Chapter 1: 1900 - 1918
1.1 1902 - Jesus As Lord
I was born on 29th January, 1910 to Seventh-day Adventist parents, Ruth and Walter James. They dedicated me to the Lord and named me Norah May.
Let me go back a few years, not to my parents but to my grandparents on my mother's side. Mr and Mrs E. Horspool lived in Sheffield. They rented a shop at the corner of Albert Road and decided to bake bread, cakes, etc. to sell to the public. Being almost surrounded by mills, they had many customers who through the week had the goods on tick, that is, without payment, until the Saturday when they received their pay.
One day in 1902 two ladies knocked on the side door and asked Granny if she could accommodate two men for bed and breakfast, as meetings were to be held in a large tent in the town. Granny replied that she would be willing to put up two ladies - but certainly not men - as she had daughters living at home. This was agreed and the date given. At the appointed time, two gentlemen arrived and Granny, in no uncertain terms, told them she could not have them and besides the room was in the attic where there was only a fanlight in the roof. They answered, saying they were only too willing to climb the stairs, as they would be able to see the stars, which God had created. Granny was impressed by their speech and appearance and decided to show them the room.
They introduced themselves as Pastors A. G. Daniels and E. E. Andross. On the Friday evening, they came in about teatime and Granny offered them tea. A query arose in their minds when they smelled the cooking and they politely refused, saying that they would eat with them another time.
Returning at bedtime, they explained to the family that they were going to worship the next day in accordance with the fourth commandment. They then invited everyone to go with them. Granny agreed but Grandpa said he could not go, as on Saturday his customers paid him for the goods they had during the week. Granny took three daughters with her and came home convinced that Saturday was the original Sabbath from the creation of the world. She asked her husband to close the shop the next Saturday and go with her but he declined saying that he needed the money because he had a family to keep.
That evening they read in the Bible about clean and unclean meats and Granny decided to follow a more healthy way of life. She was a Queen's Nurse and the idea of diet interested her. After studying it further, Grandpa joined Granny and the girls in deciding to make Jesus Lord of their lives and they were all baptised in 1903 by Pastor Andross.
Grandpa had a sign painted on his shop window, "The Good Health Bakery - closed on Saturday, open on Sunday". This resulted in a great increase in trade.
When Granny had time to spare, she went out with magazines. One day she knocked on the door of a large house. A gracious lady answered and said she had no time to talk as she had a sick baby. Granny who was, as usual, wearing her Queen's Nurse uniform felt confident she could help. She fetched some Gluten Meal from the shop. Mixing one teaspoonful of meal with some boiled water and allowing it to cool, Granny gradually fed it to the baby. She suggested that the mother should feed her baby every two hours with this mixture and promised to return the next day to see how the baby was. The result was no more sickness. Milk was gradually added and the baby thrived. The lady became interested in the church and was later baptised. Her name was Mrs Padmore and the baby's name was Rose.
One Friday evening my grandparents were singing hymns after sunset. A lady passing by heard them, knocked on the door and asked if there was a meeting taking place. Grandpa invited her in and she listened with interest while he explained about the Sabbath. Her name was Mrs Booth. She studied the scriptures and was baptised together with her son. Charlie Booth was to be imprisoned in World War I. He and Worsley Armstrong were two of the most outstanding cases of the persecution of Adventists in the First World War.
1.2 1904 - The Insurance Inspector
In 1904, Walter James, who worked for a large Insurance Company, visited the Horspool home on a Friday evening. The family happened to be seated around the table studying the Bible in preparation for welcoming the Sabbath at sunset. He was invited in and asked to join them in prayer. They talked to him about the Sabbath and suggested he accompany them to church the next day. While walking to church, their daughter Ruth explained to him that tobacco was very harmful, so he should give up smoking. He withdrew the pipe from his mouth and gave it to her. After only a few hours, a spark of interest in Ruth had already been created. Constant visits and studies were made and Walter too decided to follow Jesus and was baptised by Pastor Andross in 1905.
