Can you imagine the look on seven year William Orpen’s face as he unwrapped a birthday present from his Godfather only to discover it’s a Bible? Then again, maybe there was a half Sovereign coin enclosed!

Up till now, nobody knew who William Orpen’s God Parents were but recently, a descendant of artist Albert Rutherston (1881– 1953) presented a Great Grandson of William Orpen with this Bible (see note on Albert Rutherston below).

Inscribed: – To Wlm. N. M. Orpen  from his affectionate Godfather Montague Browne, 27 November 1885 (possibly where William Orpen gained one of his names – William Newenham Montague Orpen).

The Bible is full of hand written notes about ‘Today’s Lesson’ so clearly Orpen was attending Sunday Bible classes at The Rectory Stillorgan (now St. Brigid’s Church, where Orpen was baptised). I’ve tried a selection of the dates and each one was a Sunday. There are also a couple of sketches which are possibly the earliest known drawings by William Orpen.

Inscriptions: – First Lesson Stillorgan. Again Mr Adams 14th Feb 1896. Lesson Tom Browne 2/2/96. Lesson Still (Stillorgan) Dr Ken (Kennedy) 21st Jan 1893. Lesson St……. Feb 10th 1895.

First Kings and map (Assyria).


Extras – New and Old Testament.

New Testament.

New Testament continued.

Inscribed: – Sermons by Doctor Kennedy, DD. Taken down by Billy Orpen up to September 1892.

A sketch found in the Bible – looks like a horse drawn carriage with the name Lipton inscribed. See next image: –

Lipton’s Tea – 1899 London Horse-Bus toy (perhaps another birthday pressie for Billy Orpen!).

Another sketch from the Bible – Inscription: – Dr (probably Dr Kennedy), Lesson D…….? Stillorgan, ………… 6th Aug …. ? William. Is the sketch of Dr Kennedy?

Inscription: – Again Dr Kennedy Stillorgan Feb 17th 1895.

Dr James Houghton Kennedy was Rector at Stillorgan Parish Church (St Brigid’s).

Dr Kennedy Officiated at the wedding of William Orpen’s brother – Charles to Cerise Darley on the 27th August 1901 (William Orpen married Grace Knewstub in London less than 3 weeks earlier – 8th Aug 1901).

Old postcard of the Rectory – Parish Church (St Brigid’s), Stillorgan.


Montague Browne (c.1829 – 1919).


Baptism certificate of Montague Browne 26th December 1829. Born to John & Francis Browne.


Three Marriage Certificates of Montague Browne: –

In 1859 Montague Browne marries Meta Elizabeth Stack, a 1st cousin once removed of William Orpen. She died 5 Jun 1883 at Mullaghmore, Omagh, within a few days of the death of her only son.  Montague was now a Lieutenant  Colonel and staff officer of Pensioners, Dublin. But it didn’t take him long to recover from the death of his beloved wife. Yep, he married another Stack, his first wife’s younger sister. The wedding took place in Glasgow the following year (1884).

N.B. – The Peerage got it wrong – Montague Browne married three times – Meta (aka Margaret) Elizabeth Stack (1838-1883) in 1859; Emily Grace Caroline Stack (Abt 1854-1897) in 1884; and Kate Emily Georgina Dixon (1860-1937) in 1899. They seem to have confused the dates for Meta and Emily, both Stack’s.

Emily Grace Caroline died on the 28 Jul 1897 at Rockfield, Blackrock (the home of her sister who was married to Geoghegan?) and guess what, he marries again!

Marriage Certificate of Montague Browne’s third wife – Kate Dixon – April 1899 (Montague was 70).

Death Certificate of Montague Browne (1919) age 90.

Montague Browne retired colonel.


The source of the Bible: –

Albert Rutherston attended the Slade art School with William Orpen. He was born Rothenstein but changed his name during WW1 to rid himself of his German descent. Albert, William and Augustus John became good friends and were commonly known as ‘The Three Musketeers’. How he came into possession of William Orpen’s Bible is unknown.

‘The old Circus The Three Musketeers’ by William Orpen (1898).

L to R – Augustus John, William Orpen and Albert Rothenstein at Piccadilly Circus London (statue of Eros). The occasion was Albert’s 17th birthday.


Useful Websites: –,_1st_Baron_Caulfeild

Post by Dominic Lee, Orpen Research Project.