esteemed man of the people and the cloth
had been a cold and bitter winter and the wind from the
northeast held a promise of snow as the people of the townland
of Ballypierce, near Kildavin, in the parish of Clonegal,
Co. Carlow, prepared for Christmas in the year 1836. In
the home of Isaac and Mrs Eliza Brownrigg, a son was born
on December 23. This brought joy to the family for Christmas
and although they did not know it at the time, he was to
follow, and even surpass, members of the family who had
dedicated their lives to the service of God.
His uncle on his fathers side, Rev. Abraham Brownrigg,
was PP of Cloughbawn, Co. Wexford. The family decided to
call their son after his uncle and perhaps it was this that
in later life steered him on the course he decided to follow
and become a pillar of the church. On his mothers
side he had three uncles who also followed the ecclesiastical
path. They were Rev. James Canon Roche, PP Wexford, who
died in 1882, the Rev. Thomas Roche, PP Our Ladys
Island and Archdeacon of Ferns, who died in 1896, the Rev.
John J Roche, OSF Wexford. In his early days, Abraham Brownrigg
received his education locally and later at Tullow Monastery,
the Classical School, Richmond St, Dublin and St Peters
College, Wexford. While at Richmond St he had among his
schoolfellows a man who was later to become Archbishop of
Philadelphia, Most Rev. Dr Ryan.
From his days in St Peters he became involved in the
doings of Wexford and he entered Maynooth College for Logic
on August 8, 1856. At the end of that academic year his
high standard of learning and his ability to absorb an amazing
amount of knowledge secured for him the highly prized Solus
in English. He was ordained on the patronage of the feast
of St Joseph on April 21, 1861. He was then appointed Principal
of St Aidans Academy, Enniscorty, and later was Professor
in St Peters College Wexford. At this time the Bishop
of Ferns, Rev. Dr Furlong, felt there was a need for a revival
of the teaching of the church throughout the diocese. Following
on this, a group of priests came together in the Mission
House, Enniscorthy. Fr Brownrigg was a member of this group.
Following the promotion of the first superior of the house
of missions, Dr Warren, in 1876 to the See of Ferns, Dr
Brownrigg took over and was in charge until 1884. It was
in April of that year that 35 parish priests of Ossory met
in St Marys Cathedral to nominate a successor to Dr
Patrick Francis Moran who had been appointed Archbishop
of Sydney. The result of the vote was, Dignissimus Rev.
Michael J Murphy, President, Carlow College, 18 votes. Dignior
Rev Edward McDonald, DD, PP, St Canices and Vicar
Capitular, 14 votes. Rev. Thomas Hennessy, PP Inistioge,
3 votes. The result of this election was later set aside
in Rome and Dr Brownrigg was selected by the Pope to fill
this position by Papal Brief on October 28, 1884. He was
consecrated Bishop in St Marys Cathedral, Kilkenny,
assisted by Rev. James Lynch Coadjutor Bishop of Kildare
and Leighlin and Rev. James Brown, Bishop of Ferns, on December
14, 1884 nine days before his 48th birthday.
Despite the fact that he was now a busy man and had plenty
of calls upon his time, Abraham Brownrigg did not forget
the windswept slopes of Ballypierce or the schoolhouse in
Kildavin and always found time to visit the place of his
birth. His best remembered visit by the children of Kildavin
school was when, along with his cousin, the Church of Ireland
Rector of Killavney, Co. Wicklow, he visited the school
in 1895 and distributed sweets and fruit among the pupils.
To add icing to the cake he requested the teachers give
the children a half day.
Bishop Abraham Brownrigg died aged 92, 67 years after his
ordination and 44 years after his consecration as a Bishop.
The family name is still remembered in Brownriggs
Turn in Ballypierce.
Courtesy of Willie White and the Carlow Nationalist