Father Frank Browne SJ


1880 – 1960


Frank Browne was born in Cork in 1880. He attended Belvedere College and Castleknock College in Dublin, and, on leaving in 1897, set out on the Grand Tour of Europe. When he returned to Ireland, he joined the Jesuits and spent three years in the Royal University in Dublin where one of his classmates was James Joyce, a fellow Belvederian.


Frank studied philosophy in Italy 1903 – 1906, and returned to Belvedere College to teach for five years. He studied theology in Milltown Park in Dublin from 1911 to 1916, and, in April 1912, he was given by his uncle Robert (the Bishop of Cloyne) the present of a ticket for the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic, sailing from Southampton to Cherbourg to Cobh.


While on board, an American millionaire offered to pay Frank’s way for the remainder of the voyage to New York, but his Jesuit Superior refused permission brusquely in a telegram: “Get off that ship – Provincial”. However, while on board, Father Frank Browne had taken the last photographs of the Titanic and Captain Edward Smith, and these were printed in newspapers around the world following the disaster.


In 1916, following his ordination to the priesthood the previous year, Frank volunteered for service as chaplain to the Irish Guards. He served on the Western Front during the First World War, and rose to the rank of Major. He was wounded five times and awarded the Military Cross and Bar, and the Belgian Croix de Guerre, for his bravery.


After the war, he returned to Dublin and Belvedere College and in 1922 was appointed superior of Gardiner Street Church. Always dogged by poor health, it was thought that he might benefit by a stay in a warm climate and so he travelled to Australia in 1924, and over the next few years made a wide-ranging and extensive collection of photographs of life in Australia, both in the city and the outback.


On returning to Ireland, in 1929 he became a member of the Missions and Retreats staff in Ireland, and was based from the 1930s until 1957 at Emo Court Co Laois which had become the Jesuit novitiate St Mary’s. He took over 5000 photos at St Mary’s and in Co Laois, illustrating both religious life and country life between 1930 and 1957. He also photographed many other parts of Ireland during that time, and travelled abroad. Father Frank Browne died in 1960 and is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. It is estimated that he took over 42,000 photographs in his lifetime.


Father Browne’s great collection of negatives was discovered by chance in a tin trunk by Father E E O’Donnell SJ in 1986. Many were of poor quality or were damaged, but a fine collection has now been assembled , thanks to the expertise of David Davison and the generosity of the Allied Irish Bank.


Link to www.fatherbrowne.com

Link to www.jesuit.ie