by ehistoryadmin on January 18, 2017

Leinster Leader 30 December 1933


Founder a Distinguished Kildare Man

Our Lady Correspondent in the article hereunder describes the growth of the Central Catholic Library, Dublin, from a humble opening. To-day the Library is one of the best of its kind in the world. The founder, Father Stephen J. Brown, S.J., is a member of a popular and distinguished Naas family, his father, the late Mr. Stephen J. Brown, being, up to his death, head of the well-known Messrs. Brown and McCann, Solicitors.

As our correspondent points out, the Library was one of the institutions which grew up side by side with the establishment of the Free State. Three days after opening the Irish Civil War broke out and from the Library windows could be seen the flash of rifle fire as they shot their deadly bullets on either side of O’Connell Street.

Opened During Civil War

To-day at Rathfarmham Castle I talked with a man who played an important part in originating in Dublin a library for Catholic reading, writes our lady correspondent. He was the Rev. Father Stephen Brown, who comes from a well known and popular Naas family. The Central Catholic Library has moved from Hawkins St. to 71 Merrion Square where on Wednesday next, January the 3rd, will once more open its doors to the public. Over ten years ago this Library was founded by Father Stephen Brown, who was responsible in interesting a group of clergy and laity in the project of establishing a Central Catholic Library in Dublin. The sum available for the purpose amounted to £200. In December of 1921, rooms were secured over a shop at 34 Westmoreland Street. On the 1st January, 1922, a deputation from the Knights of St. Columbanus went to Milltown Park and proposed if they could have certain hours of the use of two inner rooms, they would subscribe half the rent which amounted to £100 per year. The offer was gladly accepted. Six months later, on June the 25th, 1922, the Library opened its doors to the public at 34 Westmoreland Street, with Father Stephen J. Brown as its Honorary Librarian. Three days after opening, the Irish Civil War began. From the Library could be seen the flashes of rifle fire as they spat their deadly bullets on either side of O’Connell Street. In the distance the boom of the great guns against the Four Courts could be heard, but the Library escaped destruction throughout the term of fighting. Then one day, a little more than a year after, the Library received notice to move, as the house was to be used for building purposes. Efforts to find new premises proved vain, and for a number of months the Library was obliged to take refuge in a disused stable. In January, 1924, new premises were found in Hawkins Street where the Library opened two months later. Here it remained till it moved to Merrion Square this month. Since its establishment a little over ten years ago the Library has built up a magnificent collection of learned books dealing with Catholic learning, of history, and culture. Many valuable gifts in book form have been presented to the Library not alone from Ireland, but France, Belgium, Italy, U.S.A., Spain and other continental countries. Unfortunately, the fire which broke out at the Library in March, 1932, destroyed two valuable collections almost entirely. The Healy Collection, presented by the late T. M. Healy, a former Governor-General, and works on Sacred Art and Archaeology. Here, free of charge, each day of the week, including Sundays and Holidays, visitors will find works dealing with every type of Catholic reading. Works also may be had in many types of languages. Periodicals of various countries, dealing with Catholic reading may also be obtained here. Interesting lectures by well-known people are given from time to time in connection with the Library. Father Stephen Brown has recently retired from the Librarianship, but still takes the keenest interest in the Library’s welfare.

Educated at Clongowes Wood College, Father Brown left College in 1891, and later entered the religious order of Jesuits. He spent two years in a Jesuit House in France and the Channel Islands as well as in England. Writing and the welfare of Irish Libraries are some of Father Stephen Brown’s chief interests. He has been on the Executive Board of the Library Association of Ireland since the start. Through his efforts the Catholic Writer’s Guild, and a Branch of the Catholic Union of International Studies was formed. Father Brown has a wide selection of books to his credit on various subjects including a series of Catholic Bibliographical Studies. Some of his other works include: A Guide to Books on Ireland, Poetry of Irish History, The World of Imagery, The Wells Springs, and many others.


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