MEHER BABA'S 1952 VISIT TO THE WEST
* VISIT TO ENGLAND *
Click on the under-scored names to visit their respective webpages & click on images to enlarge.
SYNOPSIS OF THE 1952 TOUR
Meher Baba and his entourage of male & female close followers ( mandali )
started their Western tour when they flew out of Bombay Airport on Friday 18th April 1952 flying with TWA.
Their destination was New York, USA, arriving on the 20th April at Idlewild Airport.
They then left by train to Florence, South Carolina at midnight, the same day. They arrived at Florence, SC., the next day at 11am ( 21st ), they were then driven to the Meher Spiritual Center at Myrtle Beach, SC, arriving at 3pm.
After a month stay on the Center, Baba and his women Mandali drove off in 2 cars for the West Coast. A few days later on the 24th May, at Prague, Oklahoma, Baba's car was involved in an serious accident with another motor vehicle.
Meher Baba and some of the women in his car suffered serious injuries.
Following his treatment at the local hospital, he was transported along with the group back to Myrtle Beach to recover and seek expert treatment from nearby medical institutions. During this period he and the female mandali stayed at Elizabeth Patterson's home - Youpon Dunes, staying for 5 weeks.
Baba and his entourage of 15 travelled by train back from Florence, SC., to New York City, staying in Scarsdale, NY till the near end of July.
Baba and his women mandali and a couple of others flew from New York's Idlewild Airport on the 30th July via Gander, Canada to London, England, arriving the 31st.
They stayed a week, before flying to Zurich, Switzerland on the 6th August. Their destination was to Locarno, where Walter & Hedi Mertens lived. Here Baba was to continue his recuperation and his medical treatment. The women mandali explored the majestic surroundings nearby, until the 21st August.
The visit to England is the portion of their journey that will be examined on this webpage, before they all returned to India via Switzerland.
BACKGROUND TO THE 1952 LONDON VISIT
That visit had started as indicated on the 'Synopsis' above on the 18th April 1952. During His stay on the East Coast at Myrtle Beach, the plan was to drive to the West Coast and visit the new properties dedicated to Him.
Midway through this journey Meher Baba's car was involved in a serious car accident at Prague, Oklahoma, in which Baba suffered a broken limb and other extensive injuries. Other occupants in His car also suffered various injuries.
After a period of hospitalization He was transported by ambulance back to Myrtle Beach where He and the other injured mostly healed their wounds over the following months. In mid-July Meher Baba and His close ones moved to New York City to seek further medical treatment.
On the 30th July, Baba and the women Mandali flew out of Idlewild Airport *** bound for London via refueling stops at Gander, Newfoundland and Shannon, Ireland. Baba continued his medical treatment, but this also included entertaiment visits to various locations both outdoor and indoor.
Shaw writes in his memoirs the difficulty he and Meher Baba's men Mandali had in hoisting Baba in a chair onto the Pan Am plane to ( London ) and then carried the length of the plane, over the
seats to His own seat. This encounter and others are found in this book.
"AS ONLY GOD CAN LOVE- a lifetime companionship with Meher Baba"( see pages 153-155 )
It is not known if Meher Baba was taken off the plane during the refuelling stops at Gander & Shannon Airports on the way to London. There is no mention in any of the written accounts of this period, how Baba was taken off and later onto the planes at London Airport.
There are another 5 web pages which highlight this trip to the West. These can be found on the left-of-screen in the 1952 part of the index.
* 1952 : Overseas visits
Myrtle Beach, South & North Carolina
- Prague, Oklahoma trip & treatment
* 1952 : European visit
PAN AM DOUGLAS DC 6B " The Rainbow "
THE 1952 PAN AM FLIGHT BROCHURE
On the 30th July 1952, Meher Baba accompanied by his women Mandali and Dr. Donkin departed New York City's Idlewild Airport ( later J.F. Kennedy Airport ) at 3pm for London, England via refueling stops at Gander, Canada & Shannon Airport , Ireland.
The aeroplane flying them was a Pan Am Douglas DC-6B 'Clipper Liberty Bell' - Flight 50 and for this specific route it was known as the 'all-tourist class Rainbow' service.
