The Admiral Brown Centre Foxford is a quirky little museum commemorating Admiral William Brown (Almirante Guillermo Brown) (1777 – 1857), commonly referred to as the “Father of the Argentine Navy.”
The Life of Admiral William Brown
William Brown was born in Foxford on the 22nd June 1777, in a small whitewashed cottage located on Providence Road. At the age of nine, he emigrated to Philadelphia with his family. He served as a cabin boy and as a seaman on American Merchant ships using the North Atlantic trade routes.
Impressed into the British Navy, William was captured by the French during the Napoleonic wars. He was imprisoned in Metz, France and later in Verdun, but escaped to England. Here, he became close friends with the Chitty family of Kent. William later married their daughter, Elizabeth in Saint George’s Church, Middlesex on the 29th July 1809.
He emigrated to Argentina that year where he was active in maritime training as a ship’s captain and commenced trading. William was inspired by the ‘25th May Revolution of 1810’ and vowed to fight for Argentine independence. As a result, he founded and led the Argentine Navy. In the War of Independence, he fought in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
On Saint Patrick’s Day 1814, he achieved victory against the Spanish forces on the island of Martin Garcia in Buenos Aires. A series of other victories followed, including the battle of Juncal in 1827 against Brazil, and the battle of the Parana River in Uruguay in 1842, over the forces of Giuseppe Garibaldi, who later liberated Italy. His success at sea led to the liberation of South America.
Admiral Brown never forgot his homeland and donated $500 to the Irish Liberator, Daniel O’Connell M.P. for the cause of Catholic Emancipation. In 1847, at the height of the famine he visited his native Foxford in the company of his daughter, visiting his brother and family that still resided here. Shocked and distressed at the scenes that greeted him in the famine ravaged town of his birth, he donated funds for local relief.
A decade later, at the ripe old age of eighty years, “old Bruno” as he was affectionately known died in Buenos Aires on 3rd March 1857. He was interned in Recoleta Cemetery and is commonly known as the “Father of the Argentine Navy”.
In 2006, the Irish Naval flagship, the L.É. Eithne travelled to the Argentine Republic for the 150th commemoration of Admiral Brown’s death. The Irish Navy’s first visit to the Southern Hemisphere had the distinction of being commanded by a Mayo native, Commander Mark Mellett DSM.
Brown is regarded as one of the big heroes of Argentine history, to such an extent that he has named after him several ships of the Argentine Navy, an Argentine naval base, three towns, 320 schools, six football clubs and about 1100 streets.
For many years, the story of Admiral Brown was not very well-known in his native country. Foxford native JJ O’Hara set out to rectify this, in a campaign lasting over a decade. This resulted in a strong link being developed between Foxford and Argentina.
Brown is synonymous with Foxford, and has been commemorated on postage stamps issued both by Argentina and by the Irish Republic. Argentinian visitors frequently make a point of visiting Foxford, and more specifically the Admiral William Brown Museum to commemorate the man and learn about his early life.
Further Information on Admiral William Brown Museum
For more information on this interesting character intertwined in the fabric of Foxford, contact the Admiral Brown society in Foxford:
This can be done through emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, phoning 094-9256756, or by accessing the website admiralbrown.com. The Admiral Brown Centre Foxford, which is located right next door to the famous Foxford Woollen Mills, as well as the adjacent Promenade, also has further information about this amazing son of County Mayo and the hero of Argentina.
Admission for the museum is FREE with a guided tour as well as an audio visual story. It is open from 10am – 4pm on Tuesday to Friday.