Browne, John Francis Archibald, baronet, of Nova Scotia, and sixth Baron Kilmaine 1902-1978, trust administrator, was born in Dublin 22 September 1902, the eldest of three children and elder son of John Edward Deane Browne, fifth Baron Kilmaine (an Irish representative peer) and his wife, Lady Aline Kennedy, daughter of Archibald, third Marquess of Ailsa. The family lived at Gaulston in county Mayo until 1925 when their last estates were sold and they moved to Kent. John Browne was educated at Winchester (where he won the English speech prize, was captain of the school shooting eight, and represented Ireland at rifle shooting) and at Magdalen College, Oxford. He passed moderations in modern history in 1922 and obtained third class honours in philosophy, politics, and economics in 1925. He then spent four years (1925-9) with British Xylonite before moving to University College, Southampton (as it then was) as administrative secretary in 1930
In 1933 the Oxford Society had been in existence for a year and was looking for a full-time professional secretary. John Browne was appointed and threw himself with characteristic energy and enthusiasm into the task of not only establishing the society as a world-wide organization but of allaying the suspicions of the colleges which in those days felt that a university society might subvert the loyalty of their old members. He launched the magazine Oxford and set up branches throughout the English-speaking world. In 1937 he organized the Society's assistance to the university's appeal for the extension to the Bodleian Library and for the improvement of facilities for scientific research. By 1939 he was proposing to raise an endowment fund for the society when war came and he joined the Royal Army Service Corps. He served from 1940 to 1945, rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, served on the staff, and was twice mentioned in dispatches
In 1945 he succeeded Thomas Jones [qv.] as secretary of the Pilgrim Trust. He remained there for twenty-two years, during which time the scope of its benefactions widened enormously. His predecessor's interest had been mainly towards social welfare; Kilmaine (he succeeded to the title in 1946) directed the attention of the trustees towards a wider field of art, learning, and the preservation of the national heritage. He was active in persuading G. F. Fisher (later Lord Fisher of Lambeth) [qv.], the archbishop of Canterbury, to set up the Historic Churches' Preservation Trust, which the Pilgrim Trust then supported by annual block grants. He secured help for the little houses scheme of the National Trust for Scotland, and his support for the conservation of vernacular housing round the old quay at Harwich was rewarded by his appointment as high steward of the borough (1966-76). He ensured the systematic listing and rescue of medieval wall paintings and was equally active in the preservation of medieval glass, arranging for the glaziers' workshops at York Minster to be converted into a national centre for its repair and preservation. He obtained charitable status for the workshops as the York Glaziers' Trust. He was one of the first to recognize and support the claims of industrial archaeology
In 1953 Kilmaine, by then the recognized doyen of trust administrators, also took on the secretaryship of the newly-founded Dulverton Trust, which he retained until 1966. Meanwhile, in 1949, he had become chairman of the Oxford Society, to which he devoted much time and energy. When in 1957 several colleges approached the Pilgrim Trust for help with the restoration of their buildings, sadly neglected during the war years, John Kilmaine immediately saw not only the advantage of uniting them in a general appeal but also the necessity for a preliminary assessment of the total amount to be raised. Thus arose the highly successful Oxford Historic Buildings Appeal. His services to the nation were acknowledged by his appointment as CBE in 1956, and his services to Oxford by an honorary DCL in 1973, the year he retired from his chairmanship of the Oxford Society
Kilmaine was a distinctive figure, tall, fair, formal in speech and manner. His capacity for work, attention to detail, unerring eye for accuracy, and clarity in summing up a problem were formidable. He could be tactless, and was not above an occasional, somewhat malicious amusement in cutting people down to size. Conscious of his heritage and background, he understandably regretted that events had deprived him of a seat in the Lords. If he expected deference, he also extended it to others, with a somewhat old-fashioned respect for position, though his warm sympathy with and interest in all he met (and perhaps his Irish upbringing) caused this to fall short of snobbery. His very happy marriage, in 1930, to Wilhelmina Phyllis, daughter of Scott Arnott, solicitor, of Brasted in Kent, produced two daughters and a son. Kilmaine died at Brasted 26 July 1978. He was succeeded by his son, John David Henry Browne (born 1948).
Contributor: D. M. Lennie