Meher Baba's sister Mani, referred to it as the 'touristy plane' in her book - 'The Joyous Path' page 593.
Pan Am had only introduced a cut fare service of almost half of the previous fares, only a couple of months earlier.
The men Mandali had departed on a separate flight to London after Baba's departure, but their plane had problems upon arrival in Gander. They eventually arrived in London at 1am Friday 2nd August and because they missed their welcoming persons at the airport, they weren't aware that Baba was accommodated at The Rubens Hotel, they had made their way to Delia De Leon's home in the suburb of Kew, where they were redirected by her brother Jack De Leon.
The following images is the sequence of Meher Baba's plane departing, refueling and stoppage at London. See their respective webpages for more details.
There are a handful of books printed which mention some aspects of this visit to London. Some of these will be mentioned briefly and whilst some of them have conflicting dates, venues attended etc., I believe, I have documented the correct time-line, places attended, which performances and by whom.
The list of these reference books are listed at the end of this web page.
EARLY 1950s : IDLEWILD AIRPORT, NEW YORK
EARLY 1950s : GANDER AIRPORT, NEWFOUNDLAND, CANADA
EARLY 1950s : SHANNON AIRPORT, IRELAND
1950s : LONDON AIRPORT, ENGLAND
1952 : MEHERU, MEHERA,MANI,DR. GOHER, RANO, DELIA, KITTY, CHARMIAN
DR. DONKIN MINTA TOLEDANO WILL & MARY BACKETT ANDREE ARON
ARRIVED IN LONDON - 31st JULY, Thursday
Meher Baba and his close women Mandali ( Mehera, Mani, Meheru, Dr.Goher & Rano Gayley), Kitty Davy, Charmian Knowles and Dr. Donkin
arrived at London Airport on the 31st. July at 10 am. They were met at the airport by Will & Mary Backett and Delia De Leon.
These 3 individuals had been following Meher Baba since they first him on his first visit to England in 1931.
Delia De Leon writes in her book 'The Ocean of Love' that she had returned earlier to England by the ship 'Queen Mary' from the United States and met with the Universal Spiritual League the local Baba group in London, to make suitable arrangements for Baba's visit. Margaret Craske had given her money to buy tickets for shows while Baba and the women companions were in London. Every night had been planned to see either theatre productions, ice-skating musicals or Wild-West horse events.
( Some of these shows had their dates or times omitted in some of the written accounts of this visit, so this webpage will highlight these shows but not assign a date to
The stay in London was to be for only 6 days, with visits eventually to about
15 places - parks, theatres, historic buildings and others, mostly in London.
From the airport, Baba's party were driven to The Rubens Hotel on Buckingham Palace Road very near to Buckingham Palace. Delia De Leon had also booked a room for herself and her sister Minta Toledano in the hotel so they could attend to the groups needs. Minta too, had met Baba in the early 1930s.
Kitty Davy had also traveled from the States with Baba and after his stay in London he flew to Switzerland, Kitty remained for 5 more days, in which she visited her brother Herbert whom she hadn't seen for 17 years in London. She then flew to Montreal, Canada to see her sister May, whom she hadn't seen for 25 years, she stayed a further 5 days
before flying to New York where she joined Elizabeth Patterson and together they
travelled to Myrtle Beach where she stayed to help prepare the Meher Spiritual Center property for
Baba's next visit in 1956. This was to be her home for the rest of her life as it was for Elizabeth as
Kitty stayed continually with Baba in London assisting him during the daytime for the 2 hotel programmes, but also attended the various night entertainments.***
**** see Kitty's book 'Love Alone Prevails' pages 405-407.
Meher Baba's sister Mani had been directed by Baba to keep silence throughout the trip until they reached India.She could talk to Baba and Mehera only.
Mani felt that this was to share in Mehera's suffering.
RUBENS HOTEL, BUCKINGHAM PALACE ROAD, LONDON
There are no known photos of Meher Baba's stay in 1952 at the Rubens Hotel or Charing Cross Hotel.
VAUDEVILLE THEATRE, LONDON
404 Strand, Covent Garden, London
- Thursday Evening
Meher Baba wanted to go to all the night shows with Mehera & the women
Mandali along with Dr. Donkin to watch over him.
