|Birthday||January 24, 1933|
|Died on||20 June, 2014|
|Org. Affiliation(s)||Saint Hill, London Org|
Rhona had been a Scientologist for 60 years and worked for LRH. In the last year [written in 2014] she became acutely aware of the issues facing Scientology internationally and thoroughly researched them. She made contact with long lost friends who long ago left the church. In her final months she contributed several articles to this blog and was deeply aligned to what we are trying to do: Allow Scientologists to get back in comm.
Rhona’s passing is representative of a reality we face: A diminishing number of people who knew LRH personally. It is of vital importance that their stories be preserved.
A private memorial was held on Sunday the 29th of June 2014.
Early Life[edit | edit source]
Rhona was born in Springs [Near Johannesburg, South Africa] in 1933, eldest daughter of Gwendoline and Bill Earnshaw. She had one brother Mac and two sisters, Linda and Dianne.
She completed the first three years of school in fifteen months. At the age of 10 her grandmother paid for her to learn the piano and she took formal lessons, doing both theory and practical for four years.
When the high school she attended was closed by the government for an indefinite period because of a polio epidemic, her parents enrolled her in a private commercial college. Here she learned secretarial skills and began work for a chartered accountant at the age of 15.
In her late teens she became a Sunday school teacher in the Methodist church and made the decision to get confirmed. The minister who performed the confirmation ceremony was later one of the accused in the notorious treason trial of 1956.
Scientology[edit | edit source]
When she was 19 she made the decision to go overseas and worked in the day at her secretarial job and at night put on gum boots and a white coat to work in the factory, earning extra money to pay for her overseas trip.
In June 1954, the year she turned 21, she went to England with the intention of spending a year on a working holiday. She discovered Scientology within the first week of being in London.
During the first year in London before finally joining staff at the London org, she landed a job doing a PR caper for one of the leading London newspapers and as a result traveled some 2,500 miles throughout England and the Isle of Man. She worked as a secretary to one of London’s leading theatrical agents Al Parker and accounts highlights such as taking dictation from Attenborough. She had other interesting interactions with Jack Hawkins, Diana Dors (Britian’s Marilyn Monroe) and Howard among others.
Rhona then decided to do the Hubbard Professional Auditor Course. Several months later she resigned from her PR job, and joined staff at the London org as secretary to Jack Parkhouse, the Association Secretary of the London org. She met L Ron Hubbard in the same year when he arrived in London to deliver the London ACC.
And so began Rhona’s long journey in Scientology.
Working for L Ron Hubbard[edit | edit source]
Rhona is well known for her many interesting tales about her experiences with LRH , and at the time of her passing was in the process of documenting her memoirs and life with Ron. She tells of many anecdotal incidents like trying to find ice in the middle of winter in London for Ron’s Coke [Coca Cola], and locating a tobacconist that stocked his brand of cigarette. She was assigned the task of buying linen and other household paraphernalia for the impending arrival of Ron, Sue and their children to London.
In 1956 when Ron went back to the US, he offered Rhona the option of traveling to South Africa to open an org there, which he later postponed and invited her to join him in the US instead. She departed the UK in October 1956 aboard a small cargo ship in charge of the Hubbard family’s gear (including Ron’s Jaguar), and arrived in New York. From there she caught a train to Washington org and helped supervise the ACC.
Returning to London org a few months later, she was assigned the task of conducting a Bachelor of Scientology Course. It was back in London that she met and later married her first husband, John Swinburne. That famous "HCO Justice Manual" that's all over the internet, has a covering memo from "Rhona Swinburne". Ron made several trips back and forth between the UK and US. Rhona had many a tale of her interactions with him over those years.
Rhona had the rare privilege of attending all the lectures of the 15th Washington ACC and all the lectures of the 5th London ACC. She also attended lectures at Congresses in London and Johannesburg. She attended many lectures LRH delivered in Washington DC and London apart from ACC lectures.
LRH's pc[edit | edit source]
Rhona both audited LRH and was audited by him one-on-one in 1956. During the course of the 15th Washington ACC in 1956, Ron audited Rhona as a demo. He told the watching students he could tell by the flippancy of her answers that she wasn’t really in session. In 1957 she was part of the audience at the Congress when he delivered group auditing. In 1958 during the 5th London ACC she had a number of hours auditing from him on a one-on-one basis.
