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Société des Missions Africaines - Province d’Irlande

DRUMMOND Thomas né le 27 mai 1922 à Tralee
dans le diocèse de Kerry, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 1er juillet 1943
prêtre le 18 juin 1947
décédé le 16 septembre 1997

1947-1956 préfecture de Jos, Nigeria
1957-1974 diocèse de Jos, Nigeria
1974-1975 Blackrock Road, Cork 
1975-1977 Wilton, Cork
1977-1978 Blackrock Road, Cork 
1979-1982 diocèse de Makurdi, Nigeria
1982-1984 New Barnet, Angleterre
1985-1986 diocèse de Jos, Nigeria
1987-1994 New Barnet, Angleterre
1994-1997 Dromantine et Blackrock Road, Cork, retiré

décédé à Cork, Irlande, le 16 septembre 1997
à l’âge de 75 ans


Father Thomas Joseph DRUMMOND (1922 - 1997)

Thomas Drummond was born in Tralee, in the diocese of Kerry (his home address was 32, Rae St.), on 27 May 1922. He died in the Bon Secours hospital, Cork, on 16 September 1997.

After attending Strand Road primary school, and the Christian Brothers primary school on Edward’s St., Thomas (Tommy) Drummond received his secondary education in the Christian Brothers school, the Green, Tralee (1936-1941). This was an institution which provided many members to the Society. Inspired by the example of his uncle, Michael Drummond, Tommy decided to become a missionary priest with the S.M.A. In September 1941 he entered the Society’s novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. Two years later he was promoted to the Society’s major seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down. Tommy was received as a member of the Society on 1 July 1943, taking his permanent oath of membership on 14 June 1945. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Eugene O’Doherty of Dromore, in St. Colman’s cathedral, Newry, on 18 June 1947. He was one of a group of sixteen ordained on that day. Tommy celebrated his first Mass at the Dominican church in Tralee where he was assisted by Fr. Molloy O.P.

After ordination Tommy was assigned to the prefecture of Jos in northern Nigeria. The mission to northern Nigeria had been pioneered in 1907 when three S.M.A. priests travelled north from Lokoja to Shendam. A prefecture had been established in 1929 (the prefecture of Northern Nigeria). In 1934 this jurisdiction was divided into the separate prefectures of Jos and Kaduna. The prefecture of Jos, under the leadership of William Lumley, comprised the provinces of Bauchi, Plateau, and parts of Benue, Adamawa and Bornu provinces, as well as a part of the French Sudan. Tommy’s first tour of duty lasted four years. After an initial period of induction he was appointed to Alongani mission, which was then under the superiorship of Denis Donovan. Alongani mission, situated in a remote rural area where Islam had not yet taken root, had been founded in 1939 under the patronage of St. Michael the Archangel. It had a Catholic community of some 400 members with 300 catechumens and four schools. Two years later Tommy was posted to Shendam, where Brian Dervin was superior.

Tommy returned to Ireland on his first home leave in June 1951. During his vacation he visited relatives in America. After a year at home - in those days when missionaries spent four to five years in Africa a year was considered necessary to restore health - Tommy returned to his mission serving as superior in Alogani and later at Shendam. He also spent time in Kwa mission, situated some twenty miles from Shendam, and often spoke afterwards of his friendship with the chief and his household in that town. . During this tour of duty, in June 1953, the prefecture was erected as a diocese, under the leadership of John Reddington. In June 1959 - Tommy was then well into his third tour - he received a letter from the Provincial superior, John Creaven, informing him that he had been appointed ‘deputy regional superior and first councillor to the regional superior of the combined area of the archdiocese of Kaduna and the diocese of Jos’. He was to serve as deputy to Tommy Lennon between 1959-1964, and Jim Carroll, between 1964-1974.

Originally the regional’s office was in Kaduna but, in 1961, an appropriate residence was built in the town of Kagora. The regional and his deputy were responsible to the Irish Provincial council for the spiritual and temporal welfare of all the confreres in the northern region of Nigeria. This was a daunting task, requiring weeks of travel so that confreres could be visited in their places of work. It also required much paper work, accounting and, of course, an ability to deal with emergencies as, for example, in the case of the serious illness of a confrere. Finally it required the management of a tyrocinium, or resident course for newly-arrived missionaries, who had to be introduced to the local languages and culture, and undertake supervised pastoral activity. Tommy had a particular responsibility for the ‘tyro’s’ pastoral training and won the respect and admiration of the young missionaries for his gentleness, wisdom and kindness. Tommy not only served as deputy regional superior, but he was also parish priest of Kagoro, a further demanding responsibility, but one which he relished. Among his achievements here was the construction of the parish church; each little out-station making its own contribution, so that a good proportion of the cost was borne by the people. As deputy regional Tommy did a fair share of visitation of the confreres especially on the Jos side. When the regional was absent or on vacation, he travelled further afield. He had a reputation as a wise and successful counsellor and ‘palaver-fixer’.

