Brenan, Martin (1901–82), priest and academic, was born 23 August 1901 at Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny, one of five children of John Brenan, a labourer, and Kate Brenan (née Butler). After studying at Maynooth College he was ordained a priest of the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin in 1926. Five years later he was appointed professor of education and catechetics at Maynooth College. The higher diploma in education programme in the college had been running for five years and Brenan was given the further responsibility of instructing students of theology in catechetics in both Irish and English.
Academically sharp and articulate, he had conservative views on educational theory and principle which led to occasional clashes with students who were exasperated with the status quo. He was liable to take umbrage if any of his views or actions were queried, though to his credit he continually encouraged students never to be afraid to write what they believed. In 1935 his doctoral thesis was published as Schools of Kildare and Leighlin 1775–1835, and a contemporary reviewer wrote that he ‘has done for one diocese what should be done for every diocese in Ireland before it is too late’ (IBL,67). During the 1930s he edited the catholic periodical Irish Ecclesiastical Record where he followed his own advice with a controversial series entitled ‘Whither Germany’, a stinging attack on the Third Reich which enraged Germanophiles, though he had refrained from signing the articles. A formidable, combative, and competitive character, he had an air of constant indignation about real or imagined affronts.
He was passionate about Maynooth and education, but in 1949 resigned from the college to become president of Carlow College and was subsequently appointed parish priest of Edenderry, Co. Offaly. His main recreations were bridge and golf. Having become senile in his latter years, he died 5 March 1982 at the parochial house in Edenderry.