Friday, January 24, 2014

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2014 - B for A Neave Brayshaw

Drawing of A Neave Brayshaw in 1930
Alfred Neave Brayshaw, generally known as Neave, was born in Manchester in 1861, the eldest son of Alfred Brayshaw, a prosperous grocer, and Jane Elizabeth Brayshaw, born Neave. Both his parents came from established Quaker families and followed the habit among Friends of that time of emphazising the fact by giving their sons family surnames for first names. Alfred Neave was followed by Elizabeth, named for her mother, then Stephenson, Edith Jane, Shipley Neave (a double dose) and lastly Edmund Russell.

When he was nearly 10 years old Neave was sent as a boarder to the Quaker school Sidcot in Somerset. He thrived there, excelling academically but also enjoying sports, especially any kind of ball game, and various hobbies. He later recalled that 'there were few flowers in the district - hills and plains - which I could not name at sight'. From Sidcot Neave returned home to study at Owen's College, Manchester where he obtained a London B.A. degree before he was nineteen and then entered a solicitor's office, being destined for the legal profession. He continued his studies and in 1885 was the first to win a Bachelor of Law degree from the new Manchester University.

Oliver's Mount school Scarborough, now a hotel.
Between 1885 and 1889 Neave practised as a solicitor in Manchester but in the evenings he also acted
as a tutor to the younger students at Owens College who were resident at Dalton Hall. He befriended the young men too, playing and watching cricket with them and juggling four or five balls for their amusement. Eventually Neave decided to give up the law in favour of what he felt was a call to teaching. He learned his profession first as an assistant at Oliver's Mount School in Scarborough which had been opened by Thomas Walton, another Quaker. When Neave was there this was a very popular school for the sons of the principal families in the Society of Friends both in England and Ireland. Then, in 1892 when he was 31, Neave became a master at Bootham, the Quaker boy's school in York, and remained there for the next eleven years.

Neave Brayshaw was an inspiring teacher in several subjects, remembered for his reading of poetry and for the earnestness with which he told stories of Quaker history. He also invited groups of the boys, who he referred to as his 'laddies', to take part in archaeological excursions and informal discussions about the life before them. The boys fondly remembered the 'hot toast and potted meat in his room, and the books there, and his kind chatty way'.

Bootham School in 1880
As well as a good education Neave was particularly concerned that the boys he taught should become leaders of the Society of Friends. He was himself inspired by John Wilhelm Rowntree to become part of the movement for a new Liberal Quakerism, questioning and reacting against the evangelical tradition in which he had been brought up. He was not trying to indoctrinate his 'laddies' however but to give them the tools and confidence to make their own way and to show them the possibility that if they followed the Inward Light they might be called to serve the Society of Friends.

While still teaching at Bootham Neave became a leading  light in the Young Friends movement which began at the beginning of the 20th century. As Thomas Kennedy says, Neave believed the purpose of the Young Friends Movement was 'not simply to expend excess energy or to make new friends, but to inject renewed life and vigour into meetings for worship, the central spiritual exercise of Quakerism'. He also wanted to encourage a depth of vocal ministry as well as silent worship. This was a noble aim but it has to be said that Neave's vision for Young Friends did not encompass the contribution of girls until the Yorkshire 1905 Committee made a point of ensuring female participation in all its activities. Some female Friends of the period felt that Neave had little use for women in general.

Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre today
In 1903 the new Quaker College at Woodbrooke was set up and Neave left Bootham to become a
lecturer there. Although he still inspired those he taught he did not always see eye to eye with his colleagues and only stayed for three years. From 1906 he settled in Scarborough and devoted the rest of his life to the service of the Society of Friends, travelling all over the country visiting meetings, lecturing and attending committees. He actively promoted Woodbrooke and served on the Home Service Council (the forerunner of the present Quaker Life committee). He was also an enthusiastic member of the Sidcot Old Scholars Association, the Friends Historical Society and the Friends Guild of Teachers.

During the 1914-1918 war Neave's convictions on war and peace became gradually stronger until he reached an 'absolutist' viewpoint. He would travel to tribunals to speak for those of his 'laddies' who were trying to register as conscientious objectors, but he refused to withdraw his support from those who felt compelled by conscience to take a different path.

After the war Neave Brayshaw wrote two books which still repay reading today. His knowledge of George Fox and his writings was deep and expressed in The Personality of George Fox first published in 1919. He also wrote a short but very approachable history of the Society, The Quakers, their Story and Message which appeared first in 1921, with editions revised by the author following in 1927 and 1938, and was then reissued into the 1950s.

Neave Brayshaw at the seaside, possibly in Normandy
Although no longer on the staff, Neave's links with Bootham school remained unbroken for the rest of his life. He visited regularly both to lead archaeological expeditions and to lecture on Biblical Criticism to the older boys. He organised reading parties for Bootham boys at Scarborough and Whitby and sometimes entertained groups of three or four in his home. One institution for which he was long remembered were his Normandy tours when he would take a group of boys, at first just from Bootham but later from other Quaker schools as well, to France for two weeks in the summer. The tours began in 1895 and continued for forty years, broken only by the First World War and then by the shadow of the Second in 1939.

All the burden of organisation fell upon Neave but he was glad to see his 'laddies' growing together. One participant remembered the Sunday evening worship particularly - 'He would quietly and earnestly speak, out of the depth of his own experience, of the things of God. He would remind us of the homes and schools from which we came and to which we owed so much, of the sacrifice made for us by parents and friends, of the need of the world and the call which comes to each of us to leave the world better than we found it. He called us to no impossible task, but to begin with what experience of good we have, to "mind that which is pure within you to guide you to God" and to consecrate ourselves'.

Neave Brayshaw never ceased in his labours to inform Friends about his vision for the Society of Friends and to inspire new generations who he hoped would carry on his work and bring 'healing in the sickness of the world'. At the beginning of 1940, at home in Scarborough, he was struck by a car during the black-out and died from heart failure not long afterwards at the age of 78.


PILGRIM said...

This is very good. I like the photo as well which i have not seen before.

Unknown said...

Very informative. I have gained from reading some of his writings in the past. No doubt a man of his time but a pillar of the Society. For all our emphasis on the equality of all, we still need source of inspiration and wise authority.