Posts Tagged ‘Jesuit Father Frank Browne’

Jesuit’s Photo Album of Titanic Scheduled for Release at Centenary of Sinking

When Jesuit Father Eddie O’Donnell stumbled across over 40,000 negatives belonging to late Jesuit Father Frank Browne he would not have been able to envisage the significance of what he had just discovered.

Fr. Browne, widely recognized as a skilled photographer, was often described as Ireland’s answer to Cartier-Breson. He first started taking photographs in 1897 and did so until his death in 1960.

So what was included in these negatives? The invaluable collection of photographs and mementos, which had been sitting in a Dublin basement, featured one-of-a-kind images of the Titanic, before it departed on it’s first and final voyage. Upon realizing the discovery, a collection of the images was published in 1997 known as ‘Father Browne’s Titanic Album.’ As the 100th anniversary of the boat’s sinking approaches in April, many of the photographs in the book have been digitally re-mastered and new photographs have been added for the centenary edition of the book.

As the story goes, Fr. Browne boarded the Titanic in Southampton and several days later he was ordered off the boat in Cobh, County Cork in Ireland by his Jesuit Provincial. An American couple offered to pay his fare to America, but unbeknownst to Fr. Browne, when his superior requested that he return to Dublin, his life was potentially saved.

“When Father Browne’s superior ordered him off the ship it essentially saved his life because very few men travelling in first class survived the tragedy when the boat sank,” said Fr. O’Donnell. “While he was having a meal in the first class dining room he got chatting to a wealthy American couple. They liked Fr. Browne and asked him to stay on the Titanic with them until the boat reached New York. The American couple even offered to pay the rest of his fare to New York but Fr. Browne told them that his superior in Dublin would never allow it so he had to get off the ship when it stopped in Cobh.”

“The American man said to Fr. Browne, ‘come on down to the Marconi room and we’ll send him [the Jesuit superior] a Marconigram (a message sent via radio) and we’ll tell him that we’ll pay your way to New York’. When Fr. Browne went down to the Marconi room he took a picture. It was the only picture to be taken of the room – and any films you’ve ever seen that have had the Marconi room in it based it on Fr. Browne’s photograph.”

The telegram was sent by the wealthy Americans to the Irish superior of the Jesuits but after the Titanic stopped in Queenstown in Cobh, Fr. Browne was instructed to return to Dublin. The water near Queenstown in Cobh wasn’t deep enough for the Titanic to dock so the only way it could be reached was by another boat called the Ireland.

“The Ireland set off towards the Titanic with bags of mail and the 123 Irish passengers who boarded the ship. Captain Tobin was in charge of the Ireland and he had a small envelope addressed to Fr. Browne. Inside was a note with five words on it – it read: ‘Get Off That Ship – Provincial’.”

“Fr. Browne kept the note in his wallet for the rest of his life and said that it was the only time that holy obedience saved a man’s life,”  said O’Donnell

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