4. Fr Aidan White-Spunner

Father White-Spunner

Fr White-Spunner was born on 24th January 1914 in County Meath, Ireland, the fourth of nine children. He was baptised into the Church of Ireland but when he was about seven, his father decided to become a Catholic. Eyre (this was the name by which he was known, Aidan being his religious one) decided to follow suit, not least, he said, because the Catholic church was nearer home than the Church of Ireland which meant longer in bed on Sunday!In 1932, he entered the Benedictine monastery of Glenstal in County Limerick and was sent to study at the mother house, Maredsous, near Namur in Belgium and later at Louvain. He returned to Ireland in 1939 and was ordained that summer at Thurles.

When war came, the Prior asked for volunteers to join the British forces and so he became a chaplain in the army. By chance, his first posting was to the North Staffordshire Regiment, then in Burton, and while with them, he visited Marchington to say Mass at the Hall.

After a year or so, he left the N. Staffs and went to the Middle East and to the desert. After a number of misunderstandings, he was arrested and sent back to Cairo under escort as a suspected German spy! While there, he caused further bother by escaping through a back window to go to the cinema. When this trouble had been sorted out, he was sent back to the desert, this time to the original Desert Rats, the Seventh Armoured Division. He remained with them until the end of the war, serving not only in North Africa, but also Italy, Normandy, Belgium, Holland and Germany.

After the war he returned to Glenstal but after a short stay came back to England and in 1947 became a chaplain again but this time to the RAF. He remained in the Air Force until 1966, serving not only in this country but also in Egypt, Iraq, Aden and Singapore. In 1962 he was awarded the OBE.

In 1966 he was asked by Bishop Cashman to join the newly formed Diocese and became the Parish Priest of St Mary's, Crowborough, where he remained until retiring in 1985 to St Thomas a Becket, Marchington, in the Arch-Diocese of Birmingham. He died on 18th October 2000 and his funeral was conducted by Archbishop Nichols.

It was during his time as Parish priest that natural gas came to Crowborough - with interesting consequences for the Presbytery, as reported in the local paper!

The sum of his life was 86 years: 25 years in formation, 27 years as a Chaplain to HM Forces, 19 years as Parish Priest of Crowborough and 15 years as Parish Priest of Marchington.

May he rest in peace.