That night they all went to see the a light-comedy play "Sweet Madness" at the Vaudeville Theatre at 404 Strand, Covent Garden, presented by Delia's brother Jack De Leon, which starred Richard Attenborough, Sheila Burrell amoung others.
Baba was in a wheelchair for the whole performance with his cast on his leg. Everyone enjoyed the musical show.
( Sir ) Richard Attenborough later in his career directed the film "Gandhi" &
was knighted by the Queen of England in 1976 & later was made a Baron in 1993.
Richard's brother David is noted for his life-long films on nature and the planet, he too was later knighted for his
1st August 1952 - Friday Daytime
Mehera Irani visited a plastic surgeon in London for her facial injuries which she sustained at the Prague, Oklahoma car crash in the United States. She was advised of what was needed to be done. A good deal of discussion took place later and it was decided to wait till they reached Switzerland and decide then. It was eventually decided not to go ahead with any operation.
LM on-line p. 3122
1st August 1952 - Friday Evening
HARRINGAY ARENA & STADIUM, LONDON
The one thing Mehera had been keen to see in the United States were aspects of the West, such as the American Indians, cowboys and especially the horses. With the terrible car accident happening at Prague, Oklahoma, her hopes had been dashed in seeing any of this.
One evening, Baba accompanied the women to see "Tex Ritter's Texas Western Spectacle". It was also known as "The Mighty Western Texas Spectacle".
The show had everything, ***rodeo, bucking broncos, red Indians, horse formations, girls dancing with horses and Tex Ritter had brought his horse Flash to the show in London.
Baba was seated at a lower level than the rest who were seated much higher. Baba turned and gestured several times "Very good, isn't it".
In the same year, Tex Ritter recorded The Ballad of High Noon for the film
High Noon. He performed the track at the first televised Academy Awards ceremony in 1953, and it received an Oscar for Best Song that year. [
This show lasted 6 weeks in 1952 at the Harringay Arena.
*** see 'Mehera-Meher' Vol.3 page 88
2nd August - Saturday Daytime
Baba had directed Minta prior, to drive Mehera, Mani, Goher and Delia in her own car and for Charmian to drive Meheru and
Rano in another car to Stratford-upon-Avon in the English countryside 96 miles /
155kms ( north-east of London ). They had an early start for this trip,
Baba stayed behind at the hotel recuperating.
This rural town on the banks of the Avon River was the birthplace of William
Shakespeare. Mehera had read much of Shakespeare while in school and was very keen to visit this place. She
recalled in the books 'Mehera-Meher' that "it was a lovely drive". ( Vol.3-page 85 ), etc.
The countryside was in bloom which Mehera enjoyed seeing including going to Ann Hathaway's Cottage and its garden.
The 2 cars would lose each other continually, as Charmaine Knowles didn't know the way, she recalls in her book 'Spread my Love' page 69, arranging to meet at certain roundabouts outside Oxford,
missing Minta's car, in the end, each car returned to London
It's not known where they had afternoon tea / lunch, presumably it was Stratford-upon Avon.
There is a large choice of cafes and restaurants in that town.
The various books that write about this trip don't mention it, nor whether they went into Oxford town.
ANN HATHAWAY'S COTTAGE
2nd August - Saturday Daytime
SIR REGINALD WATSON-JONES
On the morning of 2nd August, Dr. William Donkin, Meher Baba's personal doctor, had arranged prior, for Baba to be examined by a leading orthopaedic surgeon Sir Reginald Watson-Jones. Dr. Goher Irani also accompanied Baba.
This is mentioned in Bob Mossman's book on William Donkin 'Slave of Love' page 201, also 'Mehera-Meher' Vol.3 page
The examination was conducted at Sir Reginald's private office ( he also practiced at the Royal London Hospital ).
The surgeon advised for the cast to be removed from Baba's leg which had been placed on Baba in the States. The cast was removed and his leg and it was then wrapped in a 'Ace' bandage and he was advised to begin regular load-bearing exercises on the leg the following week.
With the cast removed Baba could already bend his knee, but with the return of circulation, his discomfort was painful, he also had weak muscles and scar tissue problems.