He gave up his work with the Insurance Company and began to look for employment. Having grown up on Plantation Farm, where his father was Farm Bailiff, he was well acquainted with different aspects of farming, including the care of animals. He was delighted to hear of a vacancy for a shepherd on a Welsh farm owned by a Seventh-day Adventist and furthermore to be accepted for the job. The contract stated that he would be able to live with the family and have his food provided, but his wage would not be paid until the end of the year's service.
He enjoyed his work with the sheep and also the privilege of worshipping his Saviour on the Sabbath. At the end of the year, the farmer told Walter he would have to work another year before being paid. No explanation was given. Walter decided to pack his trunk and return to his home near Peterborough.
Having made contact with the Horspools, he wrote and told them of his position and they immediately invited him to work in the bakery. This he did.
In 1908 Pastor J. Gillatt, Junior, was running a series of meetings under canvas in Sheffield and he asked Walter to serve as his tent master. John was a fine and persuasive preacher and helped many to understand the Bible’s end-time call to worship our Creator. (Rev 14:7) Walter's experience during these meetings led him to feel that he would like to work full-time in the service of the Lord. He started to go from house to house with the magazine 'Present Truth'.
While living with the Horspools, he had fallen in love with Ruth and they were married in Sheffield by Pastor Schaeffer, early in 1909. They went to live in a little cottage in Berry Brow, near Huddersfield, where he continued in the canvassing work. A few months later Grandpa and Granny Horspool moved to Bradford. Ruth's elder sisters, Annie and Gertie, had married Tom Brown and Bert Lucas and with Walter having left Sheffield, the work had become too heavy for them. Grandpa took up canvassing and Granny continued her work as a Queen's Nurse.
1.3 1910 - Norah May
Time passed and Walter and Ruth were anticipating the birth of their first child. Money was short as he was having little success in canvassing. The Devil was busy. Thoughts raced through his mind - should he give up working for his Lord and go back to the Insurance Company? One evening he talked to his wife and father-in-law about his problem. After listening to his suggestions about returning to his previous employers, Grandpa in all seriousness said, "Walter, if the Insurance Company can provide for your needs, how much more can God supply them?" They had prayer together, after which Grandpa went home. Both Ruth and Walter spent Sabbath in meditation and prayer and on the Sunday morning, Walter returned to knocking on doors with 'Present Truth'. He was thrilled with the response and knew that prayers had been answered and that God could and would provide for them. At that time, he did not know what the future had in store for him and how much faith in his God he would need to have.
On a cold snowy day at the end of January, my parents were overjoyed at the birth of a daughter who was delivered six weeks before time. At first, their happiness seemed complete but Norah May weighed only two pounds at birth and it was thought that she would not survive. My birth marked the beginning of a very serious illness for Mama. The doctors discovered that she had tuberculosis of the spine, lungs and kidneys. They felt there was no hope for her so she was left in her little home with her daughter beside her.
Dada did all that he could for Mama and me but he had to go out canvassing part of the day in order to make money to provide food for us. In those days, there was no help from the State or Denomination for those in need financially. He prayed that his Heavenly Father would go before him and prepare the hearts of the people to buy ‘Present Truth’ and that He would care for his loved ones at home.
Mama did not die as was expected, so the doctor suggested that she go into the Bradford Royal Infirmary for major surgery. This she did. In order that Dada could continue canvassing, Pastor and Mrs J. McAvoy came over from Leeds and took me to their home. For nearly a year, they cared for me, giving me as much love as they would have given to a daughter of their own.
After many months, Mama was brought home although still bedridden. Pastor and Mrs McAvoy were moved from Leeds so I was taken home. Once more Dada had his wife and child to look after besides trying to earn a living. The stresses and strains were building up and my father gradually weakened physically. Dorothy Brown, a step-cousin, came for a short while to help with the household chores until she went to Stanborough College to train as a Bible Worker.
1.4 1914 - World War 1
August 1914 was the beginning of World War 1 with Britain and her Allies fighting against Germany. Early in 1915, Dada received his calling-up papers. His health had deteriorated considerably and he was advised by his doctor and others to refuse to take up arms on the grounds of ill health. This, however, puzzled my father as he felt he must stand by what he believed to be right, and therefore he asked to be exempt from carrying arms on the grounds of being a Conscientious Objector. This meant that he would have to appear before a Tribunal, which was to be held in the Bradford Town Hall.
