Let your placard speak

Let your life (or your placard) speak

This is a story about a placard, a way of communicating with people you know and don’t know.

The first time I saw it was at the Leeds subset of the Women’s March the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration.


Salaam Alaikum

What does the message to Trump and the crowd say? Salaam Alaikum: peace be unto you

The second time, the next edition went to the Leeds flash response to Donald Trump’s immigration ban.  It drew attention; its designer spoke on Look North ‘We have to stand up for what is right. Racism is wrong. Xenophobia is wrong.’


The third edition went out into the Market Place in Otley in the newly gathered dusk.  Children came up ‘what does that say?’ Time after time Rob replied ‘Peace, Love, Community’. Peace, love, community, repeated the audience like a mantra or religious response. In one corner of the square the repeated words were quietly entering heads and hearts.

Not everyone can take this kind of placard out to start talking. I, for one, can neither read, write nor speak Arabic. But Rob is learning Arabic, because he and Owen are in the Grace Hosting scheme receiving refugees and asylum seekers into their home.  It’s a bit embarrassing as you sit scoffing scones at the kitchen table to be joined by slim young men observing Ramadan; it makes you feel really fat and greedy, which you are.

But the points which make it such a good method of engagement are simplicity, evocation of curiosity, depth of meaning, and invitation to respond and repeat. Perhaps somewhere Placard Making 101 has already told you all this, but it seems worth sharing.






Allan Cox 1898 – 1915

Quakers responded to World War 1 in many different ways.  Here is a story of a young life taken from the Find our More sheets in the Courage, Conscience and Creativity exhibition at the Leeds City Museum. Some people have said ‘what a waste of a life….’  Would you agree?

Allan Cox was a young Quaker who chose to fight. In the census of 1911 Allan was listed as a pupil at the Friends School, Low Green, Rawdon. He was thirteen years old. His parents, Herbert and Annie Cox lived in Beeston and were members of Carlton Hill Meeting. His father is described as a ‘shopkeeper, dealer and pie maker’. His shop was at Houghton Terrace. The history of Rawdon School by Walter J Kaye (Batley Fearnsides 1882) tells us that an application for a scholarship (£9 + £15) received on behalf of Allan Cox was agreed on III.6.1908 (then aged 10). At the outbreak of war in 1914 he would have been 16.

In 1915, aged 17, Allan enlisted in the West Riding Division of the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) as a driver (service number: T/3484) and was based at Strensall Camp in York. The role of the RASC in the field falls into two main parts, supply and transport. It is doubtful whether Allan ever left England or fulfilled his role as a driver. He died in the Military Hospital, Fulford Road, York on 15th June 1915.

His death certificate suggests that he was still in training when an accident occurred: “Died from fracture of the base of his skull accidentally caused by his being thrown from the horse he was riding in the riding school at Strensall Camp”. The Grave Registration Report Form gives his father’s address as 10 Colville Terrace, Burton Hill just off Beeston Road.

On 16th June 1915, a notice appeared in the Yorkshire Post, giving Allan’s age as 19. He had lied about his age in order to enlist. Allan is interred in the Quaker burial ground at Adel, one of two war graves there. His headstone matches the other Quaker gravestones in its simplicity.

Sources: Thanks to Adel Quaker Meeting and the Family History Unit of Leeds City Library for their help with the research


Isabella Ford 1855-1924

Here is another story from the Find out More sheets at the Courage, Conscience and Creativity exhibition in the Leeds City Museum.  The only story here where the central character is a woman.

Isabella Ormston Ford was the youngest of eight children of Robert Lawson Ford, a Leeds solicitor and Hannah Ford, nee Pease, from a well-known Quaker family. The Ford children were brought up in an atmosphere of radical liberal politics, women’s rights and humanitarian causes. Visitors included prison reformer Josephine Butler and women’s health pioneer Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. It is claimed that Robert and Hannah established the first night school in England, formed in Leeds in 1850 for the benefit of the mill girls.

