Starting in September 2011, this is essentially an article designed to attract anyone who might have further clues about the life and times of Miss. Judith Wogan Browne. Please let me know if you do!
Born in 1750, Judith Wogan-Browne was the elder daughter of Michael Browne, a Colonel in the French army, of Castlebrowne (now Clongowes Wood College). His great-grandfather was a Dublin barrister called John Browne (d. 1693) who scooped up the forfeited Eustace estates of Clongowes Wood, near Sallins, Co. Kildare, in the reign of Charles II.
In 1718, Michael’s father Stephen FitzWilliam Browne (d 3. July 1767) built a new house which he called Castlebrowne, now Clongowes. Eight years earlier, Stephen married Judith Wogan, daughter of his Catholic neighbours, John and Judith Wogan of Rathcoffey.
The Browne family were celebrated Wild Geese and both Michael’s younger brother Anthony Browne and Judith’s brother Michael Wogan-Browne served in the army of the King of Saxony. It is worth bearing in mind this anecdote which is said to have taken place at Castlebrowne in 1757, when Judith would have been seven years old. This concerned one of the Brownes, a Marshal in the Austrian service, who was killed in action at the battle of Prague in 1757.
‘A most circumstantial story is told in the records of the family, of the appearance of Marshal Browne at Clongowes on the day of his death. It appears that while he was abroad, the house was occupied by his two sisters, who, on the day in question, were upstairs engaged with needlework. Opening off the spacious hall of the mansion was a room, used as a laundry, which, on account of the necessary fire there, was a favourite resort for the servants. The door of this room, and also the hall door were open on this occasion, when the servants assembled there were much astonished to see enter the hall, an officer, fully accoutred, holding his hands to his breast, from which blood was flowing and staining his white uniform. Immediately afterwards they followed him upstairs to the room where the two Misses Browne were working, but no trace of him could be discovered there, and the two ladies stated that they had seen nothing, although they at once suspected that what the servants had seen was the apparition of their brother, who, they surmised, had met his death on some foreign battlefield. So confident were they that this was the case, that they forthwith ordered mourning, had Masses celebrated, and even held a wake with all the lavish hospitality of the Irish gentry in those days. A fortnight after this incident, a communication arrived at Clongowes from abroad informing the family of the Marshal's death at the battle of Prague, on the day and at the very hour when the servants had seen his apparition.’[i]
The Wogans are directly descended from Sir John Wogan, Chief Governor of Ireland in 1295 and 1310. Colonel Nicholas Wogan, a captain in Berwick's regiment of Irish infantry, lived at Rathcoffey and died shortly before 19.12.1770. He married Rose O'Neill (daughter & heiress of Sir Neill O'Neill, Bart) with whom he had a son, John Wogan of Rathcoffey (who married Helen Browne, d 1784, sister of Lord Kenmare) and two daughters, Frances (who was married circa 1735 to John Talbot of Malahide) and Catherine Wogan (who married Michael Browne and was mother to Judith Wogan-Browne).
Two of Judith’s aunts are said to have been Irish Dames at the Benedictine Convent in Ypres although it is unclear whether these were Wogans or Brownes.[ii] She was also related to Dr. James Wogan.
Michael and Catherine Browne had at least two sons, Thomas and Michael, and two daughters, Judith and Eliza.[iii] Judith Wogan-Browne’s oldest brother Thomas Wogan-Browne lived at Castlebrowne and was an amateur architect. He served as High Sheriff of Co. Kildare in 1789 and was involved in defeating the Defenders when they rose up in 1795.
Lord Cloncurry relays an anecdote from 1798 which claims Thomas was dismissed from his post as magistrate for deigning to start a football match between two local teams.
