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Gordon  Higginson  remembered  – an exceptional tribute  to an exceptional man The memory of Gordon Mons Higginson has
been honoured at a uniquely special service,
writes Sue Farrow

The service, marking 20 years since the celebrated medium’s transition, took place on Sunday 10th March. It was held at his beloved Longton Spiritualist Church in Staffordshire, of which he was president for 47 years. Members of his family were present, including his niece Gillian Plant, her daughter Jane and grandson Lee Gordon Mons, named in honour of his great-great uncle. Lesley and Bert Duncan, daughter and son-in-law of Gordon’s sister, Hazel, also attended.


British weather

Minister Eric Hatton
    Minister Eric Hatton

Gordon, perhaps the greatest medium in living memory, passed suddenly to spirit on 18th January, 1993. Mathematically astute readers will have spotted that this service was actually celebrated some 20 years and 51 days after Gordon’s passing, and there was a rather British reason for that.

The service had originally been scheduled for 18th January, with 150 or so guests expected. Sadly for the organisers, who had put in many months of advance preparation, that day saw the heaviest UK snowfall recorded in several years. Airports were closed, roads were impassable in many parts of the country, public transport was severely restricted, all of which meant that fewer than 30 intrepid travellers were able to attend.

Since many people closely connected with Gordon were absent, among them the principal speaker Minister Eric Hatton, organisers decided to reschedule the event for 10th March.


Longton Spiritualist Church

The new Longton church (successor to the building Gordon knew) was dedicated in 1995 by Eric Hatton, who had succeeded Gordon as president of the Spiritualists’ National Union. In addition to the church itself, the building encompasses four healing rooms, a shop, and a large hall which, on this occasion, was host to an extensive montage of photos and text relating to Gordon’s life, compiled by church member Edna Fynn.

On 10th March the vast majority of the church’s 160 seats were occupied as Eric Hatton and medium Gerard Smith were introduced by chairman Lee Thomas, who noted that both possessed qualities “which are seldom found together – those of deep knowledge and great humility”.

Following a hymn, opening prayer and short reading, Lee read the Seven Principles of Spiritualism and referred to the two portraits behind him on the platform, of Fanny and Gordon Higginson. They had been unveiled at the 18th January service by church treasurer Marie Newitt and members secretary Jackie Machin, respectively.


Memorial address

Medium Gerard Smith
Medium Gerard Smith    

Gordon Higginson was respected around the world and had numerous friends and admirers. None, perhaps, knew him better than Eric Hatton, who, with his wife Heather, enjoyed a close friendship with him for 42 years.

“I’ve already spoken of how privileged we are to have Minister Eric Hatton with us in our church this evening,” said Lee. “As he comes to address us, I’m sure you will be able to perceive in his words something of the distilled wisdom of the philosophy of the spirit, and also his tribute to Mr Gordon Higginson.”

Those who have had the pleasure of hearing Eric speak will know that he has an almost unique ability to hold an audience in the palm of his hand. Seldom was this more evident than at this Longton event, when, on the occasion of his own 87th birthday, he recalled treasured memories of a dear friend.

He began his 30-minute address, which included anecdotes both touching and funny, by noting that he was “honoured and somewhat bewildered” to have been asked to speak about his friend on such an auspicious occasion. “How very much it means to me to be here to speak in this church in memory of Gordon,” he told the congregation.

He went on to describe the impact Gordon had made on his life, in 1947. “My mother, sister and I were privileged to go to the church in Stourbridge, which was much smaller then than it is today. There, among the packed congregation, we witnessed a most remarkable demonstration which defied description. Even after all these years I find it very difficult to encapsulate the impact it had on me. It changed my life.”

The evidence he received that night spurred Eric to embark on an in-depth investigation of Spiritualism, to which he has subsequently dedicated the rest of his life.

Gordon, Eric explained, had been born of a humble family. His mediumistic gift had been recognised at a very early age by his mother, Fanny, herself an excellent medium, who had been guided and helped to perfect that gift, which “was so unique”. He had given his first demonstration at just twelve years old. Though Eric had seen many thousands of mediums since his first encounter with Gordon, he still placed him “at the top of the tree”.

In recognising this gift in her son, “Fanny must have realised that Gordon was to perform a unique task,” he said. “That he had to be not only a great influence on the Spiritualist movement, but in time would be the leader of that movement in this country.”

His mediumship was in demand in numerous large public venues, but Eric paid tribute to the fact that “he always served the small churches and never thought himself above that”.


Declined invitation from Clint Eastwood

Gordon could have been a wealthy man, said Eric, but chose not to be. Clint Eastwood had been so impressed by his evidence that he’d invited him to go to America. “Come,” said the famous film star, “and you’ll never have any worries about money again.” Gordon declined, although there were times, Eric said, when he had been in need of financial help.


Stansted Hall and a mystery visitor

Gordon Higginson
    Gordon Higginson

At one time, Stansted Hall had been in dire need of money, Eric told the congregation. It was structurally unsound and in danger of falling down. Gordon had taken on a tiring schedule of public demonstrations so that he could afford to work there without charge. “Not so today, I’m sorry to say,” said Eric, with a note of sadness.

Late one night, following a demonstration, Gordon had found himself driving towards the Hall, though it hadn’t been his conscious intention to go there. Early the next morning he was told by Mr Sills, the manager, that someone wanted to see him. Gordon was puzzled, since no one knew he was there. Curious, he made his way to the library, where his visitor was waiting.

“Gordon was shocked to see a monk, in his habit, standing there,” said Eric. “He told Gordon that he would not only save the movement as far as the SNU was concerned, but would be instrumental in saving Stansted Hall and had great work to do. He was taken aback, as you can imagine.”

