Browne, Maurice (1892–1979), priest and novelist, was born in Grangemockler, Co. Tipperary, son of Maurice Browne, schoolteacher, and Catherine Browne (née Fitzgerald). Educated at Rockwell and then Clonliffe Colleges, he was ordained from Maynooth as a priest in the Dublin diocese in 1917. He was subsequently appointed to two Co. Wicklow parishes, as curate of Blackditches, near Blessington, and then as senior curate of Bray. The playwright Hugh Leonard (qv) remembered him as a tall, balding man, censorious but with a sharp, autocratic intelligence. A keen huntsman, he regularly walked the local mountains with dogs that he trained for competitive field trials. His three-act comedy ‘Won by a whisker’ (1945) reflects his interest in greyhound-breeding; one of his dogs won the Callanan Cup at Harold's Cross. A republican, he had contact with Dr Jim Ryan (qv), later a minister for agriculture, when Ryan was on the run during the Anglo–Irish war. Such experiences informed much of his later writing. ‘Prelude to victory’ (1950), a three-act play, contrasts rural Irish piety with the barbarism of raiding Auxiliaries. A melodrama, it is, however, useful evidence of some clergy's nationalist outlook during the period immediately prior to independence. Appointed (1951) parish priest to Ballymore Eustace, Co. Kildare, he remained there until his retirement (1974). The big sycamore (1958) was his most popular novel and is prefaced with an epigram poem by his sister Margaret MacEntee (d. 1976). Set around the village of Letterlee, it is sentimental, devout, and highly conservative, especially as regards the status of women. Its sequel, In Monavalla (1963), charts the trials of the young priest Martin Fitzgerald as he travels from Ireland to America and back. The semi-autobiographical From a presbytery window (1971) takes much of its subject matter from Browne's experience as a young priest. Parish card-games and clerical eccentricities are remembered with great humour and devotion. ‘Saint Paul’ (1975), a four-scene play, was produced at the Gaiety Theatre; an unpublished typescript is held by the NLI. Having travelled widely in the Holy Land throughout his life, he ended his religious career a monsignor and retired to Cnoc Avon, Ballymore Eustace, where he died on 19 November 1979. Cardinal Michael Browne (qv) and Monsignor Pádraig de Brún (qv) were his brothers.
Maurice Browne, ‘Doctor C. M. O'Brien’, St Anne's Hospital (n.d.); Ir. Times, 1 Apr., 20 Nov. 1979; Ir. Independent, 20 Nov. 1979; Irish Catholic Directory 1979; Patrick Hammell, Maynooth students and ordinations 1895–1984 (1985); Hugh Leonard, Out after dark (1989); Séamas Ó Maitiú and Barry O'Reilly, Ballynocken (1997)