Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

Thomas Brogan Mayor of Battersea 1912/13

Posted in Thomas Brogan Irish Nationalist and Catholic Mayor Battersea 1912 by sheelanagigcomedienne on June 11, 2014

I have nominated Thomas Brogan, who was Mayor of Battersea in 1912/13, to be included in Battersea Arts Centre Great Hundred

Thomas Brogan Mayor of Battersea 1912/1913. Thomas Brogan was the first Irish nationalist and Catholic Mayor in London. He was mentor to John Archer. It is important to put these two Battersea Mayoral appointments in their context. I leave it to Sean Creighton, our indefatigable chronicler and historian, to do that.Sean Creighton 2


from exclusion to political control. radical and working class

The record of the Progressive Alliance on the Vestry and Council between 1894 and 1909 and from 1912 onwards was impressive. A 48 hour working week and improved employee wage rates had been introduced early on. It opened Direct Labour Workshops. The Department built library extensions, the Nine Elms swimming and slipper baths, a public laundry, a sterilised milk depot, an electric light station, and the Latchmere housing estate.
The facilities of Latchmere Baths were expanded. It was the first London Borough to set up a health visiting service. Its Medical Officer of Health played a leading role in the maternity and child welfare movement. The appointment of an electoral registration officer had helped to ensure a high electoral roll among the working class. It sponsored Borough Concerts and Lectures, and University Extension Lectures. The facilities built up by the Vestry/Council were regarded by the labour movement as positive achievements needing defending and improving.
Battersea earned the title of ‘The Municipal Mecca’.

John Archer was half Irish.   INFORMATION – PEOPLE – University of Liverpool He said of his mother : She belonged to one of the grandest races on the face of the earth. My mother was an Irishwoman.

This awareness of British colonisation was something that both men understood well, as outsiders. Battersea was a radical and progressive Borough at this time and can boast so many firsts in social and political development.

Councillor Thomas Brogan was an electrical engineer and he worked at Price’s candle factory. He was Chairman of the Workers Institute in Battersea. He was a lay member of St Vincent De Paul which was a catholic charitable organisation. He spoke eloquently at a convention of which he was a principle guest in Manchester. Frederic Ozanam and the Establishment of the Society of St

The Mayor of Battersea, who delivered an eloquent address, said that the brothers were fighting together for the great common cause for the common good of the common people. Europe was an armed camp. The Cross and the Crescent had again been in conflict, and thousands of the dead were lying unburied on the battlefields of the Near East. In the factory, in the workshop, in the office, the brothers of StVincent De Paul had to preach the great lesson of Christian charity .They had to spread the noble gospel that the great work of life was not to destroy life, but to preserve it. They had to show to the world that the spirit of Frederic Ozanam was alive in their hearts to-day, and that it was growing up a great, powerful, dominant force, which would eventually make England a better England, the Empire a better Empire, and the world a better world. But there was other work than this—work nearer to hand and, perhaps, more easy of immediate accomplishment. In the richest country of the world, with the wealth of the world pouring into her coffers—in a land as beautiful as a poet’s dream, with a soil as fruitful as God’s own love with a climate as sweet as a mother’s smile, and teeming with inexhaustible mineral wealth, there were thousands perishing of hunger and starvation.

Battersea Town hall

His election as Mayor was of significance to the Irish diaspora. This is from a Boston Newletter. Page 3 — The Sacred Heart Review 30 November 1912

In this connection it is interesting to read that an Irish Nationalist, Councillor Brogan of Battersea has been elected Mayor of the Borough of Battersea, one of the twenty-eight Boroughs that compose the County of London. This is the first time in the history of London, the Dublin Freeman says, that a militant Irish Nationalist has been elected to such a responsible and honorable position in the public life of the English metropolis. Councillor Brogan was born in the Irish quarters of York forty-six years ago, of Irish parentage. His father and mother were natives of Ballina, Co. Mayo. At an early age, Councillor Brogan was left fatherless, and for some years he experienced the trials that are inevitable when the chief bread-winner of a family is only a boy himself, but his sturdy spirit and natural ability were successful in bringing him to the front.

News From The Dioceses – from the Tablet Archive

BATTERSEA: ELECTION OF A CATHOLIC MAYOR.—As a result of the activity displayed during the recent Borough Council elections by the Catholics of Battersea in an attempt which happily proved successful, South London Catholics are now able to boast of a Mayor of their own in the person of Councillor Brogan, who has for a number of years taken an active interest in various Catholic movements, especially in educational matters.

Thomas Brogan was president of the United Irish League and a familiar and fluent speaker on Irish Home Rule.

On his election as Mayor the MORNING ADVERTISER November 11th 1912 wrote; “His selection for the office of Mayor is popular not only amongst his own party and the large Irish element in Battersea but also among his political opponents”
I am nominating Mayor Thomas Brogan because I believe that his election as Mayor in 1912 was significant because he was the first Irish Catholic Nationalist to be elected in Britain. I also feel his Mayoralty demonstrates the contribution of Irish people in the life of this Borough which I think has been overlooked especially from the earlier years when they constituted a considerable portion of the population.

Unfortunately, I have not found a photo of Thomas although his friend and mentee John Archer, Mayor of Battersea the following year and first Black Mayor elected in London, was a photographer.John Archer stamp


2 Responses

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  1. John brogan said, on April 6, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    Thomas Brogan is my great-grandfather. His son William, also with Prices Candles was sent to South Africa. His son Paul Brogan became a Zambian farmer. I am one of Paul’s 8 children, an attorney in kwaZulu-Natal South Africa. My older brother has a photo of Thomas Brogan wearing his mayoral chain in a family portrait, which may well have been taken by John Archer.

    • sheelanagigcomedienne said, on April 6, 2017 at 11:00 pm

      Thank you so much for getting in touch about Thomas Brogan, your great grandfather. I would love to know more about him, his family background in Ireland, who he married and more of his political and Trade Union life in Battersea. And I would be grateful to see the photo of him in Mayoral regalia.

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