A life in Camphill

News article

Peter with some of his Botton ‘family’ in Hall North – and second row on the right in the small photo, as a child at Kirkton House.
A life in Camphill

In 1938, at the age of nine, Peter Bergel became the first child to find a home with Camphill at Kirkton House near Aberdeen. This May we said goodbye to him in Botton Village, where he passed away aged 83.

Young Peter was a refugee; his family fled Germany in time to save him from the fate that befell so many with a learning disability during the Nazi regime.

Having heard of Camphill’s work, his desperate parents brought him to Kirkton House in hope of maximising their son’s development and opportunities in life. There, and as a young man in Botton, Peter became one of the pioneers of a new way of living based on mutual care and respect.

Vulnerable and anxious, he required others to reach out to him – and in turn taught them to accept him with a smile.

Loyal and determined

Making a contribution to his community was enormously important to Peter. He was renowned for his faithfulness and loyalty to his work and felt a deep sense of responsibility for every task he undertook, be it in the kitchen or in the garden.

Yet anxiety made it hard for him to open up to new experiences – until he lived with Alma Dutton, the housemother who taught him: ‘Well, I’ll try it, just this once!’ In this way Peter came to taste the joys of shared mealtimes, outings and many other aspects of life he might have never experienced.

He loved formal social occasions, from Sunday afternoon coffee with raisin bread, to birthday parties where he liked to give a prepared speech. As soon as one event had arrived Peter would be anticipating the next, enlisting everyone, from housemates to visitors, to help him count down the days.

‘A farmer in heaven’

Shortly before Peter’s death, he shared with a young friend that his great wish was to be a ‘farmer in heaven’. We laid him to rest here in Botton, his home – where he will never be far from the hearts of the living, and the rhythms of the land.