John Flynn


Rev. John Flynn O.B.E., of the Presbyterian Inland Mission, visited Toowoomba on the week end of 23 and 24 November 1935. Rev. Flynn was appointed by the church in 1912 to take charge of the work of the inland. As far back as 1857 some good friends in Scotland had thought of the lonely people in outback Australia. They provided funds to begin this work. However, the money accumulated for some years. Several attempts were made by the South Australian church to reach the outback settlers- many of them were sons of Scottish families who had come to the outback for mining and grazing. The South Australian church was of great assistance to the lonely settlers.

The Rev. Robert Mitchell, of Port Augusta, started the work and became the pioneer of what later developed into a very important mission work of the Presbyterian Church of South Australia. However it was left to John Flynn to visit the inland. He began his work with camels. In his travels he traversed some of the most isolated parts of the country. He visited many lonely outback settlers. He not only visited them but also held services in their home and shearing sheds. As well he took them papers, books and magazines. Whilst attending to the needs of the settlers, Rev. Flynn saw the difficulties and hardships they faced. There was little he could do to help them, but he was a man who was a dreamer and visionary. He saw in his dreams and visions that these people would have at least some of the help they badly needed. He saw that they needed friends, so he got city people interested in them. He formed teams of men and women in the cities whose work was to collect books and magazines which were sent out to them. These city people were also encouraged to write letters to the outback people. This was a big help but was no means the fulfillment of his dreams.

Rev. Flynn saw the suffering of people in the bush. Sick people, men, women and children dying because they had no medical help in their time of need. Apart from himself, he saw no preacher there to care for the sick and injured and comfort the dying. To Mr Flynn this was a great tragedy. It must be stopped. Something practical must be done for these people such as help from Governments and Churches. Therefore a work began which would never be forgotten by the people of the inland.

Money was necessary to carry out this big task. Rev. Flynn toured the Commonwealth presenting the case for outback Australia as well as presenting his case to the heads of various governments, both Federal and State. His case was so good that he was able to obtain a certain amount of support for his proposals. He also interested many people who were in a position to help him, and, as a result of his appeals as well as grants from the Federal Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, he saw his dreams gradually coming true. Today Mr Flynn has been able to change the whole face of the inland country for the better. The area today under his work covers 2 million square miles of country. There are now 11 nursing homes and 24 sisters nursing.

Rev. Flynn’s work is now national because those involved act in unison. Persons of all creeds are catered for and enjoy all the privileges. Through the Aerial Medical Service (A.I.M), city and country folk are united together to build the frontiers The A.I.M has been promoted on the same principles. The first station commenced to function in 1928. The social services rendered by the A.I.M. sisters during periods when nursing duties are not urgent has become famous. The Inland Club at Oodnadatta is a boon to many, and similar clubs are being established as time goes on. Ministers are stationed in many parts of the inland; most in isolated areas.

The Flying Doctor has rendered valuable aid to hundreds of isolated sufferers but the greatest boon is the sense of safety provided by the Flying Doctor. The ordinary radius of the A.M.S. is 400 miles but the record journey for a patient is 1000 miles. The aim of the A.I.M. is to have several bases in the country. There is also a radio base which operates from Cloncurry. Far flung families are able to keep in touch by wireless phone.
Rev. John Flynn has had the joy of seeing the work started by him reach the stage when the seed sown is now bearing fruit. The bread cast upon the water is now being found after many days.

WORK OF THE A. I. M.- REV.JOHN FLYNN’S ADDRESS (Amended from The Chronicle of Monday, 25 November 1935 by John Clements, Nov 2011)


Rev. John Flynn O. B. E., well known as ‘Flynn of the Inland’ preached at St. Stephen’s anniversary yesterday morning. The occasion was the 72nd anniversary of St, Stephen’s, when he dealt with the work of the Australian Inland Mission. The collection was devoted to the newchurch to be called St John’s which is to be built in South Toowoomba. A large congregation attended the service. Rev. Flynn said it was a pleasure to take part in the St Stephen’s service. For more than 20 years the ministers of St Stephen’s had become his personal friends. The Rev. John Armour had been associated with him at the A.I.M. at Beltona. Rev. Flynn was a schoolmate and fellow student of Rev. David Jones who was now St Stephen’s.

Mr Jones, in his boyhood days, attended a school attended by the speaker’s father. Later, at Theological Hall, Mr Jones showed cheerfulness and vitality. The pulpit was largely a reflection of the pew. It was his personal reflection that the greatness of ministers in 90% of cases was due to the loyality of the people in the pew, who lifted up their hearts and made them strong. St Stephen’s should be congratulated as they were assisting in the foundations of a daughter church. He also hoped, in the near future, that a bond would also be formed between St Stephen’s and the Australian Inland Mission. It was not appropriate for him to enter details of the bond at this stage. Rev. Flynn took his text from these words ‘Ye are the temple of God’ (1 Cor. Ch. 3 V.16)

This old Christian warrior, in passing on these words, which were echoing still, was asking them to have ‘a good conceit of themselves’. What was the temple of God. At Stephens they had celebrated nearly three quarters of a century of congregational life and always came back to this concept of the temple of God. The churches they had built proclaimed their faith and their father’s faith throughout all their busy lives. Through them, God would work.

Sometimes God found the door open into the hearts of men and he dwelt there. There was no magic in this. Rev. Flynn told a story of a man who he met in a train in Central Australia. The man was drunk and he asked Mr Flynn to baptise his child. The child was baptised, though the father was not present. When the family arrived at their destination, Mr Flynn gave advice to the mother before the family went out into the wilderness. A lady in Adelaide sent out to the mother every week a bundle of religious helps and the mother used to teach the children every Sunday afternoon. The children became affected with eye trouble and two of them had to be put in a blind institution. Then one day the lady who had previously sent out the literature spoke to me, (Rev. Flynn) and stated that the down and out father had sent the lady a beautiful opal as thanks. He recognised this woman as a temple of God. How many bottles of beer had he given up to make this gesture?

Mr Flynn told of two men in the bush. One was speaking about the Australian Inland Mission. He was asked about his religion. He said ‘I don’t know about that, but I am a follower of Mr Partridge’. Mr Partridge was one of their ministers. Mr Partridge had sat with his friend for hours on end and never said a word. This did not mean he was dumb. On one occasion he stopped with the lonely man for a fortnight. The friend said: ‘I want to testify that, in my opinion, by staying with my peculiar friend in that lonely country, at that particular juncture, Mr Partridge saved my friend from insanity’.

Mr Flynn said that people sometimes talk about the A.I.M. unkindly. People had stated that the A.I.M. had become merely a nursing association and was neglecting its spiritual work. This was a damnable lie. They had made many a lonely bushman realise his body was sacred to God. There was one man who developed such a sense of decency that he went away 200 miles in order to get drunk! The nursing sister asked him why he went away without seeing her, and he replied, ‘ I have such a high regard for you and the work you stand for. It is so high that I could not become drunk in the township in which you live’.

Mr Flynn asked the congregation to remember that the work of the nursing sisters, the medical services, the installation of wireless and other things had all helped to make these people in the inland believe that their lives were precious. On one occasion they had spent more than 200 pounds to save the life of a bush publican, but his lungs collapsed before they could get him to a specialist. In spite of that, he believed that it helped to convince the man’s neighbours that his life was precious. It went to prove the reasonableness of the statement that their bodies were the temples of the Spirit of God.


It is thought that Rev. Flynn also visited St Stephens, Toowoomba on 5th to 8th October 1914 but nothing further is known about this visit. Perhaps World War 1 intervened in this proposed plan?. - ( If you have further information, the author would love to hear from you.)

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