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Fr Alex Easton
Fr Alan Thompson
Fr Alf Harrison
Bro John Mennie
Fr Hugh Monaghan
Fr Pat Donnelly
Memory of our beloved Scottish Ugandan'
A tribute by Aloysius - a young student friend
(Photo Source: Eric Creaney)
If my memory works well, I should say that we had some major changes in Mbarara Diocese in 1987. Kagamba Parish gave away some of her priests but also received others. Alex Easton was one of the new ones. I think he had worked in the place before.
That is how I came to know him. He would visit our outstation very regularly. His aim, and I believe the aim of the parish was to strengthen the small Christian communities. He organised the people in small groups, men and women together, to read the Bible and reflect on the message. My mother told me that people appreciated it very much. (At the time I was already in secondary school and I only came home for brief moments of holiday.) He did not only do that. He was involved in the daily work of a priest. Speaking and listening to the people, baptising, organising Church marriages, meeting the catechumens.
My place was beginning to build up its Catholic Centre also materially. He found the place too bare. He also knew that the soil is generally rich. He tried to help in planting trees which are very high now. They provide shelter to people during the hot seasons especially
Our Church was kept and still is kept by an elderly lady Honorata and her daughter Mary. They would prepare meals for the priests. They told me that Alex often visited them and talked with them. He was that kind of person who made himself one with others. He would come to their level. I found it a very a hard thing to do and yet a very important insight in pastoral situations. Many people greatly missed him when he moved to Kasese diocese in 1998.
It seems to me also that he was a shy man, but very respectful. He gave me a lesson on how to plant gooseberries. He told me that with a little patience I could easily grow them and make jam. Great, I thought but I never allowed them enough time to gather.
Alex Easton was a man of God. He respected the people he lived with because he saw in them God's image. That is why he worked hard over the years to learn their customs and live them as much as he could and as much as they did not contradict the message he was witnessing. He learnt Runyankore very well and wrote in it. That was a major contribution to our cultural heritage.
It seems to me that he was very patient. At home many people until recently would not have had watches. Our ability to keep time or not to keep time depends on the sun and the clouds, generally on the weather. So when it would rain, Alex knew he could not start mass as foreseen. He would wait and sometimes for hours. He learnt the philosophy that in many ways 'Time was timeless'. But that was the way to enter into the life of the people.
God alone knows how many times he, like many other people, must have got stuck on the roads and seasonal rivers during the rainy season. To live through all that and not give up is great. We cannot forget the political atmosphere for years. He lived through the Idi Amin and Milton Obote regimes and decided to stay with us. He probably told you all these things and even the reasons.
I want to thank the family of Alex. Thank you very much for sending your son to become our brother and elder. Thank you for teaching him to love all people, to be one to all. Thank you for supporting him and encouraging him. Alex wrote to me especially when I was in Zambia in the spiritual year and in Ethiopia for the apostolic and community training. He knew how to give important messages very respectfully. I would like to thank the Church in Scotland for nourishing the missionary spirit. I thank the Missionaries of Africa who were his colleagues. Alex became a Ugandan. I am pretty sure that the Ugandans, particularly the Banyankore buried his remains in a very respectful Christian and Kinyankore way.
My mother Mrs. Rosemary Rwehururu wrote ( from Nairobi, Kenya) to me upon hearing of the death of Fr. Alex. She said, " Sorry about the death of our loving Fr. Easton. May the Lord reward his soul in heaven for the effort he made especially in our area back home in community prayer. He will be remembered also for his love and simplicity."
May Alex Easton intercede for us. Spirit will remain among the people he served in Western and South Western Uganda. May he find joy and peace in the Love of the Risen Lord.
Mukama amuhumuze omubusingye (May the Lord rest him in peace).
The Banyankore have a proverb : 'Okuteera bwingi tikwo kumeeza.' It means that it is not by sowing too much that the grain will germinate. So I should stop. I have talked too much. I wish you all the best.
May God bless you all. Aloysius BEEBWA, Missionaries of Africa.
