Thomas Flood (1919 – 1988)
One of Scotland’s best known amateur astronomers, Mr Tom Flood, passed away peacefully in Roxburgh House, Dundee on the 9th December 1988 after a long illness at the age of 69. An only child, Tom grew up in a humble tenement home in the city, and attended St John’s RC School but, having experienced the misery and hunger of the post-war years, he became an active trade unionist and life-long member of the Communist Party. In 1940 – 46 he saw service throughout Europe and the Middle East with the Army Pay Corps, and used to speak nostalgically about the brilliant skies over Helwan in Egypt. Tom worked as a clerk, first with a Dundee brewery company then, after the War, with a linoleum company, but ill-health forced his early retirement.
Astronomy had been a passion since boyhood, nurtured by the fine Dundee Public Library and Hutchinson’s Splendour of the Heavens. He was involved with the short-lived Amateur Astronomers’ League before the Second World War, joining the BAA in 1954 and served on the Lunar Section Committee in 1975 – 76. With his late father, ‘Auld Tom’, he was one of the founders of Dundee Astronomical Society in 1956. Many of the early meetings were held round the stove in their cosy allotment shed on the slopes of Dundee Law, from which occasionally, sometimes reluctantly, members would emerge to view the heavens with Tom’s 3-inch refractor. From the beginning he held every post in the Society, including Chairman, with distinction, and just a few days before he died he was elected Honorary Vice President. He was also a very active member of the Scottish Astronomers’ Group and took part in organizing many other astronomical activities.
In 1974, to the delight of his friends, Tom was made Assistant Curator at the Mills Observatory, as deputy to Harry Ford, whose boyhood interest in astronomy he had helped to encourage. This was a new lease of life, and his health markedly improved: he enjoyed conducting parties round the Observatory, organized public observing sessions and carried out routine solar and lunar observations with the 10-inch Cooke refractor. After his retirement in 1982 he wrote a short history of the Observatory.
Tom, who never married, was a kindly, well-read and very cultured man. He was a good chess player and a lover of classical music, having been a member of Dundee Chamber Music Club since 1946 and a founder of Dundee Recorded Music Society in 1950. His small, pawky figure, full of modest wisdom and fund of hilarious anecdotes about Dundee and its bizarre politics, will be greatly missed.
On discovering an asteroid in 1988, Robert McNaught named it asteroid 4220 (Flood) in honour of Tom Flood.
My thanks to Harry Ford and Graham Young for information.
Obituary written for the BAA Journal in 1989, by DAS President, Dr David Gavine