Early in the afternoon of the Tribunal, an Army Officer visited our home. I let him in and he went and stood by my mother’s bed and tried to persuade her to send a message to her husband to join up. He said, "I have with me a form which needs your husband's signature. I plead with you to send a message asking him to sign it, because if he does, I promise you that I will keep him in England and you will be able to see him from time to time." Mama refused to agree to his suggestion as it meant she would be trying to get Walter to change his convictions.
The officer then said, "If your husband does not agree to carry arms, he will be taken tomorrow and shot in Bradford City Square."
Mama's reply was quiet, calm and very steady. She said, "My husband will not give up his faith in God, who can save him from your hands if it is His will. Yet, if it is not His will to do that, and He allows you to have my husband shot, I know for certain that I shall see him again on the day of the resurrection, when Jesus returns."
We heard nothing more that day so Mama's anxiety was intense. She asked her little five-year-old daughter to kneel by her bed while she prayed most earnestly that Dada would be kept safe, if it were God's will, and that, if it were not, she would be given strength to bear it. There was no sleep for her that night.
The following morning an article appeared in the 'Bradford Argos' giving an account of the Tribunal. It quoted Dada's name, address, religion and a number of the questions put to him with his answers. I remember one was, "If a cow fell into the ditch, would you save it on your Sabbath?" It also stated that he would be held for further questioning. Did this mean that in the end they would publicly shoot him as an example to others who might refuse to fight on conscientious grounds?
Days passed and still no word. How earnest were Mama's prayers! Some time later, a letter arrived with a Sheffield postmark. Mama recognised the writing and tears of joy and gratitude filled her eyes. She hastily tore open the envelope and read its contents, which told us that the government had sent him to Sheffield to do work of National Importance. He was to clean windows belonging to the Council, which included a Museum, Libraries and Office Buildings. He promised to come home on a visit as soon as he had sufficient money for the fare.
1.5 1915- First Anointing
Up to this time, Mama had not been out of bed. She had tubes going through her from back to front to drain away the pus from her kidneys and spine. She carried the five-inch scars to her grave. The recent crisis had placed her health in further jeopardy. Nevertheless, having prayed constantly for some time, she told me that she was going to ask God to heal her. She had been reading Ellen White's words, "...if ever there is a time when they feel their need of prayer, it is when strength fails, and life itself seems slipping from their grasp."1 Another quotation of comfort to her was, "In Him (Christ) there is healing balm for every disease, restoring power for every infirmity."2
She felt that the Holy Spirit was working on her heart and influencing her to place absolute trust in her Saviour as her physician. She had faith. Had not God answered her prayer in sparing her husband's life so wonderfully, and then provided blessings over and above that? God had even kept him in England with the possibility of their meeting - at least occasionally.
Because of her weakness, Mama asked her sister Gertie to write to Pastor Harry Armstrong, President of the North British Conference, requesting him to come as soon as possible to conduct an anointing service for her. He came the following week and after talking and praying with Mama, he read James 5:14,15. Then he anointed her and claimed the promises of God, to be fulfilled according to His will. Mama did not experience immediate healing but had the assurance that she would get better.
She asked her sister to visit for a while to help her get out of bed and teach her to walk. She dearly wanted to be able to stand at the gate to welcome her husband when next he came home. A few weeks later a letter did arrive telling us that he would be home the following Friday evening. He gave the time of arrival at Bradford Station.
I thought Friday would never come. I kept watch and when I saw Dada coming up the road I ran in and told Mama. She with Auntie Gertie's help, walked slowly down the path to the gate.
What a shock! Dada, weakened and unwell, was overwhelmed at the sight of his wife, who had been in bed for over five years, standing at the gate. It was too much for him and he collapsed. He was very poorly for some weeks so was unable to return to Sheffield. With rest and care, he gradually gained strength and the government gave him the job of overseer in the dispatch department of a Bradford Wool Manufacturer. Here his work was much appreciated, although being a Seventh-day Adventist he did not work during the Sabbath hours.
