Celebrating 50 Years of Community

Happy birthday! …It’s an historic time of commemoration and celebration as the Findhorn community enters its 50th year at The Park as a force for positive change and pioneer of new ways of living harmoniously and sustainably.

To honour a half-century committed to awakening the highest in human potential the community has initiated a series of talks, workshops and events leading up to the 50th birthday on November 17, 2012.

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Dorothy, Eileen & Peter outside the original caravan circa 1964

The first gathering in the Universal Hall on November 14 brought together long-serving community members and newcomers alike for a fascinating and emotive evening, which spotlighted the earliest days when founders Dorothy Maclean and Peter and Eileen Caddy and their three young sons, arrived with their now-famous caravan in tow.

Not for a moment did they realise they were the nucleus of a spiritual community, ecovillage and centre for holistic learning that would develop an international reputation as a unique laboratory for change, attracting thousands of visitors each year.

“Looking around now I am absolutely amazed and can hardly believe it,” Dorothy said. “I think of the three ordinary people that we were, but we had the commitment to God and that takes you everywhere. One person with God is in the majority.”

She said that perhaps the milestone of 60 years should be celebrated rather than 50, as each of the trio of community co-founders had spent 10 intensive years going within and learning to follow that inner guidance, also putting those spiritual practices into place during the management of the Cluny Hill Hotel and Trossachs Hotel, prior to the unexpected move to the Findhorn Bay Caravan Park.

Jonathan CaddySetting the scene with a slideshow depicting the early days, Jonathan Caddy, son of Peter and Eileen, chatted fondly about life in the incredibly cramped confines of the original caravan that was home to the six of them for the first few years. “I think it was difficult for the adults but for us children it was a great place to grow up. We were feral here, running barefoot and swimming year round in the Moray Firth. My Dad described the water as ‘invigorating’ but it was sometimes so cold that everything since then has seemed warm. My great love of the outdoors comes from that time.”

He paid tribute to John Willoner, who became like a second father to the Caddy boys, taking them on regular outings and camping trips that cemented lifelong friendships and intensified Jonathan’s love of nature and adventure.

Like so many others since, John was inexplicably drawn to Findhorn, first visiting after receiving a postcard sent by a friend that featured the Findhorn Bay Caravan Park and a cryptic message on the back: “I think you’ll find it interesting here.”

“I saw a rubbish dump and lots of dilapidated caravans and was looking for site number 27 which was out of sight from the rest, in a hollow. Eventually I found a friend who I’d been at university with called Dennis and he was with an older person called Peter Caddy who I was introduced to. They were smashing rocks to create a base for a bungalow that was due a couple of months later at Easter. I was given a sledgehammer and joined in.”

John only stayed a couple of hours that time but was given some copies of Eileen’s guidance that he found inspiring, and returned often for longer periods until he quit his teaching job down south. That winter of 1967 there were just seven of them but by the end of 1974 the numbers had swelled to between 250 and 300 people.

John Willoner, Dorothy Maclean & Johnathan Caddy

John Willoner & Jonathan Caddy with Dorothy Maclean

What was the attraction? “I really enjoyed the company of the three founders – there was some sort of magnetism that’s difficult to pinpoint. I enjoyed being in this place that was gradually growing up around the first caravan and had no wish to be anywhere else.

“Peter taught, not in a lecturing way, but while digging alongside him there were pearls of wisdom,” John recalls.

“We met every day for meditation which was called Peace time as local people used to have their Piece, which was bread and jam. So if the Caddy boys said their parents were having their Peace this was accepted.”

Jonathan grew up in an atmosphere of reverence for the divine with his parents and Dorothy living in total faith. “Dad’s belief in my mother’s guidance was absolute,” he said.

Ironically, although she had been spurned in some quarters during her earlier years Eileen was eventually awarded a prized MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II for her contribution to spiritual inquiry and also named one of the 50 most spiritually influential people in Britain on Channel 4’s ‘The God List.’ Her books and daily guidance continue to inspire many thousands today.

Liza Hollingshead, Dorothy Maclean & Freya Secrest

Liza, Dorothy & Freya

The talk was the first in a series of 12 monthly sharings and the brainchild of Liza Hollingshead who worked closely with Eileen Caddy, while Freya Secrest, who is now with the Lorian Association of North America and a visiting Findhorn workshop facilitator, added interesting insights about her personal experiences.

Jonathan said Findhorn was a place of transformation, referring to the ever-changing outer landscape and the far-reaching changes that individuals experienced during their stay.

Perhaps more than anything it has been a lesson in the power of faith, the founders following inner guidance to create pivotal structures like the Sanctuary, Community Centre and Universal Hall, despite the fact that initially they had neither the money nor the numbers to justify the investments in time, talent and resources.

“There was no money but we went ahead anyway and the people came,” he said, pointing out that the cherished dream of the Duneland housing and community development in the dunes at the end of the Runway, was now manifesting as a contemporary example of the power of faith.

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The evening in the hall

“Talking about faith is easy to do,” he said, “but the Duneland project has yet again required everyone involved to actually put this vital quality into practice. For me this has brought a far deeper respect for the endeavours of my parents and the early pioneers of this community. It is a community that continues to demonstrate a simple and practical way of living and has created a modern transformative myth that has great power and relevance in this materialistic and unstable world that we live in.”

On November 17 the community celebrated its 49th birthday with a dinner that also marked the official start of the 50th year of community.

Geoff Dalglish

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