Account by Fred Wood

Early Memories Recalled by Fred Wood, 1985

The following “Introduction to Fred Wood” was written by Patricia Roberts in her book: Selected Letters of Fred Wood 1890-1986.

“Fred Wood was born at Dawlish. Devon May 6, 1890, but at the age of 6 moved with his family to London where he grew up, and where he worked in the Customs & Excise from leaving school until shortly after he met Edward Cooney on Tower Hill in 1916…Soon after Fred’s conversion, he gave up his fiancee and his job, distributed his money among the poor, and went to preach according to Matthew 10 in fellowship with Edward and those associated with him. 

“He spent the following 20 years preaching in Spain, in South America, and the British Isles…in 1938 he married an Ulster girl, Sadie Greenaway, who was one of his own converts.  Thereafter Fred earned his living in the offices of Harland & Wolff in Belfast until his retirement.  Sadie and Fred had a home and four daughters…Their home was always open for God’s people to stay in and worship in.  The church met in their home, according to the Scripture, for the breaking of bread on Sunday mornings.  They were Edward Cooney’s staunchest supporters and Edward used to say that Fred was to him what Timothy was to Paul. ..All their spare time was given over to pastoral work, including open-air preaching…

“When Edward (Cooney) was excommunicated in 1928, Fred was one of the very few preachers who supported him.  After Edward’s death in 1960, the outcasts (Cooneyites) everywhere looked to Fred as their elder brother…Fred retired…in 1960 at the age of 70.  From then until shortly before they died, he and his wife, Sadie, as well as shepherding the outcasts in Ulster (Northern Ireland), also paid regular visits to England and Scotland and made many trips abroad to Canada, the United States and Norway to strengthen the outcasts in those countries…

“In 1985…Sadie died after a short illness, at the age of 69…he (Fred Wood) died peacefully at his home in his 97th year on September 11, 1986.”

NOTE:  The following is a transcribed tape of a 1985 conversation with FRED WOOD, age circa 93, which a Cooneyite elder made in the home of a professing American 2×2.  Fred is from Ireland.

The Living Witness Doctrine (states) no one could be saved apart from hearing William Irvine or a preacher sent out by William Irvine.  Eddie Cooney said this was a heresy, but proselytized his conscience for four years, in order to keep in with his brethren.

And another weakness that I believe came was when there was sister workers sent out two-by-two which, of course, was started by William Irvine, seeing he was…belonged to these whatchamacall people [Faith Mission], and he brought in the sister workers.

And when I was with Edward (Cooney) one day cycling in the South of England, we arrived at a village where there were some saints.  I didn’t know about it, but Edward must have known it was a place where saints met together.  And he found several women folk, about half a dozen, talking together, and he sat down and encouraged them to go on in the straight way.  Presently, a sister worker came in, and she (blackened) them all out, one by one. We never saw anything more of those saints, and they promised they would put us up for the night there, because they had different places in the village where they lived. We never saw them anymore, but when supper time came, this sister worker said to Edward, “We will give you food as men, but not as brothers.”  Edward said, “We won’t take it,” and that night we had to lay down on the floor and do the best we could.  It was the month of November, but it wasn’t too warm, we can tell you. 

So when we got up the next morning, breakfast time, the same conditions were put forward.  “We’ll give you breakfast as men, but not as brothers.”  Edward said, “We won’t take any breakfast then.”  We got on our bicycles and cycled away.  Edward had a few shillings in his pocket, and we called at a little cafe there and had a cup of coffee, and then we cycled on to a place called Lie in the center of England, and they treated us more kindly than this sister worker who is supposed to have the love of God in her heart.  So that was one of the conditions under which I suffered in being in fellowship with Eddie Cooney.

And, of course, his life can be divided into three different parts:

30 approximate years before he went out to preach
30 years in fellowship with our very dear brethren, and
30 years after he was put outside the camp

Now the difference between Alfred Magowan–Alfred wanted to cut off his relation to our very dear brethren.  And he made a hymnbook entirely of his own hymns, except for a few odd hymns he put in.  His idea was to cut off relationship with them.  But Edward said, “We’ll stick to the brown book we have today.  It is the only link with our very dear brethren.”  And that’s how things went on.