‘Living on the borders of Kildare, Meath, and Dublin, and fully qualified by his property and position, Wogan Browne was a magistrate for the three counties, and was at once highly popular and irreproachable in the performance of his magisterial duties. It happened, nevertheless, some time about the beginning of the year 1797, that he was, one Sunday, riding past a field where the country people were about to bold a football match. The whole assembly, of course, recognised, and paid their respects to him; and, at their request, he got off his horse, and opened the sports by giving the ball the first kick-a sort of friendly sanctioning of the amusements of their neighhours, which was then not unusual among the gentry in Ireland. The custom, however, was not approved of by the government; and Lord Chancellor Clare, upon being informed of what Wogan Browne had done, at once superseded him from the commission of the peace. He was afterwards restored by Chancellor Ponsonby, upon the accession of the ministry of "All the Talents;" but was again, without further cause, deprived of his commission for two of the counties, by Lord Chancellor Manners. This stupid insult, both to the individual and to the body of magistrates - for if Mr. Browne was unfit to be a justice of the peace for two counties, it was an insult to associate him with the magistrates of a third-was warmly resented by the gentry of Kildare, a large number of whom were only prevented from resigning their commissions by the earnest entreaties of Browne himself.’
Lord Cloncurry recalled Thomas as ‘a man of an extremely amiable disposition, and filled with the most ardent love for his country, and the most earnest desire to do his duty in all the relations of life.’ He also recalls ‘another occurrence in the history of Wogan Browne [which] shows how precarious was the hold which in those days such a man enjoyed of his life. He was, in the same year of '98, seized as a rebel, in the street of Naas, his county town, by some hostile soldiers, and a rope placed about his neck, for the purpose of hanging him, when the accidental arrival of a dragoon, with a letter addressed to him by the Lord Lieutenant, on public business, interrupted his captors in their work of murder.'
Thomas’s passion was architecture. As well as remodelling Castle Browne, he is believed to have overseen extensions to Malahide Court (where his Talbot cousins live) Ballinlough Castle in Co. Westmeath (where he also had family connections with the owner Hugh O'Reilly). His suggested improvements to Francis Johnston’s 1802 design plans for the Earl of Fingall’s enlargement of Killeen Castle, Co. Meath, were also accepted.
He served a second four-year period as a magistrate between 1806 and 1810. While his brother and sister were Catholic and he was a committed supporter of Catholic Emancipation, he was a Protestant. His last public appearance was a meeting of Protestant gentry a Naas in September 1811.
In 1812, Thomas Wogan-Browne died at Castle Browne, apparently by his own hand. He may have been married to a lady called Sarah Pearson, described as ‘a lady of considerable property in Westmoreland’ but they had no children. Lord Cloncurry recalls Wogan-Browne’s burial as another ‘illustration of a miserable phase of Irish society. He had been himself a Protestant; but his brother, who was a general in the Saxon service, and his sister, who, indeed, was a nun, were Roman Catholics. Upon these respective grounds, the two parties among his neighbours claimed the right of interring his body according to their particular customs; and they fought out the quarrel in the churchyard, over his coffin. Which party prevailed, I now forget; but this I know, that no man ever was buried, who, during life, exhibited or entertained less of sectarian rancour, or whose living feelings were less in unison with the passions that signalised his funeral.’
Above: Images of Lieut. Col. Francis Wogan Browne, a descendant of the General, from The Clongownian.
(Thanks to Kildare Library and Arts Services)
In 1812, Castle Browne and its encumbered estates passed to Thomas’s younger brother Lieut. Gen. Michael Wogan Browne of the Saxony army, sometime commander of the Guards and Governor of Dresden. Michael had served under Napoleon before Moscow (when he learned of his brothers’ suicide) and was later Aide-de-Camp to the King of Saxony. Content with his good progress in Saxony, he was unwilling to live in an Ireland without Catholic Emancipation. Indeed, he was spotted at a gathering in support of Daniel O’Connell in June 1813 in the theatre on Fishamble-street, as this account shows:
Above: The Irish Times, 20th February 1922,
reporting on Lieutenant Wogan Browne's murder.
