Obituary: Dom Basil Robinson

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The Independent Online
Alan Heath Robinson, monk, poet and sculptor, born Hatch End Middlesex 27 October 1909, entered Prinknash Abbey 1932 with the religious name Basil, professed a monk 1934, ordained priest in 1940, died Colwyn Bay 20 July 1992.

DOM BASIL ROBINSON, a monk, poet and artist, was one of the pioneers of the pottery at Prinknash Abbey, Gloucestershire, and was known for his work in sculpture and stained glass.

He was born Alan Heath Robinson in 1909, the third of the five children of the celebrated artist and cartoonist William Heath Robinson. After studies at the Royal College of Art, he entered Prinknash Abbey in 1932, received the religious name Basil, was professed a monk in 1934 and ordained priest in 1940.

At Prinknash, he invested long hours and great energy in making the pottery a success. In the early Fifties, he was appointed Prior of St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough, Hampshire, and in 1958 came to Pluscarden Abbey, Elgin, which was then similarly a dependent foundation of Prinknash, and where conditions were fairly primitive.

As a result of ill-health, he spent five years in England, where he made a name for himself as a preacher on behalf of the Catholic Truth Society, before returning to Pluscarden in 1974, where he was able to resume artistic activities on a larger scale. These included a set of a dozen stained-glass windows for the Baptistery at St Mark's, Edinburgh, and sculptures sacred and secular, in wood, stone and glass-fibre, ranging from abstracts to over life-size figures. Invited to North Wales to carve stone sculptures for Garthewin, he completed these works, and stayed on as chaplain to the Benedictine nuns of Talacre Abbey, and was able to combine this with artistic and apostolic activity.

After the nuns moved to Curzon Park, Chester, he took up residence in the parish of St Winefride's, Holywell, where he became a well-known figure, continuing his various works. Last year it was discovered that he had been suffering from leukaemia for several years, and a stay in hospital was necessary, after which he moved to the Mercy Sisters at Colwyn Bay for convalescence. There he remained, an active and lively member of the community, until his death.

To sum up a monastic life of 60 years is not easy, when it has been as mouvementee as Fr Basil's. St Benedict advises that a potential monk's vocation be measured against certain criteria, which are acid tests of a vocation. He must display zeal in obedience, and Fr Basil was certainly meticulous in seeking permission for his various requests and projects. Humiliations are another of the hard and rugged ways that lead to God, and he suffered these in plenty. They were by no means artificial, and arose from such circumstances as his illnesses and the demands and responsibilities placed upon him.

In community he was always very willing to perform those essential, unspectacular and by no means popular minor tasks, which others prefer to avoid. Such a willing horse is a pearl beyond price. The Work of God, as St Benedict calls the liturgy, must come first in a monk's life and, here again, Fr Basil was never behind-hand, always one of the first in choir for vigils, to be relied upon to make a generous vocal contribution. In short he truly sought God, and to remain stable in persevering in that quest over 60 years is no light thing.

He retained a fresh and open outlook, espousing the charismatic movement and the Focolare (whose magazine New City published some of his large output of poetry); for him the generation gap did not exist. Energetic, friendly, humorous, loving, committed to his God, his communities, his family and friends, he had a wide circle, with which he corresponded faithfully, if illegibly.

(Photograph omitted)