Ollie Deegan, Grouse (Purcell/Browne) and Mons Browne

In a recent email my friend Ollie Deegan stated:

I've finally got a chance to look at your website today and yeah, great pictures! You left out the dogs name - Grouse was his name, by the way. I can still hear Father Browne calling out "where's my grousy!"

I've got news for Ollie - Grouse originally belonged to my Uncle Mick.

Monsignor Maurice Browne

Mons. P. De Brun, Mrs M. McEntee, Cardinal M. Browne and Mons. M. Browne

Twenty years ago Monsignor Maurice Browne aged 86 retired as Parish Priest of Ballymore-Eustace and Hollywood. The Monsignor came to the Parish in 1951 following the death of Father Hurley. To celebrate his retirement a special edition of the Ballymore Echo was published devoted exclusively to the life of the Monsignor and featuring photos of himself, his family and friends several of these photos were taken by Tom Turner who for many years was Ballymore's ace photographer. Contributions were made to this lovely memento by Don Ryan, Father John Dunphy, Pauline Daly and Michael Conway N.T. The main feature of the tribute was an interview with the Monsignor the interviewers being Jimmy McLoughlin, Bolabeg and P.J. Rudden who at the time worked at the Filter Beds with Dublin Corporation .

Monsignor was a native of Grangemockler, Co. Tipperary and was the fourth child and third son of School Teacher Maurice Browne and Kate Fitzgerald. His eldest sister Margaret Bridget died in infancy. His brother David became a Cardinal. His brother Padraig became an eminent Professor and a Monsignor. His sister Margaret was a University Lecturer and was married to Sean MacEntee who served as a Government Minister. His youngest brother John died from complications arising after an injury he received while playing football when he was only 25.

This year Grangemockler celebrated the centenary of the building of it present Catholic Church. To mark the occasion various events were held including the launching of a commemorative book and an exhibition of old photos and newspaper articles. The Browne family featured prominently in both the exhibition and the book. The exhibition was held in the Grangemockler Community Hall which is opposite where the Browne family lived and beside the Church and Graveyard in which Monsignor's parents and brother John are buried.

As Monsignor Browne's immediate predecessors had been in poor health the Ballymore Church was in a run down condition and needed many repairs and improvements. The Parish was also in need of a Dispensary and new Schools in both Ballymore and Hollywood. Seeing these needs the Monsignor set about attending to them. Money was needed to deal with these problems. When it came to raising funds Monsignor Browne was an expert.

The main fund raiser was the weekly non-stop draw which was held in the old Band Hall which has been recently demolished . Monsignor, with the aid of Peter Lawlor of Truce Road who the Monsignor credited with the success of the non-stop, gathered together a dedicated group of promoters who visited all the houses in the Parish and collected the subscription of a shilling (5 New Pence). Maura Murphy of Alliganstown was the promoter who collected from our house. The top prize was ten pounds with a couple of smaller prizes. Concerts in the Band Hall was another means by which funds were raised. Annually around Christmas time the Parish Dance was held in Lawlor's Ballroom in Naas. This too helped to boost funds and was one of the social highlights of the Parish year.

The Church was surrounded by overgrown trees which blocked out the light. These were cut down and replaced by rose bushes. All of the windows in the Church were of the dark stained glass variety which gave the Church a gloomy atmosphere. The windows in the body and rear of the Church were replaced with brighter ones which were donated by various Parishioners. Storage heaters were installed and the Church itself was painted and many essential repairs were carried out.

The Dispensary was a small rented premises located on the Truce Road and was poorly equipped. My father who was the Dispensary Doctor was dependent on the generosity of nearby residents such as the Stensons ( the late Mrs. Anne McGarr of St Brigid's Park was formerly a Stenson ) and Doyles for such basics needs as boiling water for sterilising syringes. When Monsignor Browne persuaded the " powers that be" to built a new properly equipped Dispensary opposite Johnny McGuire's ( now Hugh O'Neill's) paper shop my father was very pleased indeed. The building of the Dispensary replaced a derelict site with a nice new building and enhanced the Chapel Street area of the village.

Over the years Paddy Barrett carried out a lot of work to the Church for the Monsignor. Others the Monsignor relied on for help were Eddie Deegan and Bill Doran. Eddie looked after the Christmas Crib and helped with the garden and other jobs at the Monsignor's house while Bill helped keep the Church grounds in order.

Within five years of the Monsignor's arrival in Ballymore the Parish could boast of a newly renovated Church, two new National Schools and a new Dispensary. What an achievement and what a man ! Great credit was due too to the people of Ballymore and Hollywood who in the hard times that were the fifties fully supported his efforts and gave freely of their time and money. During the years that Monsignor Browne was Parish Priest these premises were maintained in good order through constant diligent attention with the result that no further major expenditure of Parish funds was needed .

