Born: 19 December 1872, near Charleville, County Limerick
Entered: 30 March 1894, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Professed: 15 August 1905
Died: 24 February 1949, Dublin
Part of the Clongowes Wood College, Naas County Kildare community at the time of death.
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 24th Year No 2 1949
We regret to announce the death of Br. John Brennan in his fifty-third year in Clongowes. He had been failing during the past year but continued to do duty as infirmarian to the College until he was attacked by violent pains on the night of 12th February. He was taken to hospital in Dublin next morning and was operated upon two days later but he never really rallied and he died in the early morning of the 24th February, having received the Sacrament of Extreme Unction some days previously,
Br. Brennan's remains were brought to Clongowes on the evening of the 24th and were received by the Rector and Community in the presence of the boys. Fr. Rector celebrated the Requiem Mass next morning, and after the Absolutions bad been performed by Fr. Provincial, the funeral procession, headed by a guard of honour from the College F.C.A., proceeded down the front avenue to the College cemetery. Here Br. Brennan was finally laid to rest in the presence of all the boys of the College, many of the Past and a big gathering of Jesuits from Tullabeg, Emo and all the Dublin houses. May he rest in peace.
Irish Province News 24th Year No 3 1949
Br. John Brennan (1872-1894-1949)
Br. Brennan was born in County Limerick in 1872. In early life he was in business in Limerick City, and was at this time a keen oarsman. Entering the Society in 1894 he did his noviceship in Tullabeg, and in 1896 was sent to Clongowes as Infirmarian and Sacristan. In the early years he used to go each summer vacation to St. Vincent's Hospital for training and experience in the work to which he devoted his life, and which he was carrying on, despite declining strength, up to a fortnight before his death.
An Appreciation :
“Br. Brennan's services to Clongowes were so great and so constant that it is difficult for any individual to summarise them. When I first went to the school he was already a legend to me, for he had won the life-long affection and gratitude of my brother, while nursing him through a rheumatic fever which should have killed him. To me in those still pre-First-World-War years he seemed already a veteran, one of the ‘Big Three’ into which he fitted so smoothly that there seemed a natural link between Dr. O'Connor, Miss Elison and ‘The Brother’. We are often reminded of the feeling of security that buttressed our dated childhood, but, looking back in nothing does it seem more remarkable than in the confidence these three good people inspired. School life might be disturbing or anxious, exams, places on teams, ‘Reports’, all loomed up with the exaggerated importance youth can give trifles, but illness, and particularly serious illness gave one no worry, you just surrendered, responsibility ceased, they did the Test, and you knew they would do it perfectly. I really think they did.
Of course there was another side of Br. Brennan's activities. In healthy life you knew him not only as a member of the Big Three, but as an outstanding figure of the big Five or Six of which Br. O'Grady was the mystery man, and Br. Brady the most familiar, and of which most happily for Clongowes Brs. Corcoran and Tennell survive. With them you saw him in the distance sharing walks and duties, or just occasionally on the touch-line at an outmatch. He carved, he was sacristan of both chapels - clean linen and lace became him and floors as shinning as a good hospital, and a freshness and flowers and light, and a most unobtrusive figure with deft, swift movements of Monstrance, vase or cruets. He had that very rare gift in an Irishman, wonderful taste in the arrangement of flowers.
And of course in the surgery he presided twice daily over the oddest kind of club. While he worked away with pill, mixture and tonic, while the bandage unrolled and the scissors snipped and the sticking plaster was sparingly used and denied to urgent beggars, ‘The Brother’ was surrounded by a score of boys, all talking, squabbling, idle, but by some miracle, well-behaved and fairly happy. He never raised his voice, he never threatened, no never punished or invoked authority, he used no sanctions, either of privilege or affection, he was kind to all and the universal friend, but no boy could boast of intimacy or favours, yet he was everyone's favourite. He did not strike one as remote or aloof, but rather as armed with the invulnerable dignity of a soul completely self-possessed, dedicated and in harmony with his own way of life. It was a lesson and example invaluable to boys tacking and veering and jockeying for position, restless as yachts or race-horses before the face of life. So marked was this unruffled calm in Br. Brennan that it could be on odd occasions intensely irritating to an impatient nan at what be believed a crisis calling for action. But, looking back, it must be granted that ‘hasten slowly’ got Br. Brennan there every time.
The passing years of course affected this picture. He lost Miss Elison and The Doctor, but he found new and happy partnerships with Dr. Fay, whom he had treated in the Lower Line, and with every one of the succession of young and active Matrons with whom in recent times Clongowes has been so singularly blessed. A succession of Ministers valued him at his worth, and that meant highly. For the rest, years added to his status. He never laid down his arms, like Mr. Chips, but he became a tradition. It was not just the hospitality which in an unrationed age he dispensed on Union Days that made a little chat with him one of the first requests of all returning O.C.s. It is no disparagement of any man or his work to say that among the Old Boys of the dispersion there were more inquiries for Br. Brennan than for any of the masters or prefects whose role might once have seemed more conspicuous. More than one wrote annually or bi-annually for a score or more of years during which the friends had scarcely ever met.
So the years went by, more than fifty of them, in Clongowes, with perhaps diminishing external activity but quietly increasing affection, esteem, and even pride. And always that constancy of service to boy and man and God. Was Br. Brennan ever late of a morning ? Did he ever miss spiritual reading or Litanies? Well, certainly not to the observation of anyone. That we could all see. God alone, I think, saw the inner life of one, who was in such intimate touch with Fr. Fegan and Fr. Sullivan and a score of ‘saints’, who helped each one, and went his owu sure way to God. Now he has, with characteristic lack of fuss and delay, gone home at last. He leaves us, poor and mourning his absence but rich in memory and proud to have known and admired him”.