Father Oswald Swarbreck was born at Sowerby, Thirsk, on April 16th, 1865. At an early age he came to Ampleforth and after several years spent in the School he gave himself to the study of Law and became a fully qualified solicitor. Not long afterwards, however, he relinquished all his worldly prospects and returned to Ampleforth to become a monk. In due course he was professed at Belmont in September, , and ordained at Ampleforth in March, 1899. Whilst in the Community at Ampleforth he combined with indefatigable zeal the arduous duties of Procurator and Village Missioner. His solicitude for his small flock was so great that he won the hearts of his people who greatly lamented his departure for Warrington in 1902.
He worked at St Alban's, as assistant to Father Whittle, till 1906, when he was moved to St Benedict's as assistant to Father Baines. Early in 1907 Fr Baines was transferred to Aberford, and Fr Oswald succeeded to the charge of St Benedict's parish.
A serviceable iron church had been erected by Fr Baines near the school. It was impossible for the priest to find a house near this, so he was compelled to live at some distance from it. Only those who have experienced it can realize the inconveniences of such a situation. It says much for Father Oswald's enthusiasm and powers of endurance that in spite of inconveniences and drawbacks he persevered for nine long years most cheerfully and ungrudgingly. He was constantly faced with the problem of finding a permanent home for the Blessed Sacrament, a serviceable abode for the clergy, and a satisfactory solution of the difficulties that were associated with the school accommodation. With characteristic energy he set himself to the task. His enthusiasm was infectious, his many friends rallied round him and encouraged his efforts, and before long the school difficulty had been removed by its skilful re-buildings to the designs of Mr Matthew Honan. This work was so satisfactory as to receive the public approbation of the Chairman of the Education Committee. The temporary house in Orford Lane was so inadequate to the needs of a Presbytery, the accommodation so scanty and unhealthy, that it was necessary without delay to provide a permanent home for the clergy. A plot of ground was obtained in a central position large enough for a church and Presbytery, and here a house for the clergy was built.
The church difficulty still remained. By dint of hard work in drawing together the members of the parish, in convincing them of their duty and the possibilities that might be reached by continuous and united efforts it was at last found possible to begin the task of building a permanent church. All the years of Father Oswald's Rectorship were years of uphill work without much prospect of successful result, yet he persevered with courage mindful of all the needs of a young and growing parish. He loved the beauty of God's House, and according to the means at his disposal loved to furnish and adorn the altar and the church. He desired that all should share in this spirit of piety, and the coldness and neglect of any of his people was a source of the greatest disappointment and grief to him.
For a little more than eight years he strove to improve the conditions both spiritual and temporal of this new parish, and it would hardly be possible to exaggerate the amount of good he performed in both directions.
The crowning work of his life was the opening with the greatest possible splendour and solemnity of St Benedict's new church. Cardinal Bourne, Archbishop of Westinster presided all the functions, and the Archbishop of Liverpool, the Bishops of Menevia and Shrewsbury supported Father Abbot in the opening ceremonies. The preparations were a source of the greatest anxiety to Fr Oswald, and those who knew him can picture his radiant happiness when the result exceeded all his expectations.
He had a great capacity for making in a very short time firm friends. Many men were attracted by his winning disposition, while his kindliness of heart, his thoughtfulness for and sympathy with others endeared him permanently to them. He was respected and admired by high and low and when the news of his death after a very short illness became known, it came as a shock to everyone. One felt as though everyone in the town experienced a sense of personal loss. Certainly his funeral was the occasion of a wonderful manifestation of sympathy and respect.
In addition to these arduous labours in the parish and in face of an ever increasing debt, he still found time for another work that was laid on his willing shoulders. Practically from the beginning of the large County Asylum at Winwick Fr Oswald acted as Chaplain to the Catholics there. This duty required constant willingness to sacrifice, even at unreasonable hours, and was a duty always most punctually and scrupulously fulfilled. After the outbreak of the war the Asylum patients, were removed, and the institution became a War Hospital for wounded soldiers. Father Oswald's solicitude for these was most marked and he was tireless in his kindness and his ministrations to them and when he was removed by death each felt a personal loss. To mark the esteem in which he was held by the staff a memorial brass tablet has been erected to his memory in the chapel.
We feel sure that the memory of one who spent himself so generously in the service of others will be long held in benediction, and that those whom he has helped will be very slow to forget him in their prayers. R.I.P.
THOMAS OSWALD SWARBRECK 30 September 1915 1865 16 Apr Born Thirsk Educ Ampleforth Engaged in business as solicitor 1892 Clothed Belmont 1893 7 Sep Simple Vows 1899 20 Mar Ordained Priest Ampleforth Procurator Ampleforth & had charge of village mission 1902-05 St Alban's Warrington Moved to St Benedict's 1907 Superior of this mission 1915 Built priest's house & new church 30 Sep Died 4 Oct Buried Warrington