The quiet eye of a Jesuit

Father Browne’s Laois edited by E. E. O’Donnell (Messenger Publications, €15.00 hb / £17.64)

For the celebrated photographer Fr Francis Browne, as for his Jesuit editor, Laois largely means Emo Court, where generations of Jesuits passed their novitiate. Emo even has a small place in Irish literary history being the setting for Benedict Kielyís novel There was an Ancient House published in 1955. But that palatial residence (now in state ownership and open to visitors) provides only some of the images in this album. Others deal with life, work and play in the midland county, largely in the years between the 1930s and 1950s. One shows Irish soldiers in German-style helmets, then used by the Defense Forces, guarding Maryborough Railway station. The book is full of such things, revealing aspects of life in Ireland little known or quite forgotten. Once again we are indebted to the genius of the Jesuit artist photographer for his quiet eye and sensitive taste. But recall these are only a sample of the Browne archive of 42,000 images. There are many more treats to come. In 2012 a permanent exhibition of Fr  Browneís work was opened by the OPW at Emo Court, which is well worth a visit.