Catholic Church Kilsyth

Very Rev Monsignor James K. Brennan

Irishman Fr James Brennan was born at Ballyhale, County Kilkenny on the 29th November 1920 son of Patrick Brennan from Ballintee and Joanna m.s. Walsh from Ballyhale. He was educated at Ballyhale Primary School , St Kieran's Secondary School Kilkenny and at St Kiernan's Seminary College, Kilkenny.

He was ordained on 10th June 1945 for the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh by The Most Reverend Dr Collier, Bishop of Ossory and until his retirement, he spent all of his priestly life here in Scotland serving in 2 Dioceses.

His first position was as Assistant Priest at St Patrick’s in Edinburgh where he served between 1945 and 1947 before coming here to St Patrick’s Kilsyth where he served as one of several assistant Priests to Canon Downey and then after Canon Downey’s death,  Canon McGarvey.

Fr Brennan is remembered in Kilsyth as an outstandingly handsome man who was very interesting to speak with on a range of subjects and who was obviously academic. His lectures in the Parish halls during Lenten preparation, on the Life of Christ or aspects of the Gospel texts, were very popular in the post war years as people flocked to hear his views. He is also remembered as a great preacher and a Priest who could hold the full attention of the congregation throughout his detailed sermons.

Even in general conversation he was clearly as knowledgeable about secular matters as he was about religious affairs. One parishioner remembered that he was able to explain how both Radio and Television broadcasting worked for parishioners who were thinking about buying a television  or a radio for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953!

It came as no surprise therefore that after leaving St Patrick’s Kilsyth he was appointed as Spiritual Director of Blairs Junior Seminary in Aberdeenshire from 1961-1966, where he was to instruct the young seminarians. He was to return there just over a year later in 1967 as Rector of the Seminary where he stayed for a seven year period until 1974, having interspersed his periods at Blairs with a short stay as Parish Priest at St Mary’s Glenrothes in Fife.

After his tenure as Rector of Blairs he remained in the Diocese of Aberdeen from 1974-1977 at St Mary’s, Fochabers, as Parish Priest.  In 1977, he returned to the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh and indeed once again to the Deanery of St Ninian, to serve for 11 years as Parish Priest of St Alexander’s, Denny, until 1988. His final appointment in Scotland was to serve the parish of St Mary of the Assumption,  Bo’ness, as Parish Priest, where he was to eventually oversee the building of  the new church there.

He retired at the age of 74 to Ballyhale, County Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1995. Only a week before his death he was diagnosed with leukaemia. He died peacefully at 11.00am on Thursday 26th November 2009, at his home there. He was 88 years of age. His funeral took place from the Church of St Martin of Tours in Ballyhale in the Diocese of Ossary on Saturday 28th Nov 2009.

Right The Most Reverend, Dr Collier, Bishop of Ossory



This picture shows Fr James Brennan and Fr Francis Thomson as young priests in Kilsyth. It is likely dates to 1947/48 as that is the period when both priests were stationed in Kilsyth.
Fr Thomson later went on to become the Bishop of Motherwell.

Funeral Mass of monsignor James K Brennan at St Martin's Church, Ballyhale, Co Kilkenny, Ireland.
Homily preached by Father Eamon Aylward, Saturday 28th November 2009.

Introduction: We give thanks for the life of my uncle. Good man and good priest who dedicated his life to God's people and to those in need.

Homily: My uncle Jim Brennan was born in the house in the next field to this church, and now after a full and eventful life he returns here for us to bid him farewell from this earth. In saying goodbye we remember that "he whom we love and lose is no longer where he was before, he is now wherever we are".

He was the youngest of six siblings , all of whom are now deceased. Only two of the six siblings had children, his two sisters Eileen and Maureen - my mother. Eileen married into the Washes of Kilcready and my mother married Ned Aylward and they lived in Dublin. He had eight nieces and nephew's between Kilcready and Dublin. He was ordained in St Kieran's College in 1945 and spent all of his priestly life in the Archdiocese of St Andrew's and Edinburgh in Scotland, until his return to Kilcready on his retirement. His various pastoral appointments in Scotland you will find in the Mass booklet.

Most of us when attending the funeral of anyone, we go because we feel for the void, the pain left in our own lives because of the death of someone close, or we feel the pain left in the hearts of our friends or neighbours through their experience of death. Death forces us if you like, to a recognition of our connectedness to one another as a human community. Death invites us to come out of ourselves to reach out to others. The people who grieve experience the concern, the support and the love of others, which as we all know is of great assistance in our grief. And those who offer that support and concern for us, feel good in themselves in having reached out or feel part of something bigger than themselves. While all of this is very positive, uplifting and good, I believe that an experience of death, a funeral, also provides all of us to reflect on our own immortality - our own death. Quite often, some of us choose not to go there. We reflect on our own death not to be morbid, no - it is because this reflection points us back to our own life, to the choices we are making , to what is important and what is not important. there are some very hopeful and helpful words in our scriptures today to assist us in this reflection.

