Theodore Thomson Flynn: Not Just Errol’s Father

06 Aug

I’d like to share with you an engrossing radio podcast, first broadcast Saturday 3rd August across Australia on the ABC’s (Australian Broadcasting Commission) long running ‘Science Program’. You may think the topic of  Flynn wouldn’t be remotely scientific, but you’d be wrong. You see, the focus is mostly on Errol’s father TT Flynn. The programme titled “In With Flynn” , covers a few generations of Flynns starting with Errol’s grandfather in New South Wales … and it seems Errol wasn’t the first Flynn to have his wicked wicked ways … “Yes, Errol Flynn was a swashbuckling lothario, a 20th century film star of very mixed fame. But what about his dad? TT Flynn was a noted biologist in Hobart who looked at fossils, fish, Tasmanian Devils and much more. A new biography calls him ‘Not just Errol’s Father’ and details his considerable contributions to Australian science. But was he too ‘In like Flynn’?”

There are 2 segments – the first focusing on the recently refurbished TMAG (Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery) which incorporates the Maritime Museum once directed by Errol’s father TT. The second discussed a newly published book on TT, ‘Theodore Thomson Flynn: Not Just Errol’s Father’

An added bonus, there’s a nice little narration (taken from a doco on Flynn made in 2005 I believe) from Christopher Lee, who knew Errol and acted in 4 of his B Grade  European swashbucklers in the 50s.

Links to listen/download the programmes here:

New life for the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery…


T.T. Flynn: Tasmania’s first professor of biology

Talking about the newly published book ‘Theodore Thomson Flynn: Not Just Errol’s Father’…

— Philip


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  1. tassie devil

    September 28, 2013 at 1:43 am

    Below is a review on the Harrison book about TT
    Oh Errol, he was just like him
    THIS self-published biography of the Tasmanian biologist who sired one of Australia’s greatest movie stars is a gem. With an excellent index and a revealing series of photographs, the thoroughly researched book is a credit to Hobart couple Vicki and Tony Harrison, who went down the self-publishing route after being unable to interest a commercial publisher.
    Theodore Thomson Flynn was born in Coraki in northern NSW in 1883. He came from a modest background and at 15 started work as a pupil-teacher in country NSW. After completing his studies at the University of Sydney, he became, at just 28, professor of biology at the University of Tasmania. His two main fields of interest were marine biology and fisheries, and marsupial embryology and its place in mammalian development.
    Through the years Flynn established an international reputation as a researcher in biological and zoological sciences. But not having been afforded what he regarded as proper personal and academic respect in Hobart, and having being hounded by university bureaucrats, he decided to look for positions elsewhere, preferably overseas.
    Despite the effects of the Depression, in 1931 Flynn was fortunate enough to be appointed to the chair of zoology at the prestigious Queen’s University in Belfast. While there he also served as chief of Belfast’s Casualty Clearing Service during World War II, for which he was awarded an MBE.

    Given its subtitle, ‘Not Just Errol’s Father’, it’s no surprise this book deals in considerable detail with a comparison between Flynn and his devil-may-care son, Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn, who was born in Hobart’s Queen Alexandra Hospital on June 20, 1909.
    Although both men, until their deaths, had a series of affairs, Flynn Sr, who was married only once, kept his extramarital relations hidden, while those of Errol, who was married three times, were often played out in public view.
    The authors argue, somewhat controversially, that “while not as handsome as his actor son Errol, and far less of a libertine, there are sufficient similarities to conclude that Errol’s life owed a good deal to genetics”.
    They suggest Flynn Sr, by all reports a charmer of women, took great pains to keep his affairs private because he had been so hurt by his own parents’ divorce and his father’s central part in it.
    Their break-up heavily influenced his attitude to the institution of marriage (which he valued) and his largely successful attempts to form and maintain what the Harrisons term “a cogent and effective family”.
    It is nevertheless fascinating to learn that, at age 70, Flynn Sr had a passionate affair with Melbourne-born composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks, 30 years his junior.
    Despite their many differences, father and son liked and esteemed each other.
    Thus one of the most fascinating, and often harrowing, sections of this fine biography canvasses the effect on his father of Errol’s death in Vancouver, British Columbia, on October 14, 1959.
    Although the cause of death was listed as heart attack, it was well known the actor was an alcoholic and drug addict and suffering from cirrhosis of the liver.
    It is also touching to be informed of how, after Errol’s premature death at age 50, his father, who would live another nine years, so dutifully supervised his errant son’s estate and his many properties in Jamaica.
    As it happens, one of my favourite movies is the 1938 swashbuckler ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’, with Flynn in the title role and the sensual British-American actress Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian.
    In later life, de Havilland declared that, despite persistent rumours, she never had sexual relations with the amorous, restless and enigmatic Australian.
    In that film, Flynn demonstrated he was not merely a superlatively energetic and handsome actor, but a highly professional swordsman as well. My one regret is that the Harrisons make no mention of this wonderful movie in what is in many ways an enthralling book.
    ‘Theodore Thomson Flynn: Not Just Errol’s Father’
    By Tony and Vicki Harrison
    Artemis Publishing, 238pp, $35
    Ross Fitzgerald is emeritus professor of politics and history at Griffith University.
    ‘The Weekend Australian’, September 14-15, 2013, Review, Books, pp 24-25

    • Robzak

      September 28, 2013 at 2:50 am

      Funny. The book is about Theodore Flynn and the reviewer’s biggest disappointment is the author’s failure to mention the reviewer’s favorite film of Theodore’s son!