Father Francis Browne, SJ
Photographer of the Titanic



Fr. Browne on Irish Scott 1958
IRELAND, 2012 centenary of the sinking of the Titanic, Scott 1958

Francis ("Frank") Mary Hegarty Browne, Browne’s mother, died when he was young and his father when in his teens. His uncle Robert Browne, Bishop of Cloyne, acted as guardian to Frank and his siblings, four of whom entered religious life. When Frank completed his secondary education he decided to become a Jesuit. Immediately before entering the Order, Uncle Robert sent him on a grand tour of Europe and bought him a camera to record his trip. This visionary act was to reveal a natural aesthetic ability and fostered an interest in photography that was to reach fruition when Frank became the most outstanding Irish photographer of the first half of the Twentieth Century.

The bishop had another surprise up his sleeve, when in early 1912 he presented Frank with a first-class ticket for the maiden voyage of the Titanic to bring him as far as Cobh. So it was that on the morning of the 12 April 1912 he arrived at Waterloo Station in London to catch the Titanic Special. He immediately started taking photographs, first recording the train journey and then life aboard the Titanic on the initial section of the voyage. Having made friends with a wealthy American family he was offered a ticket for the remaining part of the journey and no doubt excitedly telegraphed a request for permission to go on to New York, to which he received the terse response "Get Off That Ship — Provincial!" That telegram not only saved Frank’s life but also meant that this unique record of the voyage was saved for posterity and guaranteed overnight fame for Frank Browne SJ.

It is estimated that Browne took over 42,000 photographs during his life. Twenty-three volumes of the photographs have now been published. The features editor of The Sunday Times of London called this "the photographic equivalent to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls."More

Several stamps show a photograph which includes Fr. Browne. The Titanic arrived in Queenstown, where Browne would disembark. As the tender America approached the Titanic's port gangway, a photo was taken by a Mr. Whyte of Queenstown which later appeared on a number of philatelic items. Browne was in this photo: the center figure of the three immediate forward of the four aft lifeboats (see the detail of the photo).

Photo of Fr. Browne on boat Titanic on Tuvalu Scott 1196
TUVALU, 2012, Scott 1196

Titanic on Angola stamp Titanic on Benin stamp Titanic on Irish Scott 1959 Titanic on Uganda stamp
ANGOLA, 1998, from a souvenir sheet of four stamps
2011, from a souvenir sheet of four stamps (also exists imperf)
IRELAND, 2012, from a set of four, Scott 1959
UGANDA, 2012, from a souvenir sheet of six stamps, Scott 1956b

Several of Fr. Browne's own photographs have appeared on stamps.

 Titanic on Benin stamp Titanic on Micronesia stamp
The last photo known photo of the Titanic (by Fr. Browne) as she left Queenstown at 1:55 PM on 11 April 1912
2011, from a souvenir sheet of four stamps for the centenary of the loss of the Titanic (also exists imperf)
MICRONESIA, 2012, Fr. Browne's photo is the last know one of the Titanic (see souvenir sheet below)

Micronesia S/S, Scott 969 Uganda S/S
MICRONESIA, 2012, last stamp on souvenir sheet, Scott 969c
2012, this souvenir sheet has three photos of note: the images taken by Browne of the Titanic in the selvage above the stamps,
that of a figure on the lower promenade deck (lower left stamp): and the picture that includes Browne (upper center), Scott 1956

Titanic on Irish Scott 1171a
IRELAND, 1999, the centenary of the loss of the Titanic, Scott 1172a

Titanic on Ireland Scott 1172b Titanic on Irfeland S/S
IRELAND, 1999,overprinted for the World Philatelic Expo in Australia, Scott 1172b, and the 1999 Irish National Stamp Exposition Dublin.

Titanic on Nevis Scott 1706 Titanic stowaway on Scott 1706a
NEVIS, 2012, from a souvenir sheet of four stamps, a photo by Fr. Browne showing some illegal trade in Queenstown Harbor, Scott 1706, 1706a

Titanic on Palau Scott 1087c Titanic on Uganda stamp
PALAU, 2012, a stamp from a Palau souvenir sheet shows Browne's photo of a solitary figure walking aft on the lower promenade deck of the Titanic, Scott 1087c
This is popularly believed to be Captain Edward John Smith, but it is more likely that the captain would have been on the bridge with the pilot as the ship had not yet reached open water.
2012, from a souvenir sheet of six stamps

Titanic on Canada first day cover Titanic on Ireland first day cover
CANADA, 2012 one official first day cover for the Titanic issue shows the same photograph of the walking figure.
IRELAND, 2012, a FDC from Ireland features Fr. Browne's photo of a young boy playing on the deck of the Titanic.
The boy is six-year old Robert Douglas Spedden of Tuxedo Park, who spins a top while his father Frederic watches.