Obituary – Alderman Ernest A. O’Bryen 3rd May 1919


We regret to record the death of Alderman Ernest A. O’Bryen, Mayor of Hampstead, which took place on Saturday night, at the age of fifty-three years, following on an operation from which he at first seemed to be progressing favourably. Educated at Stonyhurst and Cooper’s Hill, he spent some ten years in the Indian Forest Service in Upper Burmah, shortly after its annexation. He retired from the service in 1897 and married in the following year, Gertrude, daughter of the late Alfred Pursell. In 1913 he was elected Mayor of Hampstead, first Catholic to hold that position, and held it till his death. In 1916 he was President of the Stonyhurst Association and the same year was elected a Vice-President of the London Circle of the Catenian Association. During the war he took a leading part in making arrangements for the feeding and accommodation of Belgian refugees, and he also organised and equipped hospitals for the British Red Cross and St. John Ambulance. In 1915, Alderman O’Bryen was instrumental in raising the 183rd Howitzer Brigade and the 138th and 139th Heavy Batteries of Royal Garrison Artillery.

The funeral took place on Wednesday. The Requiem Mass was celebrated at St. Dominic’s Priory, Haverstock Hill, by Father Bodkin, S. J. Among those present were Mrs. O’Bryen and her five children, Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Winstanley, Captain and Mrs. Parker, Mr. Alfred Pursell, Mrs. Edwardes, Mr. and Mrs. E. J. Bellord, Mr. Frank Pursell, Mr. Alfred O’Bryen, Mrs. Rex O’Bryen, Mrs. Basil O’Bryen, the Deputy Mayor, the Town Clerk, Aldermen and Councillors of the Borough of Hampstead, the Vice-Chairman of the London County Council (Mr. A. T. Taylor, L.C.C.), Alderman Sir William Dunn, Bart., Alderman J. W. Gilbert, L.C.C., Mr. W. Reynolds, L.C.C., Mr. John O’Connor, K.C., Canon Burton, Father Robert Bracey, 0.P., Rev. J. Keating, S.J., Father John Leather, 0.P., Mr. J. G. Bellord, Dr. Ernest Ware, Mr. Synnott, Mr. Lescher, and many others. Father Bodkin also gave the Absolutions, and officiated at the interment at Kensal Green, assisted by Father John Leather. Several communities of nuns were also represented in the church. The children from Bartram’s Orphanage lined the road near the church and the entrance to the avenue at the cemetery.

“The Catholic body in London has suffered a severe loss by the death of Alderman Ernest O’Bryen,” writes one who knew him. “The number of Catholic laymen who take a prominent share in London public life is unfortunately not very large, and the untimely death of one who had achieved such a notable success as to be elected six times in succession Mayor of the borough of Hampstead, in which he lived, must fill with deepest regret all those, interested in Catholic social effort in the Metropolis. Those who had the privilege of knowing Ernest O’Bryen intimately were not surprised that he secured the confidence and the esteem of his fellow workers, both Catholic and non-Catholic. An able administrator, with a sound judgment, a strong resolution, a persuasive manner, and a power of appropriate silence—the last a valuable gift in public life, his two outstanding qualities were perhaps his loyalty and his generosity of service. He was loyal, most loyal, to his religious beliefs and practices, loyal to his country, loyal to his friends, and loyal to those co-operating with him. His fellow Catholics know of his loyalty to his religion : Hampstead marked its appreciation of his loyalty to his country at the beginning of the war by re-electing him as Mayor five times to see the war through ; many like the writer have experienced his loyalty to his friends, which showed itself in times of anxiety and difficulty, not in word service but in practical form ; whilst of his loyalty to those co-operating with him his record in public life and in many Catholic organizations with which he was connected will bear willing witness.” 

His great generosity of service has undoubtedly contributed to his breakdown in health. Few London Mayors have exceeded his standard of effort as first citizen of a London borough throughout the difficult period of the national emergency. His achievements in connection with the Prince of Wales Fund, Red Cross and St. John Ambulance work, Belgian Refugees, recruiting for Kitchener’s Army and the Derby Scheme, the Hampstead Tribunal for exemptions from military service of which he was Chairman, the War Loan Campaign, the Food Economy Campaign and the provision of allotments—all are in the records of Hampstead public life, and it is to be deeply regretted that he has not lived to receive the official recognition of these services, which he so richly merited. The Catholic body in London, certainly, may be proud of the excellent record of public service for the common good which a Catholic layman has achieved.