Rhona was also personally trained and drilled by Ron on the TRs. Ron told her that she was the only staff member he could do this with. He had tried to do it with the Dir Training and decided he couldn’t make it so he chose Rhona. Thereafter she was given the job of training the staff and the UK field on the TRs.
Special Projects[edit | edit source]
In 1957 she was transferred to HCO (Hubbard Communications Office) and in 1958 was appointed as the first ever HCO Exec Sec WW by LRH. It was during this time she was asked to find a home for LRH and his family, and upon LRH’s return to London she showed him a brochure of the estate of the Maharaj of Jaipur which was about to be auctioned. Ron’s response to Rhona was “buy it” which she duly did. This was the birth of the Headquarters of Scientology World Wide—Saint Hill. Ironically, Rhona never saw Saint Hill until 1976 when she went there to do her OT Levels.
Rhona not only worked for LRH, but also became his friend. She spent many evenings with him and Mary Sue at their home for dinner parties and other socials. She recounts one such visit where Ron, holding cards behind his back, could tell from various locations what card he was holding.
Starting a Family[edit | edit source]
In 1959, by now 8 months pregnant, Rhona finally left London to join her husband in Australia where her eldest daughter Carol was born. The marriage only lasted a short while after that, and in 1960 Rhona returned to South Africa with Carol.
Throughout the years, Rhona stayed in touch with Ron. She has a number of rare hand-written letters from him. At some point Ron awarded her the SHSBC for her years of dedicated work in Scientology. Unfortunately she never acted on this award.
Rhona continued her dedication to and studies of Scientology traveling through to the Hancock Street Org in Johannesburg by train every day (she was living in Springs with her parents). In 1962 she met and won the heart of confirmed bachelor Mike Smit, who was running the PE . They got married and moved to Pinelands in the Cape where their daughter Shelley was born. Rhona joined staff in Cape Town org where she held the posts of HCO Exec Sec and Dissem Sec.
In 1965 Rhona and Mike moved to Port Elizabeth, where Rhona completed another 2.5 year contract with the PE Org. During this time her third child and only son Andre was born on the 2nd April 1966.
Rhona, Mike and their 3 children returned to Springs early in 1967. Rhona dedicated herself to being a homemaker and raising her children for the next few years, in amongst odd job stints to compliment the family income. She became an accomplished seamstress and knitter, and learned to master her Knitting machine, churning out dozens of garments for her family and friends. Her daughters, in stylish hand-made clothes, were quite the envy of their friends. She sewed all Shelley’s ballet costumes, sometimes making up to 18 duplicates for the whole troupe.
Rhona was an accomplished cook, and she became quite well-known for her flair in the kitchen. She and Mike hosted many dinner parties and guests would leave the house satiated with world class food. She also loved to bake, and especially enjoyed doing so with her grandchildren helping her. Her famous Christmas cake, Pavlovas and pineapple upside-down cakes were lapped up quickly. During this time Rhona also turned her hand to doing some writing (she was already an accomplished writer) and a few of her articles were published in various magazines and newspapers.
A Life Dedicated to Scientology[edit | edit source]
In the early 1970’s Rhona assisted with many cycles on behalf of the Religious Defense League and was a key role-player in a number of successful campaigns and projects. Around this time she was also traveling into Joburg by train with all 3 of her children to go on course at the Joburg Org which was now located at 99 Polly Street.
In the late 1970’s Rhona, Mike and family moved back to Johannesburg, and Rhona traveled to the UK to do her Solo course and visit Saint Hill for the first time since she had bought it all those years ago. Shortly after her return, she joined staff again, this time in the Guardians Office – Department of PR. Carol later joined the GO as well, and Shelley finally followed suit in 1978. She served another 5 year contract until 1981. By this time, Rhona had served in excess of 16 years working for the Church.
With her children growing up and becoming independent, Rhona returned to the working world where she had a number of jobs, including a sojourn at the Hubbard College of Administration.
In 1983 she became a grandmother for the first time when her eldest grandson Jean was born. Pierre followed in 1985 – both Shelley’s children.
