I hope this works! Within this article is also
interesting information on Errol.

Biography of
Theodore Thomson Flynn

father of TT flynn mother of ttflynn ttflynn as a boy
Unnamed lantern
slides from Theodore Thomson Flynn's personal collection, thought to be
T.T.’s father John Thompson Flynn, his mother Jessie and himself as a
child, but this has not been confirmed.

Theodore Thomson Flynn was born in Coraki, New South
Wales on 11 October 1883, son of John Thompson Flynn and his wife
Jessie, née Thomson. Educated in Sydney, he received his BSc from the
University of Sydney in 1909, and taught high school science before
being appointed to the Newcastle and Maitland Technical Colleges as a
lecturer in chemistry and physics. His appointment to the lectureship in
Tasmania began what became an eminent career in biology. 

marelle flynn

marelle and errol flynn
Lily Flynn (later named
Marelle) with baby Errol
aged five months, 1909.

queen alexandra hospital

Thomson Flynn’s wife Lily
who later changed her name to Marelle.
Alexandra Hospital, Hampden Road, Battery Point,
c.1909 when Errol was born there.


Flynn’s wife Lily (later called Marelle) accompanied him
to Tasmania, and their son Errol
was born at the Queen Alexandra Hospital, Hobart, on 20th June 1909.
Errol attended several schools in Hobart, and reportedly trapped
bettongs for T.T. Flynn’s research into the reproductive biology of

In 1910, the university received a substantial donation
from the estate of John Ralston, a wealthy pastoralist from St Leonards,
who left £8,000 to further scientific research. These funds, the first
major bequest to the institution, were directed towards support of the
new discipline of biology. The majority of the funds went to endow a
chair, and the remainder were spent on a biology laboratory and the
purchase of equipment. Flynn became the Ralston Professor of Biology and
inaugural chair of the fledgling department in 1911.  

appointment of flynn appointment of flynn
of T.T. Flynn’s appointment as Professor of Biology at the University
of Tasmania on the 29th June 1911

Under the original terms of the agreement, Flynn was to
carry out research into
1. “diseases of plants and animals
2. anatomy and development of marsupials unique to
3. any other research approved by the trustees”.
In 1921, a new agreement with the Ralston Trustees added a
4th category of approved research:
4. research on commercial food fisheries in Tasmania.

Photographs of the University of Tasmania around
the time of T.T.Flynn's employment:

university of tasmania university of tasmania
University of
Tasmania, 1907
University of
Tasmania – Domain site
university of tas plan 1928
of the University of Tasmania – 1928 enlarge


biology building biology building
entrance to biology building biology laboratory
Top: Photos of the
original Biology building, the lower storey was built in 1909, the
upper storey in 1936,
the entrance and the Zoology (left) and the Botany
laboratory (Right) (V.V. Hickman photographs)


aerial view of university of tasmania 1939

Aerial photo of University of Tasmania, 1939 – enlarge

Tasmanian Field
Naturalists Club

‘Soon after his arrival in Tasmania in 1909 Flynn had joined
the Field Naturalists Club. ..In 1909 Flynn had participated in the
Easter excursion to Freycinet Peninsula, where he led the discussion on
invertebrates. In November he addressed the monthly meeting on the
subject of flounder. This is an early indication of his interest in
marine biology and fisheries. He told members that there was plenty of
scope for dredging in the Derwent Estuary to collect specimens for
study. In 1910 Flynn led the Club Easter excursion to Wineglass Bay. The
steamer Koonookarra was used during these Easter camps for dredging
marine life under his leadership. Field Naturalists, under his direction
carried out some of the first scientific dredging along Tasmania’s
coastline.His ten year involvement with the Field Naturalists culminated
in his election as Chairman in 1918, and again the following year’

As well as the Field Naturalists Flynn developed
other important links with the wider Tasmanian scientific community
outside the University. He was first elected to the Council of the Royal
Society in 1911 …[and] through [this] position became a Trustee of the
Tasmanian Museum and Botanical Gardens in 1911. Flynn took on the work
of curator and was active in supporting its functions and adding to the

tasmanian field naturalists 1909

Tasmanian Field
Naturalists – Easter camp-out April 1909

Photograph of group of 84 Tasmanian Field
Naturalists with T. T. Flynn on the far left (see detail below) (Sir
William Crowther Collection, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office).


