Lives Remembered

Fr John Flanagan: Armagh-born priest was man of energy, action and compassion

Fr John Flanagan spent three decades in The Rock outside Cookstown

A great man for getting things done is just one of the ways in which Fr John Flanagan will be remembered by the people he served.

Fr John, who has died aged 93, was born in Keady, Co Armagh but his calling took him to southern Nigeria for 18 years.

Civil war forced him to return to Ireland where his ministry continued in parishes in Antrim, Armagh and Tyrone, including 30 happy and fulfilling years based in The Rock outside Cookstown.

A man of energy and action, Fr John had a great ability to rally support for his projects and was never without a willing and competent workforce.

Mourners at his funeral in St Patrick's Church, Keady, heard him described as a friendly, self-sufficient man, interested in farming, trimming hedges and cutting logs. As one parishioner noted, “Fr John was always happy with a chainsaw in his hands.”

He also had the gift of water divining and was delighted to offer this to those who needed it.

In his homily, Fr Ryan McAleer said he was a zealous pastor who loved his people and showed great compassion to those experiencing difficulties in life.

He made the sick and housebound his special care, especially in his later years.

Fr John was born in 1925 to Owen and Mary Catherine Flanagan (née Nugent) of Rathcarbery, Keady.

He studied at Armagh CBS and St Patrick's College, Armagh, and joined St Patrick's Missionary Society in Co Wicklow in 1943.

After ordination in 1950 he was appointed to the Diocese of Calabar in Nigeria, where he built a fine church in Eman Uruan and enjoyed fishing among his hobbies.

He was sad to leave Africa but on his return to Ireland in 1968 Fr John took up an appointment in the Diocese of Down and Connor at Ahoghill, Co Antrim.

However, he had a great desire to work in his home Archdiocese of Armagh and this wish was granted in 1972 when he was appointed to the parish of Tandragee, living at Markethill.

After 10 years he was transferred to Cookstown where he began his ministry at The Rock.

Fr John was always very proud of his deep roots in the Orchard County. He took a keen interest in Gaelic football and was an enthusiastic follower of the Armagh team, with their victory in the All-Ireland final of 2002 being a very special moment.

He enjoyed very good health for most of his life - his father had lived to 100 - but in July 2012, at the age of 87, he became seriously ill and needed full-time nursing care.

He and his family decided that he would go to Fairfield Care Centre in Cookstown rather than to his order's base in Kiltegan, Co Wicklow.

It meant he was near the people among whom he lived and served for more than three decades.

In early May his condition deteriorated and he died peacefully on Wednesday May 23 and was interred in St Patrick's Cemetery, Keady.

Fr John was predeceased by his sisters Margaret (McArdle) and Kathleen (McGrath) and his brother Owen. He is survived by his sister Patricia (McGrane), sister-in-law Nora (USA), nieces, nephews and their families.

John McGrane

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