T Edmund Harvey MP

T Edmund Harvey MP for Leeds West 4.1.1875 – 3.5.1955

Information supplied as a Find Out More Sheet at the Courage, Conscience and Creativity Exhibition, Leeds City Museum, June to December 2016.

LSF FEWVRC French ID_ TE Harvey

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When Ted Harvey went to France with the War Victims Relief Committee (known as War Vics) there was a problem completing his French ID card. A different hand wrote in the space for place of birth ‘member du Parlement Anglais’. The original writer squeezed in ‘Leeds’ nearby, and his profession was given as ‘member de la societe des amis’. He was indeed a Member of Parliament and a member of the The Religious Society of Friends and gave his best to both throughout World War 1.

In 1914 Ted Harvey, a lifelong Quaker, was an MP, sitting as a Liberal for Leeds West. On August 3 1914, just before the war started he ‘caught the ear of the House’ with an impassioned speech for a positive view of the Germans. With his brother in law and fellow MP Arnold Rowntree he was already working on setting up the Friends Ambulance Unit, which was seen by some absolutist COs as compromising with the army.

He also travelled in Europe organising the Friends War Victims Relief Service which had no military connections but helped people and places ravaged by the war. ‘The Friend’ of October 6 1916 has a double page spread headed ‘Peace Service of the Society of Friends’. On the left hand side are reports of recent FAU work including a paragraph about the activities of Ted Harvey: ‘ we all appreciated his kindly feeling and advice and inspiration’. On the right hand side his travels with the War Vics are recorded.

LSF TEMP MSS 881_PHOT_POR T.E Harvey by Elliot & Fry studio circa 1914

In Parliament his role was often behind the scenes. When the Military Service Act was to be introduced in 1916 he lobbied for the inclusion of ‘work of national importance’ as an alternative for Conscientious Objectors. He then served on the Pelham Committee, the Board of Trade group set up to decide what counted as ‘work of national importance’. This included agriculture, factory work (probably involved in the war effort) or service in humanitarian organizations. Harvey’s political path in WW1 brought criticism from many sides. His patient attention to Conscientious Objectors from all denominations who were struggling with this system was much appreciated, though some Quakers criticised him for working too closely with the military system.

He was not re-elected in Leeds at the end of the war, though many years later served as an MP for the Combined Universities as an ‘independent progressive’ and supported proportional representation.

For the rest of his life his home remained in Leeds and he was a respected figure among Quakers both locally and nationally. After the war he was a leading figure as Quakers struggled to work out how a just society can achieve equality and fairness for everyone, as they are trying to do again in the 21st century.

Sources: photographs from the collections of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Courage, Conscience and Creativity

Quaker Introduction for the Launch on June 26 2016


Hallo. My name is Susan Robson, I’m currently one of the Leeds Quakers.  I wondered whether I should wear my Quaker outfit today?  I haven’t actually got one but a younger friend might have lent me hers if I had asked.  It was made in 2003, significant year for war, and is a hoodie sweat shirt emblazoned ‘Quakers were against war long before it was cool’. Is it now cool to be against war? That’s one of the many questions arising out of the Courage, Conscience and Creativity exhibition.

Leeds Quakers were very glad to be asked to join in this exhibition. We have learnt a great deal both from our colleagues Concord and the Bradford Peace Museum, and from our enquiries into our own history.  We have tried to take ‘Leeds’ and ‘Quaker’ as our key words, but do realise this is only one detailed footnote in a much wider story. The research and presentation has been at times a very steep learning curve, but someone said it is ‘one of the things I’ve most enjoyed doing as a Quaker’.

