Taoiseach honours Mayo-born inventor of the torpedo

Louis Brennan has lain in an unmarked grave in London for 80 years

Enda Kenny at the graveside of Louis Brennan in London today. Photograph: Mark Hennessy

Enda Kenny at the graveside of Louis Brennan in London today. Photograph: Mark Hennessy

Wed, Mar 12, 2014, 06:55

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has honoured the Mayo-born inventor of the torpedo, Louis Brennan, who has lain in an unmarked grave in London for 80 years.

The ceremony took place this morning in St Mary’s Cemetery, Kensal Green in North London, including a church service and the unveiling of a new gravestone.

Saying that it was “a privilege” to be present, Mr Kenny, who was joined by members of Mr Brennan’s extended family, along with political and community representatives from Castlebar.

During an extraordinary career, Brennan invented the steerable torpedo in 1874, which went on to play a significant role in the defence of British Empire ports for decades.

The patent was eventually bought by the War Office for £100,000 - the single biggest purchase made by the British military authorities up to that point.

In the early years of the 20th Century, he patented a gyroscopically-balanced monorail system which he successfully demonstrated on 10 November 1909, at Gillingham, England.

During World War One, Mr Brennan working on improving munitions, while later he made major progress designing a helicopter, though the British authorities eventually scrapped funding.

Giving the address at this morning’s service, the Taoiseach said Mr Brennan had shown brilliance and resilience during his life and career.

“His drive was always to imagine,” said Mr Kenny, adding that the inventor’s spirit of “why and what if” is what is needed to be cultivated in Irish universities today.

For 82 years, he said Mr Brennan had “lain in a grave that was unmarked” that was “a cold, small and anonymous resting-place for a man who made such a mark on the world”.