Brother Oliver McIvor Born 1899 Entered Rosecra 1934 died at Nunraw 22 July 1975
"BROTHER OLIVER’S SWEET BED TO DIE ON" (Scottish Catholic Observer 7 Aug. 1975) WHEN Malcolm Muggeridge visited Nunraw Abbey to make a TV feature, he was captivated by the forthright sincerity and character of Brother Oliver McIvor. When he showed curiosity that a man who so obviously had the makings of success in the world had chosen such a difficult life. Brother Oliver, with typical realism spoke one of his axioms: The monk’s life is a hard bed to lie on but a sweet bed to die on. This tickled Muggeridge’s imagination and he used as the title of his programme: ‘A Hard Bed to Lie On’. The latter part of the axiom proved very true when Bro. Oliver’s life drew to a close, 22 July 1975, as he lay peacefully in the centre of the monastic community at Nunraw. Cardinal Cordon Gray, who had enjoyed long chats to Bro. Oliver during his visits to the Lammermuir Hills, presided at the Funeral Mass on Friday in the six-year-old Abbey church; Dom Columcille O’Toole, Abbot of Roscrea where Bro. Oliver entered monastic life 41 years ago, preached the homily and Dom Donald McGlynn, Abbot of Nunraw was the celebrant with 16 monks as concelebrants. Present also was Father J. B. Walsh of Bathgate who had welcomed Bro. Oliver to Nunraw way back in 1946 when the monks first arrived in East Lothian and Fr. Walsh was Parish Priest Priest at Haddington. The packed Abbey church included quite a number of noted members of the East Lothian farming community. Although born in Glasgow, Bro. Oliver was taken by his mother to Ireland at the tender age of two and grew up with cousins (the Reillys) on a modest farm near Duleek, Co. Meath. He was making his mark as a leader of farming opinion and as an athlete (he played Gaelic football for Co. Meath in the All-Ireland championships) when in 1934 he presented himself as a postulant at the Cistercian Abbey of Mount St Joseph, Roscrea. He rapidly proved himself both as a religious and as a man of real capacity for authority and stewardship. When in the immediate post-war period of 1946, the Cistercians of Roscrea received an invitation to create a modern Melrose Abbey in Scotland, Bro. Oliver was given the key job of setting up a sound farm economy on the Nunraw estate. He was one of the. pioneer group. and successfully set about building up a smooth. monastic farm in acres denuded of labour, machinery and stock. He made himself a highly respected expert on sheep. He began with Blackfaced and then went on to develop a flock of North Country Cheviots. He also built a herd of pedigree Galloways and became a familiar figure at the Castle Douglas shows and sales. Though major trophies eluded him, his sheep and cattle were always highly placed and invitations to act as a judge reached him from many parts of Scotland. His expertise and sagacity as a farmer made a great impression. But so too his integrity and warmth as a man and as a monk. In 1969, after more than 23 years of responsibility, failing health forced him to resign as farm manager. But he never retired as a monk. In his latter years he was particularly proud of one incident - being chosen to represent the Scottish sheep breeders at the centenary ceremonies at Westminster Abbey in 1965. Even when he finally gave up farming his warm personality and his authentic monastic spirituality were to impress hundreds who met him as receptionist at the new Abbey. Neither .would his green fingers lie still. It seemed that it would be impossible to get any flowers or plants to grow at the Abbey’s bleakly exposed north-facing front entrance. But Bro. Oliver soon had blooms galore and his particular glory was the small monastic cemetery which he surrounded with flowers and rose bushes. He was laid to rest in that cemetery. appropriately beside the first Abbot of Nunraw, Dom Columban Mulcahy, the first monk to buried there in 1971.