Monday 18 November 2019

Wexford sadness at the death of Fr Tom

Well-known Coptic Orthodox priest Fr Tom Flanagan of Wexford town will be remembered for his quick wit and approachable nature long after his passing away on May 4.

Born in Plymouth England, Fr Flanagan grew up with Irwish roots with a father was from Waterford and mother from Ringaskiddy. When their home was bombed during World War II, his family relocated to Edinburgh.

Fr Flanagan studied for the priesthood in Egypt and later went to Spain where he graduated from the University of Salamanca with a doctorate in metaphysics. In 1970, he achieved international recognition when he became coach to the national Spanish rugby team. He received the nation's silver medal for contribution to sport from General Franco, making him one of an elite few non-nationals to receive the award. He served as a referee for 18 international rugby games, one of which was with Argentina when he was presented to General Peron.

Fr Flanagan's sporting interest also spread to the world of tennis. He was a tennis coach to many renowned players, including champions Virginia Wade and Sue Barker.

Fr Flanagan's duties as priest in Ireland included ministry to the Egyptian, Ethiopian, Sudanese and Syrian communities. However, he was well-known among all the denominations and across all communities. Being from the ancient Coptic Orthodox religion, he often jokingly said that he was the only 'real' priest in Ireland.

Fr Flanagan and his wife Bay lived in Wexford town. Over the years, he wrote several pieces about the town, both complimentary and otherwise. Some of his writings acknowledged the beauty of the county and the wonderful opportunities that it offers.

Those who knew Fr Flanagan recall his witty nature and sense of fun. He will be sadly missed on the streets of Wexford, where he would often stop for a light-hearted chat about the weather, politics and the state of the country.

May he rest in peace.

Wexford People