Isabella became an early member of the Fabian Society. When the Independent Labour Party (ILP) was founded in Bradford in 1893 Isabella immediately joined and formed a Leeds branch. In 1903 she became a member of the national executive of the ILP and the following year her book, “Women and Socialism” was published by them. She worked tirelessly to improve the working conditions for women in the city’s mills. She helped to form a Machinists’ Society, and founded the Leeds Tailoresses’ Union, to organise dissatisfied female workers. She publicised the women’s cause, spoke at meetings, and arranged for relief for those on strike. She wrote several books on women’s pay and working conditions. With her sister Bessie and sister-in-law Helen, Isabella formed the Leeds Women’s Suffrage Society in 1890. As a Quaker and pacifist Isabella abhorred violence and opposed the use of force in obtaining the vote. She was known therefore as a suffragist, rather than a suffragette. In 1907 she was elected to the executive committee of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).

Isabella was passionately opposed to war. In summer 1914, she helped Helena Swanwick organize a peace demonstration in London. Once war was declared, her energies were used primarily in the peace movement. She led peace demonstrations on Woodhouse Moor. Many of the suffrage movement leaders were fiercely patriotic. Isabella Ford took a stand against the war, arguing for women’s groups to urge a ceasefire and a negotiated peace. She became increasingly isolated and was forced to resign from the executive committee of the NUWSS in 1915. In March 1915, she wrote about the war in the Leeds Weekly Citizen:

“Women have more to lose in the horrible business than some men have; for they often lose more than life itself when their men are killed; ….. the destruction of the human race too is felt more bitterly and more deeply by those who through suffering and anguish have brought the human race into the world.”

Isabella spent the last six years of her life (1918-1924) promoting peace and international co-operation through her work for the Women’s International League. From 1919 to 1922 Isabella Ford was a delegate to the annual Women’s International League Congress. As well as all that…  Isabella wrote three novels; was a witty speaker; was an accomplished pianist and an artist; and was president of the Leeds RSPA (animal protection). She also concerned herself with Green issues and the Girl Guide movement.

Sources: The Ford family; Quentin Fowler and Adel Quaker Meeting; Sybil Oldfield ‘Doers of the Word’ published 2006 Clive Barrett ‘Ellen Heaton Lecture’ 2014.

Herbert Senior 1887-1997

Here’s a post about another Leeds conscientious objector who became one of the Richmond 16.  With thanks to Gary Perkins, author of Bible Student Conscientious Objectors in World War 1

As a young man, Charles Herbert Senior admired the writings of American Bible teacher, Charles Taze Russell. Since 1877, Russell had anticipated that 1914 would be a time of great distress. As Christians, Bible Students expected to be unpopular and could be identified by ‘cross and crown’ lapel badges they wore, which reminded them that one had to bear adversity before experiencing glory.


Senior became an early member of the Leeds Ecclesia of the International Bible Student Association, and toured the British Isles between 1914-16 as a member of the 20 person team presenting the Photo-Drama of Creation in all major towns and cities. The Photo-Drama commenced operation in June 1914 and was strong in its condemnation of war, particularly the role of religion in supporting it.

Like most Bible Students of conscription age, Senior anticipated a time when “They will hand you over to local courts … for a witness to them and the nations.” (Matthew 10: 17, 18) This appeared to be the case when Senior applied for exemption as a conscientious objector in March 1916. Here, Senior was told that if everybody in England was of his opinion “the Germans would have no difficulty in overcoming us.” He replied explaining that “if everybody was of my opinion there would be no war at all.” The comment was met by rapturous applause from the public gallery which consisted of several well-known members of the Society of Friends in Leeds and members of the local IBSA Ecclesia. Despite this, his Tribunal granted exemption from combatant services only (i.e. he was expected to join the Non-Combatant Corps).

Arrested by the Police to appear before a Magistrate charged with “having failed to respond to the notice calling them to join the colours,” Senior was subsequently handed over to the military authorities and taken to Priestley Hall where he refused to sign enlistment papers and undergo medical examination. As he saw it, he had not willingly been put into the army, so he felt no compulsion to follow commands or orders as if he accepted the authority of those in charge.

Transported to Richmond Castle, it soon became apparent that Senior, four fellow IBSA members and a hard core of CO’s from other organisations were not prepared to become the soldiers the Tribunals had intended. Military drills were not adhered to and uniforms identifying these men as soldiers were discarded.

Eventually orders were given for the transfer of the Richmond 16 to France where, under Military Law, insubordination or mutiny on active service were considered serious offences and thereby liable for capital punishment.  On 6 June 1916 on the Quayside at Boulogne, a Sergeant asked the men if they were prepared to unload Army supplies.  Senior was the first to be asked and refused saying that “my Christian principles will not allow me to do any work for this war.” He later explained:

To me there was no difference in principle in unloading shells … and putting that shell into a gun to be fired for the killing of men.  It was all part of the same process.

The other men also refused orders, which led to a Field General Court Martial under the serious charge of ‘refusing to obey a superior officer in the face of the enemy.’ Ultimately this resulted in the infamous ‘death sentence’ episode of 24 June 1916, which was referred to in Rowland Jackson’s letter sent to the Watch Tower:


Loving Christian Greeting to all the dear ones in Christ Jesus! We were “read out” on Saturday last, and the verdict you will be anxious to hear is now public: “Sentenced to suffer death by being shot, but commuted to 10 years’ Penal Servitude.” We are still peaceful in the knowledge of our Heavenly Father’s loving care, and are not too greatly concerned, for have we not agreed to be faithful to the Lord, come what may?

After the Great War, Senior became a Pilgrim or Travelling Overseer for the IBSA and proved an inspiration to thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses (as the IBSA was named from 1931) throughout his life.

Although sought after by many young females, Senior remained single, seeking first kingdom interests as he saw it, while he patiently awaited his upward calling.  His favourite illustration says much about his disposition and involves a young child given a piece of paper and pencil by his father.  The child would attempt to draw a picture which invariably went wrong, causing the child to return apologetically to the father who was only too pleased to provide a new sheet for the child to make a fresh start.  When Senior died in 1977, with his vision of a heavenly kingdom still burning bright within him, many believe he went to meet his Father and was given both a new canvass and a crown.


Sources include:

  • The Yorkshire Evening Post, 13/03/1916, p.5
  • Senior’s personal recollections
  • The Watch Tower, 01/09/1916, p.269 [R5953]
  • TNA WO 363 ‘Burnt’ record for Senior
  • The Pearce Register of British World War One Conscientious Objectors

© http://www.forthesakeofthekingdom.co.uk

Gervase Ford 1883-1963

Here is another story from the Find out More sheets of the Courage, Conscience and Creativity exhibition in Leeds City Museum.

Gervase  Lawson Ford was Isabella Ford’s nephew. In 1916, when conscription was  introduced, he was 33 and living with his wife Eleanor Mary and one year old daughter Cara, at 15 Lifton Place, now the site of Leeds University Students’ Union building. Eleanor was his second cousin from the Pease family. (Isabella’s mother Hannah – his grandmother – was from the same family). Gervase was a ‘birthright’ Friend (accepted into membership by virtue of his parents being Quakers). In 1916 he was working as a solicitor but busy with many Quaker responsibilities. He registered as a conscientious objector and at his tribunal he was given ‘Conditional exemption’ which meant he had to offer service in another way.


He joined the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) on 27th June 1917. His records show that his ‘Uniform and training allowance’ were paid for by Mrs E M Ford (his wife Eleanor).  He trained at Jordans from 27th June until 22nd July before starting his ambulance duties. His records note that he had a ‘part knowledge of cooking and a little French’. He also had ‘capabilities for [a] position of responsibility’. He organised ambulance work at Dunkirk –  the FAU were pleased to make use of his admin skills.

On 24th January 1919 he left France and was demobilised. He returned to his family in Leeds, now living at 61 Albion Street. At the end of the war Gervase and Eleanor had a second daughter, Ursula, who lived until February 2011, aged 92. Gervase was head of Ford and Warren, solicitors. He and Ursula actively supported Breckenbrough School, a Quaker school for boys near Thirsk. Gervase died in 1963, aged 80. He and several other members of the Ford family are buried in the Quaker Burial Ground at Adel.

Sources: Quentin Fowler, Adel Quaker Meeting, Library of the Religious Society of Friends, Online records of the FAU http://fau.quaker.org.uk

Robert Long 1882-1953

Here is another story from the Find our More sheets of the Courage, Conscience and Creativity exhibition at the Leeds City Museum.

Robert John Long was born in Bristol, the son of a carpenter. By 1901, at the age of 19, he was a Board School Pupil Teacher and by 1911 he had moved to York and was married to Mary Ellen who came from Baildon. Both he and his wife worked for the Rowntree family in York. When the Northern Friends Peace Board (NFPB) was founded in January 1913, Robert was appointed as the first Organising Secretary at the age of 31 with a salary of £200 per year and expenses. He held the post for 29 years. The areas of work set out for him included promoting knowledge and enthusiasm for Quaker principles, influencing public opinion, providing speakers, organising lectures and conferences, promoting study activities, distributing literature and provision and equipment of peace vans to go on tour.


