RSCJ Uganda/Kenya Province | Profiles

Brian Cavanagh – An Outstanding Educator

Jo Wright, rscj

Brian Cavanagh, aged 93, died at his home in Bunga on Tuesday May 10th 2016. Brian came to Uganda from his native Ireland .61 years in Uganda. His funeral was held on May 12th at his home followed by burial at the Stokes’ family cemetery five minutes’ walk away.

A gentleman named Brian after Brian Cavanagh, who had been taught to read many years ago by Brian, was the M.C. The first person he called on to say a word was Robert Kabumbuli, an adopted son of Brian’s. Robert thanked all present who had come to celebrate the life of Brian. He then read from emails received from family and friends. Among the emails were the ones that came from Ireland from Sr. Doreen Boland and Sr. Carmel Flynn, both of whom knew Brian well.

Sister Doreen wrote:


“Brian was a noble man and faithful friend of many people of many nations, but especially of his beloved Ugandans, and of Uganda his country of adoption. I imagine that the numbers of those he helped and educated over the years would be difficult to count, but I hope that many of them will be there at his funeral to mourn his going, but able also to give thanks for his rich and selfless life. Brian Cavanagh, aged 93, died at his home in Bunga on Tuesday May 10th 2016. Brian came to Uganda from his native Ireland .61 years in Uganda.  His funeral was held on May 12th at his home followed by burial at the Stokes’ family cemetery five minutes’ walk away.

“Brian was a noble man and faithful friend of many people of many nations, but especially of his beloved Ugandans, and of Uganda his country of adoption. I imagine that the numbers of those he helped and educated over the years would be difficult to count, but I hope that many of them will be there at his funeral to mourn his going, but able also to give thanks for his rich and selfless life.

I used to enjoy visiting him or welcoming him to Ggaba, where we could appreciate his friendliness and wonderful sense of humour, as well as his interesting conversations and opinions on all sorts of questions.

Brian bore his years of failing health with great fortitude. I was glad to have been able to visit him, even when I returned to Uganda at various times over the past years. I was struck by his unfailing cheerfulness and patience in spite of his weakness.

I know he will be sorely missed by his many friends and acquaintances, but especially by Robert and his family, who have been truly ‘family' for Brian over the years.

Sister Carmel writes, “Brian was a good friend to the RSCJ and served on the Board of Nkozi TTC for many years. When semi-retired and teaching in Kyambogo College school he sometimes joined Sr. Denise and me for lunch or coffee when we both taught in Kyambogo Teachers' College. Very familiar with Ugandan educational policies and culture, he gave a home to many boys while they were students in Kampala. His contribution to education in Uganda will outlive him”.

The next to be invited to speak were four young men who were sponsored for their education by Brian and who lived with Brian and cared for him these past years during his illness. They were overcome with grief at Brian’s death and though they tried to speak, they were unable.

Some of the young boys that Brian helped were street boys. He gave them an education and was a father and friend to them.

The sharing by individuals was interspersed by hymns such as Amazing Grace, I Surrender All, Take My Hand Precious Lord movingly sung by Pastor Kasumba.

A professor from Makerere University said he owed who he is to the late Brian who was a friend for over 50 years. “Brian” he said, “was very energetic, he enjoyed traveling – he traveled the world twice – he loved nature. His garden where we are for the funeral is a botanical garden. Brian’s work in Uganda was in the education sector. He taught English, Geography, Biology and any other subject where there was no one to teach. He was a head master. A happy person, he lived a full life. Brian taught many Kenyans and Ugandans. A saying was ‘If you’ve been to Brian, you have a college qualification’. Brian was an adventurist, who loved hitch-hiking and mountaineering. He was a conservationist and a naturalist. He was at peace with nature. He loved people and was an expert in logistics i.e. preparedness.”

The Irish Ambassador to Uganda, Donal Cronin, was among the guests at the funeral. On behalf of the Irish Government he extended condolence to Robert and the family. He said, “This is a sad day – a giant’s day – a day of celebration. We have lost a great friend, the oldest Irish citizen in Uganda. Six former Irish Ambassadors to Uganda responded within 2 hours to the email we sent announcing the death of Brian. Our thanks to those who made Brian’s life to the end a fulfilling one. Brian has gone but he will not be forgotten. The Irish Embassy will see how in some practical way he can be remembered”.

The president of the Irish Society here in Kampala conveyed to Robert and the family the deepest sympathy of the Society. She said, “We will miss him desperately”. As a tribute to Brian she sang the Irish lyric, The Fields of Athenry.

A neighbor and friend of Brians since 1978 spoke of Brian as his advisor and “Brian”, he said “had a very warm heart and helped so many”.

Every Irish Ambassador to Uganda always “reported” to Brian.  Fr. Musaala spoke eloquently of Brian who rescued him

Fr. Anthony Musaala conducted a prayer service for Brian but first shared his experience of Brian. He began by thanking the Irish Embassy who have been great to Brian. When Brian need an operation, the Irish Embassy footed the expenses. Every Irish Ambassador to Uganda always “reported” to Brian. Fr. Musaala spoke eloquently of Brian who rescued him when as a teenager he was going through a difficult time and left home. Brian took him in, taught him English, saw to his education, and above all was a father to him. Fr. Musaala said “One learned from Brian by osmosis.

Brian was careful to let you be who you were. He had a great love and passion for Uganda. He was not very religious but very spiritual. He believed in God but did not often go to Church.” Fr. Masala invited those known as “the B2B”, “Been to Brian” - those who had been educated and taken into his family to come forward. Twenty came forward. A standing ovation was given for Brian.

Following some prayers for the repose of the soul of Brian Cavanagh by Fr. Musaala, those at the funeral walked over to the Stokes’ property for the burial of Brian Cavanagh. Again some further prayers were recited and we bade farewell to Brian.