Obituary: Cistercian Brother Aidan

Br Aidan

Br Aidan

‘Never know the hour!’ is the true word but this was as sudden as any in the case of Br Aidan. He died on Wednesday 30 March 2011. He was preparing to come to the community Mass at 4am. The monks had just finished saying Vigils and were suddenly alarmed by the Infirmarian, Br Philip calling for help with Br Aidan who had been found on the floor of the small wash room apparently already dead. All efforts of ourselves and the Medics who came within 15 minutes failed to bring him around. He died peacefully. No one was actually with him when he died and therefore there had to be a post mortem.

On the day before’ Br. Aidan was at work on the farm as usual and he aimed to be out at work again at 7 am that very morning. He is 77 and in principle is retired, but there were some loose ends to be attended to because of some final livestock and machinery sales.

Br Aidan, Bernard Nial Hunt, has been a remarkable monk, ‘a stalwart character in your community’ (Cardinal). He joined the Cistercian Abbey in 1960. He was attracted to the simpler style of the monastic life of manual labour, rather than the clerical, choir form. The community Chronicle gives an insight into the 1960’s social situation. Vatican II Council caused a sea change in the way of the old two tier of monks and lay-brothers. Quoting from the Chronicle, “Br Aidan entered with others in Sept/Oct 1960 . . . Is it true to say that it was the lay-brothers who benefitted most for changes? At present we have no lay-brothers which saddens Aidan who in the past, maintained that putting everyone into black and white and into choir – if they wished – destroyed the “lay-brothers” ideal, and contributed to the Cistercian life. In fact, Br Aidan has been the acting Sub-Prior, (3rd Superior), for the last 15 years, as well as Manager of the Farm.

He has had a very full life. After his Gateshead School, he enlisted at Aldershot in 1953, served time in Hong Kong, and the Army Emergency Reserves until 1958. We have the Parish Priest of St John’s, Gateshead recommends Bernard to a post in the Weights and Measures Department.

Then there was a turn in the divine rudder. Bernard Neil set his course towards Nunraw. He took a wise step. He first went to work in forestry. – with the ideal that he would be hardened up for the monastic life. He did not really need all that toughening – since his work-– considering his exercise on the Cricket and Rugby fields.

He had much and varied experience. None of us is so practiced in just about every manual skill and art, forestry, dairy, cobbling, building construction (new abbey). Up to the last days he could always oblige any cobbling for our boots, and shoes and sandles.

Eventually he was assigned to the farm under the great mentor Br Carthage, the Farm Manager. When Br Carthage died in 1979, his mantle was passed over to Br Aidan, as he continued manager for 32 years. It is no mere coincidence that inscribed on his photo are the words:“Br Aidan, Farm Manager, Nunraw. At work till the very last day,Wednesday 30 March 2011”.

Brother Aidan, Bernard Neil, OCSO died at Nunraw Abbey on Wednesday 30th March 2011, in his 77th year, and the 48th year of Monastic Profession, Sub-Prior 15 years. He was Farm Manager for 32 years, at work to his last day. He is survived by his sister, Enis, and brother, Lawrence and extended family.

Hus Funeral will be on Thursday 14th April at 1pm
Sancta Maria Abbey
Nunraw, Haddington, East Lothian,
Scotland EH41 4LW
Tel. 01620830223

The unusually prolonged Wake or Vigil of Br Aidan occasioned by the visit of the Abbot, Mark Caira, at the Priory of Our Lady of the Angels, Nsugbe, Nigeria.

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