pupil the master of British propaganda
Heard the story about the son of a Tipperary IRB man and
founder of the GAA who became the First lord of the Admiralty
in England and a Privy Councillor?
The Jesuit educated lad from Templemore, who became a Tory
Member of Parliament, was named Brendan Bracken, born February
15, 1901. By the time he died on August 8, 1958, he was
the first Viscount Bracken of Christchurch, Hampshire. It
either shows what enterprise will do - or a Jesuit education.
For some reason the Jesuit College, Mungret, Co. Limerick,
were not too enthusiastic about their famous old boy.
Well, Brendan did run away from the school when he was 15
years old. Brendans father was James K. Bracken, a
building contractor from Templemore, who was a member of
the Irish Republican Brotherhood and one of the five founding
members of the GAA in 1884. He was the sculptor of the 1798
memorial that stands outside Clonmel Town Hall, finished
in 1904. He sometimes used the original Irish form of his
name Ó Breachcáin (speckled).
Brendans brother P.K. Bracken rose to be a superintendent
in the Garda Síochána in Tullamore. However,
Brendan was the black sheep of the family. Having run away
from school, he was sent to some relatives in Australia
to work on a sheep station.
Claiming he was younger than he was, he managed to talk
his way into the Australian public school Sedbergh and lasted
a term before being discovered. He later boasted about his
public school education.
His father died and his mother remarried. Brendan returned
to Ireland in 1919. He collected a small legacy and took
the boat for England. He was able to talk himself into a
journalistic job in London. Aged only 22 years Brendan was
invited to a luncheon given by J.L. Garvin, editor of The
Observer. Winston Churchill was one of the guests and Brendan
impressed the politician.
Brendan joined the Tory Party and became an election worker
for Churchill. He was also working for the publishers Eyre
and Spottiswode. With his panache and extraordinary business
sense he was soon a director of the company and bought publications
such as The Financial News, founded The Banker and acquired
control of the Investors Chronicle and Practitioner.
The young, carrot-red haired Irishman, with white skin,
freckles and black teeth - he apparently never bothered
about dental hygiene-had impressed the Tories. He won a
seat in Parliament for North Paddington in 1929 and stuck
firmly by the side of his mentor, Churchill. When Churchill
withdrew to the backbenches having disagreed with his partys
policy not to allow India to have greater self-government,
Brendan continued to support him.
Brendans loyalty to Churchill was firm. He became
known as Churchills chela - the Hindi
word for servant. It was rumoured that he was Churchills
illegitimate son. In spite of the fact that Brendan published
his Irish birth certificate in 1928 to counter stories of
his birth, the rumours caused Clementine Churchill to have
an intense dislike for the young Irishman.
From 1934 Brendan also supported Churchills calls
for rearmament and was vociferous in his attacks on Chamberlain
and appeasement and in 1940, he was made Churchills
Parliamentary Private Secretary and confident. Churchill,
as Prime Minister, appointed Brendan Minister of Information
in 1941. Claud Cockburn once remarked about Brendan that
he was a man so devious, even his natural hair looked
like a wig.
King George VI personally expressed his concern that an
Irishman, son of an IRB man, should be appointed a Government
Minister and member of the Privy Council. Churchill stood
up for his protégé and wrote to the King:
He has sometimes been almost my sole supporter in
the years when I have been striving to get this country
George VI gave in to Churchills wish. Brendan was
now in charge of what the British public could and could
not know about the war effort. He was Britains equivalent
of Josef Goebbels and his propaganda ministry. He was in
his element and did much work behind the scenes to bring
the United States into the war and was behind Churchills
offer to De Valéra of an immediate reunification
of Ireland if De Valéra declared war on Nazi Germany
and joined the Allies. It was an offer De Valéra
The popular myth that the British Government did not know
about the holocaust and the extermination camps until the
end of the war is exploded by an examination of the records
of Brendans Ministry.
On July 9, 1942, Brendan had declared the planned systematic
extermination of Europes Jews had begun and that 700,000
had been murdered in Poland. The name of Auschwitz was particularly
When the war in Europe ended in 1945 and the coalition government
dissolved, Churchill headed a caretaker government
in which Brendan was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty.
The country went to the polls and Britain rejected the Tories
and Churchill. Brendan returned to his business interests
becoming chairman of The Financial Times. Brendan soon returned
to the House of Commons as MP for Bournemouth, Christchurch.
In December, 1951, Churchill returned to power with an overall
majority of 17. He invited Brendan to join the Government.
Brendans health was not good. He was suffering from
sinusitis and minor ailments. He declined and in 1952 resigned
from politics accepting a peerage as the first Viscount
Bracken of Christchurch (Hampshire) - after his last constituency.
He died, unmarried, in London on August 8, 1958 and the
early age of 57 years. Brendan is even remembered in fiction
for he was the model for the character of Rex Mottramin
in Evelyn Waughs 1945 novel Brideshead Revisited.
It was a curious journey for the son of a Tipperary Republican.
While not the first, nor the last, Irishman to become an
English peer, Brendans career was certainly unique.
Courtesy of the Irish Post