Charlie McCarthy writes:
Alex (Easton) was at Broome Hall 1949 -1951 ( a year younger than myself). I remember him as quiet, maybe shy, kind and gentle. I really cannot recall if he was academically brilliant, maybe he was, but I do recall a prayer that Fr. Jack Maguire, (our superior) used to pray:
"Dear Lord send me candidates for the priesthood who are both brilliant and holy but if You cannot manage to let me have it both ways then just send me the holy ones"
Alex certainly fitted the latter category. May the Master of the Vineyard in which he laboured for so long and with such devotion, now refresh him with infinite joy at His table - the table of the Lamb, in the company of the Angels, Saints and Martyrs and under the mantle of Mary for whom all Missionaries have such a special place in their hearts. And Alex, dear companion of 50 years ago, think of us who are still struggling in this valley of tears!
(Photo: Charlie McCarthy)
Left to Right: Lionel Kearney, Charlie McCarthy and Alex Easton — the photo may have been taken by Paul Wiseman, brother of Fr. Kevin Wiseman who died recently — 50 years ago at the Royal National Hospital Isle of Wight where Charlie was incarcerated for a considerable time.
Note: Do you remember Charlie? He was at Broome Hall 1948 - 1950 and
again 1952 -1953. In between and after, he spent over 3 years in Hospital -
on the Isle of Wight and at the London Chest.
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Fr. Alex Easton WF 19 - 2001 - taken from Petit Echo (author unknown)
Alec, as he was always known, came to Uganda for the first time as a young man of twenty-four years and five months, and he was to spend the whole of his missionary life in that country. He was never called for home service, and even the sabbatical which he took in 1971 was spent in the Ggaba Pastoral Centre in Uganda.
Alec was bom in Scotland, and he continued all his life to take a strong interest in Scottish affairs. Uganda however was his adopted country, and Mbarara became his home diocese; he only spent the very beginning of his missionary life, and his last two-and-a-half years, outside the frontiers of that diocese. Like many of his generation, he spent a number of years in the teaching ministry, two in the Junior Seminary and eight in the Ibanda catechists' Training centre. For the rest he was in a variety of parishes: Kagamba, where he spent in all fourteen years, Mushanga, Bubangizi, Rubanda, and Ibanda.
Yvon Lavoie writes that he had the opportunity of getting to know Alec well, for they were together for seven years in lbanda Catetchists'Training Centre.
"He was a man whom one grew fond of, somewhat dry perhaps on first acquaintance, but this was an appearance only, an expression of a natural shyness, for deep down he was a charming and warmhearted man with whom it was a pleasure to live. Mealtimes with Alec were always lively and interesting, for he read a great deal and liked to share his discoveries with others. He also had a keen sense of humour. As we were both involved in teaching, our common life was truly a source of mutual enrichment. Alec's main concern in these years was how to help his catechists to integrate their Christian faith into their daily lives. He encouraged them to practise regular Gospel-sharing with their people, and he provided them with a variety of models for this purpose.
"Alec was a very hard worker, but he also knew how to relax. Over a period of months, when the day's teaching was over, he spent long hours learning from a local lady how to make traditional pottery. He mastered all the intricacies of the craft, and it was a moment to be remembered when the time came to fire his first product. He continued for a long time to exercise this skill. After supper, if we were not having a discussion, we might play scrabble, or, if we had company from a neighbouring parish, we would have a game of bridge, in which Alec was very sharp.
"In his apostolate, Alec's principal concern was organizing and directing Basic Christian Communities. He put much of his energy into this work, and he wrote a booklet to help the members of these Communities, calling it, "The One who seeks shall find" (0sherura Azoora). The chapter-headings of this booklet may be taken as pointers to the principal areas of his own missionary effort: AIDS, Justice and Peace, Kingdom, Superstitions, Marriage, Discrimination.
