Death of Mgr. O'Connor : He inspired G.K.'s 'detective'
MGR. JOHN O'CONNOR, G. K. Chesterton's " Father Brown."' who for 32 years wa.s parish priest of St. Cuthbert's, Bradford, died on February 7 in his 82nd year.
We pttblish below an appreciation by Mr. Edward Macdonald, who was for years associated with Chesterton and who knew " Father Brown" well, ANY newspaper reports of the death last Thursday of Mgr. John O'Connor referred to him solely as the originator of the "Father Brown " stories.
Certainly the reference recalled a famous friendship, but there was far more than that to be said of the " wise and witty Irishman " (as G.K.C. described him) who received Chesterton into the Church.
number of intimate friends in public life, in literature and in the arts.
First and foremost, however, he was a beloved parish priest. whose parish will always beat the stamp of Iris personality.
Indeed it was the principal difference between Mgr. O'C onnor and " Father Brown." that the latter's adventures occurred anywhere but in his own parish.
What "Father Brown's" Bishops thought of his trips to London, to the West Country. and to America was never recorded,
Mgr, O'Connor, although he travelled widely, was seldom absent for long from his adopted Bradford, where he was constantly at the cal! of his parishioners, and where he won the affection as well as the respect of the community at large.
Of his many-sided genius Chesterton had much to say in his " Autobiography" and the tribute there published could have been added to by other famous men.
Sir Richard Terry once described to me a gathering at which eminent musicians were present, Fr. O'Connor, as he then was, held their attention as he talked on the music of the Church, and ended by singing the Salve Regina—which was encored,
I can recall myself an occasion when we both were visiting a religious house. Conversation turned during the evening to the pictures hanging in the refectory.
Fr. O'Connor insisted that one painting, highly prized, was an inferior copy but that another lightly regarded was an original of much greater value.
His opinion carried such weight that the paintings were re-examined and he was proved to be right.
When I saw him last. on the eve of his eightieth birthday. he talked at one point about the theatre, As a
dramatic critic of many years experience I was amazed by the brilliance of his comments on plays and acting.
But I was equally amazed as he found a natural transition from acting to the liturgy and thus to the essential meaning of the Redemption: Amazed by the clarity with which he expressed profundity of thought. but not surprised that he should bring the talk round as he always did to,the eternal verities.
An Irishman by birth. John O'Connor was educated at St. Edmund's Douai (now Douai Abbey) and at Rome, where he was ordained at St. John Lateran on March 30, 1895.
After serving in several parishes in the Leeds diocese he was appointed early in the century to Heaton, Bradford, where he spent more than 40 years of his life.
But while utterly devoted to his pastorate, he found time in a busy life for writing (his last work, completed in 1950. was a treatise on the Mass) end for the maintenance of friendships with men in many walks of life.
Hilaire ,Belloc and Chesterton, of course, were intimates; so were Augustine Birrell and Bernard Shaw, to whom he referred invariably as "Barney,"
Paul Claude]. admiring him greatly, entrusted to him the transla• tion of his play, "The Satin Slipper," of his essays and of his poems, to one of which. on the confessional, Mgr. O'Connor responded with his own poem "1 he Priest Replies."
He wrote, too, a fascinating, if rambling autobiography, " Father Brown on Chesterton."
It was the evidence of his extraordinary knowledge (" he knew more about crime than the criminals "I that suggested the idea from which Chesterton's "Father Brown " stories sprang: and his name recurs inevitably when people speak or write about Chesterton.
It must have been one of his happiest experiences when in answer to a telegram he went to Beaconsfield to receive Chesterton into the Church. He recalled later how G.K.C., who know so much about the Catholic doctrine, wandered round the house with a penny Catechism. On the following day because there was then no church at Beaconsfield they went to the Railway Hotel. where Mass was offered on Sundays. There "the inn at the world's end " Chesterton knelt before his friend to profess his Faith. '
Mgr. George Cabana, titular Archbishop of Anchialo and Coadjutor with right of succession to the Archhishop of Saint Boniface. Manitoba. has been named Coadjutor with right of succession to Mgr, Desranlesu, Archbishop of Sherbrooke.