'This set me off on a search for the genealogical records of the family '

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'This set me off on a search for the genealogical records of the family '


Harry Browne describes his family geneology and refers to Austin Clarke's autobiography for much of the source material concerning his family history.


Harry Browne


Trinity College Dublin




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In 2004 Sarah Jane and Liam presented us with our first grandchild Adam. This was a major and life changing event. Since then we have Luke and Emma, Sarah and Liam's children and Max born to Maeve and Marc Barry in 2011. Our little tribe is growing up like rose bushes around our feet. Some years ago I came into possession of family documents which had been preserved in our Aunt Alice's house. These are, in the main, papers relating to graves in Glasnevin Cemetery for the Browne family from 1834 until the present day. This set me off on a search for the genealogical records of the family, and using the Glasnevin records, Births, marriages and deaths of St James Parish records on <www.irishgenealogy.ie>, I have compiled the attached family tree comprising seven generations. The document is produced with the help of a computer website called <www.myheritage.com>. A primary source of information for this task was Austin Clarke's autobiography 'Twice Round the Black Church' which contains, in written form, much of the family lore which I heard from various sources when growing up. There is a persistent legend in our family that we are descended from the first protestant Archbishop of Dublin George Browne and Austin Clarke refers to him as follows: 'I fancied that the fall of my grandfather from grace had something to do with old Bishop Browne, whose name was familiar to me for I had heard it often. According to family legend, he was an ancestor of ours and had burned the National Relic of Ireland. This heirloom known as the Bachall losa and is noted in the Annals of the four Masters: 'The staff of Jesus which was in Dublin performing Miracles from the time of Patrick to that time and which was in the hand of Christ when he was among men' We are told, too, in the Trias Thaumaturga that it was enclosed in gold case made by Tassachus, the saint's goldsmith. George Browne has left a name of obloquy owing to that iconoclastic act, and recent historians have added to his shame in order to conceal the remarkable fact that During the reign of Henry VIII, all the members of the Hierarchy in Ireland, with two exceptions, renounced papal authority ' though most of them were native, in order to save their temporalities. Of the early life of this English Bishop little is known except the fact that he was an Austin clerk. He was a friend of Thomas Cromwell and eventually became Master General of the religious houses in England and is said to have celebrated the marriage between the King and Anne Boleyn. In the year 1538 he was sent over to Dublin where he was enthroned as Archbishop and became active in reform. He has been denied sincerity, yet his enemies admit that he was interested in the devotional use of the Irish language, collected many ancient manuscripts and set down his plans for a great University of Saint Patrick. However, on the accession of the Catholic Queen Mary, he was deprived of his See. So the reformer and iconoclast disappears from history with his wife and children. The older ceremonies were restored, ceremonies which his subordinate, Bishop Bale of Ossory, described as 'the apes and toys of anti - Christ, the bowings and beckings, kneeling, and knocking.' The place where Archbishop Browne burned the staff was Skinners' Row outside Christchurch Cathedral in the very year he came over to Dublin. All seemed conclusive to me, for I knew that my great - grandfather, Henry Browne, and my grandfather had been skinners in Watling Street which is not far from the spot of desecration.' Next referred to is my Great - Great Grandfather Henry Browne, a skinner in Dublin City and a member of the Skinner's Guild. 'In later years, my mother remained silent about her own early life and it seemed almost as if she had forgotten or dismissed it from her memory. Sometimes, however, she would speak to me of her own grandfather, Henry Browne, whom she had never seen, and I felt that he had been a legend to her long ago. Although the tanning industry was slowly declining owing to the export of live cattle to England, he was well - to - do and, following a lively Georgian custom, went over with his wife in style every year to Newmarket or other race meetings. He was eccentric in his later years, wore a wig of different colour every second day of the week, and had built at the back of his tannery in Watling Street, a tower for study, which was still known in my mother's childhood as Browne's Folly. Great - grandfather used to compose satiric ballads about other merchants with whom he had quarreled, have them printed as broadsheets, and sung by a ballad maker outside their premises in Thomas Street and the neighbourhood. His wife Maria Sherlock died in 1843 aged 42 years and he bought a vault in Glasnevin for ԣ31. 10s, a significant sum in those days. The vault is No 3 in the original O'Connell Circle in Glasnevin.' In 1835 a special Report on the City of Dublin was published by the Municipal Corporation Commission in which it stated - referring to the Guild of Tailors - 'that as the majority in the trade were not members of the Guild, it did not appear that the trade derive any advantage from the existence of the Guild'. This comment probably applied equally to other guilds including the Weavers' Guild. As a result of the Report, an Act was passed for the reform of the municipal system throughout Ireland. The Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act of 1840 marked the end of the guild system. After flourishing for more than 600 years, the guilds disappeared within one or two years, having lost their old civic franchise, which now was replaced by a more democratic system of election to civic government. (Only the guild known as the Company of Goldsmiths of Dublin survives and still protects the integrity and high standard of its craft. Its Guildhall is in the Assay Office, Dublin Castle.) Henry's son, William, followed his father's trade as a skinner, living in Watling Street and James Street. His fortunes seem to have declined with the increasing trade in live cattle to England and he appears to have died in genteel poverty in 1908. Austin Clarke's mother was a daughter of William's and my father was the son of his Eldest son. Clarke gives this tale regarding William in his latter days: 'The rich blood of the Brownes!' exclaimed my mother one day as the bread - knife, which she was using, slipped and cut one of her