Fr Aidan Gilman, monk

Fr Aidan Gilman, who has died at 91, was a Benedictine monk of Ampleforth Abbey in North Yorkshire.

Fr Aidan Gilman

Born in Leicester and educated at Ampleforth, he served in the Royal Marines from 1945, before joining the monastic community in September 1948. He was ordained priest in 1958.

He read botany at St Benet’s, Oxford, the private hall established by Ampleforth to allow its monks to study for secular degrees.

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Back in Yorkshire in the early 1960s he was part-time chaplain first at RAF Topcliffe and then RAF Linton-on-Ouse.

From 1964, he was master of St Thomas’ House at Ampeforth school and taught biology, but at the end of the decade he decided to live as a hermit, and for the next six years was ensconced at Holly Hill, near Hawnby in the North York Moors, where he eventually built a small chapel that still stands.

He returned to Ampleforth Abbey in 1975 and was appointed novice master, before setting out again a year later to work at Eke Priory in Nigeria. “None of the water-tight doors fit, the port anchor is unusable, there is a kink in the main derrick which could buckle it on top of dockers unloading,” he wrote of his journey on a leaky cargo boat carrying sugar from Middlesbrough to Lagos.

“The crew was arrested while in Dakar, for debts unpaid last time,” he added.

In 1987 he helped establish St Bede’s Pastoral Centre in York, served by a resident community of monks from Ampleforth. He looked after justice and peace groups and worked with the Association for Separated and Divorced Catholics, as well as developing the garden and allotment at the back of the property.

From April 1994, he served in Osmotherley, in the Diocese of Middlesbrough, before returning once more to Ampleforth.