LILIAN (née Airdrie) BAILEY O.B.E.
1895 – 1971
The early years:
Lilian Bailey was born in Cardiff, Wales and was of Scots descent. She was the sole survivor of her parents’ eight children; her seven brothers had died at, or shortly after, birth. She and her parents moved to London when she was nine years old. After the First World War, Lilian married the son of a Wesleyan minister, William (Bill) Bailey in 1919. They settled in Bill’s home in Crewe, and in 1920 their only child, Dorothy Elizabeth was born.
A year later Lilian went to a library in Crewe and borrowed a book called “Raymond or Life and Death” by Sir Oliver J. Lodge.1 The book was named after Lodge’s son who was killed in the war, and documented his spirit return. Reading this book enticed Lilian to borrow other similar books, and in one of these books, a reference was made to a man called William Hope, a psychic photographer who also lived in the same town of Crewe and she wondered if he could get a photograph of her dead mother. These early introductions and her meeting with Hope would lead Lilian Bailey to become one of the most outstanding public demonstrators and trance mediums of the twentieth century together with the likes of Helen Hughes, Bertha Harris, and Estelle Roberts. This is told briefly below from the 1939 July issue (pages 77-78), of the “Quarterly Journal of the International Institute for Psychic Investigation,” (IIPI) edited by Mrs Hewat McKenzie. 2
Mrs. Lilian Bailey, a speaking portrait of whom we present to readers through Mrs. Dora Head’s fine camera work,3 has in the last few months become a familiar figure to many at the Institute, where she gives her private work when in London. She is happy at this centre and her personality provides a harmonious instrument for her gift which is pre-eminently that of private trance work for individual sitters. But she has also a public gift for speaking and for demonstration which is valued on many platforms throughout England, Scotland and Ireland. The following in brief outline is Mrs. Bailey’s own story of the discovery and growth of her psychic powers, which she sincerely believes have made contact with the Unseen possible for herself and for many through her:—
From a child she was sensitive to influences she could not explain and recalls an early occasion when, facing a musical examination, she was overcome with nervousness which shook her bodily. A clear voice came to her, bidding her have no fear, “I will help you.” She passed the exam with honours on the strength of it. Through the years, at other times of stress, the same voice with its reassuring message has been heard. The loss of a very dear mother when she was eighteen led her to visit a medium; she was told that she herself would be a worker one day and that with her were coloured people who had her in their care, but not a word of her mother. The war years took her to France as secretary to the Director General of Transportation and for these services she received the O.B.E. Marriage followed and she came to reside in Crewe. Still grieving for her mother she was led to read Raymond, where she found some guidance for her search. At a Spiritualist church at Crewe she was again told of her potential mediumship and, attending an open circle, began to hear voices giving full names which meant nothing to her, but were at once recognized by a neighbour.
It was not long before Mrs. Bailey heard of the Crewe Circle, and at a sitting for photography, two ‘extras’ appeared on the plates exposed, one, a coloured girl and the other a young man with a deep dark mark over one eye, both quite unknown to her. Mr. William Hope took an interest in her mediumship and at the first sitting she became entranced for an hour, but she disliked this full withdrawal of consciousness, was afraid of it and refused to allow it. Another photographic sitting produced writing advising Hope to take Mrs. Bailey to London to Mr. Hewat McKenzie who would help her to prepare for the work which lay before her, and saying that she could only be used normally for sporadic clairandience and that trance mediumship was her real and valuable gift. She did not take the advice for she did not feel she knew enough to do so, but time has proved the correctness of the message; when last year her steps were led to the British College her valuable gift was immediately recognized.
Mrs. Bailey expresses the greatest gratitude to Mr. Hope and to Mrs. Buxton for the patience and help they gave her over a long period; without such aid she does not feel she could have stayed the course. Her fear of trance was overcome, she was able to verify particulars as to his identity, given by the one who claimed to be her guide, Wootton, an English officer who has proved himself most faithful and trustworthy. There are other helpers but he remains the chief.
Once on being invited unexpectedly to attend a materialization séance she had the joy of seeing her mother and of receiving the encouragement she needed. The guide also appeared showing himself as the ‘extra’ on the Crewe Circle plate. After this last experience nothing was allowed to stand in the way of full development undertaken with the full support of her husband and family.
