Father Thomas Flynn, a former nurse who went on to serve as a priest in seven parishes within the St Andrews and Edinburgh archdiocese, has died, aged 73.
Born on August 17, 1941, to Hugh and Agnes Flynn in the West Lothian mining village of Fauldhouse, Tom Flynn’s vocation in life was to care for others – first as a nurse and then, for 38 years, as a faithful priest in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh.
Tom attended St John the Baptist Primary School, Fauldhouse, before becoming one of the first intake at Scotus Academy, a newly established private boys school in Edinburgh run by the Congregation of Christian Brothers.
He decided to pursue a career in nursing despite it being an overwhelmingly female profession. He qualified in 1963 as a registered general nurse at Bangour General Hospital in West Lothian. In 1969, he made the headlines after developing a new method of treating those with severe burns. His specially adapted hospital bed enabled bandages and dressings to be changed without the patient being moved.
He later patented his design, which attracted global interest from healthcare companies worldwide. It has since become a standard fixture in hospitals across the globe.
A year later, however, Tom discerned that his caring vocation was leading him towards the priesthood and he entered the seminary at St Andrew’s College, Drygrange in Roxburghshire. He was ordained in 1976. In the following decades he was to serve seven parishes across the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh.
He was at St Patrick’s Church, Cowgate, 1976 to 1981, then St David’s, Dalkeith, 1981-85; St Giles’ Church, Kennoway, 1985-91; Sacred Heart & St Anthony’s, Armadale, 1991-92; St Agatha’s, Methil, 1992-98; and for the past 16 years, parish priest of St Theresa’s Church in East Calder.
He was always open about his status as a “recovering alcoholic” who had been greatly helped by the Castle Craig Hospital in Peeblesshire. He would subsequently volunteer there as a counsellor to those still struggling with alcohol addiction. Indeed, a sensitivity for those on the margins of society became a hallmark of his ministry.
He was known for great diligence in his pastoral duties – and also his love of technology. One former parishioner, who would often find Tom re-engineering the parish electrics, affectionately dubbed him “Father Gadget”.
Tom Flynn was a private person who was often anti-authoritarian and was much loved by generations of parishioners and friends. He died on October 7 in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after a short illness.
The Requiem Mass for Father Flynn on Monday last week at St Theresa’s Church was presided over by Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh.