few years after the end of Kingsley Hall I went to
Sweden to visit a very disturbed friend in a mental
hospital. Her father said to me, "You have moved
thirteen times since leaving Kingsley Hall". He had
carefully kept a list of all my different
addresses. There was a good reason for every
1970 I was left alone in Kingsley Hall. The
Philadelphia Association had moved out. I visited
Joe who had long left. He told me about an attic
flat that was available in Hampstead. (A lovely
area of North London) I said, "I can't afford
that". Joe replied, "Just go and look at
did and I took it. The owner said she had been a
nurse, S.R.N. I said, "So was I", and that was
moved in, bag and baggage, including a bicycle. The
Heath was below me and I ran wild on it. Five years
in the East End of London and now I was like an
animal released. The wind was in my hair and I swam
in the ponds on the Heath.
came and then a field of buttercups and I filled
the attic with yellow. In the kitchen I unblocked a
fireplace and sometimes lay on the floor in front
of a fire. It was living in the country. I usually
ran, for the sheer joy of my body, with my bare
feet on the grass.
the house, below the attic, were children. Matthew
was about seven years and showed me his jar of
tadpoles. Mary, his mother, was such a joy to know.
But I would scamper up the stairs, somewhat afraid
of "the family".
fear was "sorted", as you would now say in
Scotland, thanks to Joe who suggested - "Mary,
don't be afraid. Invite the mother with the
children to tea in the attic and tell them about
yourself". This I did, a picnic on the floor, with
orange squash for the children.
certainly worked. As I told 'MaryH' where I had
come from, she expressed fears and rumours of
Kingsley Hall, "Dr R.D. Laing's mad house in the
East End of London." But 'MaryH', who lay stretched
across a table cloth on the floor, told me of her
experience of psychotherapy at the Tavistock
Clinic. She touched me. I realised she was
enlightened and felt very relieved. Trust evokes
still stay with the "family" when in London and
"MaryH" brings me up to date with all the news of
I always wanted to live in the country. Ronnie, the
late Dr. R.D. Laing, had a holiday house in Devon,
just outside Chagford on the edge of Dartmoor.
First, I found a furnished bungalow, for three
months. That was a few miles out of Okehampton on a
rarely used bit of railway track. There I picked
wild primroses for the first time in my
went to church in the nearby village of Sampford
Courtenay - St. Andrew's - and the local vicar came
to visit me. It was a terrific Spring, my bicycle,
the country and wild primroses.
I had got a very derelict cottage in the village of
Chagford about ten miles away. My aim was to settle
there to live. I also went to the local Catholic
church which was in nearby Okehampton. On Sundays I
was usually given a lift there by Betty, the local
farmer's wife. But on a week day, with more time,
the walk up across Dartmoor, which came out in
Okehampton near this church, was glorious and was
much to be preferred.
cottage in Chagford had been empty for some time.
However, it was mine and the quicker I got there
the better. Betty, my friend and her farmer husband
John, came with a van and we soon loaded up with my
bits and pieces. It was about ten miles to
Chagford, and there on a fine spring afternoon I
arrived. With a big old-fashioned key I opened the
front door. There was a very large empty fireplace,
the type one could stand in and look up the
chimney. I relished the thought of a real fire.
John got open an old sash window and we piled in
all my things.
was a rather rickety open staircase. Sometimes I
slept upstairs on my mattress on the floor. But
when the open fire was alight, I slept downstairs.
The old place looked wonderful in the firelight and
in a corner of the room, with a candle and a little
statue of St. Joseph, was my shrine: a special
corner for my prayers.
often went to evensong in the beautiful old church
in the village and Sunday mornings I went to Mass
in the nearby Catholic church, where sometimes I
did the flowers, which in May were masses of wild
bluebells. I loved Chagford and the cottage. I
would still like to be there.
was my special purpose in coming to Chagford, the
village of the country house of the late Dr. R. D.
Laing? It was because at that time his group, the
P.A. (Philadelphia Association,) wanted to start a
country household. I wanted to help him find a
looked around Devon and eventually I came to Saint
Dympna's, a large property above the sea near
Seaton on the east coast. It was empty, except for
a old lady and a Catholic priest and two mentally
handicapped girls. It had been a Catholic Home for
mentally handicapped children. They hoped that some
group take it over for some work of a psychiatric
people from the Philadelphia Association, one a nun
and one a psychotherapist, came to look at it. I
moved over there. Eventually the P.A. did not take
back I see it was the right place at the right time
for the one person who did join me there. That was
Ann, who previously lived with her family in nearby
Exmouth. She had been a social worker and a
probation officer. Now she had therapy with a local
Devon psychotherapist, Michael, who lived with his
family in Ottery St. Mary.
came to live with me there at Saint Dympna's. We
lived alone in the large upstairs part of the
house. Below us lived the old priest and the
elderly lady with the two mentally handicapped
girls. Michael visited us, Ann and I, upstairs, by
way of an outside metal fire escape stairs, which
was our way in and out.