TT flynn
T.T.Flynn (detail)

(Right) Tasmanian
Field Naturalists Club illuminated address

Theodore Thomson Flynn was one of the signatories to this illuminated
address presented to Leonard Rodway by the Tasmanian Field Naturalists
Club, congratulating him on being appointed a Companion of St Michael
and St George in 1917 and expressing the club’s gratitude for his work
and support.

leonard rodway
Leonard Rodway

illuminated address

dredging expedition 1913 (left) ‘Field Naturalists, under the
direction of Professor TT Flynn of the University of Tasmania, carried
out some of the first scientific dredging along Tasmania’s coastline.
The only man who can be identified is the photographer Beattie, a member
of the Club who took many photographs of their activities.’ The
Companion to Tasmanian History

– online version.


(Right) Tasmanian Field Naturalists
dredging expedition 1913

W. Lewis May [centre] in the battered hat, &
Professor T.T. Flynn on the right at Safety Cove onboard the Koomela in
1913. (Private Collection – May family).

Tasmanian field naturalists 1913

Thylacine skull (Thylacinus cynocephalus)
Flynn held the post of honorary curator of the Tasmanian
Museum from 1912-1918. The Museum has in its collection a complete
thylacine skeleton collected by T.T Flynn in 1919. He was one of the
first advocates for the protection of the thylacine. In 1914 he
suggested that some should be captured and placed on an island, a
strategy being considered today as a means of protecting the Tasmanian
devil. (S. Jones – School of Zoology)

thylacine skull
Thylacine skull collected by T.T
Flynn in 1919
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery collection.

Birth of the Kangaroo
by T. T. Flynn, 1928

‘Flynn became famous for his work on the embryology of marsupials and
echidnas. He became determined to educate the public that kangaroos were
not born on the nipple and went so far as to publish a Workers
Educational Association (then a forerunner of Adult Education) booklet
on the Birth of the
. I fear that it was not too widely read because around
1950 the locals in Ouse still adhered to the incorrect view.’ (E.
Guiler – School of Zoology)

Bettong (Bettongia gaimardi)
‘Professor T.T. Flynn published a paper on the
reproduction of the Tasmanian bettong that summarized much of his work
over the previous 10-15 year period in 1930. His infamous son the
film-star Errol Flynn, often assisted his father in capturing bettongs.

‘When school finished, I raced home to be at his side, to
hurry out into the back yard, where we had cages of specimens of rare
animals…Through Father’s activity I made my first venture into commerce.
He bought all the kangaroo rats [bettongs] he could get hold of for
Hobart University. I learned to set box traps in the hills of near-by
Mount Wellington. He paid a shilling a head.’ (Errol Flynn, My
Wicked, Wicked Ways
). No further scientific work was carried out
(on the Bettong) for the nearly 50 years or so until I started my
studies in the late 1970s.’ (Randy Rose, School of Zoology)

bettong skeleton

Bettong skeleton (Bettongia gaimardi)
bettong young

Bettong – Bettongia gaimardi
Specimen of baby on pouch from School of Zoology collection.
( NB : pouch specimen says cuniculus)


Bettong – Bettongia gaimardi
Furry mount from School of Zoology collection.

Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)
Flynn’s first paper on the anatomy of the Tasmanian
devil was written in 1910 from a specimen given to him by Colonel JEC
Lord. In the introduction to the paper he indicated that he had
intended to delay publication until he could dissect a number of
specimens but had found that the species was already so scarce that
further specimens could not be obtained. In these circumstances Mrs.
Roberts’ Beaumaris Zoo in Battery Point was a most valuable facility. In
1910 she had been asked by the Director of the Sydney Zoo to try and
obtain specimens of the devil and the thylacine for the London
Zoological Society. This prompted her to begin holding these animals in
her zoo and to try to breed the devil in captivity’.

‘Flynn was particularly interested in discovering all he
could about Tasmanian marsupials, as he feared for their survival. After
he left Tasmania the devil population grew quickly but while he was at
the University they were quite scarce’.

tasmanian devil

Tasmanian Devil skeleton (Sarcophilus
tasmanian devil
Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus

Specimens and scientific papers
Flynn is considered to be one of the pioneers of research
into the reproductive biology of marsupials and monotremes. He published
an important work on the early cleavage of the monotreme egg, and was
awarded a DSc in 1921 for his work on the embryology of marsupials. His
interest in the placental structure of blue-tongued lizards is echoed
today by the School of Zoology’s strong research focus on the ecology
and evolution of viviparous lizards. 