And it took them to 1921, where you see that big photograph of nothing but workers, about 800 there (Staffordshire, England) taken in 1921.  And they took Edward around the world for seven years to try to get him to change his mind.  One of the faults they had to find with him was he never knew what he was going to say when he came into a meeting.  From that comes the saying Edward told us, “When you know, you don’t know.  When you don’t know, you know.”  Because he would come out without anything into the meeting and didn’t know what he was going to say.  And one sister said to him, “Excuse me, Mr. Cooney, I’d like a piece of paper to take down what you’re saying.’ ‘No need, Madam, no need.  Anything I say is best forgotten, but anything that God speaks through my lips by the Holy Spirit will come back to you by the Holy Spirit.”  Now, these are the things where he differed so from our dear brethren.

And, of course, the conventions were copied from Keswick, in the North of England.  They had four days of conventions there, with three meetings a day, just like our very dear brethren have today.  They haven’t changed one bit–three meetings in four days. 

I used to go to conventions myself, and they used to number people. “Now there’s 200 spoken, and there’s only just one day left.  You’ll have to hurry up if you want to say anything.”  They were all trembling to feel that they had displeased the workers or committed some sin if they didn’t open their mouth.  I was there.  I knew all about it, and so that’s how it went on with all these things–with a nail in Edward’s coffin every time.

And then there was the huts (portable wooden buildings also called baches) put up in pieces to put in somebody’s field, where they got permission to preach the gospel.  And Edward said to our dear brethren, “I don’t mind having fellowship with you in your wooden huts, but don’t force me to have a wooden hut,”  because Edward believed the home was the place where a preacher should lay his head.  They had beds in their wooden huts to sleep on, and so that was another nail in his coffin, so little by little, they say.

Then George Walker came from Massachusetts to London while Edward was in Ireland with a packed jury of ten men wanting to excommunicate him.  George Walker came from Massachusetts to London, while I was there in the meeting. He spoke from the 2nd of Revelations and spoke of casting their (?) into a sick bed unless they repent.  And, of course, there was the others of those I’d had fellowship in my time.  There might have been about 12 or 14 of us there, and they were all trembling when they heard this.  And they had their minds poisoned against Edward in that meeting. I didn’t get mine poisoned because I knew I’d heard the Gospel in 1916 in the open air after listening for ten working days–Monday to Friday–in two weeks.  And so, when Edward came home, he met some of these dear folks in 1928, and they said to him,

(EC)     “Hello, how are you?”
(Them)  “I’m all right, how are you?”
(EC)      “I’m all right. I’m coming `round to see you.”
(Them)  “If you come around to see me, you’ll find a locked door.”

That was what Edward got from one of the converts.  He was an engine driver, older than me, he was.  He was an engineer driver here in London.  That was what he got from one.  He went to another man’s house who also professed through Edward.  He was very deaf.  He knocked at the door. He came out to the door.

(EC)    “I’ve come to see you.”
(Man)  “I can’t let you in, Edward.” (Tears streaming down his face.) “I can’t let you in.”

I tell you if that’s not bondage, I don’t know what bondage is. I feel that that was bondage. I couldn’t say, but I never saw any of them after that.  And I claim to have been with Edward more than any man living, and I would say more than any man dead, too.  I have prayed with him.  I have preached with him.  I supped with him, and I’ve suffered with him.

I’m glad today he said to me, “I’ll be able to help you better when I’ve gone on.”  I thought to myself, “Is there any Scripture for any thought of that kind?” And my thoughts went to Elijah, who was a great help to John the Baptist, because John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, who had died 1,000 years previously.  But what he didn’t have was Elijah’s miracles, but he came in the spirit and power of Elijah, so that’s the only Scripture I could bring to my mind.  Mind you Edward wouldn’t say such a thing as that unless he was pretty sure what he was saying. He didn’t speak out of his hat. He said that, I’m sure, through revelation.  Now, so there it is.