Saint Dympna's went to a local Christian group. Ann
went back to her parents' house and garage in
Exmouth. I took an unfurnished flat in Ashburton in
Devon. It was an upstairs apartment with an open
fire and on a level with a tree in the opposite old
was during my time there that my brother, Peter,
died of a sudden heart attack. After seeing to his
funeral, which was a cremation in London, I came
back to London to live in a small Philadelphia
Association household in Ealing. From there I went
was the eighties. I moved to Glasgow. The two
people who came with me, an Irishman and an
American lady, quite soon moved to the States.
Ronnie wanted his group, the Philadelphia
Association, to start a household in Glasgow, his
home city. A journalist, Kay Carmichael, wrote
about Ronnie and his work in a Scottish newspaper.
The job now was to find a suitable property for a
came up from London and visited Ninian
Crichton-Stuart in the Palace of Falkland in that
village in Fife. There had been a possibility of a
house within the Falkland Estate. That did not come
off but, thanks to Ninian, I moved to Falkland to
live in the village. Ninian with his wife Ann and
their two children, Christina and Francis, lived in
an Estate cottage. I was very glad to be back in
Ninian I went once a month to meet with a group in
Glasgow. It was realised we needed a separate
charity to start a household and to further
psychotherapeutic work in Scotland.
London there was Ronnie with his Philadelphia
Association and Joe with his group, The Arbours
Housing Association. The group in Glasgow was known
as the Core Group. At one monthly meeting of this
group we were sitting together wondering about a
name to register ourselves under as a charity.
Looking up at some books on a shelf, I said, "Hand
me that Scots dictionary". I opened it and saw the
word "shealin" - "a place of shelter for shepherds
and sheep". We settled on that, thinking of
ourselves as therapists and clients.
I had left London, a P.A. psychotherapist said to
me, "Remember Mary, Scottish people for Scottish
things". At that time in 1987 the Shealin Trust,
having been established as a charity, which was
largely by the work of Ninian Crichton-Stuart of
Falkland Palace, I felt it was time for me to
often had various talks to give, at home and
abroad. But, by now, due to generalised
osteoarthritis in my knees, hips and back, I could
only walk slowly with the help of a stick. I
decided, when on a visit to friends in Exmouth
where there was a "Disabled" shop having a closing
down sale, to see what they might have to offer
had a self-propelled wheelchair. I bought it and so
solved the problem of pain and mobility. Nowadays,
I have two such wheelchairs, in case of tyre
punctures. I always carry a cycle pump in a bag on
to Joe and his wife Shree and various kind friends,
I also have an electric scooter on which in the
summer I can venture further afield.
I usually paint rather than write. I have been very
fortunate with my paintings. In 1966 when living in
Kingsley Hall in the East End of London, I suddenly
started to paint. It seemed to just well up out of
finding household paint in a cupboard and painting
black breasts on the walls, I went on to paint with
oils, first on wallpaper backing paper, I would
paint long scrolls of paper unrolled on the floor.
I made little stories which I illustrated. Later,
on canvas, I painted many different pictures of the
sun to illustrate a short story for very little
children. It was called The Sun Book. I also
painted, on canvas, many times The Crucifixion of
Jesus Christ, the Mother of God, and many other
I left Kingsley Hall in 1969, I had an Exhibition
of my work at the Camden Arts Centre in London and
at the Calouste Gulbenkian Gallery in
the play by David Edgar, "Mary Barnes", was being
played at Giessen in Germany I had an exhibition
there of my work.
1974 my paintings were part of the International
Exhibition in Milan, "Painting of the last One
have always found painting a fulfilling experience;
a movement, as it were, of the eye, the hand and
the different places where I have lived I have
always had an Exhibition. In Scotland in 1987 at
the Byre Theatre in St. Andrews; in 1992 at the
Kirkcaldy Gallery of the Municipality and in 1998
in the Glasgow Trongate Gallery.
paintings have been well cared for by Ninian
Crichton-Stuart of Falkland Palace and I do so
thank him for this.
I now live, in Tomintoul in the Highlands of
Scotland, in 1995 I exhibited in the local Memorial
Hall. For all the help I had with that exhibition
and for his ever-present encouragement with my
painting I very much thank the Church of Scotland
minister, the Rev. Sven Bjarnason of The Manse,
for typing this and every word I have written in
the Highlands, I gratefully thank Jean McLellan.
May this new edition of my book with Dr. Joseph H
Berke be a joy to all who read it.