In addition, he published an eclectic series of papers on
the fauna of Tasmania, including sea spiders (Pycnogonida) and
a freshwater sponge. Flynn also described a fossil whale from Fossil
Bluff on the north coast of Tasmania. The
fossil Prosqualodon davidis
is c.23 million years
old, and is held in the collection of the School of Earth Sciences,

Flynn’s classic paper on the yolk sac and allantoic placenta in the
barred bandicoot which appeared in the prestigious Quarterly Journal
of Microscopical Science
in 1923 was awarded the University Medal
when presented to the University of Sydney as a thesis for the degree of
Doctor of Science.

theodore thomson flynn 1923
Professor T.T. Flynn
Illustrated Tasmanian Mail,
19 April 1923


Henry Crouch brass binocular microscope (c.1890) and
microscope slides prepared by T.T. Flynn from the School of Zoology.

Lantern slides from T.T.
Flynn’s collection brought back from Queen’s University, Belfast by Eric

Detail of Henry Crouch brass binocular microscope



university staff c.1924
University staff and
students with car

Group of staff and students at the University on the Domain c. 1924.
Professor Flynn is in the back row on the far left. (Tasmaniana
Library, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office) – enlarge

students and staff and car pump c.1924

The brass car pump belonged to the
Departmental car shown in this photo. (Pump now held in
the School of Zoology)
staff group photo 1924

University staff, 1924; (l. to r., top) Dr. A.L. McAulay, H.P. Tuck, C.
Malthus, Prof. J.B. Brigden, J.A. Johnson, Prof. Burn, Prof. D.
Copland,; (centre) A.R. Hewer, P.L. Griffiths, Lt-Col. Thomas
(Registrar), E.A. Counsel, C.C. Dudley, G.S. King, L. Rodway; (bottom)
Prof. R. Dunbabin, Prof. Williams, W.J.T. Stops (Vice-Chancellor), Sir
Elliott Lewis (Chancellor), Prof. McDougall, Prof. T.T. Flynn, Prof.
 University staff 1924
flynn tarn (left) Flynn

Photograph by Fred Smithies of Lake Rodway and Flynn’s Tarn (named
after Professor Flynn and Leonard Rodway, two of the most important
biologist of their time) from the summit of Cradle Mountain. (Archives
Office of Tasmania)
macquarie island
Flynn Lake, Macquarie Island,
named after T. T. Flynn – enlarge

Aurora Expedition to Macquarie Island

In May 1910 at a meeting of the Royal Society Flynn
seconded the motion to set up a committee to promote Sir Douglas
Mawson’s Antarctic expedition. He and Mawson had been at school and
University together in Sydney. In November 1912, Flynn joined Mawson’s
Australian Antarctic Expedition as the biologist in charge for the
second summer research cruise on the S. Y. Aurora.

The decision to accept the leadership of this program was
somewhat rash. His experience in marine research was limited and
confined to the inshore waters off the east coast of Tasmania and
Sydney. He could not have been prepared for the tumultuous seas between
Macquarie Island and Tasmania in a vessel not built or crewed for the
task, but having found his sea legs he began the dredging program.
In June 1913 he addressed the Royal Society on the results
of the five weeks of dredging and illustrated it with lantern slides.
Flynn’s Antarctic connection is commemorated in the name of Flynn
on the west coast of Macquarie Island.

He developed a considerable interest in marine science,
and became a strong advocate for science-based development of fisheries
in Tasmania and at the national level. He undertook a review of the
Tasmanian fishing industry, and proposed some priority scientific
projects, including comprehensive studies of the biology of the oyster
and the crayfish, to underpin effective fisheries management.

In 1931, the Ralston Trustees cut their funding to
support only a lectureship. Flynn left the university to take up a chair
at the Queen’s University, Dublin, where he continued scientific
research for anther ten years before retiring in 1948, that event being
noted in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, Vol 162,
July 24th 1948.

tt flynn
T.T. Flynn, Queen's
University Dublin
flynn tt flynn and marelle flynn
T.T. Flynn and his wife
taking friends from St Albans to
visit Errol’s film set.
Detail: T.T. Flynn and his wife
errol flynn and tt flynn
Errol Flynn and T.T.Flynn
tt flynn
T.T. Flynn on Errol's yacht 'The Zaca', 1952

Impressions of T. T. Flynn

‘T.T. was full of pranks and at one staff dance he produced a small
marsupial out of his pocket much to the consternation of all. Something
must have gone wrong with the joke when he appeared with a black eye’
(Eric Guiler – School of Zoology)

‘Flynn established a research reputation for zoology in
Tasmania and the Department has always flourished in this field. He was a
flamboyant teacher in a time when the University had several such. He
stands tall among his successors being a stronger character than most of
them. In some respects he was careless of administration but in those
days the running of the University was largely left to the Heads.’ (Eric

‘The rapport was with my father. He looked Irish. He had
red, bushy eyebrows, black hair; he was lean, angular, full of charm,
good will, and a certain professorial quietness. He spoke with a clipped
British accent, tinged with touches of Irish brogue.’ (Errol Flynn,
My Wicked, Wicked Ways)

