Predominantly known as Winston Churchill’s right hand man, Brendan who was born in Templemore, Co. Tipperary, was a troublesome child who at 15 years old ran away from Mungret College boarding school in Limerick. His exasperated widowed mother sent him to live with a relative in Australia, but when he returned briefly to Ireland in 1919, he found that she had remarried and moved to Co. Meath, so with a small legacy he left for Liverpool, England.
Feigning as an orphaned, 15 year old Australian (he was 19), Brendan managed to gain a place at Sedbergh boarding school in Cumbria, where after one term he won a history prize and finished his schooling with what he felt was needed to rise in England, a classic British public school background. After several small teaching jobs, Brendan moved to London, where he secured a position as editor with the publishers Eyre and Spottiswoode. Covering political and social events, it gave Brendan the opportunity to meet prominent people, including J.L. Garvin, editor of The Guardian, who introduced him to Winston Churchill in 1923.
Brendan’s publishing career flourished throughout the 1920s and in 1926 he founded The Banker, a monthly magazine, and in 1928 acquired the Financial News and a half-share in The Economist. The Investor’s Chronicle and the Practitioner soon followed.
Described by Churchill as ‘a brilliant young Australian of quite exceptional powers and vitality,’ Brendan became his election campaigner and one of his closest associates, who supported him during his ‘wilderness years.’ He was one of the few people who could revive Churchill during his recurrent bouts of depression, or the ‘Black Dog.’ Their close friendship caused rumours that Brendan was Churchill’s illegitimate son, a claim that neither party denied.
In 1929, Brendan was elected Conservative MP for North Paddington and at the beginning of the Second World War became Parliamentary Private Secretary to Churchill. In 1941-45 he served as Minister of Information. During the post-war years he resigned his seat in the Commons and concentrated more on his business interests, where he merged the Financial News into the Financial Times and founded History Today magazine. In 1952, he was created Viscount Bracken of Christchurch in Hampshire, but never took his seat in the House of Lords. Unmarried and childless, Brendan died from oesophageal cancer at the age of 57 on 8th August 1958.