Bishop Robert Browne surprised his nephew, Father Francis Browne, with a ticket on the Titanic, but only as far as Queenstown, her last stop before she would head for New York City. Father Browne brought along his new camera, also a gift from his uncle, to record his journey in photographs. When he met a couple traveling in first class who offered to pay his way to New York, he sent a telegram to his superiors to ask permission. The reply read, “Get off that ship!”
Francis Browne’s mother had died when he was less than one year old, and his father died when Francis was in his teens. His uncle, Bishop Browne, became his guardian, and at age 17, Francis began his training to become a Jesuit priest and attend Royal University in Dublin. He later taught college classes and continued his theological training up until 1912, when he received the Titanic ticket from his uncle, who had won a small amount of money in a libel award.
On board the Titanic, 32-year-old Father Browne photographed everything, from his stateroom to various activities on deck. He spent one night aboard, then disembarked in Queenstown the next day when he was refused permission to continue the journey. The order to leave the ship saved his life, as well as the many photos he took. They were the only photographs taken onboard the ship that have survived.
Crew aboard Titanic, posing in life vests
The last photograph of Titanic as she leaves Queenstown for New York
Three years after his Titanic voyage, Father Browne was ordained and joined the Irish Guards as chaplain. He became the most decorated chaplain in World War One, and continued to use his camera to tell the stories of his travels during the war years and beyond. He is recognized as Ireland’s greatest photographer from the first half of the 20th century. Father Browne died at the age of 79. For more information, visit www.Fatherbrowne.com.
(photo credits: Fatherbrowne.com and Encyclopedia Titanica)