Gordon went to talk to Mr Sills, keen to find out how the monk had got in, since the doors were still locked. On returning to the library he found it empty.


Extraordinary ability and extraordinary nerves

Eric went on to speak about Gordon’s extraordinary clairaudience and clairvoyance, which enabled him to relay uniquely precise information. He had demonstrated at numerous large and prestigious venues, but despite his great ability was invariably extremely nervous before a demonstration. Eric recalled a time when Gordon had told him: “I’m dreading doing this service. I’m never quite sure whether it’s going to work or not.”


A fine mess!

Gordon was greatly in demand and would never say no to anybody, Eric recalled. As a result of that, and the fact that he never kept a diary, he would occasionally get into a spot of bother. One night he phoned Eric and asked if he could come up to Longton the next day. “Tomorrow?” said Eric, a bit taken aback. “What for?” It was very important, Gordon said. He’d somehow double-booked himself and would not be able to conduct a wedding for which he’d already rehearsed the couple.

“Well, have you told them I’m coming?” asked Eric.

“No, no, doesn’t matter. You’ll be all right,” said Gordon matter-of-factly.

Eric agreed to travel to Longton the next day, and on arrival met with the bridegroom, who asked: “What are you doing here? Mr Higginson rehearsed the service with us yesterday!”

“I thought the bride was going to faint when she saw me,” Eric said. “I showed her that I had the SNU Minister’s Handbook, at which she told me, ‘But Gordon rehearsed us from the Greater World book!’”


Longton was Gordon’s life

As the laughter faded, Eric became serious. “You have gone through difficult times here in Longton,” he told the congregation. “I’d be a fool if I didn’t recognise that, which I’m very sad about. When I think of the work that Fanny did here in her early days, and then Gordon, this was their life.

The interior of Longton Spiritualist Church
The interior of Longton Spiritualist Church

“I hope and pray that whatever may have happened in the past, and might happen in the future, you recognise the unique opportunity here of being the citadel that he wanted this place to be, of Spiritualism not only in the Potteries but throughout the country.

“The message of spirit is far greater than one man. Great though he was, he would only tell you this: that he was but a servant of the essence of the divine. Such was his wish – to be of service to life. The short time that I’ve got cannot encapsulate the life of one who was so remarkable and wondrous. We may, or may not, and I fear it’s may not, see the likes of him again.”


Demonstration beyond outstanding

Regular readers will know I’m a bit of a nit-picker when it comes to demonstrations of mediumship. In the course of a year I watch dozens of them, but, were I a sceptic, very few of them contain evidence of an order that would inspire me to undertake a serious investigation into the claims of Spiritualism.

There’s no doubt, however, that Gerard Smith is one of today’s finest evidential mediums. I’ve watched him work on numerous occasions – all of them impressive – but this 40-minute demonstration, honouring his friend and mentor Gordon Higginson, was beyond outstanding in the precision of its evidence.

Like his mentor, Gerard has a near-unique ability to give complete addresses, and to bring through names, no matter how outlandish they might be. One such occurred in this memorial demonstration.

“Would you know anything to do with... I don’t think I can pronounce it, but I’ll spell it for you,” he said to a male recipient. With that, he proceeded to rattle off the letters TROEDRHIW. “Would you understand that?” he asked.

“Oh yes,” said the male recipient, the unpronounceable name of what I now know to be a small Welsh village tripping off his tongue with easy familiarity. It was a fine example of Gerard’s crystal-clear clairvoyance.

The name of Eric, the phrase ‘White Chimneys’ and the name of Edith were given to the next recipient. “Yes,” she said. “I understand all those.”

“There’s a link between them,” said Gerard.

“Yes,” said the lady, “definitely.”

“The link is January,” said Gerard.

“Yes. A birthday and an anniversary.”

Then came a reference to “Lion’s Paw”. “Can you understand that?” asked Gerard, sounding puzzled.

“Oh yes,” said the recipient, not in the least puzzled.

Improbably, Gerard added “Could it be anything to do with pigs, rolling around in mud?”

“Yes,” said the delighted recipient. “It was a farm called Lion’s Paw.”

Besides the brief extracts above, three other communications were given, each containing the same level of evidential detail. It was an exceptional demonstration – a fitting tribute from an outstanding medium to the man from whom he had learned so much.

The picturesque village of Troedyrhiw, Glamorgan, South Wales.
The picturesque village of Troedyrhiw, Glamorgan, South Wales.


A hymn and closing prayer followed, after which the chairman invited church president Phil Brooks, and vice-president John Mansell, to make presentations.

The first was to Eric Hatton, for “his friendship to Longton church and for all the hard work he does for Spiritualism”.

The second, to Gerard Smith, who has served Longton church in many capacities, was in recognition of “his wonderful gift of mediumship, for what he’s done for Longton, and for the work he’s done for spirit throughout his time in Spiritualism”.

Summing up what had been an exceptional service, Lee Thomas, whose own contribution to the proceedings had been fluent and eloquent, told the congregation: “We have been part of a very special service tonight. We live our lives by choice either to help people or not to help them. Tonight we have recognised those who have given of themselves unsparingly for others, and I hope that this occasion will stay with us in our own particular way.

“So I’d like to thank both Eric and Gerard. We’ve heard an inspiring address and witnessed a wonderful demonstration of mediumship. I’d like to reiterate the point I made at the start of the service – that if you are seeking and searching to know what Spiritualism truly is, you could not find better examples than Eric Hatton and Gerard Smith.”


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