‘Vernon (VV) Hickman, who succeeded Flynn in 1932, was a
student in the early years and remembers Flynn as an excellent teacher
who took a great interest in his students: at least those who showed an
interest in the subject.’ (Anthony Harrison, ‘Climbing to the top:
T.T. Flynn in Tasmania, 1909-1931’

‘Theo Flynn was tall, slim, broad shouldered and
blue-eyed; softly spoken, charming and witty. He was very industrious
but also gregarious and friendly, enjoying dancing and tennis, as well
as his academic interests’…Guiler knew him as a ‘very powerful
personality full of drive and energy that led him into many adventures,
credible or otherwise’.(E. Guiler, Sunday Tasmanian, 8 July

Transcription & letter (pictured below) about
T. T. Flynn to Professor Eric Guiler from Louis Bisdee, July 1990

letter letter2

Kelvin Grove,  
Melton Mowbray,  
Tasmania 7030.  

Dear Professor,
Having read the article in the Sunday Tasmanian
(8th July 1990) on the life of Professor Flynn it has prompted me to
write to you with a little information about the Professor. He boarded
at the same guest house where I was, Pressland House in Melville Street,
Hobart. That was in 19?1. He was at the Tasmanian University just above
the Hobart Railway Station on the Domain. He was a very fine well
groomed man. Always wore a black bowler hat. He never ever mentioned his
wife but he was always greatly admired by the ladies of Hobart. He
seemed to take great pride in himself and led a good life. He used to
tell me about his son Erroll. Apparently he was often a great worry to
his father. Father never knew where he was or what he did but he always
had an appointment to meet outside McKeans boot shop in Elizabeth Street
(now the Mall) at twenty minutes past eight. They had very little to
say to each other except of course Erroll was always ‘broke’. The
meeting took place every Friday evening. He thought a lot of his son, so
I guess Erroll was the cause of father having difficulty in meeting his
debts. I thought this information might be of interest to you. At the
time I was working in a wholesale grocery business in Hobart. Times were
bad: right in the big Depression.

Yours faithfully,
Louis F. Bisdee

Pressland House
‘Pressland House’, Melville Street, Hobart as it appeared in an
advertisement in Walsh’s Almanac of 1899. This is where Errol and his
father boarded in the 1920s when Errol attended Hobart High School.

The Geology Department’s
acquisition of the remains of Prosqualodon davidis Flynn
Prosqualodon davidis was described in 1923 by
Prof. Flynn who was Professor of Zoology at the University of Tasmania. 
When originally found in Miocene sediments at Fossil Bluff, it was
virtually complete.  After description, it was held in the Zoology
Department collections in the old part of the Sandy Bay campus, near the
sports oval.  It was one of the best-preserved squalodont whales
known.  There is some confusion about the name (davidi or davidis)
but I believe the latter is correct. 

In approximately 1966, I was visiting Dr John Hickman of
the Zoology Department and passing through a roofed, but otherwise open,
space when I noticed what appeared to be bone from Fossil Bluff.  I was
told that the fragments were the remains of the specimen studied by
Flynn.  I was horrified by both the condition of the specimen and lack
of care.  The bone was breaking up under the influence of varying
temperature and humidity.  Pyrite oxidation probably was the cause. I
came back to the Geology Department, reported to Prof. Carey, and we
quickly arranged for the remains to be brought here and placed in our
vault where better (if not perfect) care could be taken of the

When brought over, we found that most of the original
specimen did not exist and we were told that much of it probably had
been taken to the rubbish tip at some stage.  More horror! Dr John
Cosgriff, a vertebrate palaeontologist, was here at the time and took
some steps to improve the condition of what was retrieved but the
remains are a sorry remnant of the original. The Tasmanian Museum and
Art Gallery has an excellent cast of the skull and that is worthy of
[Notes by Patrick G. Quilty AM, Honorary Research Professor,
17 June 2004].


Flynn, T.T., 'Squalodont Remains from the
Tertiary Strata of Tasmania'

from Nature, November 25th, 1929
whale jaw fossil
T.T. Flynn' s photograph of
jawbone of fossil whale
Prosqualodon davidis

Whale fossil specimen

Prosqualodon is a whale, not a dolphin.  It is
referred to as a primitive toothed whale probably with lifestyle and
body shape very similar to a modern dolphin – an example of convergent
evolution. It is a squalodont with triangular, sharklike serrated teeth
and thus unlike modern dolphins although modern dolphins probably
evolved from this group. [Patrick G. Quilty].