I’m glad of his fellowship. I wept when he left me, and I knew I’d see him no more in this world.  I had one sister.  She’s dead now.  When she saw me, she told me they were emotional tears.  I don’t believe they were emotional tears. I would like to say what’s emotional tears, and what’s not emotional tears, but Paul said about Timothy, remember your tears.  They were tears worth remembering.  So I spent plenty of tears since as I think of the future, but I want to walk uprightly. I was brought up a Protestant. I never had any desire to become a Catholic, but it’s no good me leaning to the Protestants any more than to the Catholics. If I do, I can’t walk uprightly.

In fact, the words that were like bread and jam to me was when Edward came into the open air and said, ‘I’m neither a Catholic nor a Protestant.’  God knew that I needed to hear those few words, and they were a great comfort to me.  I never heard a man say those words before, nor since.  And so I want to go on and on, and there’s only one way for me to go or any of us to go.  And that’s forward, forgetting what lies behind and stretching out to the things that lie ahead.  And we should all live by revelation from God, for Peter got to know who Jesus was, not through Jesus, but through God the Father.  And Jesus said to Peter, “Now, Simon, son of Barjonah, happy art thou for flesh and blood, hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven, and I will give unto you the keys of the Kingdom” (Matt. 16:17).  What are the keys?

Christ to you – faith;
Christ in you – hope;
Christ through you – love.

Those are the three keys of the Kingdom, and anybody can have those keys who’ll pay the price.  And so we get Paul saying, “You are in our hearts to guide together and to live together happily.”  I think those are wonderful words. No death, no resurrection, and so they overcame by the Blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony.  How do we get the Blood of the Lamb? By pouring out our blood which gets replaced by the Blood of the Lamb, little by little.  And that’s how we can overcome by the Blood of the Lamb.

So I’m glad, you see, that Edward Cooney didn’t reveal everything to me. I’ve had things revealed to me since he left, but it may be through Jesus through Edward Cooney to me. I don’t know, but it’s a wonderful thing to say “I’ll be able to help you better when I’ve gone on”…and so these words are very encouraging to me, and I hope by God’s grace to finish better than I began.  We read of some in the Scripture who’s latter end was worse than their beginning.  God save me and any of us from that. I don’t want my latter end to be worse than the beginning.  But as we grow up, surely we should get to know better what God’s will is. It’s not learned all of a sudden.  And Jesus said, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of. My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me and to finish His work” (John 4:32-33). So that’s where I stand today, and I hope I’ll stand fast in the grace of God and have faith, not shrink back, but have faith unto the saving of us all. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1).

And I’m afraid it’s quite true what Edward said, “When the old workers die off, and the younger workers take over, it will develop into a very respectable sect.” When Wilson Reid, who had the oversight over Ireland, heard that he said, “I wouldn’t doubt it, but we’ll keep it clean as long as we can.”  I think that’s about all I have to say. I don’t know that there’s anything more. (pause).

Alfred Magowan trespassed on another man’s field in…I don’t know–in America–it must have been in America, and he was put out by George Walker for doing that. That’s who he was put out by, George Walker.  And when Edward heard that he’d been put out, he invited him to Ireland, and he was in fellowship with Edward.  He professed through Edward, but he was more interested in William Irvine and bothered one of the saints to pay his fare over to Palestine to have a talk with William Irvine.

William Irvine got strange ideas into his head, you see, and one of these ideas he had was that he was one of the living witnesses who would wait for John–they’d be the two living witnesses.  And, of course, William Irvine had a good many converts, and when they saw that the thing fell through, I don’t know what became of those converts, because they thought the world of William Irvine and Alfred Magowan.

As I say, he (Alfred Magowan) came and had fellowship with Edward.  He preached with Edward.  He preached with me, too, and one of the things I heard him say when there was a lot of young people in the meeting.  He says, “I’m sorry for you young people. You’re born just a bit too late.”  I didn’t like that. I tell you it didn’t go down, but, of course, he was the older man, and I said nothing. I kept my mouth shut about different things that he said. 