There are several short films on show related to this project. The film about Concord delights the eye and the heart. The film about Quaker Peace Witness: Past and Present is more questioning – in it Robert says ‘we are encouraged to question how we live our lives’.  In 1916 men were compelled by the Military Service Act to question how they would live their lives. In 2016 in the UK the question is not as stark, ( I doubt this now after the Referendum of June 23) but it is more complicated with several shades of grey. Here’s information about two sessions facilitated by Quakers exploring this theme in July. (show publicity for ‘When is it right to fight?’ sessions in July)

We suspect that when the museum management asked us to tell our story they thought it would be the story of how Quakers were conscientious objectors and are still working against war and for peace now. We have found that there is not one story but many different stories, and that conscience led Quakers and others in many different directions.  This is shown in the second case which asks ‘Which hat would you have worn?’; the soldier (Allan Cox), the nurse or ambulance worker (William Roylance and Donald Wood), the political activist (MP Ted Harvey or suffragist Isabella Ford), the absolutist objector in Richmond Castle (Ernest Spencer of the Richmond 16).  Quakers wore all of those hats; they all took courage.

How have we found all this out? We have used the Quaker records in the Special Collections, Quaker material from the Liddle collection in the Brotherton Library and Cyril Pearce’s database of COs. But most surprisingly we have found it out across family generations. Old and young people have brought us both memories and memorabilia which have been hidden in their family cupboards. This is particularly so in the first display case which tells the story of two men who served in the Friends Ambulance Unit for the whole of WW1. Their descendants who brought us the material have been led in different ways by their consciences.  One elderly Friend who features in the film cast light on how the men whose lives were linked at the time of conscription also continued together in peace work in Leeds for years after the end of WW1.  We discovered a strong network in the past often linked together by family ties.  Now families are rarely all Quaker but there is still a strong Quaker network of peace activists shown in the pictures of Faslane, set within another strong network of quiet Quakers who continue to ask themselves what love requires of them.

Please go and see the exhibition and see if it asks you questions about your life now. At Leeds City Museum, every day except Mondays, till January 2017.



Swansong (partial)


A swansong is the final performance before retirement. This is mine, retiring from one part of my life.

For about a year now I’ve been planning to write this piece to close my editorial function with the Living with Conflict website. Round about Christmas 2015 I formally ‘stepped back’ from being one of the editors, which means that I retain only a few admin responsibilities. Meanwhile the website rests gently with only occasional editorial interference from Rhiannon.

I stepped back because I felt up was no longer able to keep up with what was needed. Something passes in front of me and I think ‘oh that’s interesting’ but now I know I will not find the time or energy to read it.

The thing that really still catches my attention is people, and people asking for help.  Several of these have turned to LivingwithConflict  in the last year – people at the end of long and complex difficulties who have been through all the processes recommended in texts for compliant Quakers (and some which are not) and arrive at the end feeling that they are no longer comfortable in their own meeting.  The meeting has changed and not supported them or another protagonist, Quakers have not behaved as they were expected to, and the disappointment sours the connection almost to the point of giving up.

In LivingwithConflict we have tried to help by encouraging people to share their stories with the editors. We do not give advice though we may point to information on the website.  We have not managed to use these stories as a basis for shared discussion and learning on the website. This is because both we as editors and the owners of the stories are deeply inhibited by what we call confidentiality and the possible consequences of breaking it. People are not ready to share their recent experience on a website when they are so uncomfortable talking about it where they are.  Issues around talking about conflict and making it public (ish) have been there right from the beginning of my research and seem almost unchanged after 15 years.

Though at the start we said the website is available for anyone it has become increasingly focused as a service for Quakers.  There is now an intention that it will remain available as one resource among several as different Quaker strands work together to ‘normalise’ conflict in our communities.

The main question which still needs work is  how do we aspire to be a peaceable kingdom or a conflict normalised community, where we are no longer disappointed and angry when our members fail to live up to the high standards we profess.  Why is failure in the group so threatening to us as individuals? It is often the perceived failure of the assorted members of the group to support a hurt individual that is found to be more lasting than the original offence.

Currently I am reminded of the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa – where it was acknowledged that the hurts of the past had to be made public before the community could move towards any semblance of reconciliation.  The structured processes which enabled the examination of responsibility in the past were endorsed by those with authority and made public.  It was an incredibly painful experience which is still unfolding.  One of its messages is that you cannot move towards acceptance until you have recognised the difficulty of the truth.

I am not sure that this is something that Friends have worked out how to do. One person often feels a need for the whole meeting to understand, to obtain some feeling of judgement against the other. This may not be possible or necessary; can it be enough for only some people to understand what has happened?

