23 November 2011
Last updated at 17:36
Some of the finest photographs taken of the Titanic will feature in a new edition of Father Frank Browne’s Titanic Album which is to be launched at Cobh Heritage Centre in County Cork on Wednesday. The Jesuit's photographs were used by director James Cameron to reconstruct the ship for his 1997 blockbuster
The new edition is edited by Fr Eddie O’Donnell SJ, who discovered the 42,500 photos Fr Browne took over a lifetime. It will be launched by Una Reilly, chair of the Belfast Titanic Society. Descendents of the Titanic's passengers will also be there, along with representatives from Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast where the ship was built. In this photo a doctor examines the eyes of passengers before boarding
In 1912, while Frank Browne was a theology student in Dublin, his uncle sent him a ticket for the first leg of the Titanic's maiden voyage. He travelled on board from Southampton to Cherbourg and onto Queenstown, now Cobh, in County Cork. In this image, steerage passengers are getting settled on board
The future priest was offered the chance to stay on board the ship all the way to New York, but after seeking permission from his superior in Dublin, he was sent a telegram ordering him to "GET OFF THAT SHIP". Fr Eddie O’Donnell said the photographer kept the telegram in his wallet for the rest of his life telling people "it was the only time holy obedience ever saved a man’s life". In this photo, passengers await the arrival of mail
According to Fr O’Donnell, the father and son in this photograph survived the sinking of the ship, but he said: "Only six months later, the little lad was knocked down and killed by a car, a victim of modern transportation after all, and a few years later the father, having been rescued from the Atlantic, was drowned in his swimming pool"
The book has a foreword by Dr Robert Ballard who located the sunken ship in 1985, in the same month that Fr O'Donnell discovered his predecessor's photography collection. Dr Ballard said later that outside the window at the far left of this photograph of the gymnasium is where he landed his deep sea robot Jason Jr, for the very first time. "When he photographed through that curved window it showed that the machine is still standing all covered in what he calls rusticles," said Fr O'Donnell
This photo shows the interior of Fr Browne's cabin. According to Fr O'Donnell: "When Ballard found the Titanic, he discovered that it was in two pieces, nearly half a mile apart. The ship split in two right through Fr Browne’s suite of rooms. He was in 37a. The matching room on the other side of the grand staircase was inhabited by Thomas Andrews, the builder of Titanic from Harland and Wolff"
The photographs were restored by David Davison and his son Edwin. "They have done a tremendous job and I’m looking forward to seeing the results in book form," said Fr O'Donnell. "The Davisons say Fr Browne was a master photographer and a French magazine reviewing an exhibition of photographs at the Centre Pompidou said he had an unerring eye and was the Irish equivalent of Cartier Bresson"
After the ship sank, Fr Browne's photographs were printed in papers around the world and he gave talks on the tragedy. In a letter to the priest, the Liverpool head office of White Star tried an early form of damage limitation: “Dear Sir...We shall appreciate it if in any lectures you deliver you will abstain from any reference to the loss of the Titanic, as you will easily understand that we do not wish the memory of this calamity to be perpetuated.” Fr Browne went around giving Titanic lectures for the rest of his life.
The Titanic leaves port for the last time and makes her way into the cold north Atlantic, from where she would never return
After he was ordained in 1915, Fr Browne was assigned as chaplain to the Irish Guards in France and Flanders for the duration of World War I. According to Fr O'Donnell: "He was there until 1920 when he ended up as the most honoured Roman Catholic padre in the British Army having won the military cross and bar, the French Croix de Guerre and was personally handed the Belgian Croix de Guerre by the King of the Belgians – not bad for a non-combatant." All images courtesy of the Davison family and the Irish Jesuit Provincialate