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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Dr. John Brennan (1768 - 1830)

Ballahide, County Carlow

John Brennan

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

Brennan, John, M.D., born at *Ballahide, in the County of Carlow, about 1768. He was educated to the medical profession, and obtained a wide reputation for his successful practice in puerperal disorders. An excellent classical scholar, a man of talent and humour, his sallies were long remembered. As editor of the Milesian Magazine he unhappily prostituted his talents, by ridiculing for pay the Catholic leaders of his day, and abusing the members of his own profession. He died in Dublin, 29th July 1830, aged 61. In Notes and Queries, 3rd Series, will be found reference to a copy of the Milesian Magazine in the British Museum, containing a MS. key to Brennan's pseudonyms.

39. Biographical Dictionary, Imperial: Edited by John F. Waller. 3 vols. London, N.D.
254. Notes and Queries. London, 1850-'78.
O'Callaghan, John C., see No. 186.
 * There is no Ballahide in County Carlow but there is a Ballyhide in County Laois south west of Carlow town.
Website source: 2008.

Dr. John Brennan and the Milesian magazine

by Patrick Purcell

The Following is an extract taken from Vol. Ill, "The United Irishmen, and Their Times," by Dr. Richard R. Madden, (page 121, Vol. Ill), "Dr. John Brennan and the Milesian Magazine."

Having referred to Dr. Brennan and his accusations against Cox, with regard to Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Thomas Russell, it would be an act of justice to Cox's memory, whose fidelity he impugns, to conceal the circumstances which render his own statements rather doubtful. Brennan had been an early contributor to Cox's magazine. He quarrelled with him, and set up a rival periodical. Brennan, like his competitor, was nominally a Catholic; he struck out a new line in satire, and censoriousness — a warfare of ridicule on the Roman Catholic leaders of the day, and of ludicrous scurrility against the members of his own profession. It was the interest and manifestly the object of Brennan to bring Cox into disrepute, and to establish his own claims on the gratitude of the administration, without incurring the suspicion of his own party.

It would be folly, indeed, to refer to such matters if circumstances of far higher public interest were not connected with them. Literature of merit in other countries derives rewards and honours from government. Some doggerel verses, smartly written, turning the most prominent of the Catholic leaders into ridicule, beginning with the words "Barney, Barney, buck or doe," recommends the writer, Dr. Brennan, to the especial favour of the Duke of Richmond's government. This poor man, of whom it is not only charitable but true to say his wits were partially disordered, on his death-bed, in his wanderings often repeated incoherent rhymes (for ruling passion strong in death, prevailed with him), and one couplet, not unfrequently, was repeated which there is good reason to believe denoted a foregone conclusion:

Barney, Barney, buck or doe,
Has kept me out of Channel Row.

Many pensions, no better earned, have kept men of little worth out of Channel Row poor-house. Dr. Brennan's "Milesian Magazine," or Irish Monthly Gleaner, is the most perfect specimen that exists, in eccentric ephemeral literature, of a periodical professing to be a monthly one, setting at defiance all obligations in respect of punctuality as well as propriety and decorum. Intervals of six, twelve, and eighteen months—nay, even years—occasionally occurred between the appearances of consecutive numbers of this meteoric magazine. The first number appeared in 1812, the last — No. 16 — in July 1825. There can be no doubt the mission of "The Milesian Magazine" was a governmental one. The objects to be affected were to bring Cox and his "Irish Magazine" into disrepute, and the Catholic leaders and the Committee into ridicule.

The first article in the first number is an attack on Cox and his assassination journal, "The Union Star," the second is illustrated by an emblematic engraving, representing Cox in the act of killing his wife.

The poetry in the first number consists of an elaborate lampoon, above referred to, on the principal Catholic leaders, Lords Fingal, Gormanstown, Southwell, French, Killeen, Kenmare, Netterville, Major Bryan, John Keogh, William Murphy, Sylvester Costigan, John Lawless, Owen O'Connor, William Finn, Dr. Drumgoole, and Barney Coile, with the absurd refrain:

Barney, Barney, buck or doe,
Who will with the petition go?

The labours of Dr. Brennan were duly requited by the representative of the British Government in Ireland. More fortunate than a modern lampooner similarly employed, Brennan was awarded a pension of 200 a year—the evidence of which fact, in the handwriting of Dr. Brennan, is in my possession.

Brennan died in July 1830, in Britain Street, Dublin, aged about sixty-two years. He left two children, a son and a daughter, the latter a lady of a very amiable character, respectably married in Kilkenny. He was born at Ballahide, Carlow; his father was a gentleman of ancient family, and once of considerable fortune. He died intestate, leaving six small children, the eldest of whom was John, the subject of this notice. After his father's death he went to law with his family, and carried on a protracted suit against his mother, which brought ruin on the property. His son however contrived from the wreck of it the sum of between five and six thousand pounds, which he carried with him to England, and having squandered away whatever he possessed, eventually died there.

Dr. Brennan was a man of classical attainments, of a high order, and very considerable talents, which were sadly misused by him; he devoted his fine talents to sarcasm and scurrility, the little use he made of his abilities in his profession was still sufficient to make his name known to medical men, not only in England, but over the continent, as the person who first brought into practice the use of turpentine in peurperal disorders.

The property of Dr. Brennan's father in Carlow alone and its immediate vicinity, called the CASTLE HILL, at the time of his decease, was worth 200 a year. This and other landed property, Dr. Brennan states, he and his family were swindled out of professionally by his attorneys. The injury he suffered at the hands of these legal gentlemen may account for the incessant warfare he waged on their profession. Brennan's free translations of remarkable passages in classical works, of celebrity, are deserving of notice:

"Neme repente fuit turpissimus," - it takes seven years and some hard swearing to make an attorney.
"De mortuis nihil nisi benum," — when scoundrels die, all knaves bemoan them.
"Irrivitum qui servat idom facit accidente," — cure a man against his will; the cure will vex him worse than killing.

Source: Carloviana Vol. 2 No. 21 Dec 1972

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