"Alec was a realist. He had a clear idea about what a Small Christian Community should be, but he also knew what really happened in small groups. In 1992 he wrote down his reflections:
'At the end of the day I feel as much in the dark as I'm afraid most of the other participants must have felt. They listed many of their problems and the obstacles to social and economic development: land shortage, inadequate markets for their produce, inflation, shortage of food, drunkenness, ignorance, lack of ability to manage their resources, sickness, the difficulty of finding school fees for their children, general shortage of cash ... But I never felt that I had helped them towards sorting out issues that eat at their guts sufficiently to move them to concerted action. Why? The inadequacy of my presentation must obviously be accepted as a factor, perhaps the major one. Another element was perhaps also their prolonged poverty, deprivation and frustration, for our people are mostly from the bottom of the heap: they showed interest in the courses and discussions, but there was little sign of commitment to action. Catholics here, as no doubt in many other parts of the world, have a deep-rooted tradition of piety and devotion. They pray and look forward to eternal salvation, but tend to despise the 'things of this world'. These can be pursued, but not as part of the Christian agenda.'
"As far as his personal faith and spiritual life were concerned, Alec was very discreet. In fact he practically never spoke of them. He composed several Eucharistic Prayers in Runyankole, and prepared the liturgy with immense care. His fascination with the problems of living the Christian life amidst all the preoccupations of the poor rural life in Africa were certainly signs of how deeplyrooted was his own faith.
"When the Province decided to leave our two remaining parishes in the diocese of Mbarara, Alec moved to the neighbouring diocese of Kasese, hoping to spend another five years or so there. God however arranged things otherwise. He had a crisis one day during evening prayer and was taken to the local hospital of Kilembe. Two weeks later he was flown to Kampala, where three weeks later he died of heart failure. He had only been seriously ill for about five weeks, although he had suffered from stomach ulcers more or less all his life."
He was buried near Mbarara Cathedral, as he would surely have wished, and many people from both MbaraTa and Kasese dioceses came for the funeral, including four Bishops and many confreres and diocesan priests.
We may remember Alec perhaps especially for his simplicity and for his determination to remain up to date, two points which were stressed in the funeral homily. Archbishop Bakyenga spoke of Alec as frugal, and this was certain the mot juste. He drove an almost microscopic Suzuki, and dressed with the utmost simplicity. No one ever remembers seeing him in a suit or wearing a Roman collar. His room typically contained a table, two chairs, a hoe, a walking stick, a shelf with a packet of seeds, for he was a keen gardener, some copies of his booklet on Small Communities, and a Bible. He often preferred to take the smallest room in the house.
Alec was a great reader and thinker, not only up-to-date but in some respects even ahead of his time. He was critical of defects in the church, and he could become impatient when he encountered unthinking conservatism.
Alec led a full and a rich life in the broad spaces of Africa, although he died at what is becoming the relatively young age of sixty-nine. We may hope that the Church he dreamed of may become a reality in the not-too-distant future.
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Alan Thompson was born at Stockton on Tees, County Durham, on the 18th.
1927. He had two brothers, one of whom, Bob, became a Diocesan priest.
Fr. Alan went to St. Cuthbert's Primary School and then to St. Mary's College, Middlesborough. He joined the White Fathers in 1943 and went to "The Priory", Portsmouth, to finish his secondary education. He continued his studies in Britain and Holland taking the oath and receiving the Diaconate in 1951. He was ordained priest on 31st. May 1952 at Galashiels.
Fr. Alan began his White Father's life with several appointments in Britain, the first of which was Provincial Secretary. He then moved to Sutton Coldfield for promotion work, then to Dorking where he taught philosophy and after to teach at "The Priory".
In 1961 Fr. Alan went to Karema Diocese in Tanzania. He studied Swahili and then was appointed to Mpanda Parish. In 1963 he moved to Kaengesa Seminary where he taught maths. He was to stay there until 1969, when he was appointed to the province for promotion work at Sutton Coldfield where he was superior.
Fr. Alan became Provincial in 1975, an appointment he held until 1982. During that time he carried out much work in developing the British province and also oversaw the construction of the international formation house of the White Fathers, St. Edward's College, Totteridge.
When he finished his term as Provincial, in 1982, Fr. Alan became Appeal Organiser, and Circulation Manager for the magazine at Sutton Coldfield. In February 1990 he took ill and it was discovered that he had cancer. Fr. Alan went to stay with his family and it was there that he died on 26th. December 1990.
