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Thursday 18 September 2014

Kenny rights 82-year wrong by honouring Irish inventor

Shane Hickey London

Published 12/03/2014 | 02:30

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Enda Kenny, left, with Australia's Commander Dylan Findlater, Brigadier General Paul Fry of the Irish Air Corps and Ireland's UK ambassador Daniel Mulhall at the at the grave of Irish inventor Louis Brennan
Irish inventor Louis Brennan

PLOT 2454 in St Mary's cemetery in Kensal Green was, until last week, an unfitting final resting place for a man described as one of the most internationally renowned inventors to have emerged from Ireland.

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Yesterday Taoiseach Enda Kenny sought to "redeem" the Irish people for leaving Louis Brennan in a "cold and small and anonymous" unmarked grave for 82 years.

He unveiled a headstone dedicated to the man credited with inventing the steerable torpedo and a monorail system.

Brennan, who was born in Castlebar, Co Mayo, in 1852, died in Switzerland in 1932 after gaining and losing a fortune.

He died after he was hit by a car in Montreux and was later buried in St Mary's cemetery in North London in an unmarked grave.

A group of history enthusiasts from Castlebar worked to get a headstone erected, culminating in a ceremony yesterday.

Mr Kenny, in London for a meeting with UK prime minister David Cameron, told the audience at a religious service that it was an honour to celebrate the life and achievements of "one of our own".

Brennan invented the idea of the steerable torpedo, the first practical guided missile, in 1874 and the patent was eventually bought by the British for the defence of harbours and channels.

He subsequently worked on the development of a monorail system which prompted Winston Churchill

to remark that "your invention promises to revolutionise the railway systems of the world".

Yesterday, the Taoiseach said his work on a helicopter showed he was not content to leave the idea of a flying machine to Leonardo da Vinci. "For 82 years, Louis Brennan lay in a grave that was not marked. His plot was 2454, a cold and small and anonymous resting place for a man whose work made such a mark on the world," he said.

LEGEND

"So I am pleased today that we have this opportunity to restore and publicly acknowledge the resting place of Louis Brennan. But also, in a sense, to redeem ourselves in that we left him here alone unknown for so long."

Karen Bobrow, a first cousin four times removed from the inventor who travelled from South Carolina for the ceremony, said he was as a "family legend".

A plaque commemorating the life of Mr Brennan was unveiled in the cemetery's oratory at the service which was attended by members of the Irish, British and Australian armed forces. Mr Brennan emigrated to Melbourne in 1861 and at least five of his siblings died in the Famine.

Plans are now under way to hold a Louis Brennan commemorative week in Castlebar.

Irish Independent

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