Br Humphrey Brendan Dineen

Br Dineen gave sixty years of his best to a land and people he loved — India.

He was one of seven children, born on the 8th of December 1912 in Rathmore on the Kerry-Cork border. His childhood and youth were governed and influenced by the farm in which he had an abiding interest. It is recorded that he “gladly did his share of farmwork” thus strenghtening the virtues of hard work, fortitude and cheerfulness.

He arrived in Calcutta in 1927, when India was on a slow boil. There was talk of mutiny and revolt in the air. The British sun was setting, but the young Dineen was hardly aware of the rising nationalism that was about to influence this country in far reaching ways.

After spending a few days in Calcutta, he set off for Goethals. It was in this school that he was to later have a tremendous impact. He loved the tea gardens, and the people he admired — the sturdy, humorous indomitable Gurkhas.

Br Dineen taught and ministered at St Joseph's Calcutta, The Calcutta Male Orphange, St Joseph's Nanital, Goethals Kurseong, St Michael's Kurji, St Mary's Mt Abu, St Vincent's and St Edmund's Shillong.

In 1969-1970 he taught year 8 at Mt Abu, taking the same class into year 9. We recall seeing this tall, rusty headed husky man over six feet tall stride like Apollo towards our classroom! A commanding presence indeed, that could be interpreted as intimidation ... that is if you overlook the mischievous twinkle in his eye!

He won our hearts and respect during the two years he taught us. Geography, moral science, maths, and history were brought to life with amusing anecdotes and examples. He was an accomplished tennis player, encouraged us, and went on to form a team that took on the National Police Academy in a series of 'friendly games'. St Marys performed creditably. Once one got to know him — well for us students he was Baloo the bear from Rudyard Kipling's famous novel 'The Jungle book' — like Baloo the bear he was friendly, even tempered, carefree, a good mentor, wise, a father figure, forgiving, and had an optimistic outlook on life.

Stories abound in the Indian Province about "the old rogue" (as the brothers would fondly call him). One charactesitic of Bro Dineen was his hospitality. He maintained excellent relations with lay people, the religious and clergy. His wit and charm and impish humour delighted any visitor.

He was a gifted story teller.

  • Kevin Kannan (a student remembers) Bro tell him how he saved a calf from the boggy peat marshes of his farm — with his bare hands.
  • On a chilly dawn at Moradabad station, recounted how he shot a tiger behind him with the help of a mirror over his shoulders! A tall tale indeed. More fantastical — how he shot two bears, with a single bullet. The bullet being shot at an impaled hatchet in the ground, the bullet being split in two and travelling accurately to the desired targets!!
  • At St Michael's Kurji, there was a shortage of beer at one stage. Bro Dineen and a few Jesuits got together and started a home brew!!
  • On being questioned why he had not been progressing in his spiritual reading, he retorted that such activities had driven certain Brothers insane!
  • Bro had optical problems and had lost his sight in one eye. However he loved to drive. In Kurseong there were a few narrow escapes, but this did not prevail upon him to reliquish the wheel until he had a close encounter with the rear of a truck! One of his passengers alleged that, at the time, he had the bad eye in Nepal and the the good one in Bhutan!

His last posting was at St Edmunds Shillong, where rheumatoid arthritis took its toll, and caused him much suffering. It was decided to send him back to Baldoyle, Ireland in 1987 to spend the rest of his retirement. Here too he was the life and soul of the community. He passed away at 11.00 am on 11 August 1993. The cause of his death was certified as cardiac arrest/pneumonia. He was simple, frank and forthright, unclutterd and devoid any inner complications. His departure from India deprived the province not so much of a 'character' as a monument. Good times left with him, as did his infectous laughter, his message of hope, and his belief in the innate goodness of human beings.


—Stephen de Silva (1972)