Mrs Bailey studied her own powers and is aware that with care her gift may be further developed. At the Institute no strain or over-sitting is allowed to interfere with this natural growth of a fine trance medium.
The early part of Lilian’s life is also told in W. F. Neech’s biography, “Death is her Life,” published in 1957.4 Unfortunately, the book is now difficult to find. In the above article, we noted her introduction into Spiritualism, the Crewe circle, and the help given by William Hope, leading to Hewat McKenzie, founder of the “British College of Psychic Science” (BCPS). The quote in the article “Once on being invited unexpectedly to attend a materialization séance she had the joy of seeing her mother …” is picked up in Neech’s book on pages 50-53:
Less than a week later (after her visit to McKenzie) her doubts and hesitation had been swept away. Hope had told her: “There is a woman coming to Crewe from Scotland. She is a materialisation medium. I’d like you to sit with her. Her name is Helen Duncan.”
Lilian, who had only a vague idea of materialisation, knew that it was claimed people who had passed on could actually be seen at these seances, could be recognised and spoken with, and even touched and kissed if permission was given by the guides. It all sounded too fantastic for words!
On the fateful evening—the most fateful, it turned out, in her life—Lilian arrived at Hope’s house and, with several others, filed into a room which had been blacked out so that no light could enter. Physical mediumship, Hope explained in a whisper, was like photography: light rays killed the results. The medium entered and sat in a corner of the room. There was no cabinet as is usual at materialisation seances—just a curtain to separate Mrs. Duncan from the rest of the circle. This, said Hope, acted as a storage battery for the psychic power and the ectoplasm from which the materialised spirit forms drew to clothe their bodies and make them visible to the sitters.
When Lilian heard Helen Duncan’s guide, Albert, speaking independently of the medium, she nearly fell off her chair. Then he said, “There is someone to speak to the young lady.” As Lilian was the only young lady present she held her breath, not knowing whether to be frightened, excited, or both. For a few moments there was complete silence. Then, as she looked into the blackness waiting for a voice to hail her, she suddenly saw the figure of a tall man, young in appearance, step from the corner in which the medium was seated. He walked over to her. As if in a dream she recognised the dark wavy hair, the long oval face, and the mark over one eye. It was Wootton!
“Stand up, Lily,” he said softly.
Lilian stood up, staring incredulously at the form in front of her and utterly at loss for words.
“I had a signet ring on my finger,” she recalls, “and I remember him getting hold of my hand and turning this ring round and round as he spoke to me. He was solid and warm and so alive. He asked me if, with him, I would start this mission for the spirit world. ‘Together we can help many people,’ he said. ‘We can give them light and hope where they are filled only with grief and despair....Lily’ he pleaded, ‘I cannot do this alone. I need your help and co-operation.’
I stood there, my eyes filled with tears of emotion at the sincerity of his words. At last I was meeting a real person from the other world—not just feeling strange and then losing consciousness, not just gazing at psychic ‘extras’ on a photograph, but meeting, face to face, one of the living dead. And here he was appealing for me to help him. It seemed that in that hallowed moment all my fears and scepticism fled. Yet still I could give no promise except that I would think carefully about his request.
Still he turned my ring round and round. He looked earnestly into my eyes and said, ‘There is so much to do and so little time in which to do it.’ And there and then I found myself saying, ‘Yes, I will, I will, I will!
“He took my hand and pressed it between both of his. I saw him trying to speak, but he was obviously too full of emotion to do so. I could see he was overwhelmingly glad and grateful. Knowing me as he obviously did, he would have realised that to get me to promise anything was supremely difficult, but that once I gave my word I would never go back on it, no matter what happened.
He stood there for a minute, alive and real and a breathing symbol of gratitude, and then, in a flash, he disappeared before my eyes. I sat down, trembling with excitement.”
But Albert had another surprise in store for Lilian. “There is a lady here for you now,” he said. No sooner had the words left his mouth than there “flowed” from the curtained recess the tall golden haired figure of a beautiful, vibrant woman.
“It was the most wonderful moment of my life,” testifies Lilian. “There was Mrs. Duncan, all of twenty stone, dark-haired, and who spoke with a thick accent. And there beside her stood my mother, slim, fair as an angel, and saying, in that perfectly Lily. Oh, Lily!’ over and over again in the sheer joy of being with me.”
