Now there's an unusual habit for an abbot

IT is an unlikely place to find an African tribal chieftain.

But an East Lothian monastery, where the monks rarely venture more than four miles into Haddington for the barest of essentials, can now lay claim to being home to a man who is both Scots-born religious leader and Nigerian royalty all rolled into one.

For Dom Donald McGlynn not only holds the title of abbot of Nunraw abbey, he is now as well known for his role as Igbo tribal chief in the Nigerian village of Nsugbe - and he has the ceremonial staff, cap and gown to prove it.

Dom Donald was presented with the rare and prestigious title of honorary chief of Nsugbe on a recent visit to the West African country during a mission to establish a monastery there.

He was so determined to bring the trappings of his new-found royalty home to show his fellow Cistercian monks in Sancta Maria Abbey near the village of Garvald, that he even sparked a security alert at three international airports.

The six foot, yellow and gold-beaded ceremonial staff had airport staff in such a panic in Africa, London and Edinburgh that the 68-year-old monk was held back on three occasions to be searched.

In London, the staff was put through the airport’s X-ray machine four times to make sure.

"When I was given the staff, I felt honoured, but my first thought was, how on earth am I going to get through airport security?" said Dom Donald.

"When you’re travelling in the current climate, airport security is extremely tight and when I was in the airport I could see boxes full of scissors which had been confiscated from passengers.

"The first stop was Port Harcourt in Nigeria, but when they discovered it was a staff and that I was a tribal chief they just started bowing and waving me through.

"It wasn’t until I got to London that the staff there just took one look at it and put it through the X-ray four times. They still weren’t happy but they eventually let me go."

Dom Donald, who is one of seven children who all dedicated their lives to religion, recently announced his retirement as abbot after 33 years.

He has been in charge of establishing the Our Lady of Angels Cistercian Foundation in the predominantly Catholic Nigeria, where he officially blessed a new monastery building in April in front of 2500 locals. The monastery has 17 monks and is struggling to keep up with the applications from other hopefuls.

It is for his work in the local community, where the building of the new monastery brought jobs and marked the largest single investment Nsugbe had ever seen, that he was bestowed the honour of chieftain of the Igbo tribe.

His Royal Highness, The Eze (king) Nsugbe John Chukwuma Anyansi, gave Dom Donald his new title of "kaoluchukwu" to add to Abbot of Sancta Maria Abbey-Nunraw.

He said: "I was dumbstruck to say the least. It is a great compliment and something quite unique there. It doesn’t happen very often so I was very happy to have received it.

"The brothers back home were delighted for me and when I announced my retirement as abbot recently, part of the ceremony is that they take away your crozier, or shepherd’s crook, which you have for your time in office.

"When they did it to me I just picked up my ceremonial staff instead."

Dom Donald is now looking forward to a 33-week sabbatical where he is planning to head to a monastery in Israel. He says the wine made there is the best in the country, fit for a king.

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