Augustinian from Dublin started Hammersmith’s Irish Welfare Bureau
Tributes have been paid to much-loved Augustinian priest Fr Brian Lawlor who died earlier this month in his Birmingham parish in Harborne, aged 84.
Fr Lawlor, a Dubliner, originally came to London in the early 1960s and gathered many friends and supporters everywhere he worked during the more than 50 years he spent as a priest in this country.
He first arrived in Hammersmith, shortly after his ordination in 1964, where he established the Irish Welfare Bureau and served it for 24 years and during which time he started an Irish festival in Chelsea. He was succeeded in Hammersmith by fellow Augustinian, the late Fr Jim Kiely.
Fr Brian went on to serve in Carlisle for three years before becoming parish priest at St John Stone’s and Sacred Heart in Southport as Parish Priest for 24 years after which he was posted St Mary’s Church in Harbourne in Birmingham where he fell terminally ill.
His lifelong friend of 50 years, businessman Brendan McBride, originally from Balbriggan, recalled the vivacity, energy and cheer Fr Lawlor brought with him to any challenge.
“He was every bit a real Dub. He could get the best out of everybody, he worked hard himself. He was kind, he always looked after the old or the down and out.
He was very organised, I once drove down with him to Southampton where we got loads of new shoes that he was able to give to people who came to the centre in Hammersmith who needed them, he would make sure they could get a clean-up and a voucher for the café across the road.
In January he would buy all the trinkets and gifts for the Christmas bazaar and raffle later in the year.
“He would hold jumble sales and even held barbeques before they were fashionable, cutting down an old tar barrel and he would always get the big names – wherever they were playing – agree to perform for his fundraisers, Brendan Shine, the Hillbillies, Big Tom.
“That’s where the Chelsea Irish festival came out of which then went to Roundwood Park.
“When he was in Hammersmith he bought three houses so the homeless would have somewhere to stay when they had nowhere else.
“Any time spent with him is a happy memory,” said Mr McBride.
“When he left Hammersmith he had a team of a hundred volunteers who would have been happy to anything to help him out doing different things,” he said.
Fr Lawlor died peacefully on Monday 16 July with Fr Bernard Rolls, the Prior of the Birmingham Augustinian community seated beside him. His requiem was held last Thursday 26 July at St Mary’s after which he was buried alongside his great friend Fr Killian O’Mahony in the order’s Vivian Close cemetery.
There was a huge turnout for his funeral although many more found out about his passing too late to make arrangements to attend, said his friends.
One person who dropped everything as soon as heard and made it just in time was Tony Bogan, formerly of the Miami Showband, who flew to Birmingham from California as soon as he heard, arriving just in time for last week’s service, said Mr McBride.
“Brian was just someone that everybody loved,” he said.