Isaiah: "Will prepare for all the people a banquet of rich food". Offering us hope beyond the immortality we experience. "Remove mourning, destroy death, wipe away the tears from every cheek, take away the peoples shame". This is especially relevant for us today in our grief and in the shame we sometimes feel as a Church in the light of the recent scandalous revelations. The road ahead of our grief and our shame is trust in the person of Jesus and the message he proclaimed to us. "We exult and we rejoice that he has saved us". In the suffering difficulties of life we can have that confidence that we are saved.

Romans: "Everyone moved by the Spirit is a child of God". My uncle through his baptism in this Church and the support he received from his family and the local community here in Ballyhale, was moved by the Spirit and had that sense of being a child of God. "The spirit you received is not the Spirit of salves bringing fear into your lives again". Undoubtedly his sense of vocation was motivated by that sense of being a child of God. In placing himself at the service of others as a priest, he saw his task in life as bringing hope through the message of Jesus and in lifting fear from the lives of those he served.

General: On his holidays he usually spent an overnight in our house in Dublin before leaving for Kilkenny. A lasting memory for me and my siblings as a child, was the yearly visit to Cleary's to pick out any toy we wanted. We were jealous of our three cousins in Kilcready, as he would spend all the summer with them, most summers when school was finnished we would head down to the country to join our uncle.

As children, because of the presence of our uncle, summer for us meant car trips to the sea at Tramore; Ice creams, sweets and summer projects often planned for the year before - e.g. taking the old grey Massey Fergusson completely apart. I can still remember the anticipation waiting to see if it worked when we first turned the ignition after putting it all back together again.

A private - intelligent - knowledgeable man.

Interests in everything - interests in Kilkenny and Shamrocks hurling club.

We also know that he had a dark side, that at times especially in later life, he could be grumpy and preoccupied with himself. But it really was and still is an inspiration to me to have witnessed that he was aware of this weakness, his own sinfulness, and that he regularly sought forgiveness. "It is the Spirit which makes us cry our 'Father' sharing his sufferings so as to share his glory."

"Whole of creation is eagerly waiting for God".

"Creation still retains the hope of being freed from slaveryto decadence, to enjoy the same freedom and Glory as the children of God".

Whole of creation is groaning in one great act of giving birth. The groaning continues in our own lives.

Change. Consider the incredible changes in uncles live and how he coped and adapted to them. In his childhood the effects of the great depression would have been felt, the Irish Civil War and the effects of World War 2, the growth of Communism in China - where he had considered spending his life as a priest, the roaring 60's, Vatican II (as a young boy , I can remember many trips to Veritas for uncle to buy publications explaining Vatican II as he attempted to understand the renewal taking place in the Church), man on the moon, climate change, Vietnam war, famines etc. From the poverty of his childhood to the wealth of the Celtic Tiger. (The growth of Intel and their microchips, manufactured next door to one of the Parishes he served and his interest in all of that) and finally the economic collapse and the Church scandals.

All of theses massive changes he lived through in his life. He approached them with a deep faith and with an oipenness to learn. That process is still going on for each of us; we are part of that process of changeand the decissions we amke todayis forming that future that we are fashioning for oursevles and future generations. Creation does indeed continue to groan.

So as we honour the memory and the life of my Uncle, let us pray in this Mass that we will be guided by the same Spitit who guided him in life. That in the choices and decissions we make in lifethat they may be for the building up of the human family and God's kingdom here on earth.

St Paul: Creation still retains the hope of being freed. For those who believe, the whole of creation is eagerly waiting for God.

Monsignor Brennan retired as Parish Priest of Bo'ness in 1995. He had been ordained for the Archdioces in 1945. He had served in St patrick's Edinburgh (1945 - 1947); St patrick's Kilsyth (1947 - 1961). He was spiritual Director of St Mary's College, Blairs the national Junior Seminary for Scotland from 1961 - 1966; Parish Priest of St Mary Glenrothes (1966 - 1967); Rector of Blairs from 1967 to 1974.

After his tenure as Rector of Blairs, Monsignor Brennan remained in the Diocese of Aberdeen from 1974 - 1977 as the Parish Priest of Fochabers. In 1977 he was appointed to St Alexander's Denny until 1988 as parish Priest. Monsignor Brennan was transferred to St Mary's Bo'ness as Parish Priest in 1988 where he built the new church there. He retired to Kilkenny in 1995.

When he died he was 88 years of age.

By kind permission of the Catholic Directory for the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh 2011 edition, pages 153-156.


The Church of St Martin of Tours and graveyard Ballyhale
The Church of St Martin of Tours and graveyard, Ballyhale

Monsignor Brennan's Memorial Card

click on the image to see a larger copy

click on the image to see a larger copy

click on the image to see a larger copy

Order of service from Mgr Brennan's funeral Mass

click on the image to see a larger copy

Article in the Scottish Catholic Observer Dec 2009

God BlessYou!