Another person who came to the doctor's room with Baba was Arnavas Dadachanji's brother Homa(u) Dadachanji. Baba convinced him to have an operation to his knee which had serious problems. He was admitted a few days later to Royal London Hospital. His stay in hospital took 4 months. Homa had been given permission to travel to London months earlier by Baba, who had told him at the time "not to worry" [ LM on-line p.3041 ]
2nd August 1952 - Saturday Evening
After all the women had returned from their country drive in the late afternoon they went straight to Baba's room. He
was very happy asking the ladies if they noticed anything different about him - no cast on his leg !
After they all refreshed themselves, they joined Meher Baba in seeing an evening show of the stage musical "South Pacific" by Rodgers & Hammerstein at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. The female lead was Mary Martin who had performed the same role years earlier on Broadway. Wilbur Evans, Peter Grant & Muriel Smith had other key roles.
When the group went to see the musical, Baba sat downstairs with Dr. Donkin, whilst the women sat upstairs in the circle. Baba was in a wheelchair for the whole performance.
They all found it to be a very enjoyable musical show.
ROYAL THEATRE, DRURY LANE, LONDON
SOUTH PACIFIC - MUSICAL
The following 2 videos are from the 1952 London production that Meher Baba and his party had seen.
There are other videos from other locations and times that show a clearer view.
CENTRAL LONDON MAP
3rd August 1952 - Sunday Daytime
CHARING CROSS HOTEL, LONDON
Meher Baba would travel to Charing Cross Hotel in the mornings of the 3rd & 4th August to Room 46, which was a business room, the venue was hired by the London group and it is here that he gave private talks with individuals, about 200 people came. The interviews were from 8am until 11am.
It's not known exactly which day he started these talks and for how many days.
Apart from the local followers and their friends and acquaintances, many came from overseas, Australia, India, Sth. America, Europe, the United States and other places.
New people came into contact with Meher Baba, including Douglas and Mollie Eve & their daughter Anne.
Milicent Deakes, Joyce Bird and Fred Marks also came.
On the 3rd, Harry & Dorothy Hopkinson met Baba at this hotel.
A family met Baba - Kenneth & Alice Lawton and their children ; Cedric, Edwin & baby David.
( no image of this family )
Images of the Eve Family courtesy of Martin Cook
This is recording of Tom & Dorothy Hopkinson's account of them coming to Meher Baba. Them meeting Baba in London is found at about 19 minutes into their talk.
RICHMOND PARK, LONDON
The day started on a wrong footing, the morning was quite cold and windy and when Charmian went to get the car and to fill it up with fuel, she wasn't aware that Mehera had gone to the front of the Hotel, expecting the car to pick her up and the other women immediately. This mistake was to have consequences later in the day. Mehera had been told earnestly to avoid the cold on her healing face from the car accident in the US.
It's not know how many actually went on this day's adventure in the parks and how many cars were used.
The women drove to Richmond Gardens which is the biggest urban park in Britain, they enjoyed seeing the wild life such as deer and stags roaming through the estate.
This was followed by driving nearby to Ham House & garden in Ham-Petersham .
They viewed this famous historic home and garden enjoying its splendours.
When they were about to leave the weather again changed exposing Mehera to the elements!
HAM HOUSE & GARDENS
3rd August - continued...
Following the visit to Ham House the women then motored to Richmond and had lunch enjoying the Thames River views.
After lunch, they drove to Delia De Leon's home, parked the cars and entered the Royal Kew Gardens through the entrance one block opposite her home.
See 1st gate image under Delia's Home section following the Kew Gardens
After their extensive stroll through the gardens, they went back to Delia's and had tea.
KEW BOTANICAL GARDENS, LONDON
DELIA DE LEON'S HOME, 240 KEW ROAD, KEW, LONDON
During the 1940s, the suburb in this location was called Richmond.
3rd August - continued...
Whilst visiting Royal Kew Gardens and Delia's home in Kew, it's not known if the women Mandali visited or had been shown the Q Theatre nearby at Kew Bridge, that Delia co-owned with her brother Jack. The theatre was relatively close to her home that she shared with her brother and his wife Beatie.
Q THEATRE, KEW, LONDON
Opposite Kew Bridge Railway Station
3rd August - continued...
