Austin Flynn, an innovative and forward-thinking former technical department head at Perth High School, has died aged 88.
He pioneered the extension of woodworking education to female pupils, strived to promote the importance of technical education, and wrote textbooks which were adopted by the New Zealand education system.
Austin also ran the high school’s football team for many years to which he devoted much of his free time.
He grew up in the long-gone Meal Vennel in the centre of Perth, part of a large Catholic family of Irish descent.
Motivated by family
Austin never forgot his humbled beginnings or the sacrifices his parents made for the family and these inspired him to learn and succeed.
His father, also Austin, was illiterate but also possessed of a razor sharp mathematical mind. During service on the Italian Front in the First World War a bullet lodged near his heart. Austin senior lived with this in place until his death aged 66.
From Meal Vennel, the family of Austin senior, his wife, Molly and six children, moved from the centre of Perth to the luxury of a new home with a bathroom in Ainslie Place, Muirton, in 1939.
Austin was educated at St John’s School where he was sports champion. He played football for St John’s City Boys and later progressed to play at junior level with Bankfoot.
At the age of 17 he began an engineering apprenticeship in a Perth jute mill where he worked with two Royal Naval veterans who had served as engine room artificers, one on the Arctic Convoys and the other in the Far East. These men were to be another inspiration to him.
Once he had served his time, Austin went to work in Jack Oldings and then Edwards Engineering while studying at night classes to fulfil his ambition of becoming a teacher.
He was called up for National Service and eventually got his wish to join the Royal Navy. Remarkably, he rose to become chief engineer and finished as a petty officer and in doing so, felt he had honoured the war veterans he had served his time with.
At the age of 20, Austin met his future wife, Renee, who was a year older. He bought the engagement ring with cash he won at the bookies and the couple spent their evenings sewing cushion covers to pay for their wedding.
Stay in Malta
While Austin was completing his National Service, the couple had a year living in married quarters on the island of Malta while he served on the HMS Forth a submarine depot ship.
The navy wanted him to stay on but he returned to Perth with a determination to teach.
After children Graeme and Jill came along, Austin took up a teaching post in Canada and the family followed him out there, setting up home in a French-speaking community near Toronto.
They spent three years there before sailing back to the UK where Austin took up a post at the old Perth High School in Gowans Terrace, which later became Perth Grammar School.
When Perth High School moved to a new building at Oakbank, Austin followed as a technical teacher under Ted Crerar and when he retired, he got his long wished for promotion to head of department,
Renee his wife sadly developed breast cancer and fought it for seven years and in the final nine months of her life, Austin took leave of absence to care for her.
When Austin retired in 1997, he learnt to play golf, built a computer from scratch and embraced new technology.
His daughter, Jill, said: “During his teaching career, dad’s main aim was to inspire young people to seek out different vocations, learn ways to find their own answers to problems and encourage them to always give their best.”
In later life, he remarried and always cherished spending time over a pint with close friends.
You can read the family’s announcement here.