On Sunday 4th June, on the final Sunday Mass celebrated by Fr Mark Impson at St Mary’s Peterhead, (prior to him taking up the role of priest in Stonehaven and Blairs), Tom Cairns stepped up to say a few words of gratitude on behalf of parishioners and the pastoral council. Much to his surprise, Fr Mark interrupted him and asked him to take a seat. Tom said: “And here was I thinking I was saying Good Bye to my parish priest.”
There are not many times that ex Marine Commando Tom Cairns has been caught out by events but he was on that day! He was about to receive the award of the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal from Father Mark on behalf of Pope Francis, for his voluntary work in the parish of St Mary’s Peterhead, and his Chairmanship of the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Group. It was indeed an absolute shock and a best kept family secret for Tom.
Born in Greenock in 1950, Tom served in both 40 and 45 Royal Marine Commando from 1968 to 1973 and continued in the Reserves in Greenock from 1975 to 1983. What followed was a career as a prison officer including Governor grade until 2005. Appointed as Parish Pastoral Council Chairman to St Mary’s Peterhead in 2001, the various roles Tom has undertaken is a fitting testimony to his service to the church., not least as Parish safeguarding coordinator from 2005 and in various roles for the Diocese including sitting on the Diocesan Fabric Sub-Committee 2005, Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Team 2007 and Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Team Chairman since 2008.
When asked about his award Tom said “I’m extremely grateful to Fr Mark and Bishop Hugh for their nomination of me for this award. It is an immense honour to have received it.”
Father Mark Impson said: “I was very pleased to be able to present the Papal award to Tom, and it is a much deserved honour. He has been a great source of support to me, in parish and diocesan roles. I consider him both a colleague and a friend. I would also like to say thank you to his wife, Georgette, who supports Tom in the various roles he undertakes.”
Bishop for the Aberdeen Diocese, Hugh Gilbert OSB, said “I was delighted that Mr Tom Cairns has been honoured by the Holy Father in this way. His contribution to the life of his parish and of the diocese as a whole has been constantly generous, sensible, sensitive, reliable, effective and always combined with humour and humility. Our debt to him is great. This honour is more than deserved. We are all enriched by the presence of Tom.”