaced by tractors. From 1949 I worked in the assembly line at David Brown Tractors at Meltham. I was an engineering apprentice, passing through all the departments, and, later, I did a two-year Diploma in mechanical and electrical engineering. I then went to Hill Sawtel who had a blacksmith’s shop in Yeovil, till I was offered a job at Braddicks (now Vincents) in Gillingham, where I worked for six years as a mechanical engineer on a variety of machinery including International tractor engines, and Field Marshalls, with their cartridge fired engines.
My next move was to a 500 acre Essex farm as a fitter and welder: a progressive, American style enterprise, with bulk milk tanks. I welded, made trailers, and became involved in building work. The big house belonged to Mr John Mackie, who had farms in different parts of the country. Mr Mackie stood for Enfield North as an MP for Labour in 1959, and became Undersecretary for State for Agriculture under Wilson. We had to fit speakers to his Morris Minor Traveller for electioneering – the Bentley did not give the right image! He instigated a farm shop by the gate to gain local favour.
Now 29, I wondered what I was doing with my life. I had never cared for the strong class structure of those days, which I felt cut me off from working people. I saw a newspaper article about the Albermarle Report on ‘Youth of the Nation’: a five-year plan for youth centres and training colleges. There were opportunities for those with life-experience rather than academic qualifications. I’d had interests outside my work: organised bell-ringing trips round the country staying in youth hostals, and I’d written an article for the YHA magazine. I gained a place on a two-year diploma course at West Hill College in Sellyoak.
After a stay in Gillingham, where I was a Youth Leader, building a Youth Centre out of a reconstructed army hut with ten Open Borstal boys, I ended up in Shropshire. It was 1973 and I had become a member of SUBUD, an association of men and women from all religions and backgrounds who unite to follow a spiritual path together.
I have been on some thirty peace camps. In the end, my interest in working with people, dislike of the class structure, and a need for company, brought me to Monkton Wylde. This is where my life has led me, and here the philosophy suits me. Communities like this give an important message: living and working together as equals we aim to achieve peace, understanding and harmony internationally. We have people from all over the world. We must put across this non-violent approach! Monkton Wylde is a holistic education centre, where people can rethink how they live their lives. Nara is three and I am 77. We don’t each live in our little compartment, of different generations and classes. What a relief!
Nowadays, our message of non-violence, communication and resolving conflicts is as necessary as ever. These are troubled times and we need the strength of these principles to provide a solid foundation for the peaceful, secure and sustainable future we all long for.’