One example of this came to us recently. This Friend had originally got in touch with us in despairing resigning mood.  After 2 years of trying to get the involved parties together to talk about the issue and being thwarted with an unQuakerly silence from some Friends, it felt as if the problem would never be resolved. When later she wrote to report a shaft of light we asked her to share it. How had this happened?


 This is the way the resolution Meeting was held: We met in a circle in silence, there were 9 people present. 

One notable person who had been very much a part of the conflict was not there because they had “washed their hands” of it a few months ago (my words, not theirs)! Sadly it was their loss in my opinion. 

The person who had convened the Meeting read a passage from Quaker Faith and Practice about conflict, 20.71 and gave a brief introduction and ground rules. These included not interrupting, leaving silence between contributions and confidentiality (things said in the room to be kept within the room). However it was agreed that the minute we would make at the end could be shared in time and initially with E & Os.

We then went round in turn and were asked to say how the events of the past 2 years had affected us. After this people were free to speak when they wanted to. Gradually people opened up and there were fairly frank and honest exchanges. At the end, the elder who was present and who had been nothing to do with the conflict, wrote an excellent minute. The Meeting lasted for almost 2¾ hours.

If I were to share the whole minute with you it would reveal too much at this time, maybe I will be able to at some point in the future. However this is the last paragraph:

“We have shared our hurt and our failings in a loving spirit. We have listened with open hearts to all those who have been present. We leave the meeting today with hope, with a sense of restoration and with positive expectations.”


On Reading Quaker Faith and Practice

Books of Discipline

Books of Discipline

On Reading Quaker Faith and Practice.

Sunday. We were talking about reading Quaker Faith and Practice in our small meeting. This will take place in our own time and somehow we hope that it will enter into our shared time, without us setting any extra time aside. It’s not at all clear how it will work. The question which sticks with me is ‘what authority do I give to this text?’. Decide to substitute ‘what authority do I give to these words?’

Tuesday. AM Bible Study Group. Thirteen of us wrestling with what authority and understanding we give to a selection of words. It all seems very distant and possibly irrelevant. But do we think there is such a thing as the Kingdom of Heaven and if so where is it?

Wednesday. Meeting for Worship in sheltered accommodation. QFP, the Bible and flowers on the small table. What authority do I give to these texts full of words? If not much, then where or what is the authority that guides my life?

Last time I was at this meeting ‘Alice’ was ill and in hospital. Now a member of staff wheels her in, with a tender whispered conversation about whether she wants to stay in that chair or move to a chair without arms. Alice stays in the wheeled chair and then looks round with a blank and baffled expression on her face. I wonder if she knows where she is and who we are. Then she sees ‘Barbara’ and an excited smile lights up her face, thrilling with recognition and pleasure. Quietly Barbara goes across to sit next to Alice, squeezes her hand and then they settle into worship postures side by side.

And then it strikes me, hard, that for me it’s not the texts which have authority but the love in the life of our community. The network of love and care between each of us over the days and years is strong because it is not just based on personal liking but because side by side Alice and Barbara have worked in all sorts of projects and meetings to find and respond to the promptings of love and truth.

I thought of Francis Howgill (QFP 19.08) and how ‘The Kingdom of Heaven did gather us and catch us all, as in a net…’ I had to look it up in the red book on the table and was amazed at the sharply focused message. Not just one phrase but a long message from 350 years ago with unexpected freshness and appositeness. We still want to tell the powers that be that we in the north are ‘not destitute of great knowledge’. Howgill describes the process of the forming of special community among Friends because ‘our hearts were knit unto the Lord, and one to another in fervent love; in the covenant of Life with God, and that was a strong obligation or bond upon all our spirits which united us one to another.’ The distinctive thing which held these men and women together was their shared conviction that they could experience the living powerful presence of God and the Kingdom of Heaven, as they called it, together without permission, particular places or processes.   And sometimes so do we, and that is what holds me among Friends. Not words, not text, but the experience of trying to create a community where love is enacted.

At the end of meeting Friends milled around thanking each other for their contributions. I thanked Alice for the ministry of her smile. She gave it again and said ‘You’re welcome, it’s free you know’.

