Monsignor Edward Flanagan was a native of Roscommon, Ireland. He was the founder of Boys Town, an orphanage for boys in Nebraska, USA. Today Boys Town is a national organisation with twelve regional headquarters across the United States.
Edward Joseph Flanagan was born near the village of Ballymoe in the west of Ireland in 1886. He was educated at Summerhill College in Sligo before emigrating to the United States at the age of 18. He studied at Mount St. Mary’s University, Maryland and was awarded an MA in 1908. He studied for the priesthood in the US and Italy and was ordained in Austria in 1912.
Fr Flanagan served as a priest in Nebraska where he founded Boys Town for homeless boys in 1917. Boys Town is located ten miles west of Omaha. Boys Town did not use the reform school model but instead emphasised the social preparation of boys in its care. The model became the standard in several countries.
A film called Boys Town, based on the life of Fr Flanagan was made in 1938. Spencer Tracy playing the part of Fr Flanagan won an Oscar for Best Actor. When Fr Flanagan visited Ireland in 1946 he described institutions caring for children in Ireland as ‘a national disgrace’. His remarks were greeted with outrage by politicians and the media. He left Ireland and travelled to other countries observing child welfare problems. He died in Austria on May 15th 1948.
Fr Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town was born in the year 1886 On This Day.
Boys Town, Omaha, NE
Fr Flanagan statue, Ballymoe