(Thanks to Kildare Library and Arts Services)
‘Three cheers for Daniel O'Connell!" and once more the, little theatre echoes, rocks, and reechoes with applause. Look at that fine, military-looking, man, who is so warmly greeted by O'Connell. Chi shin? "Who is he?" His breast is covered with ribbons and stars and all the insignia of foreign chivalry. That is an Irish gentleman—as the babble of the crowd informs us—who has recently come over from Germany to follow to the grave the ashes of his brother, Wogan Browne, who has just died. He is first aide-de-camp to the king of Saxony. His shining sword and brilliant talents have cut for their exiled owner a difficult and perilous way to that distinction and those honours, which the grudging intolerance of a churlish aristocracy withholds from Irishmen in their own land. The proud bearing of this military exile—his eye of fire and lofty demeanour—render more remarkable the downcast look and humble bearing of a woollen manufacturer from the Liberties, who happens to stand near him.’[iv]
In March 1814, he sold the sold the castle, along with 219 acres, to a Fr. Peter Kenney SJ, heading a group of 14 Jesuits, for the sum of 16,000 pounds. The Jesuits restored the earlier name of the property, Clongowes Wood, and opened it as a college for the education of the sons of the Catholic nobility and gentry, in 1814. (Thomas Wogan Browne’s extensive and valuable library went under the hammer of Sheriff Thomas Finlay on October 31st 1812.)
He died on 27 February 1824 at the house of Peter Chaigneau.[v] His wife Augusta Frances was a daughter of Col. Thomas Prescott, Guards, and a granddaughter of the 1st Viscount Falmouth. She died at Tours, France, in October 30th 1857, aged 81.[vi] Their great-grandson Lt. John Hubert Wogan-Browne was murdered in 1922. For more on the 1922 tragedy, see James Durney, The Death of Wogan Browne.
Above: Mrs. C. Lillis (nee Wogan-Browne)
(Thanks to Kildare Library and Arts Services)
Judith lived to the ripe age of 98 and died on 6th June 1848. Educated at Ypres, she returned to her native land, and founded a little motherhouse convent of Brigidines in Tullow. ‘She was a profoundly religious Roman Catholic, and her good works, especially the Brigantine nuns at Tullow, among whom she lies buried, are famed throughout Kildare.’[vii]
‘When [Delany] went to Tullow as parish priest, she followed him to Ireland and took a house in Tullow in 1780. A rich woman with an overpowering personality, Wogan- Browne remained the bishop's intimate friend throughout his life.’[viii]
With thanks to Ann Power, Mario Corrigan & Tom Baugher.
See Freemans Journal, Saturday, June 13, 1868, p. 4, as well as records of the Wogan-Browne mausoleum here: http://www.igp-web.com/igparchives/ire/kildare/cemeteries/wogan-browne.txt
[i] 'The Neighbourhood of Dublin' by Weston St. John Joyce (third and enlarged edition 1920), Chapter XXIII.
[ii] 'Glimpses of Catholic Ireland in the eighteenth century: restoration of the daughters of St. Brigid by Most Rev. Dr. Delany', Margaret Gibbons, Daniel Delany (Bishop) (Browne and Nolan, 1932)
[iii] There may have had another son who may have left a son Wogan Christopher Browne. (A genealogical and heraldic history of the landed gentry of Ireland, Sir Bernard Burke, Harrison & sons, 1899, p. 50).
[iv] Life and times of Daniel O'Connell, Volume 1, William J. O'Neill Daunt (J. Mullany, 1867), p. 220.
[v] Freeman’s Journal, March 1st 1824; Asiatic journal and monthly miscellany, Volume 17, p. 477 (1824)
[vi] The Gentleman's magazine, Volume 203, p. 688.
[vii] James Joyce, In immaginie parole, Herbert Sherman Gorman (Rinehart, 1948).
[viii] The Transforming Power of the Nuns: Women, Religion, and Cultural Change in Ireland, 1750-1900, Mary Peckham Magray (Oxford University Press, 1998). See also, Mary Peckham's 'Catholic female congregations and religious change in Ireland, 1770-1870, Volume 1' (University of Wisconsin--Madison, 1993) and 'The Irish monthly, Volume 23' (McGlashan & Gill, 1895), p. 97.