George William Browne
aged 65 years
I first got to know George when I came this diocese to be Rector of Derrylin a little over 12 years ago. Appreciated in the Parish. Became friends over the years, touched & honoured when Pearl told me that it was his wish that I should give the address today.
Sympathies to Pearl & the family, also to George’s sisters Annie & Margaret.
George Browne was born just over 65 years ago on 11 October 1942. He was the eldest of child of Samuel and Susan Browne and a source of great joy to them. Along with his sisters Annie and Margaret, George grew up on the family farm at Corgar, where indeed he lived his whole life.
George spent the whole of his education locally here at Oughteragh National School. He was an able boy, who loved to read and he obtained a scholarship that would have enabled him to attend Cavan Royal School. However there was plenty of work needing done on the farm and Sam felt that his son would be better employed working alongside him and so George’s lifetime career in farming began at the age of 14.
He never lost that interest in reading though, and devoured newspapers and books readily all his life. Indeed Pearl was just telling me yesterday that he could hardly bring himself even to throw a newspaper away in case there might be something in it that he might want to read again!
In boyhood days George also was fascinated by the trains that ran along the old narrow gauge railway that passed not so far from the back of the farm. It left him with a great interest in railways and indeed, when that stretch of railway was being closed down, George made sure that he had a ticket to travel on the last train that was to run on the line.
George took a great interest in the farm, and particularly in his cattle. He was a quiet, gentle sort of a man and he had a great love for the animals that were in his care. That applied equally to all creatures, whether you were talking about the latest new-born calf or the family cat or even the pheasant or the pigeon that had begun to visit regularly, because a soft-hearted George could be relied on as a source of food.
He was a good neighbour and a well thought-of member of the community. As in all farming communities, neighbours mean a great deal to one another, and George appreciated the friendship and support of his neighbours and was glad to be able to give a hand in return or to enjoy a chat with them when there was a moment or two to spare.
When he was just 18 years old, George joined the little Orange Lodge that met at Corgar. It was the beginning of a lifelong association with the Loyal Orders from which he gained so much in terms of friendship and interest. It goes without saying that he in turn gave a great deal in return, more than we could possibly mention today.
But George’s lifetime of service meant that he rose to prominence. He was Co. Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Leitrim, a position that he had occupied for the last 25 years. In addition, He was also Deputy Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution in Co. Cavan and a Past President of the Apprentice Boys Club in Cavan.
But though he took great pride in these positions, what meant most to him was the opportunities for friendship that he found in the various organisations. He loved to meet with others and he would travel the length of the country to attend a meeting or a service or a parade. I know from speaking to just a few of his friends in the Orders that he will be greatly missed there as in so many other spheres of life.
George first met Pearl through a family friendship with the McAdam family. Following Stephen McAdam’s tragic death, George’s friendship with Pearl took a new direction and in due course they were married on 4th June 1985. It was the beginning of a very happy and fulfilling twenty-two years of married life. And Pearl, George was so very conscious of the tremendous support that you were to him not only in his ministry, but in every aspect of life.
I mentioned earlier that George had a lifelong interest in farming, but he also did one or two other jobs as well. He spent a while working in the building trade with Jack Neill and then he worked for a time with McCartan Brothers of Newtowngore. He drove a lorry, delivering meal for them, and again it was a job that he loved because it brought him into contact with people. And, as all of us know, there was nothing that George enjoyed more than a chat and the opportunity to catch up on the latest news!
However, much as he enjoyed these jobs, George had always something else on his mind. He had from his earliest days been a faithful member of this parish. He had been involved in all aspects of it’s life from Sunday School to Select Vestry and the faith that was nurtured here played such an important part in his life.
Like Isaiah in our Old Testament reading today, George felt the call of God on his life, not only to be a faithful follower, but also to be one who was a preacher of Good News. It is over 30 years ago that he was first licensed as a lay reader by Bishop Edward Moore and in the years that followed, what service he gave to the parishes of this diocese!
It will not surprise you to know that George reckoned that he had led worship in every parish the length and breadth of the diocese. In difficult days when clergy were maybe even scarcer than they are now, George Browne would get in his car and drive here, there and everywhere, in fair weather and in storm to play his part in making sure that the worshipping life of the people continued. His sincere and faithful ministry was appreciated by all.
It was my privilege as Director of Ordinands to assist George through the process that led to selection, training and ordination as a member of the clergy. In this as in so many other aspects of his life George was very thorough and we spent many hours together as he prepared for interview, and then worked through coursework and essays. (Pearl sitting in the car outside!)
It was with a sense of great fulfilment that George was ordained deacon in Kilmore Cathedral in June 2002. He had done his training placement in Florencecourt with Mark Watson and after ordination went to work alongside Sue Patterson in the Kildallon & Arva groups, taking over the care of the parishes when Sue moved to be Dean of Killala, and latterly working also with Geoff Wilson in Swanlinbar as well. And he blossomed !.... George loved his work as an ordained minister. As the folk in those parishes will vouch for, He gave himself tirelessly in their service and in the service of the God who had called him. Like so many of our Non-Stipendiary Clergy, he worked long hours, and gave more of himself than would have been asked or expected.
He grew to love the people of those parishes in particular – he enjoyed visiting you, leading you in worship, sharing in the work of parish life with you. (He spoke recently to me about hoping that he could stay working in the Arva group)
And yet he still had wider ministry in the diocese, the connections made over the years meant he was a welcome visitor at harvests and other special occasions. On a personal note, George was a great help to me organising the duty rota for the diocese; on occasions he would rearrange his own rota to free a reader up to help me out, or indeed he would help out himself.
I think if I was asked to sum George up in one word it would be ‘faithful’. He was so dependable – if he said he would be somewhere or do something, you could be sure that it would happen. And that was what endeared him to so many.
George worked continuously, and he even kept going when his health was not as good as it ought to have been. And yet he was in good form over this last little while – many of you will have been in his company at the Senior Citizens party in Carrigallenon Thursday last, or at the GFS/ BB enrolment in Killeshandra on Friday evening.
His sudden passing on Sat morning, whilst working on the farm, has sent a shock through us all. What will we do, how will we cope, how do we face the future? Many answers will have to be worked out. George was a small man in stature, but he leaves a big gap in so many places.
George had a strong faith and a strong sense of call. In this time of loss let me just briefly share a few thoughts from scripture that I hope will strengthen and encourage us to face the days that lie ahead.
At a time when we feel so great a sense of loss, the faith that means so much to George teaches us that:
Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
God is real and present and passionately committed to us
Jesus given for us on the cross, as the perfect sacrifice for our sins
No condemnation for those who put their faith in Jesus – nothing to fear from the grave.