In accordance with his wishes Fr. Alan's funeral was held at St. Edward's and he was buried in the White Father plot at Kensal Green Cemetery, north London on 4th. January 1991.
May He Rest In Peace
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Fr Alfred Harrison WF 1940
An appreciation by Fr. John Gould WF
Fr. Alf was born in Droylsden, Manchester, in 194(). He was an only child. While still at school he developed a desire to be a missionary and came in contact with the White Fathers. He was encouraged by his parents to follow his vocation, and had to do extra studies in Latin and French before going to the Junior Seminary and then to Ireland for Philosophy in 196(). While Fr. Alf was there his father died, and Fr. Alf was torn between continuing with his training for the priest hood, and returning home to support his mother. In the end, it was decided that he should continue, and he was sent to Canada for his four years of Theology. In the inter national community there, he was known as a cheerful, open and hard-working student, with sense of humour and a gift for mimicry and for languages, qualities that served him well throughout his missionary life.
After his ordination in his home parish of Droylsden in 1966, Fr. Alf was appointed to Rutherglen for promotion work. To begin his missionary life in Scotland rather than Africa was a disappointment for him, but he came to love Scotland and made life-long friends there. His warmth and his gift for human relations were characteristic of his whole life as a White Father.
In 1969 Fr. Alf was appointed to Zambia and worked in bush parishes in Mbala Diocese for three years, before returning to London as chaplain to overseas students. He then followed a course in community development in Manchester and went back to Zambia in 1974 to put his skills to use in a large parish in the "melting-pot" of the capital Lusaka.
After a further spell of promotion work in England, Fr. Alf found himself in Mbala again, in the cathedral parish, and for a time, acting Vicar General. From there, in 1984, he was appointed as director of the Language Centre. Set in an isolated bush mission, it had developed from a Centre serving only Catholic missionary priests and sisters to one that welcomed lay missionaries of various denominations, including married couples and families, doctors and development workers. Fr. Alf's organisational and public relations skills served him well in his responsibilities of managing the Centre and preparing such a varied group to understand and appreciate the culture and language of the Bemba people with whom they would live and work. He also acted as chaplain to lay missionaries, providing valued encouragement and support to groups and individuals.
Fr. Alf's life changed in 1986, when he suffered fered a heart attack on the plane while on his way back to Zambia after his home-leave. "Cod and I got to grips" is how he described the experience in a letter. He had to return to England and slowly recover his health. This was a time of spiritual renewal for Fr. Alf, and the painful experience of his own vulnerability gave him even greater resources and insight to add to his natural ability to listen sympathetically and help others.
By May 1987, Fr. Alf was back in Zambia, but in less than a year a new heart condition forced him to return to England for good. Another close brush with death from an attack of cerebral malaria left him with chronic health problems, but they were a burden that Fr. Alf always carried lightly. In 1989, he accepted the job of Provincial Treasurer, which he carried out for six years, combining efficiency with unfailing humour and consideration.
When he left the Treasurer's office in 1995, he moved to the community in Preston from where he was able to devote some time to his mother, who was frail and in poor health. Then he went back to Rutherglen to help care for the elderly and retired missionaries, and brought life and energy into the community. Fr. Alf died suddenly, on the 20th. October after a heart attack, ending his missionary life in the place where he had started. He was buried at home in Manchester, where his mother still lives.
May He Rest in Peace
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BROTHER JOHN MENNIE WF 1932 - 1997
An appreciation by Fr. John Sandom WF
We all know of aspiring W.F.s who dreamt of becoming professional footballers. But for few indeed was this ever even a remote possibility. John was an exception, being a schoolboy international.
John was born on the 1st. June, 1932, at Coatbridge in Lanarkshire. He had three brothers and four sisters, all older than himself. He did his primary schooling at St Mary's School, Coatbridge, then went on for his secondary studies at St Mary's Secondary School in the same town, completing them at Our Lady's High School, Motherwell, obtaining Highers in maths, French and history. His two years' National Service were spent in the Air Force.
