Louis Brennan (1852-1932), Inventor

Louis Philip Brennan, the inventor of the Dirigible Torpedo and the Gyroscope Monorail, was born on the 28th January 1852 at Main Street, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, the son of a hardware merchant, Thomas Brennan, and his wife, Bridget, née Mc Donnell. Louis and his two older brothers, Patrick and Michael, did well at school. Patrick went to Australia in 1856, and accepted a teaching appointment in Melbourne. Michael (1839-1871) started work as a journalist with the Connaught Telegraph, and soon earned a reputation for himself as a caricaturist. He later attended art schools in Dublin and London, and became an artist of merit. Two of his paintings are in the National Gallery of Ireland: “A Vine Pergola” and “Church Interior at Capri”. He died in Algiers in 1871 and was buried there.

Thomas and Bridget Brennan sold their business in Castlebar in 1861, and emigrated with their youngest son, nine year old Louis, to Melbourne, Australia. Louis had a keen interest in difficult puzzles, and in mechanical toys. His inquisitive mind wanted to know how all his mechanical toys worked and he experimented on extending their use and efficiency. After his primary education he went to Joel Ease's Technical College, in Collingwood, Melbourne, where he was an excellent student.

Louis took up employment with an engineering firm and continued his inventive experiments. Louis Brennan's first major invention was the dirigible torpedo, for which he was granted a patent by the Patent Office, London, on 1 February 1878, (patent No. 3359). The title of the patent was “Improvements in machinery for propelling and guiding vessels on land and through air and water”.

In 1880 he accepted an offer of £110,000 from the British Government for the “exclusive rights” to his invention and an invitation to go to England. Louis Brennan was manager of the Government Torpedo Manufacturing Plant, at Gillingham, Kent, which manufactured his own torpedo, from 1880 to 1896.

On 10th September 1892 he married Anna Mary Quinn, also a native of Castlebar. They went to live in “Woodlands”, in Gillingham, overlooking the river Medway. Louis and Anna had three children, Michael, Norah and Julie. Louis was a consultant to the Torpedo Manufacturing Plant from 1896 to 1907. He then invented his gyroscopic monorail at his home, and in 1910 it won the highest award at the Japan-British Exhibition in London. Despite the general reaction to the invention, it was not developed commercially.

The Brennan family left “Woodlands”and lived at several addresses over the following twenty years. LouisBrennan took up employment with the Ministry of Munitions from 191until 1918, when he moved to the RoyalAircraft factory at Farnborough, where he invented a type of helicopter. However, the withdrawal of funds prevented the invention being made a commercial proposition. Louis Brennan had many other inventions to his credit, e.g. a two-wheeled “Gyrocar”, a billiard marker, a window safety-catch, a pocket size recording machine, a mini lift for stairs, improvements in cylinders, pistons, high-speed wheels, mechanical starting devices for internal combustion engines, and many more. Norman Tomlinson in his book “Louis Brennan: Inventor Extraordinaire” listed thirty-eight patented inventions of Louis Brennan.

While on holiday in Montreux, Switzerland, Louis Brennan was knocked down by a car on 26th December 1931, and died as a result of the injuries received on 17th January 1932 in Montreux. He was buried in plot. No 2454, St.Mary's cemetery, Harrow Road London N.W. 10 on 26th January 1932.

Extract from: "MAYO - Aspects of its Heritage", By Bernard O'Hara Published by kind permission of author.