James Martin "Jiggs" Flynn, a retired waterfront worker and a familiar figure to the residents of his beloved Locust Point, died Sunday of renal failure at his home on Hull Street. He was 96.
"He was born, raised, worked and played in Locust Point, with the western range of his territory being the Cross Street Market, where he could get good food and place a bet," said a son, Michael J. Flynn of Catonsville. "For Jiggs, it was one-stop shopping."
The Rev. Michael J. Roach, longtime friend and pastor of St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester, said: "He knew every family from up on the hill to the point. He was all family, neighborhood and church. With him dies a lot.
"He represented the great oral culture of the Irish and was a wonderful storyteller."
In the 1880s, Mr. Flynn's grandparents and parents emigrated to Locust Point from County Mayo in Ireland. They settled among the waterfront and railroad workers, many of whom had come from villages in County Mayo and were well known to the Flynns.
Mr. Flynn was the first of his family to be born in this country and was nicknamed "Jiggs," which is short for a jigger or dancer, said Michael Flynn.
As a boy growing up in the Ferry Alley section of Locust Point, one of his most cherished memories was of seeing Cardinal James Gibbons rowing across the harbor to say Mass on Sundays at St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Church.
As a child, he developed what became a lifelong attachment to the School Sisters of Notre Dame order, which had a convent on Hull Street. As a youngster, he tended the convent's furnace and shoveled the sidewalks after snowstorms.
"He used to say he had to shovel a 'two-nuns wide [path] because they always walk in pairs,' " Michael Flynn recalled.
Throughout the years -- until Mr. Flynn's health began to fail a few years ago -- the nuns came to Sunday dinner at his home. The meals always began with a glass of Christian Brothers sherry and his booming toast of "Habeas corpus."
Mr. Flynn left school after the eighth grade to help support his family.
"He told us that he graduated in the morning and went to work at Buck Glass in the afternoon, packing newly made milk bottles," said another son, James P. Flynn of Newark, Del.
After briefly working as a streetcar conductor, which he disliked, Mr. Flynn followed his father on the Locust Point piers as a trimmer, using shovels to load grain ships.
He became a ship's runner and then a clerical checker with Local 953 of the International Longshoremen's Association, coordinating the loading and unloading of ships. He retired in 1966.
He helped to organize the Waterfront Workers of Baltimore and Vicinity, an organization of waterfront workers and managers that staged annual marches to the old Sam Smith Park, which is now part of Harborplace, and worked for the betterment of seafarers, who called at the port.
A devout and lifelong communicant of Our Lady of Good Counsel Roman Catholic Church on Fort Avenue -- his father and grandfather helped to dig the church's foundation -- Mr. Flynn turned his pier, Locust Point Pier 6, into the so-called Holy Pier.
"It was the Holy Pier all right," James Flynn said. "Depending on how high a worker held the Holy Family depended upon the type of job he got."
Spring and summer evenings were spent in Latrobe Park, where Mr. Flynn often read the horse racing sheets with the church's pastor, whom he described as a "great pastor but a terrible handicapper."
One of his sadder memories, he often told his sons and grandchildren, was of the great influenza epidemic of 1918, when he and others traveled by streetcar to New Cathedral Cemetery to dig graves for their Locust Point neighbors. The area where the flu victims were buried came to be known as Flu Hill.
"He never forgot, despite the passing of the years, where his friends from the neighborhood were buried," said Michael Flynn.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Fort Avenue and Towson Street.
His wife, the former Honora D. McHale, whom he married in 1943, died in 1966. He also is survived by four grandchildren.
Pub Date: 5/22/96