RepositoryJesuits in Britain Archives
Ref NoABSI/SJ/39
TitleFr Wilfrid Banham SJ (1893-1963)
LevelSub fonds
DescriptionLetters from Wilfrid Banham to his sister (Winefride Lyons); letters of condolence to Winefride Lyons on Banham's death; Makushi and Patamona dictionaries and notebooks.
Admin_HistoryWilfrid Walstan Banham was born in Beccles, Suffolk on 13 September 1893. Banham was from a large Catholic family; one of his sisters entered the Servite Order and one of his brothers became a secular priest.

Banham was educated at Mount St Mary's College before entering the noviceship at Manresa on 7 September 1911. He completed a year's juniorate at Manresa and then studied Philosophy at St Mary's Hall, Stonyhurst. Between 1917 and 1922, Banham taught at Mount St Mary's College. He then studied Theology at St Beuno's and was ordained to the priesthood in his third year on 21 September 1924. He did his tertianship at Tullabeg, Ireland. In 1927 Banham was sent to undertake missionary work in what was then British Guiana.

After spending some years in Georgetown, Banham took up residence in 1931 at Santa Maria in the Pakaraima Mountains to work among the Patamona people. Following a bout of malaria, Banham was sent to Barbados to convalesce. Between 1933 and 1938, Banham was the parish priest at Port Mourant on the coast. Following this Banham was appointed to the Amerindian River District based at Hosororo. In 1942 Banham moved to the St Ignatius Mission in the Rupununi. Banham assumed responsibility for the northern area in 1946 when Fr William Keary left the area. Fr Banham led a largely itinerant existence covering vast distances on foot and on horseback. Such work took a heavy toil on Banham's health and he was twice seriously ill while travelling around the district, in 1948 and in 1953.

On the grounds of his health, Fr Banham returned to work on the coast serving at Mahaica between 1956 and 1958 and at Suddie between 1958 and 1962. Fr Banham was deemed sufficiently well enough to return to work in the interior with Fr Wilson-Browne at Kurikabaru. However, an arduous final journey in the interior in April 1963 led to a recurrence of Banham's earlier ailments and he was forced to return to Georgetown in a much weakened state.

Banham died at St Joseph's Mercy Hospital in Georgetown on 26 May 1963 following an operation to remove stomach ulcers. He was buried at Le Repentir cemetery in Georgetown.

A full obituary can be found in Letters and Notices 68 (1963), pp. 230-237.
Related Material - For photographs of Fr Banham: see SJ/PH/31.

- For an account of Fr Banham's 1931 journey: see LL&NN 91 (1993), pp. 223-230.

- For related collections: see papers of Fr Henry Mather SJ: SJ/38, Fr Cuthbert Cary-Elwes: SJ/1, Fr William Keary SJ: SJ/40 and Guyana (cataloguing in progress).
AccessConditionsThe papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to archive material in the Jesuits in Britain Archives.
DS/UK/40Banham; Wilfrid (1893-1963); Jesuit Priest1893-1963

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