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Société des Missions Africaines – Province d’Irlande

ROLT Thomas né le 30 octobre 1911 à Belfast
dans le diocèse de Down & Connor, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 10 juin 1933
prêtre le 21 décembre 1935
décédé le 26 mars 1938

1936-1938 missionnaire au Nigeria pendant 18 mois

décédé à Abeokuta, Nigeria, le 26 mars 1938,
à l’âge de 25 ans


Le père Thomas ROLT (1911 - 1938)

Le 26 mars 1938, à Ijebu-Ode (Nigeria), retour à Dieu du père Thomas Rolt, à l'âge de 25 ans.

Thomas Rolt naquit à Belfast, dans le diocèse de Down & Connor (Irlande), le 30 octobre 1912. Il fit toutes ses études dans les maisons de la Société. Ayant fait le serment en 1933, il fut ordonné prêtre en décembre 1935. L'année suivante, il partait pour le vicariat de la Côte du Bénin où il ne travailla qu'un peu plus d'un an.


Father Thomas ROLT (12912 - 1938)

Thomas Rolt was born in Maralin Street, Belfast, in the diocese of Down and Connor, on 30 October 1912. He died in the Sacred Heart hospital, Abeokuta, Nigeria, on 26 March 1938.

Thomas (Tom) was educated in the colleges of the Society. He studied at the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo, between 1926 1927, and completed his secondary education at St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork, in 1930. He joined the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in 1930, and studied theology in the Society's seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down, between 1932 1936. He was received as a member of the Society on 10 June 1933 and was ordained a priest by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, in St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 21 December 1935. He was one of a group of twenty-one ordained on that day.

Tom completed his theological training in June 1936 and three months later sailed, with eighteen companions, to West Africa, disembarking at the port of Lagos. Tom was assigned to the vicariate of the Bight of Benin, in south western Nigeria. This vast vicariate, of some 119,700 square kilometres and a population of almost three million, had been confided to the Irish Province in 1930 when Bishop Francis O'Rourke was appointed vicar apostolic. On his arrival Tom was appointed to the district of Ijebu-Ode, which was often chosen for newly-arrived confrères as a good location for learning the Yoruba language. After six months Tom received permission from his bishop to hear confessions in Yoruba. He was also appointed to Topo island, near Badagry, where there was a mission, a boarding school and a coconut farm. The Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles had a convent on the island to which an orphanage was attached. Bartholomew Keohane was superior of Topo at that time.

Tom was to work for little more than a year in Nigeria before death overtook him. Six weeks before his death he was re-assigned to Ijebu-Ode and it was here that he fell ill. The 'visitor' (responsible for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the confrères), Philip Corish, gave an account of the circumstances of Tom's death in two letters written to the Irish Provincial, Stephen Harrington, dated 27 and 31 March 1938. 'Fr. Rolt was inoculated against yellow fever on the 25th of January. He arrived in Ijebu-Ode on 2nd February to take Fr. (Pat) McKay's place. He enjoyed good health until 14 March when he developed low fever. He was seen by Dr. Greene on the evening of the 16th... Dr. Greene treated him with quinine until March 24th when he had him admitted to Abeokuta hospital. Dr. Hunter examined him and said that the cause of his illness might be cerebral malaria. After that Tom's condition worsened and he did not seem to recognize anybody. Dr. Hunter brought in Dr. Black for a consultation. Both doctors agreed that meningitis had set in. At 11 a.m. on 26th March he began to die and passed away after half an hour. Fr. (William) Field gave him the last sacraments. It was the general opinion of the doctors and Sister Consolata (O.L.A.), who nursed him, that a weak heart hastened his death'. The second letter gave a rather different medical verdict. 'On 28 March I went to Dr. Hunter for a medical report and I was quite surprised to hear him say that there were no symptoms of meningitis. He told me that the cause of death was malignant malaria plus a bad heart.'

Tom was strongly-built and athletic. His death came as a great blow to his family, to the Society and to his colleagues in Benin. It came scarcely three months after the death of Eamonn Murphy (he had been inoculated for yellow fever at the same time as Tom) who died in the same mission within six weeks of his arrival. There was an interesting footnote to Tom's death in a letter from Fr. Corish to the Provincial, dated 21 April 1938. 'I have asked several doctors after Fr. Murphy's death and again after Fr. Rolt's death if the inoculation against yellow fever could have had a bearing, and all have assured me that it had absolutely nothing to do with either case... The only after-effects of inoculation are that about 5% get jaundice in a mild form. Therefore I believe that there can be no connection between the deaths of these two confrères and the yellow fever inoculation.'

A poignant obituary, published in the Nigerian Catholic Herald, in May 1938, made the following wisdom: 'Who can estimate the worth and worthiness of a priest by the years he has spent in the sacerdotal state? The old priests who have borne the heat and burden of the day in the Lord's vineyard and the young priests fresh from ordination - are they not all eternal priests? Our Saviour, the first priest, was in His early 30's when He died'.

He is buried in Abeokuta, Nigeria.