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Terence Lane

Terence Lane

Terence Lane

Terence Lane

(Original text from a Testimony written by members of Mid-Essex Area Meeting after his death.)

Terence was born in 1893, and was for many years a member of Chelmsford Quaker Meeting. He died in 1982.

As a boy, he attended schools in Brixton, Holloway and Tollington Park, starting work in 1908 while living with his parents at Hornsey, North London, with his brother and sister.

The whole family were committed socialists and put their faith in that movement to achieve the brotherhood of man. In consequence Terence had no connection with any religious sect.

Until the beginning of 1916 he was employed as a warehouseman/clerk by a firm of linen merchants in Friday Street in the City of London and he was sufficiently interested in his job to have obtained a First Class Certificate in Textiles at the City of London College in 1915.

In February 1916 came his call-up as a conscript in the Forces which Terence refused, registering as a Conscientious Objector. The beginning of a long period of testing. At this time, having no religious background was a disadvantage, and in his statements to the Authorities, Terence could only say that he had made up his mind five years earlier that he would be a Conscientious Objector, that he was learning Esperanto, had joined the No-Conscription Fellowship three months back, and that he believed that the Co-operative Movement would spread throughout the world, making war impossible. His deep conviction was, and always had been, that human life was sacred, - but the Court could not agree there was a conscientious objection.

His appeal was dismissed and call-up followed, then arrest, twenty-eight days detention, and somehow, on paper, Private Lane was in the Royal Fusiliers and was soon facing a Court Martial for disobeying orders. "Dear Mother, I am now in Lewes prison. If I behave well I shall be allowed to write another letter in about two months time and to receive a reply, but no reply is allowed to this" (this was a printed form, signed by Terence). His parents were loyal to the principles shared by the whole family and they needed to be steadfast as by this time their other son, Hubert, had been sentenced to two years hard labour in Wandsworth prison, on similar grounds.

In August 1916 Terence was in Wormwood Scrubs prison for a while, when an appeal was heard, but later he served sentences in Exter, Knutsford, Plymouth and Dartmoor, facing Court Martials at Shoreham, Exeter and Devonport. His statement was always the same - 'all men are brothers - I desire peace and I am prepared to work for it - my convictions are deep and whatever your decision or whatever happens, I shall continue to hold them.' By this time Terence was stating religious convictions - 'Thou shalt not kill' and 'Resist not evil' - 'I read literally - deep seated convictions cannot be changed by Act of Parliament or fear of punishment'. But the answer was to be forcibly dressed in army uniform and twenty-eight days solitary confinement on bread and water.

Later in 1916 Terence agreed to do 'work of national importance' and was put on to road work from a camp at Denton, Newhaven, where conditions were easier and he could fraternise with large numbers of conscientious objectors and enjoy concerts made up from contributions by the campers.

In 1917 he was transferred as a Conscript Labour, to Buxton Lime Works, under a private employer in conditions which he refused to accept. Instead he landed up in Knutsford prison (on half pay), where on arrival he bought a picture post-card, as one does when arriving on holiday. He sent this to his sister - "Dear E. Arrived safely. Don't care for this place. See over. Yours T". "Over" was a coloured photograph of the prison, but the card showed the only feeling so far noticed - the stamp was placed at an angle to send his sister a kiss!

In mid-1918 Terence was transferred to Dartmoor. A Court Martial at Exeter Barracks followed, requiring him to 'rejoin his regiment'. He was then discharged from Exeter prison and handed over to a military escort a week before Christmas for a further Court Martial at Devonport Barracks, resulting in a return to the Military prison, although the war was then over. Another picture post-card was sent to sister Eileen - 'Read out this a.m. 1yrs H.L. expect to leave tomorrow', and this cryptic note was followed by kind family references. It seems that he went back to Exeter prison to start this one years Hard Labour.

Perhaps it was inevitable that Terence should become involved with Quakers, particularly as he spent so much time with large groups of conscientious objectors. Eventually he became and remained a completely committed and faithful Quaker as well as a serious and scholarly student of the Bible which came to mean much to him. When his serious interest in Friends began cannot be stated, but it seems certain this was at least partly the result of his friendship with the Quaker Chaplain at Exeter prison who used to visit him weekly.

On 19 Apr 1919 Private Terence Lane, No 79111 was discharged from the army 'in consequence of misconduct at Homeā€¦' Concluding an episode in his life that had lasted almost exactly 3 years from his call up. All his letters home from prison are sober and steady, no bitterness and not a sign of defeat. 'In spite of all, it is possible to maintain ones dignity, even in a military prison' as he wrote later, and so he proved.

In 1930/31 Terence took a short course in Quality Surveying, and obtained a Certificate, and from then on his work was in the building trade.

Forty years after the 1st World War Terence was making comparisons between what prison conditions were like in 1919 and in 1959, when as a Quaker Minister he wrote "I enjoy a quiet chuckle as I walk about with a set of keys, and open and close doors at will, when I had been a prisoner myself". In 1919 it was hard labour, solitary confinement for the first month, sleeping on a hard board for the first 14 days. No talking. And all this applying to each fresh sentence.

In the later part of his life he devoted attention and the immense amount of time to the Secretaryship of Friends Vegetarian Society, while his work in Chelmsford prison covered upwards of 20 years. In this he was particularly faithful, although he was never sure that he was suited to it, nor that he had much effect. He, like every other prison visitor, had learned that the job was to deal with the problems of the moment and that rewarding results were not to be expected.