In 1953 Monsignor Browne published a chronicle relating to life in Ballymore andHollywood. Later on under the pen name of Joseph Brady he wrote a book called "The Big Sycamore" which was based on his family in his growing up years and was published in 1958 . Alas, the big sycamore referred to in the book title no longer exists. Two other books were to follow : "Monavalla" covering his time in Vallymount and "From a Presbytery Window" which covered the varied exploits of Father Kavanagh who served as Curate in Hollywood for many years. His second and third books were published in 1963 and 1971 respectively. In 1972 Monsignor Browne published another more ambitious Parish Chronicle.

Greyhounds and shooting were part of Monsignor Browne's life as was travel to places of religious significance. From our kitchen window he could be seen making his daily trip with his greyhounds through the lands belonging to the Ryan family on the other side of the Liffey. One particularly useful dog which he had was called "Makra Bibis" and it won the Callanan Cup at Harold's Cross. On that happy occasion Monsignor Browne's housekeeper Annie Messitt, my mother and sister Margaret were his proud guests of honour. He made a number of trips to the Holy Land and in his sermons afterwards he spoke glowingly of the various holy places he visited which were clearly a source of inspiration to him.

One of Ballymore's biggest occasions occurred when it hosted a special reception for the Monsignor's brother David on his first visit to Ballymore following his elevation to Cardinal in 1962. David's name in religion was Michael and at the time of his elevation he was the Master General of the Dominican Order a position he had held since 1955. A committee was formed and funds were raised out of which a beautiful specially designed carpet was bought and presented to the Cardinal for use in his new office in Rome. I recall that there was a very big turn out of parishioners. My mother served on the organising committee and was very proud of her involvement in the great day. For my own part I acted as one of the stewards.

During his 26 years as our Parish Priest Monsignor Browne was assisted by six different Curates in the Ballymore end of the Parish. The first was Father Eugene Crosbie, followed by Father Charles Scanlon, Father John O'Sullivan, Father Paddy Dowling, Father Paddy Kelly and finally Father Myles Christy. Father Crosbie was interested in Bridge and in the local Drama Group. Father Scanlon was a member of a business family from Balbriggan and after his time in Ballymore he also served in Hollywood.

Father O'Sullivan was a sports lover who played gaelic football with the local club. He also played golf and was interested in horse riding. Father Dowling on the other hand was interested in filming and flying. He was a capable administrator and remained in the Parish for about ten years. Like Father Dowling Father Kelly spent an extended period in the Parish and was very popular with all sections of the community. Father Christy whose favourite sermon expression was " Theologians ! God help us ! " was the serving Curate when the Monsignor retired. In Hollywood he was assisted by Fathers Tom Murphy, Thomas Randles, Charles Scanlon, Tom Kearney and John Dunphy. With the exception of Father Scanlon who had served in Ballymore and Father Tom Kearney who like myself was fond of horse racing I did not really know the other Hollywood Curates.

Having served as Parish Priest for 21 years the Parishioners marked the occasion by making a presentation to the Monsignor. The commemorative issue of the Ballymore Echo contains a photo showing Jack Lawler, Father Paddy Kelly and Mrs. Tommy Trundle making the presentation to the Monsignor on behalf of the Parishioners. A particularly poignant photo in that issue featured the Monsignor, Father Christy and Sean McGuire on the occasion of Sean's First Holy Communion in 1975. On Sunday the 10th July 1983 as our family basked in the summer sunshine in front of our home we were stunned to learn the sad news that Sean (aged 15) had lost his life in a drowning accident in the Golden Falls lake.

What manner of man was the Monsignor ? He was a formidable man as Hugh Leonard the author and playwright discovered when their paths crossed while Monsignor was a Senior Curate in Bray and again in his early days in Ballymore. These encounters are recorded in Hugh's autobiographical book " Out After Dark ". Couched in humorous terms Hugh's book also contained a very perceptive description of our former P.P.

Monsignor Browne was a man of deep and unwavering religious conviction. He was immensely practical and a lover of the outdoors. He had a hearing disability the result of a serious childhood illness. He was a big, big fan of St. Paul and of the Holy Land . He was a critic of the "Late, Late Show " or the " Late Show " as he called it. He was eloquent in both speech and literature . He was at ease with himself and with the world around him. He was a progressive man who greatly enriched our Parish during his years here.

One by one Monsignor Browne was to see his brothers and sister pass away. Padraig died aged 71 on 5th June 1960 and is buried in Glasnevin. David otherwise Michael died aged 84 on 31st March 1971and is buried in the Dominican Graveyard in Tallaght. Margaret died aged 84 on 6th September 1976 and is buried in Glasnevin. On 19th November 1979 Monsignor Maurice Browne himself died aged 88 and is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery, Ballymore-Eustace. His grave is just inside the gate on the right hand side.

By Matt Purcell (1997)

Click thumbnail for full size photo

Bridie Miley, Fr Kelly
Fr Dowling, Jack Lawler, Mons Browne, Maurice Boland

Eddie Deegan, P.J. Prendergast, Fr Kelly, Mons Browne

Fr Kearney, Mons Browne, Fr Dunphy