In Memoriam John Flynn

Shortly after Past Master John Flynn sadly passed away last August I was in conversation with Nick Birtles, then Master Information Technologist at the Modern Livery Companies dinner. We came up with the idea of holding a Memorial Service for John to be hosted by the Information Technologists because their comfortable little Hall is round the corner from their church, the Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great in West Smithfield.

This week we held the Service and there was an excellent turnout from the Marketors. The Church is a splendid confection known to millions as it featured in Four Weddings and A Funeral. (Wedding number four). It was presided over by The Reverend Dr Martin Dudley, Honorary Chaplain to the Information Technologists Company but our own Chaplain the Reverend Canon Dr Alison Joyce was in attendance as was her predecessor, The Venerable David Meara.

The first reading was read by the Master Information Technologist Alderman Sir David Wootton. There was something of an irony here as he was Lord Mayor in John’s year as Master and unusually was unable to accept our invitation to attend the annual banquet at Mansion House. Then Aldermanic Sheriff Alan Yarrow took his place in locum tenens so there was something poetic about Sir David being able to pay his respects this way, particularly as it was the piece from Ecclesiasticus about praising famous men.
After an anthem from the choir, I read the piece from Revelations about a new Jerusalem. So both Masters got their chance to be heard but we were just the warm up act. There were several entertaining and compassionate addresses to come.

First up was our own Past Master Jim Surguy, who was Master when John was his Senior Warden. Jim had also written the excellent obituary in Marketor. Jim quoted Shakespeare’s As You Like It. “All the world’s a stage and one man in his time plays many parts.” That was a wonderfully apt summary of John’s life. There was John the family man with his beloved wife Brenda and two sons, Matthew and Ben, who were all present. Then there was John, the man of the theatre. He and Brenda were both deeply involved in the theatre, first as performers and later as angel investors. Thirdly there was John the businessman, who believed in and demonstrated professionalism in Sales, Business Development and Marketing. He helped to found the Digital Marketing Academy which he chaired.

Then there was John, the lover of the City and the Livery. As well as his two livery companies he was also a member of Aldgate Ward Club. His contribution to the Marketors included setting up and chairing for many years our important Outreach Committee, starting the Law and Marketing Group, and successfully proposing the Company launch and fund a Chair in Marketing at Gresham College. It is fitting that one of the four annual lectures the new Professor will give will be called the John Flynn Memorial Lecture. He also saw the great work that Whiteoaks PR did for the Information Technologists Company and successfully proposed that they should perform a similar role for the Marketors.

Finally there was John, the great academic supporter of marketing education. His roles included being visiting lecturer at the London Business School, and member of the Advisory Boards of Cranfield for their M.Sc. marketing strategy programme and of Southampton Business School.

Past Master Jonathan Soar of the Information Technologists was Master at the same time as John and spoke of the good humour and fortitude with which he dealt with his illness.

Our own Court Assistant Hugh West had known John for many years and spoke fondly of their friendship, wittily about John’s choice of car, and enviously about his ability to shoot accurately at an army shooting range with no apparent knowledge of weapons. John’s judgement was acute and his ability to generate ideas extraordinary.

The last speaker was John’s son Matthew who is also an actor and looks and sounds like one. He read the famous poem The Dash by Linda Ellis. Linda permits anyone to recite this but it is otherwise copyright so if you want to read it go to

We processed out to the organ playing Noël Coward’s ‘I’ll see you again’ and continued round the corner to the Information Technologists’ Hall. One of the smallest of the Livery Halls it was perfect for our needs and a respectful celebration of John’s life continued for some time. John always had an anecdote for every occasion and all of us have anecdotes about him. But he was never long-winded and indeed on occasion could get straight to the point. When I was asked if I would like to go on Court I sounded out some of the then officers of the Company. John was Senior Warden then and I asked him what he thought. He looked at me and just said “You’ll have to work.” It was the best advice anyone has given me since I joined the Company.

Brenda, Matthew and Ben were all very pleased with the day. It had allowed them to reach some closure. I’m sure they took great satisfaction and pleasure in hearing such comments as Jim’s. “His was a full life and a life well lived. He will be remembered with great affection by everyone here and by all those fortunate enough to have known him.”

Share this post