At the end of 1953 he applied to join the White Fathers as a brother. He seemed to have good health and was robust. With refined manners and above average intelligence he made a very good impression. This was backed up with excellent reports from his parish priest. Having entered our Postulancy at Monteviot in February 1954, he received the habit in August of the same year and at the same place, taking the name of Columbkill. His technical formation was at Marital, in Luxembourg, where his talents were shown to be more intellectual than manual, so it came as no surprise when he was appointed to teach in our Junior Seminary at 'The Priory', Bishop's Waltham. Here his health started to give cause for concern, necessitating a major stomach operation. This blocked his chance of going to Africa until he was fully recovered. In the meantime, he joined the Promotion Team at Sutton Coldfield with bookkeeping and office work, later he was secretary to the Provincial Treasurer.
Eventually his health had improved sufficiently for him to be appointed to Ujiji Seminary in Tanzania, where he spent over twelve years, mostly teaching. But by the end of 1978 it was clear that he would have to return home for a long rest. This he did, taking the opportunity of following a series of courses, including the Jerusalem Biblical Sessions.
There was some talk of his returning to the missions, but doubts over his state of health but doubts over his state of health eventually ruled this out. Instead he served the Province as assistant to the Treasurer at Stormont Rd., London. Then he was sent to help out at our Promotion Centre which was then in Grove Street, Edinburgh. When his work there was completed, he returned to help out with accounts at Stormont Road, where he commuted daily from Oak Lodge, Totteridge, his residence.
By this time he had become quite a computer 'buff', his expertise benefiting not only Stormont Road, but confreres up and down the Province, who sought his advice on various cybernetic problems. We, in Oak Lodge, also benefited from his culinary skills, when we were deficient of a cook.
Early in 1997, John was being treated for suspected anaemia when the doctors found he had a small stomach tumour. A course of chemotherapy followed by an operation was suggested. Our brother suffered these procedures with cheerfulness and courage. All thought these interventions had been successful.
After he had left hospital, John convalesced in Beaconsfield, before taking a short trip up to Scotland. He then returned to Oak Lodge, with the intention of resuming his work at Stormont Rd. But he was readmitted to hospital when swallowing became difficult. Tests revealed his tumour had returned with a vengeance. John was informed that his life expectancy was measured in weeks, rather than months. There was nothing the doctors could do for him. He returned home to Oak Lodge to pass his remaining days.
Swallowing solids had been difficult, this was then the case with liquids, and finally even this was impossible. The poor man was getting thinner by the day. But his spirit was indomitable. His was a shining example of a holy death. We thank God that at Oak Lodge we were able to fulfil his wish to die at home, thanks to visiting nurses and a devoted GP We took it in turns to be with him. He actively joined in all our prayers, right to his very last hours.
John gave us a shining example of "putting one's house in order", not just spiritually, but materially as well. Not only was his office work right up-to-date and completed, but his room was left in perfect order. He gave away most of his belongings as he was dying. The remainder were carefully listed and assigned to various individuals and organisations.
John had kept regular contact with his relatives and friends all down the years. Several of these were able to come and spend a few days with him. Among these were Jimmy Judge, Alex Soper, and Pat McGurk, life-long friends from their school days at Our Lady's High School, Motherwell. It was a bittersweet occasion, joy at meeting, sadness that it was for the last time. One of John's favourite quotes was "Live a little, die a little, cry a little, laugh a little, but in all things be happy and at peace."
John died very peacefully on the 18th. March. His funeral Mass was at the church of the Sacred Heart and Mary Immaculate, Mill Hill, on the 24th March, the burial taking place that afternoon in the White Fathers' plot at Kensal Rise. Jimmy, Alex and Pat came down again for John's funeral, Pat's wife Mary and his daughters _ joining them. Tom Mennie, John's older brother and sole surviving sibling, came down from Scotland with his wife Isabel, as did his niece Mrs Catriona Tyers. Mrs Jean Mennie (sister in law) came up from Southampton. Amongst friends who came were Martin Brennan and his son Paul.
May He Rest In Peace
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Fr. Hugh Monaghan was born in Craigneuk, near Motherwell on the 18th. April, 1918. He was one of twelve children (three sets of twins). He attended St Patrick's Primary school before going to Our lady's High, Motherwell for secondary studies. Fr. Hugh was a good average student with a very retentive memory. He was gifted with a beautiful tenor voice, which much to the regret of many others he never used to its full advantage. He was a sensitive man in spite of a phlegmatic exterior and was reputed to be a good boxer!