1.6 1915 - The Family Moves
Mama's health slowly improved so Dada decided to move to Bradford Moor where he would be nearer his work. How happy I was that Auntie Annie, Uncle Tom and family were already living in Bradford! As I was an only child, I would often run down to visit my aunt at her home in Heath Terrace. Though she had many children to care for, she always had time to sit me on her knee and tell me one of her wonderful stories. 'The Clock Shop' was one I never tired of hearing. I was only six months old when Arthur was born. Then came Bertram, Ruth, Ethel, Geoffrey and Thomas. What fun we had together! The happy memories of being in their home are bright to this day.
In the meantime, Granny and Grandpa moved to a large house in Armley, near Leeds, and started up a Nursing Home. Auntie Gertie had come to live with them as her husband was an officer in the army and was away in France. Auntie Ethel, who had become a widow, also came to stay with them bringing her little daughter and baby son with her. Both my Aunts helped in caring for the patients.
One of Auntie Ethel's friends when they lived in Sheffield, Arnold Emmerson, was a patient at the Nursing Home. While he was recovering, his brother Leslie came to visit him. That night he spent many hours with Mr B. H. C. Davies going through a number of chapters from The Great Controversy by Ellen G. White. On the Sunday, he returned to Sheffield where he continued to study the Bible. Leslie was baptised and joined the Sheffield Church where he met and later married Rose Padmore, who was cared for when a baby by Granny.
1.7 1915 - Bradford Church
During his canvassing work, Dada had contacted a lady, Mrs Galley, who had come over from South Africa before the war to live in Shipley. She had become a Seventh-day Adventist after attending a series of meetings held in Johannesburg and was thrilled to meet someone who also was looking for Christ to come again soon. He had also studied the Bible with two ladies living in Bradford Moor, Mrs Lumb and Mrs Brooks, and they had joined the Bradford Church.
Dada decided it would be a good idea to rent a room where they could meet on Sabbath. He approached the Education Authorities and asked them if he could use a small classroom for this purpose. They agreed and he was given, at a very low rent, one of the smaller rooms at Hansen School. The Bradford Church was organised on 9 September, 1915 with my father as the Elder. The membership was made up of my grandparents, Auntie Annie, Auntie Ethel, Mama, Mrs Galley, Mrs Lumb and Mrs Brooks. A few years later Mr and Mrs A. E. Knight-Rawlings, Mr P. Mayoh, Mr S. Martin and Mr B. H. C. Davies were transferred to the Bradford Church.
Adjoining the Hansen School playground was a field, which had been used, many years ago, by a mining company to dump truck loads of slag (coal dust and minute particles of coal). These became two large hills, which we called Pit Hills. Through the years, they had hardened and become quite solid.
One day I joined some friends and climbed to the top of one, then sat down and slid to the bottom. That night when Dada got me ready for bed, he noticed that my lovely white knickers were very black so asked me what had happened. I told him and he said I was not to do that again. If I did, he would have to punish me. As many little ones do, I forgot and many weeks later joined in the fun of climbing Pit Hills. This time I tried to run down but fell and dirtied most of my clothes. There was no hiding my disobedient act so Dada had to keep his promise and give me a spanking. He then sat me on his knee, cuddled me and cried with me. He said it hurt him much more than it did me because he loved me so much and did not wish me to suffer pain. I shall never forget my first and last spanking from my father. He explained that Jesus loved me as he did. In fact Jesus loved us all so much that He took our punishment. Jesus was willing to forgive us but He wanted us not to disobey Him again. I can truthfully say, that experience was a guide to my future behaviour and Dada did not have to give me a second spanking.
During the war twelve Seventh-day Adventist men were imprisoned in Wakefield Gaol because of their non-violent principles based on God’s commandments. Among them were, B. H. C. Davies, W. Gregory, A. E. Hulbert, H. Osborne, C. Reeves and others whose names have slipped my memory. My Auntie Gertie visited the gaol and asked for the privilege of entertaining them at Granny's home on Saturday, the Sabbath. After a few weeks this was granted as long as she stood guarantor for them. I well remember going to Granny's in the winter months. After closing Sabbath by singing and prayer, they would play games with me, which I enjoyed.
B. H. C. Davies became interested in Auntie Ethel, who as I have mentioned was a widow, and they married after the war.