“Come over to me,” the “dead” mother told her daughter. Lilian stepped across the room and her mother took her hands in her own. “Here,” she said, “stand beside me, my dearest child. I never died, Lily, I’m still alive.”
The mother looked into her eyes and told her: “Do this work, Lily, do it, darling. Uplift those who are sunk in despair and in ignorance of what awaits them beyond death.”
“I just felt I could do nothing worthwhile, Mother,” Lilian replied. “But I’ve promised I will now, so ...”
She broke off. Her mother was speaking clearly, beautifully, the words she had used so often in Lilian’s childhood days: “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it; for I may not pass this way again.”
“Do it now, Lily,” said her mother softly. “It is a wonderful work you have been chosen to do. Good-bye for now, darling. We will meet again.” Then, swiftly, as if she had no time to spare, she wagged her finger admonishingly and said, “Remember now, be careful how you cross the road.” As she dropped her hand she seemed to dissolve through the floor until only her head was there, and then that melted away too.
Unfortunately, there are no actual dates given in these two accounts. Neech’s biography further refers to a Helen Duncan séance on page 55:
LILIAN began to develop her mediumship in earnest, sitting under Hope’s care. Her still sceptical and hostile (but more cautious!) husband tentatively suggested that Wootton, whose voice he was beginning to hear too often from his wife’s lips, was a figment of her imagination. To try to prove otherwise, Lilian mentally asked Wootton to provide proof of his separate identity. Some months later, sitting in another Helen Duncan materialisation seance, she was greeted by Wootton’s familiar figure. He gave his full name, William Hedley Wootton, and told Lilian that he was an ex-Grenadier Guards’ captain, that he had been shot over one eye and killed instantly in France during the 1914-18 war.
Anxious to acquaint his people with the news of his survival, Lilian asked him for their whereabouts. Warning her that it would serve no purpose, Wootton gave his mother’s full address in Boston, U.S.A.
Lilian was able to confirm the service particulars Wootton had given her by comparing them with War Office records. Then she wrote to his mother to check the rest of the facts. The address had been correctly given by Wootton, for there was a reply, though hardly what Lilian could have bargained for! Instead of being amazed at Lilian’s extraordinary communication and eager to know more, the mother replied: “My son was an officer and a gentleman and gave his life for his country. He never dabbled in Spiritualism.”
Though this incident impressed Bill Bailey, he still would not admit that the facts given concerning Wootton necessarily proved his survival. Lilian, he argued, could have heard about Wootton when she was in the army and might possibly have retained knowledge of his parents’ whereabouts and other facts in her subconscious mind. His wife referred to Billy Hope’s mediumship. How did he explain Wootton’s face appearing on the same photograph as herself?
A front page article in the Two Worlds dated April 15th 1949, tells us: “… her mediumship has been functioning for twenty years”. William (Billy) Hope had died during her development, with Lilian Bailey at his bedside, in March 1933. James McKenzie, whom Hope took Bailey to meet at the British College, had died in 1929. So it appears her development started in or around 1928. After Hope’s death, Lilian Bailey formed her own circle. According to Neech: “Lilian reformed the Hope circle in her own home. She sat for many months …” The Two Worlds article, states she sat for “three years” to fulfil her development.
Lilian Bailey’s public career began in the mid-1930’s with her engagement at the “Britten Memorial” in Manchester. She would travel by train from Crewe to Manchester twice a week to give group séances, private sittings and public demonstrations.
It is not generally realised the important part the Britten Memorial played in promoting Spiritualism. Shortly after the death of Emma Hardinge Britten a scheme was instigated to provide a lasting memorial to her life and work, and in 1899, the “Britten Memorial” was founded. The primary function was to establish and provide a headquarters in Manchester for the National Spiritualists organisation, which at this time was called the “Spiritualists’ National Federation” later in 1902 becoming the “Spiritualists’ National Union”. In July 1931 another move of premises was made, providing a Central Headquarters for Spiritualism at Hollins Chambers, Bridge Street, Deansgate, Manchester which would also become the new address for the SNU’s registered office.5 The move to larger premises would provide a National Library and Reading Room, Classrooms for study and the development of mediumship, Séance Rooms for the production and study of psychic phenomena, public demonstrations, and a Museum.6
From this start, Lilian Bailey flourished, becoming one of the best known mediums for trance, and noted for detailed mental mediumship in her demonstrations. She travelled throughout Great Britain for fifteen years, serving large and small engagements including; the Edinburgh Psychic College7, British College of Psychic Science (already noted), Marylebone Spiritualist Association8, and the well-known Spiritualist venue for large meetings, the Queens Hall, London (destroyed by an incendiary bomb in the London Blitz in 1941). She also toured with Maurice Barbanell. In 1941 she moved from Crewe to London due to her husband’s work as a mathematician. It was with this move that she became involved (via Maurice Barbanell) with Hannen Swaffer, this bringing her further into the public eye.
