Mary Backett was wife of Will Backett, of London, England. A very sweet, loving, and angelic soul of whom they refer as having “just stepping out of the Bible”-advanced in years yet so young in spirit. She was gentle and kind and ever willing to help. She spun her own thread “spinning-wheel” which she had brought to India with her.
She met Baba 1931, with her husband, and ever since she loved and adored Him, and eager to share in His work. She had helped her husband in His work at Circle Editorial Committee office, and in establishing new contacts with aspirants and others in need of Sri Baba’s loving help.
A couple in their late-fifties, Will and Mary Backett, had first heard of Meher Baba in 1931 from Meredith, but had not met Baba on His first visit to England. Both had been initiated into Sufism by Inayat Khan during the 1920s and followed him until his death in 1927. The Backetts were now eager to meet Baba and had their first opportunity of doing so during this visit to London. Meredith introduced them to Baba at the Davys’ home. Will had brought some grapes for Baba and, when Meredith told Baba that Will suffered from poor health, Baba plucked one of the grapes and handed it back for him to eat, assuring him that his health would improve.
Mary, too, was irresistibly drawn to the Master and once recollected:
As we entered the room, Baba sprang up with the agility, power and grace that characterize all His movements and quickly came forward. He then beckoned for me to sit beside Him and took my hand with such a gentle touch.
Immediately, I felt a great upliftment of consciousness such as I had never experienced before with anyone. I had been searching and reading deeply for many years, and knew that I had now found the Master and that the long search was over.
Baba gave me more, far more in the space of three minutes than I had gained in 30 years of earnest seeking, or through others, because I experienced the tangible, definite gift of grace and divine love that He bestowed, whereas others could only talk about it. I knew who Baba was.
Will and Mary became regular visitors at Russell Road, and also saw Baba at Margaret Craske’s apartment, where Baba went for tea one evening. The Backetts became Baba’s deeply devoted disciples from then onward, and Baba would lovingly refer to them as Wilmar and later as “his archangels.”
On 11th December 1932, new persons came to see Baba in London, but He afforded little time to meet them, as He had come especially for the sake of His close lovers, spending most of His Western lovers including Will and Mary Backett. These individuals were worthy of coming to stay at the ashram in India which He was planning in the near future.
Will and Mary Backett too dearly loved Baba and He also had great love for them. This couple wished Baba to visit their home, but they did not say anything to Him about it. On the 19th, Baba unexpectedly mentioned to them, “I will come to your house tomorrow and you should serve us all tea.” This pleased them enormously, but they worried at the same time, for there were about 30 people in Baba’s group and the Backett’s tiny cottage had only three or four chairs and an equally small number of cups. They wondered how to arrange things on such short notice, and were fearful of not being able to accommodate everyone.
Without their saying a word to Him, Baba solved their problem by announcing to the group the next morning, “We all are going to tea at Will and Mary’s today. Everyone should bring a cup and saucer, and should sit on the floor when we get there.” At this act of understanding and compassion, Will and Mary’s hearts were overcome with love.
Baba and the group drove the 20 miles to Old Oak Cottage, the Backett’s residence in Halstead near Sevenoaks, Kent. As Baba walked through each room, viewing them carefully, He spelled on the board, “This is My house.” After an enjoyable afternoon, Baba was driven back to London by Donald Slow, of the London group.
Later, Will wrote to Baba: “I cannot even now fully realize what You have given us, though I do get glimpses. I am just a child in Your loving arms, filled with joy and happiness, and the strength and divine beauty which enfold me and all and again I thank you beyond the power of words for having drawn us to yourself and enfolded us in your love.”
In 1934, the Circle Editorial Committee had been formed to publish Baba’s discourses in English. Will and Mary Backett were devoting a major part of their time to this endeavour. In the late afternoon of the 30th June 1934, they held a reception for Baba at the Committee’s offices at 50 Charing Cross. Baba met 50 people during His two-hour visit.
To Mary Backett in England, on 29 November, Baba wrote:
The seclusion still continues, and with it the work. And although My dearest ones in far distant lands across the ocean feel the separation of their beloved Baba, the ever-unbreakable link, I know, keeps them all warm throughout.
For love never dies. It lives and enables all to live forever, in spite of all the vicissitudes that merely come and go. And those who love as deeply as Mary and My other dear ones, live in My heart and thoughts, wherever I am, whatever I do.
Failings or shortcomings should never discourage you, but should be taken as stepping stones toward the path of Ultimate Reality that I will help you reach.
