R.M.S. TITANIC readied for  sea trials.
The story of Father Francis Browne S.J. who was born in 1880 in Cork, Ireland, the youngest of eight children and Baptised Francis Mary Hegarty( his mother Brigid's Maiden name) Browne. Father Browne was to prove truly heroic and, for other reasons, famous. He survived his heroism to die at 80 years of age in 1960

Fame came to Francis Browne because of his hobby and a crotchety Religious Superior. Yet his early life seemed totally adverse. His mother died eight days after his birth. Then, at age nine he suffered the loss of his father in a drowning tragedy. He was raised by his father's brother, Robert Browne Bishop of Cloyne. The unfolding story could have been titled the Providence of God. Or Only a Priest would suffice.

It was Bishop Browne who gave young Francis a camera shortly before sending him off at age 17 on a European tour when he had graduated from Castleknock College. Upon returning from Europe, Francis joined the Jesuits and spent two years as a Novice. He then attended the Royal University in Dublin and was a classmate of James Joyce. (Joyce wove him into "Finnegan's Wake" as "Mr. Browne the Jesuit")

He studied Theology and Philosophy from 1911 to 1916. In 1912, his uncle the Bishop generously gave him a First Class ticket from Southampton back to Cork on a brand new gigantic ship's maiden voyage - R.M.S. TITANIC. Young Mr. Browne, by now an accomplished and enthusiastic photographer, took dozens of photos. His dining companions were a millionaire American couple who offered to pay his passage on to New York.

The last photograph of Titanic afloat - she sail into legend.

He sought permission from his Provincial by telegraph."GET OFF THAT SHIP - PROVINCIAL" Came the reply. And so it came to be, that young Mr. Browne left the ship at Cork and the world gained later a heroic Catholic Priest in due course AND the last photographs of TITANIC, her Captain and many of her passengers. On 31st July, 1915 the then 35yrs old Francis Browne was ordained Priest.

Father Browne became a Chaplain with the British Army in the Irish Guards in the one year old First World War. He saw service in the Battle of the Somme, at Messines Ridge, at Paschendaele and Ypres and Amiens, and in Flanders and in several other places. All of these names conjure up images of unrelieved horror

Father Francis Browne S.J. , M.C.
Father Browne's chaplaincy was no privileged ride - he was truly heroic - he was wounded five times during the war and his heroism under fire was acknowledged by the British Army awarding him the Military Cross and Bar for his valour in combat. Some of the photographs Father Browne took during the War have become classic definitive images of the great conflict, especially one entitled "Watch on the Rhine". He remained a Chaplain until 1920. His exertions and his constitution led to him being dogged by ill health. In 1924 he was sent from his appointment at the Gardiner St. Dublin church on a voyage to the drier climate of Australia, to restore his health.

A selection of Father Browne's photographs was published by the Sunday Times and numerous books of the photographs have been published by the Irish Jesuits to whom Father left his Estate. They have had the photographs restored professionally and digitally recorded for posterity.Who can tell how many soldiers of World War I's horrifying battlefields are in Heaven because of the ministrations of Father Browne S.J. at heroic risk to himself, amply evidenced by his wounds and by the formal decorations for valour given by the British Army? A true “Alter Christus “to those in danger of death, he offered his life to bring them Christ .God made him available per medium of a "crotchety Provincial"!


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