William Francis Browne was born in May 1876, third youngest of eight children, to Brigid Hegarty and James Browne, a wealthy flour merchant and a Tertiary of St. Dominic who lived in Buxton’s Place off Sundays Well in Cork city. His father was a brother of Bishop of Cloyne, Robert Browne. His mother, Brigid, was a daughter of James Hegarty, JP, a wealthy Tanner and property owner and Ellen Forde.
Completing his early education, he went to Clonliffe College in September 1895 at age 19 years, then spending two years at Vincentians Castleknock College from 1897 and a further two years at Irish College, Rome from 1899. Completing his religious studies, he was ordained on the 8th September 1902 in Fermoy by his uncle Most Rev. Dr. Robert Browne
He was appointed to Queenstown (Cobh) as Bishop’s Secretary to his uncle, Bishop Browne, from 1902 to 1930. He was then appointed as P.P. to Blarney from 28th April 1930 until his retirement due to ill-health on 17th November 1937. He died on the 7th February 1938.
His younger brother was Fr. Francis (Frank) M. Browne (3/1/1880-7/7/1960), photographer priest of ‘Titanic’ fame who often visited Blarney while William was P.P. there. Bishop Browne had presented William and Frank each with a camera and they went on a mainland Europe tour in 1897 when he graduated from Castleknock College.
Death notice printed in Cork Examiner Tuesday 8th February 1938
Browne – On February 7th 1938 in a Dublin Nursing Home, Rev. W.F. Browne (late P.P. Blarney). Funeral (private) after Mass at 10 o’clock in St. Francis Xavier’s, Upper Gardiner St, Dublin on to-morrow (Wednesday).
The following report was printed in Cork Examiner Tuesday 8th February 1938.
Rev. W.F. Browne – Death of Well-known Cloyne Priest – Late P.P. of Blarney.
Sorrow will be widespread in the Diocese of Cloyne to-day at the news of the death of the Rev. Wm. F. Browne, who passed away yesterday in Dublin after a serious operation. He was about 65 years of age.
The late Fr. Browne was best known for his long period of service as Secretary to the Bishop of Cloyne during the life time of his Lordship, Most Rev. Dr. Browne, and during that time he won the golden opinions of the people of Cove for his priestly zeal and the manner in which he discharged the duties of his responsible and onerous post.
He was born in Sunday’s Well, Cork, and came of a well-known Cork family, several of his brothers also distinguishing themselves in the professions. His earliest education was received at the hands of the nuns of the Convent La Sainte Union in Athlone, and he began his secondary education at the Christian Brothers College, Cork. After spending some years there, he went on to Farranferris, the Cork Diocesan College, and completed his studies for the priesthood at the Irish College in Rome, having spent a few years at Castleknock College. He was ordained in 1902 at Fermoy by his uncle, Most Rev. Dr. Browne, for the Diocese of Cloyne. He was immediately appointed Secretary to his Lordship and in this capacity, he acted for a period of nearly quarter of a century, giving the greatest help and assistance in all matters of Diocesan accounts and statistics and proving himself to be a most capable and highly efficient worker.
At the time of the consecration of St. Colman’s Cathedral in 1919, the late Fr. Browne did great work in the organisation which had to precede the actual ceremony, for which the clergy of Ireland gathered in great numbers, and the task of providing for the calls of the great occasion was no light one, but Fr. Browne rose magnificently to the occasion and earned the highest praise for all he did.
During his stay in Cove the late Fr. Browne endeared himself to the people of the town, not only by his constant devotion to his sacred duties, but also by his unfailing good humour, and his continuous desire to help them in all matters, no matter how trivial or late an hour of their call for his aid.
He was made a Curate of the Cathedral Parish some years prior to 1930, but continued to live in the Palace of his Lordship, Dr. Browne, and to help in the secretarial work, in which his assistance was invaluable, due to his remarkable ability for this work and long experience of it.
Pastor of Blarney.
In 1930 he was appointed as Parish Priest of Blarney, and there he spent the remaining years of his life. He did great parochial work there in renovating and beautifying the churches and parochial buildings of the parish. Among the churches in which he carried out this work were Blarney, Waterloo and Whitechurch.
Ill health caused his retirement from the duties of his pastor-ship in November 1937 and he then went to Dublin where he entered a nursing home. He had a serious operation some time ago, but did not recover his health and he died yesterday shortly after noon.
The late Fr. Browne travelled extensively in Europe and some of the other continents, and in addition he was a keen and skilful photographer and with graphic descriptions and excellent pictures he could entertain on the subject of his travels for hours. His sense of humour was without end and his company was always sought after.
His death will be mourned to-day not only in Cove and Blarney, where his duties brought him in close contact with the people of the parish, but also in many other parts of the county and outside districts which he visited, for to meet Fr. Browne was to know him for all time and his friendships were numerous and abiding.
To Most Rev. Dr. Roche, Bishop of Cloyne and to the clergy of the Diocese of Cloyne, as well as to the late Fr. Browne’s brother, Rev. F. Browne S.J. Dublin, and to his other relatives the deepest sympathy of the public will be tendered on the very great loss they have sustained.
The funeral takes place on to-morrow (Wednesday) after 10 o’clock Requiem Mass at St. Francis Zaire’s Church, Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin.
Regret at Cove.
Cove – Monday – Regret, deep and sincere was felt here to-night when it was learned that Rev. Fr. Browne had passed away after an operation.
Fr. Browne came here soon after he was ordained, and spent all the intervening years, with the exception of a few at Blarney, among the people of this town, all of whom he knew personally, and all of whom had the kindest regard for him.
Energy, untiring, was an outstanding characteristic of his, and he used it unsparingly on behalf of the people of Cove and the beautiful Cathedral.
To-night, its chime of bells, which he often played himself, resounded to the strains of Chopin’s March Funebre, with Dr. Staf Gebruers at clavier.
At the Women’s Confraternity meeting to-night, Dr. Staf Gebruers played another funeral march on the organ.
St. Colman’s Choral Union to-night passed a vote of sympathy with Fr. Browne’s relatives.
The Funeral report was printed in the Cork Examiner of Thursday February 10th 1938
Rev. W.F. Browne – Requiem Mass and Funeral in Dublin – Late Pastor of Blarney.
There was a large attendance of clergy at the funeral of Rev. W.F. Browne, late P.P. Blarney, which took place yesterday after Requiem Mass in St. Francis Xavier’s Church, Gardiner Street to Glasnevin Cemetery. The Mass was celebrated by Rev. J. Burke, Dean, U.C.D. and Rev. Father Browne S.J. (brother of the deceased) officiated at the graveside.
The chief mourners were – Rev. F.M. Browne S.J., and Dr. Browne (Brothers), Miss Browne (Sister); Dr. R. Martin (nephew); Miss A. Caulfield, Mr. & Mrs. R. O’Meara, Mr. and Mrs. McDonnell, Col. W.F. and Miss Hannin, Miss Kelly and Miss Scantlebury (relatives).