Each day at five o’clock
The cows come down.

A weir cuts the river
Where they drink
Out on a line, knee-deep on a man.

In primitive procession
They tight-rope the rapids
To where the water eddies
Round their legs,
Pausing mid-stream
To look here, look there
As they have always done
Each day at five o’clock

—from Not Thinking Straight (Sign of the Star, 2017)

John Paddy Browne was educated at Christian Brothers’ Brow o’ the Hill schools, Derry. He left school at 16 and from 1956-1996, he was surveyor, cartographic draughtsman and librarian for Ordnance Survey in Southampton, UK.

During this same period he was a formative figure in the reawakening of interest in folk music in Britain – the “folk revival” – and wrote many articles on folk music for a wide range of newspapers and other periodicals, both “popular” and learned. He also lectured widely on the subject, including tours in Europe, and broadcast frequently on radio and television. His long friendship with the English artist, sculptor and writer Sven Berlin is documented in his book Letters to a Friend. The letters from Berlin to Browne edited and with a commentary by Browne, provide an invaluable insight into the creative process as an established artist reveals his day-to-day life and work to a younger correspondent.

Browne’s book Map Cover Art (Ordnance Survey 1991) spawned a nationwide interest in the art of Ellis Martin and other commercial artists of the 1920s and 1930s, and became “the bible” for map collectors. Copies of the book are to be found in practically every major library in the English-speaking world, including the Library of Congress and several other US university libraries.

In Folk Songs of Old Hampshire (Milestone 1987), Browne wrote the first comprehensive study of the traditional and contemporary songs of his adopted English county, and his Selected Poems (Sign of the Star 1987) shows some of the influence of traditional lyric poetry on his own work. He followed this anthology with a further selection of his shorter poems Not Thinking Straight in 2017.

He has made contributions to the books of over 30 other authors, the themes ranging over music, biography, cartography, art, theatre and film.