He, his wife and their two sons, John Wilfrid and Robert Arthur, moved to Leeds where Robert set up his NFPB office at Carlton Hill Quaker Meeting House. By 1914 the family had moved to Rawdon and had become members of Rawdon Quaker Meeting. It was there that he wrote a well-known NFPB pamphlet entitled ‘What shall we do?’ in which he proclaimed:

‘May it never be said that our peace principles are an excuse for shirking duty. England needs her Quaker sons and daughters at the present hour. Men and women are wanted who will serve in the humdrum services of life no less bravely than the soldiers on the battlefield.’

Initially Robert travelled widely on the Board’s behalf for talks, conferences and meetings, but from early 1916, when conscription was introduced, he needed to be at the office much of the time to advise and support conscientious objectors. In several cases he was able to put men in touch with the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) and support them at their tribunal. He appeared before the Yeadon Tribunal and stated that he considered his present work a vocation which he could not give up during the war. He expressed the belief that, in appearing before the Tribunal, he was doing national service. He was standing for the liberties of England and expressed his willingness to sacrifice by accepting the consequences of refusal. Alfred Taylor vouched for the fact that Robert Long was a genuine man who did not seek an easy path. Richard Swain, Clerk of Rawdon Meeting, stated that Robert’s life and conversation afforded abundant evidence of the sincerity of his convictions on peace. Absolute exemption from military service was given to him unanimously.

Robert retired from the NFPB on 31 October 1942. He moved back to Devon where he died on May 21 1953 aged 71. In a tribute to him in The Friend 26 June 1953 a Friend wrote: ‘What he had was an intense concern for the work and a never-failing faithfulness even to the smallest detail. It is to these qualities that Friends owe the large amount of Quaker peace activity in the North’.

Sources: Howard Long and Sara Braithwaite, grandchildren of Robert and Mary Long; NFPB; Quaker Family History Service; West Yorkshire Archives Service; The Friend; Special Collections, Brotherton Library.

Ernest Shillito Spencer: One of the Richmond 16

Another story from the Find out More sheets of the Courage, Conscience and Creativity exhibition held in Leeds City Museum.

Ernest Spencer was 19 in 1916 living at Well Close Mount, Carlton Hill and working as a clerk in a clothing factory. He was a Quaker at Great Wilson St Meeting in Leeds, took part in the Adult School and belonged to the No Conscription Fellowship. Under a heading of ‘Childish Behaviour at the Tribunal’ the Yorkshire Post tells us that on 28.4.1916 he was one of four men called to a Military Service Tribunal in Leeds. Each man in turn was invited to sit down to present his case, but each said this was a military order which he refused to obey. With cases unheard the men were taken to the Recruiting Office where they refused medical examination. They were taken to Chapeltown Barracks, then to York and then to Richmond Castle, the base of the 2nd Northern NonCombatant Corps. (More information about the Richmond 16 can be found in the exhibition case from the Bradford Peace Museum.)

On 27.5.1916 Spencer was tried for using insubordinate language to a superior officer and sentenced to a further six months detention.Two days later Spencer and 15 other men were taken to France to the battlefield. His military record tells the stark story which followed. “Tried by ‘F.G.C.M.’ at Boulogne for disobeying in such a manner as to show wilful defiance of authority and lawful command given personally by his superior officer whilst in the execution of his office. Sentenced to death by being shot.  12.6.16 Commuted to 10 years penal servitude. 12.6.16 Transferred to England to undergo his sentence 5.7.16”

From France he was sent back to Winchester Prison, then appeared at a Tribunal in Wormwood Scrubs on 14.8.16. After that he accepted the Home Office Scheme and went in October to the notorious Dyce Camp near Aberdeen, where his picture appears in one of the group photos.


Little was known about him after this and some wondered if he had survived. However, records show he married in 1925 and died in1957. He continued to live in Leeds where his wife Enid’s baking was much appreciated in Quaker circles (for Monthly Meeting teas). Both he and Horace England were stalwart volunteers helping Robert Long of the Northern Friends Peace Board promote the cause of peace. Their task was distributing posters.

Sources: Pearce CO Register, Ros Batchelor and Mary Rowntree (née England)