Freedom of the City conferred on son of 1916 leader – Fr. Joseph Malin SJ
Ardmhéara Bhaile Átha Cliath, Críona Ní Dhálaigh, this morning conferred the Honorary Freedom of the City of Dublin on Fr. Joseph Mallin SJ. The ceremony took place in Wah Yan College in Hong Kong at 6pm Hong Kong time / 10am Irish time.
The Lord Mayor and Dublin City Council are paying tribute to Fr. Joseph Mallin from two perspectives. Firstly, as the only surviving child of an executed leader in 1916 and secondly, for his years of work with the people of Hong Kong and Macau through his work as a Minister, Director of a Social Centre, Teacher and Headmaster.
Ardmhéara Críona Ní Dhálaigh said, “the Freedom of the City is the highest Civic honour Dublin City can bestow. It is a privilege for me to confer the Freedom on Fr. Joseph honouring his long life of work with the people of Hong Kong and Macau. I am also acknowledging his family connection to the Easter 1916 Rising as the son of Commandant Michael Mallin. His skills as a priest, a mentor, teacher and giver of grace have made a difference to thousands of lives. Ní fear é a mbíonn a lán le rá aige, ach is iomaí gníomh geanúil a dhéanann sé agus tá a shaol thugtha aige ag freastal ar Dhia agus ar mhuintir Hong Cong agus Mhacao. ”
The Freedom has previously been conferred on 80 persons ranging from Presidents to Prisoners of Conscience to people in Sports and Entertainment. The first recipient of the Freedom of the City was Isaac Butt in 1876. The most recent recipients were Brother Kevin Crowley and John Giles in 2015.
Fr. Joseph was presented with a gift from the city specially commissioned for the occasion called “Saoirse”. The piece, by Ken Bolger of Slate Trophies, is the word Saoirse meaning Freedom written in Ogham writing on slate from Richmond Barracks. He will also receive an inscribed scroll.
Notes to the Editor:
The Lord Mayor of Dublin nominates people for the Freedom of the City. Any nominations are then brought before a meeting of the City Council where it must be ratified by a majority vote. Dublin City Council ratified the nomination of Fr. Joseph Mallin at the City Council meeting held on Monday 7th March 2016.
Biography for Fr. Joseph Mallin SJ
Fr. Joseph Mallin was born on 13th September 1913 in Dublin, fourth child of five to be born to Michael and Agnes (Hickey) Mallin. On Easter Monday 1916, Commandant Michael Mallin, Chief of Staff of the Irish Citizen Army, commanded the Garrisons at St. Stephen’s Green and The College of Surgeons. Michael was executed in Kilmainham Gaol on 8th May 1916. His wife and four children, including 2 year old Joseph, visited him the night before he was executed and on that night he passed a letter to his wife Agnes saying “my little Joseph my little man, my little man. Wife dear Wife, I cannot keep the tears back when I think of him, he will rest in my arms no more…Joseph, my little man, be a priest if you can.” His Mother did not disclose the contents of this letter to Joseph until after he decided to enter a religious life. Fr. Mallin remembers his mother as a wise woman, who tried to let them experience as normal a family life as possible and raised and protected her family during times of unrest when hold-ups and raids were part of daily life.
Joseph attended school at St. Enda’s in Rathfarnham, which was run by Margaret Pearse, sister of Padraig, who supported the Mallin Family. He showed himself to be a talented musician, a fluent Irish speaker and outstanding at Gaelic Games. He played the flute, which had belonged to his father and which his father played in Liberty Hall in the Workers' Orchestra on the eve of the 1916 Rising. In autumn 1932, he returned home to care for his Mother before her death on 29th September 1932.
Joseph’s older brother Sean had entered the Jesuit Order and directed Joseph to them. Shortly before he entered the Irish Jesuit Novitiate, in September 1932, Joe was an active participant in the Eucharistic Congress. His memories of this major event include the huge crowds in the Phoenix Park and the relief that the weather held good.
Following his ordination, Fr. Joseph expected to remain in Ireland but in 1948 he was sent to Hong Kong along with five other priests. Following a four-week long boat journey from Southampton, the group travelled by rail to Canton, now Guangzhou. By May 1949, following the advance of the communists, they were back in Hong Kong. Apart from a few years teaching in Macau, Fr. Mallin has been in Hong Kong since.
In Hong Kong he took over the top floor of the Paris Foreign Mission Society house which had been handed over to the Jesuits. He dealt with all kinds of people – architects, builders and suppliers, cooks and cleaners. He supervised several construction or building conversion jobs and had to arrange for the temporary accommodation of many Jesuits expelled from Mainland China after the Communist takeover.
He has had a very varied apostolic life, successfully doing the job of minister in the community, Mission Bursar, Director of a Social Centre, Secondary School Teacher, Headmaster of Pun Yu Primary School in Hong Kong and Principal of Ricci College in Macao. He witnessed momentous events in Asia including a 1950s colonial housing programme, riots in 1967 and the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997.
Fr. Mallin is the oldest Irish priest in the world and keeps in regular contact with his Irish relatives writing in a beautiful old Irish script. He keeps very up to date with Irish and Chinese current affairs. He last visited Ireland to celebrate his 90th birthday but now considers Hong Kong his home. On his last visit to Dublin, he visited Kilmainham Gaol and wryly remarked upon admission, "The first time I came here, I didn't have to pay an entrance fee." He marks the 8th May every year by saying mass for the soul of his Father.
He is a man of few words, but of many loving actions and has devoted his life to serving God and the people of Hong Kong and Macau. The Freedom of the City acknowledges and celebrates this work and his family’s connection to the Easter 1916 Rising which we commemorate this year.