When the women returned to the Rubens Hotel and approached Baba, it was very apparent he was not very pleased that Mehera had been exposed multiple times during the day to the harsh weather. He rebuked everyone for allowing such a situation to befall on his Beloved Mehera. Most were not aware of the medical instructions given to her in the States.
3rd August 1952 - Sunday Evening
EMPRESS HALL, EARL'S COURT, LONDON
3rd August - continued...
After everyone refreshed from their day's sightseeing and had their meals, Meher Baba took his party to see evening performance of the ice spectacular " Ranch in the Rockies " at Empress Hall situated in Earl's Court in London.
The video featured above is of a later production in the 1950s.
4th August 1952 - Monday Daytime
TOWER OF LONDON
On Monday the 4th, the women went on a guided tour of The Tower of London. Mehera was very keen to see this historic landmark, spending quite a bit of time here.
At all of the venues the women went with Mehera, they would form a circle around her and join hands with someone to lead a path often through crowds.
The next stop on the tourist agenda was a visit to Madame Tussauds in London.
MADAME TUSSAUDS LONDON
The next attraction for the day was Madame Tussauds' wax works. What was concerning upon arrival was the large amount of people at this venue, which made the task of protecting Mehera very concerning. All was going well touring the ground floor exhibits until Mehera thought a guard had touched her which made her scream "He touched Me !" , which alarmed the women with her.
When they reached the top of the broad staircase they all looked back to the offending male, only to discover it was a wax figure. They all laughed ! They then proceeded to other wax displays on the second & third floors which they found very enthralling.
4th August 1952 - Monday Evening
WESTMINSTER THEATRE, LONDON
Upon returning to their hotel, Baba complemented the ladies for the care they showed to Mehera.
After having their meals and refreshing , Baba took his party to the Westminster Theatre
in Palace Street in Westminster,
London to see the theatre production of Dial "M" for Murder.
5th August 1952 - Tuesday Daytime
BUCKINGHAM PALACE, LONDON
This Tuesday was to be the last full day in London. The daytime was spent driving around looking at many of the famous landmarks the city had to offer.
The main visit was to Buckingham Palace, the Royal residence in London. Mani recalled that the windows of the Palace were closed and it looked very dreary.
They drove past Trafalgar Square with its bright lights, it didn't disappoint, the tour continued to Fleet Street, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, London Bridge and to many other landmarks.
6th August 1952 - Wednesday Daytime - Last day in
On this their final day in London, Baba instructed Charmian to drive himself and Mehera to the airport. Baba was placed in the back seat because of his leg bandaged.
Ahead of them was Dr. Donkin driving a small sports car with Adi & Sarosh, following them was Mani, Meheru, Goher, Rano & Delia in a taxi.
Charmian was driving a type of car that she was not familiar with and needed some assistance to get it go. There was a bit of angst and lots of laughter from Baba and Mehera, they all made it to London Airport.
At the airport, because of Baba's injured leg, he was carried by the men Mandali onto the Swissair plane and to his allocated seat.
Meher Baba had instructed Irene Billo to meet them with vehicles at Zurich's Kloten airport to transport them to Hedi Merten's home in Locarno a long distance away near the Italian border.
If Irene couldn't make the arrangements in Switzerland, Baba wanted to go to Cairo on the way back India, to see a mast. Mehera had previously mentioned that she wanted to see both Spain & Italy, but with Baba's injuries, that wasn't possible.
The Swissair plane was Flight 111, departed London at 11:30am and arrived at Kloten Airport in Zurich at 2:00 pm.
To continue this visit select 1952 Europe visit from the index on the far left or select the "Europe" button below.
REFERENCE BOOKS & ON-LINE
LORD MEHER 1st Edition Vol. 11-12 BHAU KALCHURI
THE JOYOUS PATH Vol. 2 MANI S. IRANI
MEHERA MEHERA J. IRANI
MEHERA-MEHER Vol. 3 DAVID FENSTER
MUCH SILENCE TOM & DOROTHY HOPKINSON
THE OCEAN OF LOVE DELIA DE LEON
SLAVE OF LOVE ( .....DR.DONKIN ) BOB MOSSMAN
SPREAD MY LOVE CHARMIAN KNOWLES
LORD MEHER ( on-line website ) DAVID FENSTER