So the words of QFP may not have authority in themselves but the voices which speak through the words communicate an experience much more clearly than I can.

Z is for Zacchaeus

Who is, or was, Zacchaeus? He has turned up regularly in talking about conflict over the years. If you know the answer, have a gold star, and if you don’t you can take a bitesized look at http://bbc.co.uk/education/clips/z7kq6sg and then have a gold star.

Scroll back your memory to the four stage process for negotiating conflict within the church (found in the M is for Mutual Accountability blogs). The last stage (in Matthew 18,15-20) is not unusual. The dispute has been going on for a long time, protagonists have gone through all the stages of talking to each other, working with other members of the group, and calling in the experts to help the whole group sort it out. But at the end of all this the original disagreement is still there and may even have accumulated a few extra sideshoots on the way.

What is to be done? The text in Matthew suggests that the offending person/s should now be treated like a pagan or a tax collector. The first difficulty is to identify the offending person/s, is it you, or me, or us, or them? The second is to work out what is normal behaviour with these stereotyped groups. One of my best friends has worked for the tax collectors and I know one or two paganish people and they’re fine. Some churches have seen this as the point at which troublemakers can be excluded from the group, shunned or disfellowshipped or disowned, because naturally the good person has nothing to do with pagans or bureaucrats who mishandle money. However there is another idea – do what Jesus would do.

This is where Zacchaeus comes in. He (Luke 19.2) was a tax collector in Jericho, and a very unpopular one.  How did Jesus treat him? He invited himself to supper with him. So we should be sitting down and eating with these people with different life experience, and having normal mealtime chats, not ostracizing them.

So what does this mean for us?  When there is a social occasion like a bring and share lunch in your meeting it would be good to see that people who are in dispute are able to sit at the same table and chat. They are able to affirm that they are both members of the same community, that they each have their place, and perhaps their dispute has its place too. Like most things in handling conflict this may be easier said than done. Have you tried it or do you sit with your own gang?

Z is at the end of the alphabet, so this is the last blog which will appear here as part of the Quaker Alphabet Blog 2014 and Beyond. A sigh of relief accompanies that statement, but also a satisfaction. Reading other blogs in the series has been interesting and helpful. Thank you, Friends. This conflictingstories blog will remain available and occasional links may be made from the livingwithconflict.net website. Though the alphabet is completed the canon is not closed and more stories may arrive, from me or from others.

Y is for Yorkshire

I wasn’t born in Yorkshire; that is only one of the reasons I cannot play cricket for the county. More importantly I have to recognise my status as an offcomer – not quite qualified, definitely a lesser voice. Several generations ago I had a forebear who was a dancing master in Bradford, which probably shaped the theatrical life of subsequent generations. Though I had no idea when I married him, my husband comes from two dynastic Yorkshire Quaker families, and can claim a much more proper Yorkshireness than I can. Sometimes I stand aside from that.

But there is a tribalness to Yorkshire and Yorkshire Quakers, which I noticed when I did my original research into Quaker conflict handling. Several people who had received my letter asking for an interview checked out my credentials from my (husband’s ) name. That seemed more important than my own Quaker experience or academic task.

Though I covered the whole of the north of England and Scotland there was a heavy weighting of Yorkshire information in my research study. Some of this came from the interviews and some from the observing participation. Fifteen years ago several people told me of the activities of the Yorkshire Conciliation Committee, which dealt with conflicts among Friends. What they had failed to notice was that it had been laid down for lack of business and no longer existed. This did not mean that there was no conflict among Friends, but those involved in it, either as protagonists or labouring with them, did not want to bring it to the conciliation group. A very common situation.

