Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Fr Tom Allan 1926 - 2007

We heard on Sunday morning of the death of Fr Tom Allan, who was a Cathedral Chaplain from 1991 to 1997. Fr Tom was born in Edinburgh on 9 May 1926, and in many ways remained a spiritual son of that city. He attended school at St Andrew’s priory, and the junior seminary at Blairs College. In 1954 he went up to Edinburgh University to study English, and for most of his adult life he taught English literature – a subject always close to his heart. He married and had two sons, Dominic and Michael.

He had always retained a love of the cloister, and following the death of his wife, considered joining the community at Turvey. However, he was deeply influenced by Cardinal Hume, and was accepted by him to train for the diocese of Westminster. Tom was ordained at Allen Hall in October 1988 at the age of 62, and was posted to Our Lady of Grace, Chiswick, as assistant priest. In 1991, he moved to St Vincent de Paul, Osterley. It became clear that his health required a different setting for his ministry, and the Administrator of the Cathedral, Mgr Patrick O’Donoghue, invited him to join the Cathedral staff.

Tom moved to the Cathedral in 1991, where he lived until 1997. The picture above shows him (centre back row) with the College of Chaplains at the time of the Cathedral centenary in 1995. Sadly, his own failing health, and concerns about the health of his son Dominic, dictated a return to Edinburgh. There, Tom bravely coped with Dominic’s death, and his own deteriorating condition. In recent years, he was cared for by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Edinburgh, where he was able to celebrate Mass and benefit from the loving care of the Sisters, and where Cardinal O’Brien visited him. He died on Sunday 22 July, and is survived by his son Michael.

He is warmly remembered at the Cathedral for his wit and wide learning; many people have compared him to the novelist Alexander McCall Smith for his gentle humour, wistful philosophy and encyclopaedic knowledge. He was never seen without a novel under his arm, and his spectacles perched on the end of his nose. His delightful conversation was always thoughtful and generous. Fr Tom was an engaging preacher; leaning across the pulpit, waving his glasses in one hand, his gentle Scottish accent and affable manner invariably wooed the congregation. His great height, vast learning, and monastic vestments earned him the affectionate nick-name of ‘God’ from the Cathedral choristers!

Fr Tom had a deep spirituality, profoundly imbued with Benedictine values. He was a frequent visitor to Turvey Abbey, and was much in demand at the Cathedral for days of recollection, and as a chaplain to many groups. His wisdom, formed through long experience and wide spiritual reading, was teamed with a warm affection for human nature. He was a generous confessor, and a sensitive observer of the human condition. He will be missed greatly by the Cathedral community, and by those many people who benefited from his wisdom and holiness.

May he rest in peace.

1 comment:

Peter Simpson said...

I have most happy memories of Fr Tom. I acted as MC at the 5.30 pm Mass on Tuesdays which Fr Tom often celebrated. I loved his monastic style vestments - when all the other priests wore roman vestments!

He was friendly, warm, and relaxed. I was sorry when he moved back to Scotland.

Cardinal Hume always had this thing about 'not taking yourself too seriously.' Fr Tom seemed to demonstrate this lovely quality so well.