In January 1974 Tommy was travelling to Ireland to attend an Extraordinary Provincial Council meeting (held regularly every two years and ‘extraordinary’ in the sense that representatives from the missions attended). He was taken seriously ill during the flight and on his arrival in London was immediately hospitalised. He had suffered a heart attack. He suffered a recurrence some months later while convalescing with his brother in Dublin, and was again hospitalised. In September 1974 Tommy felt able for work and was appointed vice-superior of the S.M.A. house at Blackrock Road; he was also given charge of the public church there. But Tommy was anxious to return to Jos. A year later he went there, on the pretext of having his visa renewed, and when he arrived he stayed on. However while the spirit was willing he was clearly unfit for service in the tropics and soon he had to return to Blackrock Road where he sustained a coronary in October 1975.

Once again he revived , remaining on in Cork for his convalescence. During that time the Provincial Superior, Laurence Carr, died suddenly in the U.S. and Tommy, with his long experience of administration. was co-opted onto the Provincial Council. He served in this capacity from January 1977 until August 1978, when a Provincial Assembly was held and a new Council was elected. Tommy’s health continued to be precarious and he had frequent visits to hospital. In September 1978 he went to reside in Wilton, taking up the post of tutor to the students. But he was still restless for Africa and, in August 1979, he went back to Nigeria, to work with members of the British Province in the diocese of Makurdi. Fourteen months later he was invalided to London with shingles. However he made a good recovery and returned to Makurdi.

Tommy’s health continued to be fragile and when he was forced to leave Nigeria again in April 1982, it appeared that he would never again return. Having worked alongside members of the British Province in Makurdi, and aware that that Province was badly in need of personnel on the home front, Tommy accepted a suggestion from his Provincial that he might offer himself for secondment. Tommy was appointed to the British Province house of formation, at Lyonsdowne Road, New Barnet, taking up his post in June 1982. But his mind was on Africa. And after two years in England, and after he had weathered further bouts of illness, he decided to take action. Returning to Ireland, with great persuasiveness and persistence, he obtained permission from both his doctors and his superiors to return to Nigeria. He arrived there in January 1985 and was appointed to the tyrocinium at Kagoro, where he was assistant to the regional superior. His health held up for just over a year, after which he had to return to Ireland for extensive and prolonged medical treatment. Now there could be no question of his returning to Africa, so Tommy went back to England to work for the British Province, arriving there in February 1987.

For the next seven years Tommy promoted the Society and its missions all over England, preaching in churches, visiting schools, gathering together supporters. Then, in March 1994, no longer physically able for such work, Tommy retired from the active ministry, taking up residence in the S.M.A. house at Dromantine. He enjoyed three years of retirement there - although it must be said that he was a great traveller and was seldom to be found in Dromantine - before declining health caused him to transfer to Blackrock Road where there were good nursing facilities. On Monday, 8th September 1997, Tommy had a leg amputated in the Bons Secours hospital. He was making a good recovery but on Sunday, 14th September, he began to deteriorate and he died peacefully on the morning of Tuesday 16th September. His remains were brought to the oratory in Blackrock Road at 5. p.m. that evening.

Tommy was a much-loved member of the Society, courteous, sociable and gentle. He was also regarded as a ‘spiritual man’, a man of prayer, who performed his religious duties with the greatest care and (although he would not have wanted it) was known to spend much time in the chapel. He was also known as a man of ‘the written word’. He maintained a substantial correspondence with people who felt the anxieties of life weighing heavily upon them, enclosing prayer leaflets and ministering to their individual needs with words of wisdom and encouragement. There were other sides to him. He had many hobbies and interests. In particular he had a deep interest in astronomy and over the years acquired a variety of telescopes and other related scientific equipment. He had some eccentricities too which were much appreciated by the generality of confreres, although not always by house superiors. For example, he was a great traveller and in rooms which he occupied he always left behind books and items connected with his astronomical interests - the repatriation of such objects often took years. Tommy had a great interest in old films and liked nothing better, having said his many prayers, to relax before the television. But he was happiest, above all, among people, and especially people interested in missions. Unable to stand for any length of time because of his weak heart, he had a sort of ‘shooting stick’, on which he would rest. At gatherings of S.M.A. sponsors, or supporters, Tommy was always a centre of attraction, balanced precariously on his portable seat, cup of tea in hand, his bright eyes and smiling face lighting up the occasion.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.