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Mayo’s naval hero honoured

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Members of the 300 strong Mayo contingent
FLYING THE FLAG Members of the 300 strong Mayo contingent celebrate with students from the Almirante Brown School, Los Laureles, Rio Parana, Argentina at a ceremony to mark 150th Anniversary of the death of Admiral William Brown in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Saturday.  Pic: Keith Heneghan/Phocus.

Mayo’s naval hero honoured

Oliver Murphy

STANDING at Admiral William Brown’s graveside in Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1857, General Bartolome Mitre, the Minister of War, who later became President of the nation, stated in his eulogy: “Brown in his lifetime, standing on the stern of his ship, was worth a fleet to us”. 
It was indeed fitting then, that this courageous naval hero,  who was born in Foxford in 1777, and whose name symbolises the naval glories of the Argentine Republic, was honoured in both countries on Saturday last, the 150th anniversary of his death. 
In Recoleta Cemetery,  Buenos Aires, JJ O’Hara, President of the  Foxford Admiral Brown  Society, led a large Mayo delegation to the tomb of Admiral Brown, where a wreath-laying ceremony took place.   
A special Mass was also celebrated in his memory. The celebrants included Fr Joseph Gavin, CC and the congregation included more than 300 people who travelled from Mayo to mark the occasion. 
Although the major celebrations took place in Brown’s adopted country, a number of commemorations also took place in Ireland. In Brown’s home town of Foxford, ceremonies commenced with the celebration of Mass in St Michael’s Church, just yards from where, according to local folklore, the Brown family once  resided. 
The chief celebrant was Fr Chris Ginnelly, assisted by Fr Wolf and Canon Andy Johnston. In his homily, Fr Ginnelly highlighted aspects of Brown’s illustrious life, citing the fact that his uncle was a parish priest in Foxford, and was arrested for complicity in the events of 1798. 
A lone piper, John Coll, led the large gathering from the church to the nearby Brown Monument. The attendance was drawn from the local community, including members of the Foxford clergy, representatives of the Foxford Admiral Brown Society, members of Mayo County Council and An Garda Siochána, as well as members of the Castlebar-based Bata Fada Samba Band and members of the 4th Western Brigade Irish Army Band, which is based in Athlone. 
Following a number of speeches, a wreath-laying ceremony took place and the last post was sounded.  The Irish Naval Service was represented by Commander Mark Mellett, a native of Castlebar,  and included a number of officer cadets. Following the ceremonies a function took place in the Mayfly Hotel.
Later in the day, Foxford native  Declan Wallace led the commemorations in Dublin, which included a wreath-laying ceremony at the recently-erected Admiral Brown Monument, located at Sir John Rodgerson’s Quay.  The attendance included representatives of the Irish Naval Service and Argentine Embassy officials.
A ceremony also took place in Tralee in recognition of the donation of $500 that Admiral Brown forwarded to Daniel O’Connell, to assist with his efforts in achieving Catholic Emancipation for Ireland.
As the evening sun began to set behind Nephin mountain to the west of Foxford, it afforded an opportunity to reflect on  the events of the day and on the words of Argentine author,  Thomas N Hudson in his book entitled Admiral William Brown: Master of the River Plate.
“Brown will be remembered for his audacity, humanity, generosity, strength of character, leadership, perseverance, and worldliness,” wrote Hudson. “He won the respect of all who knew him.  The world could do with more William Browns.”