Of his Catholic work it is unnecessary to write at length. The Catholic Federation, in its early days, the Catenian Society, the Stonyhurst Association, Catholic elementary schools, have by his death lost a good friend. If he had been spared, and, as seemed likely, his scope of public service had been increased, all these associations would have benefited materially from his support. His last visit to the writer was with a view to securing material assistance for a Catholic charitable institution, in the development of which he took great interest. His untimely death certainly creates a void in London Catholic life, which it will be very difficult to fill.

The above text was found on p.28, 3rd May 1919 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

Letter from the Mayoress of Hampstead September 1914

The Tablet Page 18, 12th September 1914

ST. DOMINIC’S, HAVERSTOCK HILL: BELGIAN REFUGEES.— The St. Dominic’s Parish Magazine publishes the following letter from the Mayoress of Hampstead (Mrs. E. O’Bryen) on behalf of Belgian Refugees in the district : “I appeal to the inhabitants of Hampstead for the Belgian Refugees, who consist mainly of women and children, and who are arriving here in hundreds almost daily. After the gallant resistance that Belgium has offered, with the result that their country is overrun by the German army, it is only right that we here in England, who are luckily exempt from this scourge of invasion, should do something to help these people who have lost their homes and all they possess. They are arriving absolutely penniless, and in most cases with only the clothes they stand up in. The War Refugees Committee have asked me (i.e., the Mayoress) to make a Refugee centre in Hampstead, and I shall be glad to hear of any lady or gentleman willing to offer a home to one or more Refugees, and would ask them to apply personally to me here at the Town Hall, Haverstock Hill, giving me particulars as to the numbers and sexes of the Refugees they would be willing to accommodate. Those who are unable to help in this way would be giving great assistance by sending any clothes, new or old, for the use of these Refugees, either to me here (at the Town Hall), marked : ‘For the Belgian Refugees,” or direct to the general receiving office, 39, St. George’s Road, S.W.”

Catholic Women’s League Recreation Hut – March 1917

The Tablet Page 28, 31st March 1917


The first of the new C.W.L. Recreation Huts erected by the Catholic Huts Council and staffed and managed by the Catholic Women’s League, was opened at Bramshott Camp by the Bishop of Portsmouth on Saturday last. Among those present were Lady Plowden, Mr. and Miss Egerton-Castle, Mrs. James Hope, President C.W.L., Colonel de Salis, representing the G.O.C. Bramshott Camp, Mr. E. A. O’Bryen, President Catholic Huts Council, Colonel Ormonde, A.D.C.S., Colonel Barre, Mrs. St. George Saunders, Hon. Organizing Secretary C.W.L., Captain and Mrs. Stapleton, Mr. R. O’Bryen, Father O’Farrell, Senior Chaplain Aldershot, Father Henry (Grayshott), Fathers Workman, M.C., A.D.C.S., Crochi re, C.F., Euan Macdonald, C.F., Mr. Caraman, Hon. Treasurer Catholic Huts Council, Miss Orwin, Hon. Secretary Catholic Huts Council, Major Watson, A.P.M., Major James, Majof Massie, and Father Knox, C.F. (Bramshott Camp).

Mr. E. A. O’Bryen having made a few introductory remarks from the chair, the Bishop thanked the Huts Council in warm terms for the splendid hut they had erected, which would be a great acquisition to the Camp. He could vouch for the excellent way in which the hut would be managed by the C.W.L. He tendered hearty thanks to Father Knox, who had seen at the front the necessity of having Catholic huts for our soldiers and had never rested until he had obtained one from the Huts Council. The hut was going to do much good ; moreover, it would be open to soldiers of all denominations, and his lordship hoped that the letters written in it by the Canadian troops of the camp would take to Canada a message of greeting and goodwill.

Colonel de Salis, in a happy little speech, wished the hut every success, which he was sure would follow the spirit of charity, work and loyalty in which it had been started, and which motto he thought should be painted on the walls of the hut.

After the Rev. Colonel Ormonde (C. of E.) had made an impressive speech, Mrs. James Hope, as President of the C.W.L., formally took over the hut from the Huts Council. She spoke with appreciation of the kind assistance the Y.M.C.A. render the C.W.L. huts whenever they are called upon.

Father Workman proposed a vote of thanks to the Bishop for his presence, which was seconded by Father Knox, who also thanked the military authorities for their very generous co-operation in the work of erecting the hut.

“God Save the King” was played by a military band, and then, while tea was being served, everyone admired the interior of the hut. It has been built almost entirely of asbestos, and is charmingly painted and furnished.