Baba arrived in London on 4th November 1936. Baba granted separate interviews to many other western Baba lovers including Will and Mary Backett. In a similar manner, He met in private with His American lovers who had come to London. Baba decided not to allow them to come to India, directing them instead to return to America. To the rest of His Western lovers Baba explained in detail about their forthcoming stay in Meher Retreat in Nasik. He fixed the date of their traveling to India as a month from then, in December.
Will and Mary Backett arrived in Cannes on the night of 2nd September 1937. On 3rd September, Baba urged the Westerners, “Harmony is the basis of life, living in a group, working for and living with Me and helping in My work. By following your personal feelings of likes and dislikes, the atmosphere essential for my work is disturbed.”
On 17th November 1939, Baba had sent this message to Will and Mary Backett in England: “Keep writing as you do now and don’t worry. I am with you always and am ever watchful over my own flock.”
During the Madras darshan program in year 1947, Baba had asked Don to write a description of the proceedings and send it to Will and Mary Backett in England. At the Mudaliar’s, as Baba was sitting on a gaadi listening to His arti, He twirled a small skein of cotton thread in His hands, and then handed it to Don and told him to enclose it with his letter. Baba had Don send it to Mary, who used to spin and weave her own cloth, along with instructions to hold the thread in her hands, and thereafter to keep it in a safe place and not to use it.
Baba and the women arrived in London in the morning on 31st July 1952. They were met by Will and Mary Backett, Delia and Don (Donkin), who took them to the Rubens Hotel on Buckingham Palace Road, where they were to stay a week. Backetts and others had arranged their accommodations.
Flying from Paris, Baba and group had dinner on the plane and landed in London in evening on 17th July 1956. Will and Mary Backett among others were present to receive Him. In four cars, Baba and the mandali were driven to the Rubens Hotel, where Baba had stayed before in 1952. Although Baba’s car left the airport first, it was the last to reach the hotel, where others were waiting to greet Him.
Upon arrival, Baba was noticeably tired. He had not slept for three days en route. He stood at the back of a crowded elevator to go up to His room. Will Backett wrote that He appeared “a rather tired, pathetic figure, amidst the other hotel guests; an eloquent tribute to that humility with which Perfection is garbed.”
In the afternoon of 18th July 1956, more than 120 people came for darshan in the large hall of the hotel. Will, Mary and Charles sat next to Baba. Fred Marks stood by the door with a royal blue sash across his chest like a steward. Baba distributed prasad of sweets and His photographs. Will described the reception as follows:
The reception revealed Baba’s same individual understanding of every guest. To one, a deeply significant glance; to another, a loving touch on the cheek, or perhaps the arm would be gently stroked. Some, whom Baba had greeted at their first meeting with a handshake, received a warm embrace. Some who expected advice received none, and yet others, who had been hoping for at least ten minutes in which to explain their longstanding difficulties, heard His familiar “I know all and I will help you.” Most striking, too, were the groups of friends or the family in which the children and parents all came together to Baba for the first time, and His look, passing from son to father, conveyed his love in which both father and son and indeed all humanity find themselves afresh
On 5th September 1962, one dear and old follower of Baba’s, Mary Backett, died in England. She was 86 years old. Baba would always refer to Mary and her husband Will as His “archangels,” and He sent Will this telegram on the 7th: “My Archangel Mary has come to Me after fulfilling her appointed task. Be happy in My love.”
Following the death of his wife, Mary, Will Backett in London had found it difficult to adjust to living without her and was in poor health. That year would have been his and Mary’s 50th wedding anniversary. To console him, Baba sent him many telegrams and messages through Adi Jr., such as: “You are not alone. I am with you.”
Because of his feeble condition, Will Backett had not been able to attend the East-West Gathering, and Baba sent him a telegram during it, reassuring him of His love. Through Mollie Eve, Baba also sent Will a garland he had worn during the darshan.
On 15th May 1963, at the age of 84, Will Backett also died peacefully in a London hospital. In reply to Mollie Eve’s telegram from London, Baba sent this message: “Your cable regarding Will’s passing away received. My dear Archangels Will and Mary Backett have come to Me for all time.”
References/Images from: Various Lord Meher volumes, discontinued website's ambprasarkendra & love-remembrances, images and dates, stories etc from respective copyright owners websites or publications used with permission - i.e. In His Service, Glow International, MeherBabaTravels, MSI and MNP Collections, from AvatarMeherBabaTrust, BelovedArchives websites and from various other website sources, Books, journal etc. More information where ever available with us like letter scans, stories etc are added. Kindly feel free to Contact us with any updates, photos or corrections etc.
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