Fr Denis Browne, by Margaret Sweeney of Lr Main St Glin and Dublin.
It is with a great sense of fondness and a deep sense of gratitude and privilege that we recall the wonderful memories that the name Fr. Denis Browne evokes.
Fr Browne arrived in Glin in his beloved red volkswagon, together with the gentle, smiling housekeeper Mary Anne and his playful happy dog Trixie. Very quickly both children and adults alike knew we were lucky to have been gifted this special human being and priest. In his own quiet yet friendly way he became the very core of the parish, ministering to the elderly with a kind of care and compassion that was exemplary yet understated, getting to know the strengths and needs of his parishioners and helping the youth to blossom and share experiences that were the stuff of dreams back then.
Being in the latter group at that time we felt the luckiest of all. Our summers were filled with the thrill of packing anything up to 12 small children into the volks (pre “health and safety” !!) during the school holidays and heading off to Banna strand, his beloved Béal, an odd time Ballybunion (which was full of undesirable and costly distractions like bumpercars and candyfloss) and sometimes as far as exotic Inch on the Dingle peninsula. We would spend the day swimming, playing in the sand, racing up and down the length of the beach and feast on sand and tomato sandwiches!! Oh the joy of it all. The journeys were always shortened by the variety of “in house” entertainment as we sang our way to our destinations, told jokes, solved riddles and chatted the carefree chat of childhood. And Fr. Browne himself would often join in with a gloriously out of tune rendition of a Johnny Cash song or his own version of a whistled tune from James Last. Bliss.
Very soon word spread, numbers grew and the need for a bigger mode of transport arrived to carry his motley crew on their trips. We could not believe our eyes when we saw the minibus complete with an amazing rolltop roof. This was the stuff of movies, beyond our wildest dreams. It hardly dawned on us to ask where or how he got it, but he did tell us that himself and a Fr. McNamee in Limerick city bought it to share….I don’t ever remember it not being at our disposal so I suppose the city crew managed without. There was no stopping us now and by the time many of us had finished primary school we had travelled the country, from the top of Torc Waterfall outside Killarney to the most northerly tip of Donegal, Malin Head. We explored the Burren, climbed Galty Mór, swam in Salthill, visited Yeats’ grave at Drumcliffe. We made headlines when we had the excitement of being stranded on Scattery Island on the day of the Munster final and had to be rescued by a pilot boat from Foynes. We got to know our country, to love our heritage, to explore our talents, all while having the very best of fun.
The discovery and development of talents was another wonder to behold. Fr Browne loved his camera and big reel projector, and perfecting his skills as a not so serious moviemaker filled many a pleasant hour for him. Filming the local festival’s fancy dress parade or cows chewing the cud on Meade’s Hill (sometimes speeded up or slowed down to match the carefully chosen, accompanying music) gave him an enormous sense of fun, satisfaction and pleasure. His converted garage became the cinema where we watched ourselves on big screen, where changes to the village were recorded when such things as the triangle at the bottom of the town was given a facelift, where evidence of Mr. Bill cycling across the Shannon estuary to Clare on his specially adapted bike could be seen again and again. Who needed Hollywood in those great days! We had Fr.Browne!
That garage was not only our cinema, it was also the place where the children congregated to practise our singing, drama, music for the many concerts and competitions Fr Browne got us involved in. We gathered willingly a couple of nights of the week to sing our songs and prepare to perform in local halls, nursing homes, rehab centres or competitions. Family bands were formed, a ventriloquist’s doll was bought and abilities were discovered and nurtured, so much so that in the Munster Talent Competition held in Ballylanders we swept the boards!!!!!
And it didn’t stop there! Fr Browne had a great love of athletics, fitness and general sense of well being….He was truly a man before his time and yet very much of his time. We were introduced to track and field events, racing, long jump, high jump, even throwing the discus, our very own Olympics. This brought us in contact with the children of his previous parish. The amazingly fast and athletic sisters, Ann and Grace O’Brien as well as Cathy Morrissey, all from Ballygran became the ones to beat and if memory serves me right was seldom achieved! But with Fr Browne it was never about the winning but simply about enjoying the taking part and that is why even the slowest of us loved the experiences and could happily disregard the challenge, while the talented deservedly had their many moments of glory.
We reminisce often of the glorious times we had with this amazing man, who was so generous in spirit, so kind, so honest and honourable and so much fun. Our childhood was special because of him. To this day we feel a deep sense of gratitude and have an abiding sense of appreciation of all that he did with us and for us. He was a walking(often running) saint and a privilege to know.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.
RIP Fr BRowne:The Very Rev. Fr Denis Browne, PP retired parish priest of the combined parishes of Castletown/Ballyagran/Colmanswell was called to his eternal reward on Wednesday December 11 2014, at Milford House, Limerick.
The late Fr Denis will be fondly remembered by every parish he ministered as the very lovable, gentle dispositioned and forgiving Catholic curate and subsequently a very unassuming Cannon and parish priestt until his retirement in 2004.
From Castletown/Ballagran, Fr Browne’s 10 year term in Granagh/Ballingarry was remarkably productive as he settled into very organisations ambitions and achievements in the parish.
His arrival in Granagh had an almost immediate tonic effect on the promotion of local athletics and in general terms during the 1960s, the local athletic club could be said to been one of the top parish athletic clubs in Ireland catering for all aspects/grades of athletics, which was the result of Fr Browne’s outstanding encouraging promotions in the parish and county.
As spiritual director of the Pioneer Total Abstinence association, Fr Browne had an unequalled encouraging approach that endeared himself to the stranger as if they were his very own flock while his addresses to the PTA meetings had the most admirable gentleness of delivery, like his Sunday sermons, they also contained an unshakeable Christian message for all to adhere to.
Our sincere sympathy to his relations and thousands of friends in the athletic fields, pioneer association, clergy and religious orders.
May he rest in eternal peace.