In a previous blog I promised you that when we reached Y I would tell you the story of the Norrison case, which came to be sorted out at Yorkshire Quarterly Meeting round 1680. It appears the whole Quarterly Meeting considered this at 6 meetings in a row, with people working on it in between the meetings. The story, which is told in Pearson Thistlethwaite’s Yorkshire Quarterly Meeting 1665-1966, is very complicated and confusing.  It appears that William Norrison died, leaving a widow and three daughters. Contention arose about how he had meant to leave his money, and what the timing of this regarding his young children should be. Other family members made claims on the money and the property, and possibly the care of the children. William Norrison’s father in law and brother in law (different sides of the marriage) took up positions and then did not obey the instructions of the Quarterly Meeting. Eventually the Quarterly Meeting bowed to the stronger wind and asked the father in law to trust in God, (which meant the Meeting) even though it had acknowledged it could do nothing. It had at one point considered disowning one of the protagonists because that would release him to go to law, but didn’t do this. Friends were supposed to settle all their disputes within the church, and disownment could be invoked either before or after any resort to the law of the land.

It is interesting to compare this with family conflicts which occur in meetings or for Quakers now. One type of conflict which is mentioned to the Living with Conflict editors is the dispute with the ex partner about child rearing. This is not a specifically Quaker problem, but it is one which affects Quakers. We have not yet worked out how to include it in the website material, but we haven’t given up on the idea.

It’s common to think that such difficulties are due to contemporary relationship patterns. Marriages and relationships break up for many reasons and partners with children have to work out how to continue their connection. In the 1680s the legality of the Norrison marriage was called into question (the children were born before the Quaker marriage), but it was death which broke the parental relationship. It was the members of the originating families who reached out for their share and continued to fight over it for years. Two of the girls lived with the mother’s side of the family and one with the father’s side. And despite the veto of York MM, Hannah Norrison re-married to a widower, John Hall clerk/cashier of Yorkshire QM, only months after his first wife’s death. The irregularity (timing) of that marriage lost him his position. And Pearson Thistlethwaite cannot tell us where the Norrison money ended up as the papers are lost.

X is for Exploring

X is for exploring, experimenting and expectations.

When Rhiannon joined me as editor of the Living with Conflict website she said ‘Hmm. What’s this, exploring, experimenting, expectations? It’s a bit obscure’. But though I do now agree with her, and we have worked to explain it on the homepage of the site, I’m still not able to let this arrangement of thoughts go.

It’s meant to indicate the three kinds of information on the site, which is a resource for learning about how people deal with conflict, and to help them do this better.

Exploring includes an account of the research which informs the book ‘Living with Conflict: A Challenge to a Peace Church’. It was a rash moment when I committed to running a website to continue the discussion in the book. Conflict and its handling are always with us and the contributions which have come into the website broaden the discussion about it considerably, and that is still developing. The discussion looks about how conflict arises, is understood, responded to or managed, or even becomes transformative. Conflict resilience is a current buzzword (relatively recent in my geological timescale): for a link to a contribution exploring this click here.

Experimenting collects information about what people and groups are doing to learn how to live with conflict better. Some experiments are being developed in training courses and work in groups. There are also introductions to methods which individuals can experiment with on their own. This is meant to be the practical section where people can find items which may help them, though consideration with a cool mind is better than in the heat of a difficulty. Is it better to experiment alone or with others? St Ethelburga’s offers training with others, from many angles. Personal stories  tell how it can be done, by all ages. Look here

Expectations is the section where we look at the settings in which we find conflict, and how the local culture about conflict influences our reactions. This is where we acknowledge the powerful messages which come to us from the traditions in our communities, particularly if we pride ourselves on being a peace church.  We think should produce peaceful people, who never find themselves in conflict. So we are a bit stuck when we realise we are not the peaceful people we would like to be but struggling with torrential emotion. One such account is found here.

So this is the Quaker Alphabet Blog – is it a Quaker website that we are running? Well, no and yes.  It started out based on the book, which is a case study of Quaker difficulties in conflict handling, but also talks about other peace churches and even some secular stuff. It is not owned or directed by any Quaker group except that the two editors are both Quakers who have researched among Quakers, and now trust money originally given by Quakers has supported it. Thankyou. Most, but not all, of the readers are Quaker. Contributions arise out of personal contact with the editors more often than spontaneously, and these are often with Quaker associations. We wish it could go wider.

Soon we’re going to be exploring the future for the website. What, if anything, should it do next? You’re welcome to add your views here, when it turns up on the Facebook page, or through the contact links on the website.