In December 1991, Rhona made another trip to Saint Hill and achieved the State of OT3.
5 years later in 1990 her 3rd grandson Jesse arrived, son of Andre and Debbie. In 1992 her only granddaughter Dominique was born, Shelley’s third child. And 21 years later in 2013 her 4th and youngest grandchild, Troy entered her life – son of Andre and Lindsay. She has 2 great-grandchildren Caleb (4, son of Jean and Kirsty) and just this year, 13 days before her 81st Birthday, her great-granddaughter little Mia was born – daughter of Pierre and Tanya.
Rhona was a dedicated wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. The well being of her family and grandchildren were of paramount importance to her. She had a deep desire to help her family in every way she possibly could, and loved them all unconditionally. She treasured special moments spent with her family and ensured all her grandchildren knew how special they were to her.
At the ripe old age of 78, Rhona joined staff yet again, part-time as the Letter Reg for Joburg Org. Sadly, she had to end her tenure prematurely due to suffering a minor stroke in August 2013. In total, she had served close to 20 years working for Scientology, in addition to many volunteer hours spent on other Church-related projects. Her lifetime of dedication to LRH and Scientology Technology never wavered.
After her recovery, Rhona embarked on a project of writing her memoirs, and rekindling relationships with people she had lost contact with over the years. She was very happy to find many old friends, and was excited about re-connecting with them.
Rhona was a consummate professional in everything she did. She had many hobbies and interests, was an avid reader and had a keen interest in world affairs. She spent many hours recording a lifetime of memories through scrapbooking – one of her many hobbies. She never stopped learning new things and at the ripe old age of 80 was discovering the wonderful world of the Internet and blogging.
Rhona was a warm-hearted, caring and compassionate person. She took great care to improve the lives of others around her. She touched the lives of everyone she met and was loved and admired by many. She also had a wonderful sense of humour and always tried to see the positive side of any situation she was faced with.
Rhona leaves behind a great legacy. With love an admiration, we bid her adieu.
Go well, dear Rhona.
Addendum by Antony Phillips written in January/February 2020.[edit | edit source]
I can see by viewing the history of this article that I did make some minor changes to it. There is a good deal to add. I was expecting to hear more "from her".
I first came across Rhona in 1957/8 when I worked at HASI London (the Scientology organisation). Rhona Earnshaw (her maiden name) was at that time secretary at 37 Fitzroy Street in London. At that time HCO was a separate organisation to HASI. I remember her well though I did not have a lot to do with her though I do remember when I was demoted from Dir of Training to an ordinary staff auditor. At that time we also had number 7 Fitzroy Street and I passed her in the street walking between the two buildings where she sympathised with me about my demotion.
50 years or so later (2014) she contacted me on Skype from South Africa. We had a number of conversations and I understood that her position was as follows. She had two daughters and all three of them were in the church. The one daughter had discovered something of the FriScientology movement and communicated it to Rhona who apparently at first was quite sceptical. However Rhona and this daughter were now outside of the church of Scientology; the other daughter was still in and there was a great deal of tension. The daughter who was out had a house and in the garden was a cottage where Rhona lived with a computer. Rhona was busy communicating by the computer and had found my address and home page and contacted me. She was also writing into her computer data she had on the church and Ron.
She told me quite a lot about herself and we had we had many good conversations (most of which I have unfortunately forgotten for the moment). I understood because she and her one daughter had left the church there was tension between them and the other daughter. However they were still in communication. At the time this puzzled to me quite a bit but I did not ask about it. There was talk about disconnecting. But he did not seem to happen. I think at some point she did have some sort of illness (after talking to the daughter in the church - not really sure of that). However it came to a point where the daughter in the church was going to fly from Johannesburg to Cape Town with Rhona and this was to be the last time before the daughter disconnected from Rhona.
Not to be facetious, though I am afraid it is, what happened was that Rhona disconnected from her body. She was taken ill on that flight and died.
I did not hear anything more about the contents of the computer or anything else at all from Rhona's daughter, came to forget about it, and now wonder what happened. So if anyone wants to investigate that area for me please let me know the results and either entered into this Scientolipedia page or let me do so.