On the 10th April 1912 the newly built Titanic set out on her maiden voyage, departing from Southampton, England. She first called to Cherbourg in France before continuing onto Queenstown on Ireland’s south coast. The ship would never reach its final destination of New York, sinking in the cold Atlantic on April 15th 1912.
It was a generous present from his uncle that saw Fr. Francis Browne SJ get a place on the first leg of the maiden voyage of Titanic. And it was fortuitous for posterity as he was a prolific photographer and would document life onboard for passengers and crew on the Southampton to Queenstown (now Cobh) leg of that ultimately fateful voyage.
Fr. Browne’s photos stand as a unique window into the brief world of the Titanic and its passengers. After departing Queenstown, two days into its Atlantic crossing, Titanic struck an iceberg. These are the photos Fr Browne took before disembarking in Queenstown.
Boarding the Titanic at Southampton – Afternoon, 10th April 1912
He was booked in to cabin A37 on the Promenade Deck
Fr Browne’s first class cabin
Life jacket inspection
From the first class promenade, a view of passengers in second class
Steerage passengers getting settled on board
Playing games on the Deck
The father and son in the picture survived the sinking.
The Titanic had its own gymnasium
First class dining saloon
Fr Browne lived in Cork and had traveled to Southampton for the voyage that would return him home to Cork. During the trip he made the acquaintance of an American couple who enjoyed his company. They offered to pay Fr. Browne continued passage on the ship to New York and back if he were to spend it with them. Fr Brown contacted his superior requesting the temporary leave and the response he received was curt and unequivocal: “GET OFF THAT SHIP”. He did depart, history unfolded and Fr Brown would keep that 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”.
RMS Titanic leaves Cobh, bound for New York – 11 April 1912
History owes a debt of gratitude to Fr Eddie O’Donnell and David Davison and his son, Edwin. It was Fr Eddie O’Donnell who discovered Fr Browne’s huge collection of 45,000 photographs of Titanic and brought them to wider recognition. David and Edwin Davison, experts in photographic restoration, made a complete set of duplicate negatives and preserved the collection for posterity. Their full collection can be viewed at titanicphotographs.com