fingers. In alarm I saw the large drop forming itself and turned away hastily to hide the emotion which overcame me. In that moment, I realised for the first time our common blood and was aware of the many dead about whom I knew so little. I forgot how much I raged secretly against her when I was growing up, our incessant rows over religion, my bitterness when she seized and burned heretical books of mine, most of them in cheap reprints which I had to buy all over again. I knew, then, that I preferred that obstinacy of the Brownes, which was her pride, to the generosity and easy - going of my father. Her coldness and reserve would at last be mine also, and 1 saw clearly that it was her determination which saved us all from indigence in the Liberties of Dublin long before I was born. My mother's sudden exclamation that day reminded me of those early years in our Mountjoy Street home. Once a month, on Sunday, a bottle of stout appeared on the table when the cloth had been laid for the midday meal. Wrapping a napkin carefully around the nape, my mother drew the cork. Always I watched the small rite with interest, for l knew, then, that Grandfather Browne was coming. But the solitary black bottle with the tawny label, which had a harp on it, seemed to me in some obscure way a sign of evil. On that Sunday, every month, both the bottle of Guinness and grandfather Browne seemed to emerge from nowhere. I knew that he had become poor and was part time secretary of the Ancient Order of Foresters. The bold Sean O'Casey, last defender of our lay liberties, has mocked at the Foresters. He has despised their green coats white riding breeches and black top - boots, but it was a patriotic joy for us children to try and count several hundred Robert Emmet's marching past. There was a mystery about my grandfather and I knew that he was in disgrace. This was all the more surprising because he was so venerable in appearance, having a long white beard, small, pale blue eyes, a lofty brow and bald top. He spoke in a gentle way, and seemed to be in awe of my other. Often my sister Kathleen had told me that when she was smaller than I was at the time, he used to take her on his knee and make her promise that she would never become a nun. Despite his gentle wickedness, I gazed up at him with respect. Long ago he used to meet with other Fenian conspirators in the loft of a grain store in Thomas Street where Lord Edward Fitzgerald had been arrested by the Cruel Major Sirr at the beginning of the century. Beyond that, was a further past of his and I was well aware of it, for in our narrow hall there was a portrait of him in a heavy gilded frame as a lad beside his pony. On the opposite wall was another of my great - grandmother Ellen Dardis of County Meath. (Actually Austin's Grandmother) One Sunday the bottle of Guinness did not appear on the table. Soon afterwards I was aware of a quarrel among aunts. In the middle of overheard words, a sister whispered to me the dire offence of which our grandfather had been guilty. Some years before, he had married a widow who owned a fruitshop on Ormond Quay, near the corner at Capel Street Bridge. Had the medieval notion that second marriages are almost adulterous lingered Dublin or had my mother and her two sisters been shocked be of loyalty to their own mother, Ellen Dardis of County Meath, who died when they were all young? I cannot tell. But as a result of new dispute, the monthly bottle was never put on the table again Sometimes Kathleen and I, when we were sent on messages, would steal to the quayside shop, stare at the apples oranges in the window, peep through the doorway. The second wife was behind the counter, but we never saw Grandfather Browne again. One day, dozing by the fireside with his family papers around him, he fell forward towards the bars. The papers escaped burning that time, but the poor old man never recovered from the shock. An ignorant relative burned the family papers our grandfather kept in a small mahogany ox, parchments over which he had pored so long in his old age. Only one document survives, a genealogical roll which came into my possession some years ago. I unrolled it in much curiosity. with a pencil and form, he had traced sixty - two circles of the family descent and wrote within them so finely that I had to use a magnifying glass to read the forgotten names in faded ink. Having been trained by Jesuits from the age of seven, I am still unable to hold opinions with certainty and envy those who can trust in private judgment. 1 hoped to find the name and the century of the second turncoat in his family, the Browne who changed back to the older faith, the last of us to exercise private judgment'. Austin was obviously unaware that Archbishop George Browne recanted in the reign of Queen Mary and re - entered to Catholic Faith through the good offices of Cardinal Pole. the Queen dismissed him on the grounds that he was a married man and in response, he 'gave his wife to his manservant'. It did not save his job and he was later given a prebendary in Clonmethan in north Co Dublin. This post was worth ԣ638.00 per annum which was a salary that even the football stars of today would not turn up their noses at. Sadly the money has not trickled down through the years. Austin also has this to say about my Grandfather Maurice: 'My maternal uncles had all emigrated to the United States long before I was born, but one of them had come back and was a water inspector in my fathers office. He had learned to diet in the States and took for breakfast a raw onion in his stirabout and then broke a couple of eggs into his cup of cocoa. When he came home from work, he regaled himself with dandelion tea.. In consequence he lived to be well over eighty. Uncle Maurice had brought other interests with him from the New World to keep up his strength and give him pleasure. He had a mysterious contraption which emitted pin - and - needle shocks, and a phonograph with cylindrical records. Electricity was already home - made and I was always present when my father renewed the sal ammoniac in the glass jar of the battery which was used for the door bell. Soon we had electric fittings in the house but the switches, which were made of brass, could often be as painful to touch as Uncle Maurice's energy - giving machine.' My brother Brian has the pins and needles machine in his possession. It is a late 1800s contraption in a mahogany box, with metal handles which are held in both hands whilst another person turns a crank on the side. The machine delivers a mild electric shock and was sold as a miracle cure for all manner of ailments.


Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

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Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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