And this hymnbook–oh, he couldn’t get his thoughts down quick enough.  He got them written down, and he got me to try and make tunes to them, which I found it was impossible because the beat didn’t go properly, the rhythm.  But there was a time when you wouldn’t have got into a meeting in some places without Alfred Magowan’s book.  You wouldn’t have got in without Alfred’s book.  And you see, I could tell there was a difference between Alfred and Edward.  And he wrote 18 pages, and when Edward read these pages, he said, “That’s 18 buckets of cold water.”  So Alfred Magowan, of course, his name is in the book of The Secret Sect. My name is in that book of The Secret Sect, and I’d like to tell you about that man…

Sadie Wood speaking (wife of Fred Wood):  “Glen Smith wrote a lot of the hymns.  Wrote a letter to  Edward Cooney in 1957.”

When I came home from South America where I’d been for nearly two years, I came to England there.  West of England, there was a convention going on there, and I’d made up my mind I’d go to the convention.  And I saw Willie Gill coming across from the tent of the convention. “You have no free hand here.” I said, “Well, I’ll get away then, Willie.”  And if there had been a man around the corner of the road that said to me, “Come and have a pint in the public house,” I believe I would have gone.  It so discouraged me. I’ll never forget it.  And Willie discussed the thing with Edward. “I had occasion to deal with one of your friends.” “Yes,” Edward said, “I know who that was. That was Fred Wood. He’s as good as you or me.”  That’s what he said to Willie Gill.

Oh, dear, if Willie Gill had had the love of God in his heart, he’d have said, “Oh, he’s one of those fools who professed through Eddie Cooney–I’ll try and help him.”  If he’d had the Holy Spirit with him…I tell you these things have been an eye opener to me.  But with all this, Eddie said he’d been helped by William Irvine more than by any of the others.  Yes, and William Irvine thought a lot of Eddie Cooney.  He wrote to Eddie Cooney.  He said, “I’m glad you’ve broken the power of workerality.”  We’ve got a letter written by William Irvine in his pen.  I think it was 1938–I’m not quite sure, but I think it was.  He thought a lot of poor Eddie.

And then you know, William Irvine is supposed, well, he says he professed through the Reverend John McNeill.  He’s a man I heard in my teens in the Congregational Church, long before I met Edward.  He was a tremendous preacher.  He’d bang down the Bible. He had a lovely lot of hair, black hair, and that was the man William Irvine claimed to profess through in Motherwell in Scotland.

So, you can quite understand.  Edward left his home to prove that there was a God, and he proved it on his own. He took nothing with him. Nothing in his pocket, and he said it was a wonderful way that God provided for him. He didn’t know where he was going, didn’t know when his fare would be paid, and so on, and money came unto him from another source–I don’t know where.  And when he got home, he said he’d like to put God to the test. He emptied his pockets and stood on a railway station (platform). He wanted to go to Belfast from Fermanagh.  And a certain sister, she said she heard as plain as anything:  “Put your pass in your pocket.”  And she did.  And when she got on the platform, she saw Edward there.  “Surely, Edward has got his fare,” she thought.  When she found out he hadn’t got his fare, she pulled out her pass, and paid it–it was 10 schillings.  That was a half pound to go to Belfast. He wanted to prove God was with him, after all those years.  I tell you, it’s a wonderful thing.

And as I say, these young workers are sent out by name–so and so with so and so–yes, we’ll send them to Florida; so and so with so and so–we’ll send them to Massachusetts.  That’s not being sent out by the Holy Spirit.  Dear, dear Jesus wasn’t sent out like that.  Paul wasn’t sent out like that. He said, not of man, not by man nor through a man, but by Jesus Christ, and he was writing to the, you know, Galatians–Galatia the church that went wrong–Galatian church.  They’ve got a son or daughter. They like to go to the well-to-do families and send the well-to-do out to preach. Doug Parker, he came from a well-to-do family, you know, and they wanted him to give up everything, and he had a desire to take his mother and father around the world, and see a bit of the world.  They were against that, and that’s when he sort of cut across them and wrote that book The Secret Sect. I’ll tell you, it’s not a very good testimony, The Secret Sect.