THE SINKING OF THE TITANIC
(April 14-15, 1912 – North Atlantic Ocean)
Father Francis Browne
(Jesuit Provincial Superior, Ireland)
The Official Story
FATHER FRANCIS BROWNE
(Jesuit Provincial Superior, Ireland)
Francis Patrick Mary Browne, SJ, MC & Bar (3 January 1880 – 7 July 1960) was a distinguished Irish Jesuit and a prolific photographer. His best known photographs are those of the RMS Titanic and its passengers and crew taken shortly before its sinking in 1912. He was decorated as a military chaplain during the First World War.
He spent his formative years at Bower Convent, Athlone (1888–91), Belvedere College (1891–92), Christian Brothers College, Cork (1892–1893), St. Vincent’s Castleknock College (1893–97), graduating in 1897. He went on the aforementioned tour of Europe, where he began taking photographs.
Upon his return to Ireland, he joined the Jesuits and spent two years in the novitiate at St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly. He attended the Royal University, Dublin, where he was a classmate of James Joyce, who featured him as Mr Browne the Jesuit in Finnegans Wake. In 1909, he visited Rome with his uncle and brother (a bishop and priest respectively), during which they had a private audience with Pope Pius X: the Pope allowed Browne to take his photograph. He studied theology at the Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy in Dublin from 1911 to 1916.
Aboard the Titanic
In April 1912 he received a present from his uncle: a ticket for the maiden voyage of RMS Titanic from Southampton, England, to Queenstown, Ireland, via Cherbourg, France. He travelled to Southampton via Liverpool and London, boarding the Titanic on the afternoon of 10 April 1912. He was booked in cabin no. A-37 on the Promenade Deck. Browne took dozens of photographs of life aboard Titanic on that day and the next morning; he shot pictures of the gymnasium, the Marconi room, the first-class dining saloon, his own cabin, and of passengers enjoying walks on the Promenade and Boat decks. He captured the last known images of many crew and passengers, including captain Edward J. Smith, gymnasium manager T. W. McCawley, engineer William Parr, Major Archibald Butt, writer Jacques Futrelle and numerous third-class passengers whose names are unknown.
During his voyage on the Titanic, Browne was befriended by an American millionaire couple who were seated at his table in the liner’s first-class dining saloon. They offered to pay his way to New York and back in return for Browne spending the voyage to New York in their company. Browne telegraphed his superior, requesting permission, but the reply was an unambiguous “GET OFF THAT SHIP – PROVINCIAL”.
Browne left the Titanic when she docked in Queenstown and returned to Dublin to continue his theological studies. When the news of the ship’s sinking reached him, he realised that his photos would be of great interest, and he negotiated their sale to various newspapers and news cartels. They appeared in publications around the world. The Eastman Kodak company subsequently gave him free film for life and Browne often contributed to The Kodak Magazine. It’s unknown what type of camera Browne used to shoot the famous photos aboard Titanic. Nor is it clear where the negatives are of the photographs Browne took on the ship.
Titanic (1997) – Stern Sinking Scene
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THE SOCIETY OF JESUS
The Society of Jesus (abbreviated SJ), also known as the Jesuits, is a religious order of the Catholic Church headquartered in Rome. It was founded by Ignatius of Loyola and six companions with the approval of Pope Paul III in 1540. The society is engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry in 112 nations. Jesuits work in education, research, and cultural pursuits. Jesuits also give retreats, minister in hospitals and parishes, sponsor direct social ministries, and promote ecumenical dialogue.
The Society of Jesus is consecrated under the patronage of Madonna della Strada, a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and it is led by a Superior General. The headquarters of the society, its General Curia, is in Rome. The historic curia of Ignatius is now part of the Collegio del Gesù attached to the Church of the Gesù, the Jesuit mother church.
Members of the Society of Jesus are expected to accept orders to go anywhere in the world, where they might be required to live in extreme conditions. This was so because Ignatius, its leading founder, was a nobleman who had a military background. Accordingly, the opening lines of the founding document declared that the society was founded for “whoever desires to serve as a soldier of God, to strive especially for the defense and propagation of the faith, and for the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine”. Jesuits are thus sometimes referred to colloquially as “God’s soldiers”, “God’s marines”, or “the Company”. The society participated in the Counter-Reformation and, later, in the implementation of the Second Vatican Council.