Fr. Hugh Monaghan joined the White Fathers' Seminary and in due process finished up in North Africa, where he was ordained to the Priesthood in 1943. Fr. Hugh had studied in Carthage along with his twin brother, Pat who was ill with tuberculosis. His elder brother Gerald had died only a couple of years earlier at Pau in France (picture below). When other British students moved out for safety in the face of the advancing German army, Fr. Hugh, who by that time was a Deacon, opted to stay behind to be with Pat. A few months later Pat died and, his death was to have a lifelong impact on Fr. Hugh, even if he preferred not to speak much about it. Shortly after Ordination Fr. Hugh returned to Scotland where for a considerable period of time he himself underwent treatment for tuberculosis at Kingussie Sanatorium in the Highlands of Scotland.
Fr. Hugh Monaghan was seen to be quiet and yet when drawn out could be very talkative. He presented himself as 'matter of fact', but showed his true sentiments by the work he undertook and by his willingness to do things for others. Fr. Hugh often kept himself to himself but at times he allowed his sense of humour to show and he had a very engaging and beautiful smile, which caused his face to, as it were, light up and come alive! His dry sense of humour came out at such moments.
In the years he worked in the U.K. he had several jobs and did them well, including that of being teacher at the Junior Seminary. He successfully completed a teacher training course in Dublin and then moved to Africa, where he was deemed too old to really learn the language and again was used in the seminary teaching English. He made a valiant effort to accept and understand a system, which was very different from what he was used to, and after a time he left the Seminary work to work in a parish. He loved being in the Outstabons. He worked in Burundi for eighteen years.
Fr. Hugh returned to UK where he helped out in whatever capacity he was asked, including making Mission Appeals in England and Wales. In his last couple of years he was limited due to an injury sustained in a car crash. His loss of independence of movement hit him hard. He kept alert by taking a course in accounting and doing crosswords. He read the paper each day and would have comments on sports etc.
His sudden death on 22nd of March caught everyone by surprise and caused quite a shock to the other members of the Rutherglen Community. Some students from 'The Priory', Bishop's Waltham where Fr. Hugh had taught, came to pay their respects and express their appreciation of his efforts for them. One of his two surviving Sisters came from New Zealand to be present for his funeral as also did many of his own relatives and friends.
May he now truly rest in Peace.
Estelle Geddes, Fr Hugh Monaghan's niece, has kindly sent us this further tribute:
" . . . I'm very happy to write about Uncle Hugh as I knew him. I'm told he was the out-going, mischievous, harum-scarum twin while Patrick was more serious and the one who organised everything. However Hugh came back from Africa a changed man, very understandably, the quiet and more serious person that most people knew but still with a twinkle hovering always around the eyes. He didn't talk much about the past even to his parents whom he loved dearly. I know they found this hard but also understood. He related easily to his nieces and nephews and then, subsequently, to their children.
I didn't see him often in later years as we left Scotland in 1965 but had a lot to do with him prior to that. He was a wonderful spiritual adviser during my formative years and many of the things he said continue to provide guidance now. He was also responsible for the high standard in Religious Education attained by many students during my time at Craiglockhart College of Education in Edinburgh! Assignment topics were sent to Father Hugh and he unfailingly delivered in time for us all to copy and alter sufficiently to convince the lecturer we had all worked independently.
He remained firmly committed to Africa throughout his life. When I tried to convince him to spend some time in NZ as we desperately needed priests for our rural areas up north, I was given short shift! His vocation was for Africa. When I pointed out there were two White Fathers working in Australia he replied "Well, they've no business being there!"
Left & Right : Gerald Monaghan, Fr Hugh's elder brother who died at Pau, France, at the start of the war. (kindly sent to us by Mrs Estelle Geddes, his niece)
Below : Patrick Monaghan 'on his death bed' at Carthage, 1943 (Patrick was Fr Hugh's twin brother)
(Photos kindly supplied by Estelle Geddes)
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