In 1946 a man called Swaffer telling him “I am in grave trouble. I have lost my wife. I am a broken man and I cannot go on.” (Neech p102) This was Lionel Logue, the Australian voice specialist who helped King George VI with his stammering. This story “The King’s Speech and Logue’s chair” and a later royal secret (to which Lilian was sworn to secrecy) were revealed only after her death in October 1971, and can be read in Roy Stemman’s “Paranormal Review” 9.
Lilian Bailey and her now invalid husband retired from public work in the early 1950’s, giving only occasional private sittings.
We have noted her principal guide/control William Hedley Wootton. We can also note in the opening article there is reference to another guide/control “a coloured girl”. Shortly before Lilian was first engaged by the Britten Memorial, “members of her home circle were astonished one night to hear, instead of the deep masculine tones of Bill Wootton, a quaint shrill foreign voice squeaking and chattering and shaking the medium’s head in desperation because it could not make itself understood. Being then still immature as a medium, Lilian could not understand how such a personality could possibly be of service to the bereaved. She had no wish to encourage this unknown control to continue to manifest through her. “I disliked intensely,” she confesses, “being an instrument for some gibberish nobody could understand. A fight ensued, I refusing to allow this to go on and mentally striving to force it away, all to no purpose. Much to my annoyance, this childish; voice persisted, demanding attention.”
While Lilian was entranced the voice persisted. One sitter who was an accomplished linguist told the medium afterwards that the voice addressed him in perfect Hindustani. The little girl who could not speak a word of English, was drawn to the medium’s daughter Dorothy, and in time a relationship was sealed between her daughter and the young girl. Until Lilian retired from her mediumship she was never to speak fluent English but she did work closely with Lilian. The girl was named “Poppet” It was reported she was born in Ceylon several hundred years ago; when on earth she was a cripple and an outcast and died at the age of four.
1 First published by Methuen & Co. Ltd, London on November 2nd 1916; four editions were printed within the first month.
2 It should be noted to save any confusion this was formerly the “Quarterly Transactions of the British College of Psychic Science” (BCPS) the journal title was substantially retained, “Psychic Science”; for details see – Psypioneer February 2011: Whatever happened to the British College?:—http://www.woodlandway.org/PDF/PP7.2February2011.pdf
3 Throughout the duration of the British College, and also after its amalgamation, numerous portraits by Dora Head adorned the pages of their journal, Psychic Science. We have from time to time re- published such portraits, for example, Mrs R.W. Dundas, Evan Powell.
4 William Frederick Neech wrote two well-known Spiritualist books:—No living Person could have known, Spiritualist Press, London 1955 and:—Death is her life, (Lilian Bailey) Spiritualist Press, London 1957.
5 The SNU announced in their journal “The National Spiritualist” that this would be their registered office, on and after July 20th (64A Bridge Street) The former registered SNU office address was: Broadway Chambers, 162 London Road, Manchester:—This footnote is extended at the end of this article.
6 The Britten Memorial Library and Museum are today housed at the SNU and Arthur Findlay College, Stansted Hall, Essex respectively.
7 See Psypioneer:—The Opening of the Edinburgh Psychic Centre College and Library (Thursday 8th September 1932):—http://www.woodlandway.org/PDF/PP4.1January08.pdf
8 Today it is known as “The Spiritualist Association of Great Britain” (SAGB) see:—
http://www.sagb.org.uk/History/history.html – see also Psypioneer:—The story of the Marylebone Spiritualist Association 1872-1928:—http://www.woodlandway.org/PDF/PP2.12December06.pdf
9 The King’s Speech and Logue’s chair:—http://www.paranormalreview.com/articles/20110109 – Lilian Bailey and a royal séance:—http://www.paranormalreview.com/articles/20101223
Source: PsyPioneer Journal - January 2013