ith Kieran T Flynn’s death, Tipperary has lost a great solicitor. More than that, many of us have lost a friend, a mentor and a teacher, including those of us who were trained by him. In the old days, we were his apprentices, and he was the master. That title suited him well.
He was a master of his practice, careful and thorough in his understanding of the law, and professional and kind in the way that he applied it. He believed in being a solicitor. The best evidence of that was how he continued to work in his practice of 65 odd years, until the month before he died.
From him, I learned respect for the law and, perhaps more importantly, respect for those who sought access to the law. He built up an excellent business in his home town, but I never saw or heard of anyone needing legal help turned away from his door for lack of funds. It was ingrained in him that the law was there for everyone.
While he was a man of strong opinions, and could indeed challenge a client, colleague – or apprentice with ‘notions’ – he was non-judgmental when it came to hearing the troubles and woes that brought someone reluctantly to a solicitor.
I was his first apprentice. At a time where he had an excellent practice that he was managing well, the last thing he needed was someone who knew nothing and had to be ‘trained in’. However, he was persuaded by his mother, and mine, but mainly his mother, whom we knew as Mother Flynn, to take me on. He took to teaching law to me and his other apprentices with the same full focus that he brought to all other aspects of his work.
He tolerated my many mistakes, but I knew that I was expected to learn from them. Everything I did well was to be noted. Every error was to be noted, too, so as not to be repeated.
’Kieran never discriminated on grounds of youth or gender. Occasionally, in his own office, someone would suggest that they’d prefer him to deal with a case rather than the young girl in the office (me). He wouldn’t have it. Any client who insisted they didn’t want their piece of land dealing or their case dealt with by a young woman was politely told that it was either me or, if they weren’t happy with that, there were several other solicitors in town that they could go to. Most stayed; confident that if he had confidence in me, then they could as well. That confidence and his loyalty were great gifts to me and all the young people that he subsequently taught and trained.
’Some of Kieran’s apprentices were his sons, and it is a credit to both him and his late wife Eileen, three of four of them successfully became solicitors; two to remain in the thriving practice, and the third to engage in international public service law with the UN around the world.
The others of us were all encouraged by him to set up our own practices. ’We often discussed private practice and it was a joy to realise that, in a practice extending over 65 years, he never wanted to do anything else.
More than anything, Kieran T Flynn was a mentor and friend to me from the moment we met to the end of his life, and I will miss him. He remained interested in my career after I took what was, in his view, the inexplicable step of leaving private practice. When I went to work with the Free Legal Advice Centres, he encouraged all the local solicitors to set up a FLAC centre in Tipperary, still hugely supported by his sons in the practice.
He had even less understanding of what took me to work in the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. We had several discussions about that in the last few years. Like everything and everyone in whom he had an interest, he wanted to understand. I was delighted when, during our last conversation in November, he likened young people speaking out today to a second generation of suffragettes. Those new suffragettes would, of course, have included his grandchildren, who featured in every conversation, as did all his children, of whom he was very proud.
One thing that never ceased to amaze me was his capacity to produce an apt quotation. It seems proper to end this tribute to a master with a piece from The Village Schoolmaster by Oliver Goldsmith, from which Kieran often quoted:
“Yet he was kind; or if severe in aught,
The love he bore to learning was in fault.
The village all declar’d how much he knew;
‘Twas certain he could write, and cipher too…
And still they gaz’d and still the wonder grew,
That one small head could carry all he knew.”
Like others, I benefitted mightily from all he knew. Rest in peace, master.