The UK Baba Group was started in 1931, the year Meher Baba visited England for the first time.
In 1927 Baba sent one of His Indian disciples, Rustom Irani, to London in search of pupils to attend the multi-national, multi-faith boys school that Baba ran for several years. It was attached to Baba's ashram in Meherabad. Rustom met Meredith Starr, a spiritual seeker who taught meditation. Meredith, his wife and sister were drawn to Meher Baba and travelled to India to spend six months at the Meherashram at Toka.
On his return, and on Baba’s instructions, Meredith set up a spiritual retreat in Devon, near Combe Martin, which attracted a number of interested people. Meredith taught meditation and prepared them for Meher Baba's arrival.
When Baba arrived in England in 1931, He stayed at the London home of Kitty Davy, who was to become a lifelong follower, and He then went to stay at the Devon retreat.
A group was formed and named the Circle Editorial Committee. They rented premises in Charing Cross Road, London where Will Backett and Herbert Davy, amongst others, worked to spread Baba’s message and, as the name suggests, published and distributed booklets about Baba.
Meher Baba always kept in close contact with His followers around the world. One who was left behind in England during the war years was Delia de Leon. She received many letters from Baba, and she was to play a very important role in the 1960s.
It was not until 1952 that Baba visited England again. In the Charing Cross Hotel He gave interviews to all those wishing to meet Him. Many having waited years for the opportunity.
Meher Baba’s last visit to England was in 1956 when He stayed at the Rubens Hotel, near Buckingham Palace. The UK group organised large receptions for Him, with musical entertainments. Hundreds came just to be near Him.
Baba spent four years in seclusion, meaning that He was not to be disturbed, even by correspondence. The group was kept informed by Mani, Baba’s sister, who wrote the regular 'Family Letters'.
In 1962 there was the East West Gathering at Poona [Pune] in India, and many travelled there from England. It was to be their last chance to see Baba.
When, in 1969, Meher Baba dropped his body, Delia went to India and attended at His entombment.
Even though Baba was no longer in His physical form, it seemed as though the flood gates had opened. Suddenly young people were seeking spiritual answers and Delia de Leon's home in Kew became a haven, where she shared her experiences and love of Meher Baba. Her book, 'Ocean of Love' is a wonderful record of her life with Baba.
These were exciting times. The group had its London Centre in Soho and later in Pimlico. Many meetings and lively gatherings were held there - study groups, music, singing, poetry etc. Several new books were written including Tom and Dorothy Hopkinson's “Much Silence - the Life and Work of Meher Baba". Pop stars also became followers of Baba. This created a frisson of excitement and helped to bring Baba's name to the attention of an even wider public. Adi K Irani, Meher Baba’s secretary, an excellent speaker, came to London in 1976 and gave talks at the opening of another Centre, Oceanic, which was situated beside the River Thames at Twickenham.
The Meher Baba Association became a registered charity in 1972 and moved the Centre to its present location, Hammersmith, in 1985. Here regular meetings are held and many interesting talks, discussions, concerts and celebrations have taken place.
Regular regional Baba meetings are also held around the UK and larger residential events are arranged, featuring invited speakers from all over the world. These have been wonderful, rewarding experiences for those taking part.
There is also a steady flow of UK pilgrims to Meherabad, to visit Baba’s tomb shrine.