AS Father’s Day approaches, spare a thought for the Rev Patrick Bronte.

By the time of his death, aged 84, in June, 1861 he had outlived all his family - his wife, Maria, by 40 years and all six of their children. How must he have felt, rattling around draughty Haworth parsonage in old age, with failing eyesight and no children to take care of him, or grandchildren at his knee.

“I have lived long enough to bury a beloved wife, and six children - all that I had," Patrick told the Bishop of Ripon in 1855."I greatly enjoyed their conversation and company, and many of them were well-fitted to being companions to the wisest and best.”

Patrick had come a long way from his humble roots in Ireland. The oldest of 10 children born to a County Down farmer, he went from rural poverty to the well respected curacy of St Michael and All Angels Church in Haworth. Prior to that Patrick Brunty, later changing his name to Bronte, served several apprenticeships and worked as a teacher before moving to England to study theology at Cambridge.

He moved to Yorkshire in 1811 as assistant curate at Hartshead, and was appointed a school examiner at Woodhouse Grove School, Apperley Bridge. In 1815 he became a curate of Thornton.

He wasn't even 50 when his wife died, shortly after the family moved to Haworth. Their two oldest daughters, Maria and Elizabeth, died in childhood, and he would later suffer the pain of watching his only son, the errant Branwell, slide into fatal addiction. Patrick did, however, live to see the literary success of daughters Charlotte, Emily and Anne.

According to Charlotte Bronte's biographer, Elizabeth Gaskell, Patrick was a "wayward, eccentric, wild father" who "thought children should be brought up simply and hardily, so they had nothing but potatoes for dinner".

This simple upbringing certainly didn’t stifle the children's creativity - instead, might it have been instrumental in their desire to escape into their own imaginations?

Often overlooked in favour of his famous offspring, Patrick Brontë is being celebrated at the Brontë Parsonage Museum - 200 years after he was invited to take up the role of Perpetual Curate in Haworth - with a year-long programme of events and an exhibition. Patrick Brontë: In Sickness and in Health explains more about the man who, as a minister, was expected to know how to help his parishioners who couldn’t afford medical treatment. For the first time his medical textbooks, filled with his notes, will be collectively on display, giving a fascinating insight into his determination to help the sick, even as he lost his own family. Also on display is a collection of the Brontë family’s spectacles and a handkerchief, believed to have been used by Anne Brontë,spotted with blood from her infected lungs.

Tomorrow sees a special Father's Day deal for visitors to take a glimpse into what Patrick was like as a father and how he encouraged his children to write. Visiting fathers at the Parsonage Museum accompanied by their children, young or old, are eligible to a special ticket price of £5 and a 10per cent discount in the museum shop.

Emma Clayton