I have been reading about the wonderful Hazel Hawke recently; her often turbulent life with husband Bob and subsequently her battle with Alzheimer’s. For those not familiar with Australian politics, Bob Hawke became Prime Minister of Australia in 1983, and was in office until 1991.

Did you know that Hazel once spent time at the Findhorn Foundation and its famous garden in Scotland?

Hazel Hawke, around the time she visited Findhorn.

In the mid 1970s I read a book called ‘The Magic of Findhorn’, by Paul Hawken. It told the story of an incredible garden, established among windswept sand dunes on the harsh north coast of Scotland. It also traced the history of a spiritual community that grew up around the garden. I had been working near Inverness in 1973 and was so frustrated that I hadn’t been aware of Findhorn at the time.

Map showing Findhorn

The garden was established by Eileen and Peter Caddy and their friend Dorothy Maclean in 1962. The Caddys had lost their livelihood as hotel managers in Forres, and moved to the nearby Findhorn caravan park. As they tried to find work, growing their own food became an economic necessity.

Dorothy discovered that while meditating she was able to connect with the ‘angels and divas’ of plants, and receive instruction in establishing a remarkable, organic garden. Eileen too, felt she was being guided by God. Word of their developing eco-eden spread and the nucleus of six people began to expand. At one point Eileen received a message that they should build a community centre large enough to accommodate 180 people, even though at that point there were just 15.

The Caddy family and Dorothy Maclean. founders of Findhorn.

I had been intrigued to read accounts of  bags of compost appearing from nowhere and supernaturally sized vegetables being grown in seemingly impossible conditions. Roses reputedly grew in snow and delphiniums reached a height of over eight foot. Now frankly, I could be the poster woman for the group Australian Skeptics, and communal living would be my worst nightmare. But how I wanted to believe there really were forty pound cabbages and giant parsnips. Yes, I realize this was very shallow of me. 😎

By complete contrast, it was the spiritual element that drew Hazel Hawke to Findhorn. Mrs Hawke was accompanying her husband (then President of the A.C.T.U.) on an overseas trip in 1979. The following extract is from the biography Hazel: My Mother’s Story. by her daughter Sue Pieters-Hawke.

The Findhorn Community was a beacon for those who, like Hazel, were interested in an alternative approach to food, to the land, to society. to inner life……She had an intuitively unadorned approach to health, but was deeply interested to learn more about what were then considered ‘way out’ approaches to healthy living.’

While Bob Hawke attended meetings in Geneva, Hazel uncharacteristically did something for herself. She spent two blissful weeks at Findhorn. Pieters-Hawke quotes her mother;

There were days of warming sunshine and long, quiet evenings of misty twilight. It was nourishment to my spirit. I did rostered duties along with everyone else each morning, including work in the vegetable and herb gardens. the laundry, the kitchen, the dining hall, some cleaning and working on a productive craft. There were lectures, yoga, music and discussion. When there was time we took long walks…’


I hope memories of that experience sustained Hazel Hawke in difficult times.

Garden beds at Findhorn.

In the 1990s I began writing for horticultural publications.  When my husband Rob and I were planning a research  trip to Scotland in 1996  I remembered Findhorn, and finally spent a day there, lunching in the Community Centre and exploring the garden. For me, the most exciting thing was seeing the original Caddy family caravan.

The Caddy family's original caravan at Findhorn.

Of course, human nature being what it is, the strong bonds between the original creators of Findhorn did not last. Nevertheless, as personal relationships unravelled the community itself continued to grow.

Sadly, it has been Covid that has created the greatest threat to its existence. Financial pressures due to lockdowns forced redundancies among staff. In 2021 a disgruntled ex employee set fire to the Community Centre and Sanctuary and they were reduced to ashes.


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