Fa­ther Tom looks back on 60 years in the priest­hood

The Oban Times - - News - MARK ENTWISTLE men­twistle@oban­times.co.uk

THE WAR against Nazi Ger­many still had more than six months to run when a young Tom Wynne en­tered the Catholic sem­i­nary in Aberdeen in 1944.

What fol­lowed was 60 years' de­voted ser­vice to com­mu­ni­ties across the Western High­lands, cul­mi­nat­ing in more that two decades as the pop­u­lar par­ish priest at Roy Bridge.

And in an emo­tional event staged at St Mar­garet’s Church re­cently, its parish­ioners, along with those from St Joseph’s and St Fin­nan’s, bade farewell to Mon­signor Wynne after 21 years as their priest and helped him mark his di­a­mond ju­bilee as a mem­ber of the priest­hood.

A na­tive of Fort Wil­liam, where his fam­ily were in the butch­ery trade, Fa­ther Tom is now set­tling into re­tire­ment at the home of his nephew and wife in the town.

This week he looked back over his life as a cler­gy­man, shar­ing sto­ries and mem­o­ries with the Lochaber Times.

‘I grew up in the Fort Wil­liam of the 1930s and it was a lovely com­mu­nity to be part of,’ said Fa­ther Tom.

‘My par­ents were de­vout and we lived near to the Catholic church so we at­tended ev­ery ser­vice.

‘My fa­ther was a very good fid­dler and I played the pi­ano and we would of­ten per­form at

I first told some­one I wanted to be a priest when I was only 10 or 11 Mon­signor Wynne

fundrais­ers for lo­cal Church of Scot­land min­is­ters. There was never any re­li­gious prej­u­dice. We al­ways saw our­selves as one big com­mu­nity.’

Fa­ther Tom said join­ing the priest­hood had been some­thing he had set his heart on at a young age.

‘I first told some­one I wanted to be a priest when I was only about 10 or 11. I had served as an al­tar boy and there was noth­ing I wanted to be more than a priest.’

One of three broth­ers, Fa­ther Tom’s first post­ing was to Oban fol­low­ing five years in the se­nior sem­i­nary in France.

After eight years at the town’s cathe­dral, he went to Rothe­say for a year fol­lowed by a stint in Kin­gussie be­fore re­turn­ing to Oban in 1966 for the next 17 years.

‘I was very sorry to leave Oban which I sup­pose isn’t sur­pris­ing after spend­ing 25 years of my life there,’ he re­called.

After the Oban years, it was Ari­saig’s turn to ben­e­fit from Fa­ther Tom's care and com­pas­sion, be­fore he made the move to what would be his last par­ish in Roy Bridge.

He said: ‘The coun­try ar­eas haven’t re­ally changed much at all dur­ing all these years. If I had to point to one thing that has changed it would be the num­ber of young peo­ple who leave the area to find work or go to col­lege and then don’t come back. It’s one of the rea­sons I got in­volved with the set­ting up of Lochaber Hous­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, as a lack of af­ford­able hous­ing was a big is­sue.’

At last month’s farewell event, Fa­ther Tom was show­ered with gifts and there was a ren­di­tion of a new hymn com­posed es­pe­cially for him.

A buf­fet was fol­lowed by the pre­sen­ta­tion of a beau­ti­ful paint­ing of St Mar­garet's by lo­cal artist He­len Critch­ley and it is a sign of the deep af­fec­tion in which he is held that Fa­ther Tom was then pre­sented with a £ 3,000 cheque from parish­ioners and friends from the com­mu­nity and else­where. Asked what his plans were for re­tire­ment, Fa­ther Tom, who will be 87 at the end of this month, said he hopes to read more.

And he added with a laugh: ‘I have of­fered to play the church or­gan on Sun­days when the reg­u­lar or­gan­ist is away so they haven’t quite got rid of me com­pletely just yet!'

Pho­to­graph: Iain Fer­gu­son The Write Im­age. F29 Thomas Wynne 01IF

Thomas Wynne with fam­ily at his re­ti­ral.

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