Tag Archives: Irish Diaspora

Irish Memorial Dedication, War Memorial of Korea, April 2013

Ambassador’s Message – Irish Memorial Dedication Ceremony, 25th April

26 April 2013

Of course it rained.  What Irish event would be complete without rain?  So we sat under marquees avoiding the drips instead of being protected from the hoped for sun at our dedication ceremony yesterday morning.  Our Embassy staff were busy with place names and all the myriad details that make an event unfold smoothly. The site had been checked and rechecked by Carol Walker of the Somme Association and Trevor Ross of the Royal Ulster Rifles Association and Colour Sergeant of the Royal Irish Regiment.  The podium was put in place and sound system checked.

We assembled under gray skies: the Ministers for Veterans Affairs of the RoK and Canada, Mr Park Sung-choon and Mr Steven Blaney; the Ambassadors and Defence Attachés of Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia; Director of the War Memorial of Korea, Mr Sun Young-jae; Deputy Director of Foreign Intelligence, Korean Defense Intelligence Agency, Brigadier Moon Yong-seok; Chairman of United Nations Korean War Allies Association, Mr Chi Kap-jong; Director of 60th Anniversary of Korean War Commemoration Group, Ministry of National Defense, Brigadier General Park Young-bae; Chief Warrant Officer, Oliver Cunningham, of the US Forces and native son of Ireland; Father Donal O’Keefe representing the Columban Order; Lt Col Owen Lyttle of the Royal Irish Regiment and his NCOs and soldiers, resplendent in their caubeens and dark green dress uniforms with scarlet sashes. 

As we took our seats, the RIR piper led the procession of veterans and their escorts down the ramp that sweeps into the recessed memorial cove under the looming Seoul War Memorial.  Carol Walker of the Somme Association acted as MC and I gave the opening address, below, translated into Korean by our own Kevin O’Rourke, retired Columban Father, writer and professor of Korean literature.  Minister Park of Patriots and Veterans Affairs as well as the Director of the War Memorial spoke, recognising the Irish contribution, particularly at Happy Valley. 

The memorial itself was unveiled by Ranger Geoffrey Edgar, veteran Albert Morrow, Sister Catherine Oh of the Anglican sisters and Stephanie McNamara, niece of Columban priest Thomas Cusack. Canon Jennings placed the brass cross, made from spent shell casings from the battlefields of Korea, beside our Memorial and offered his prayers. 

There was a hush as veteran Mark McConnell was brought forward to recite his beautiful and rending Korean Lament.  His strong and clear recitation was deeply felt by all.  Fourteen wreaths were laid, the ritual officiated smartly and solemnly by the RIR.  Father Mick McCarthy of the Columban Order, still serving in Korea after fifty years, laid one on behalf of the seven Columban Fathers who died during the War.  Henry O’Kane, veteran, ex-POW and author of O’Kane’s War, laid the wreath on behalf of the veterans.

The dedication of the Irish Memorial is very appropriate this year.  It is eighty years since the Columbans arrived in Korea, sixty since the end of the Korean War and thirty since we established diplomatic relations. 

With this Memorial in place at the Memorial of the Korean War, Seoul, the memory of those of Irish birth and heritage who lost their lives here and those who fought for Korea’s freedom will not be forgotten.  The names of the seven Irish Columban Fathers and one Irish Anglican missionary Sister who died during the War are inscribed.  The Memorial will serve as a focal point for annual commemorations, for visitors who will come to search for it and for the casual visitor who will come upon it.

The project to erect the Memorial was a collective effort; by the Irish Government, the Embassy here in Seoul, the Somme Association, the Royal Ulster Rifles Association, the Royal Irish Regiment and the Irish Association of Korea.

Over the last week it was wonderful to meet the veterans and encounter in those conversations the living tradition of Irish recruitment to the armed services of Britain and the Commonwealth, not to mention other Diaspora destinations like the US, by Dublin men and men from our towns and villages, by our emigrants and our emigrant generations.  It is a part of our history that is rich and exciting to explore as we approach the anniversaries of our State’s founding in the years ahead.

On my own behalf and on behalf of the Deputy Head of Mission, Ruth Parkin, my wife Mary and all the staff at the Embassy, I would like to say what a pleasure it was to work with our partners on this.  And as someone who formerly was involved in the Irish peace process, it was great to experience such a collective effort by people from all the different traditions and identities on the island of Ireland.  We worked united in good will and dedication to the preservation of the memory of those who made in the greatest sacrifice in the name of enduring ideals.

Finally, I wish to thank our sponsors, the Irish Government’s Emigrant Support Programme, the fundraisers at the Somme Association and Irish Association of Korea, Hanwha Chemical, Hyundai Motors, Standard Chartered Bank and Korean Air whose generous support made this project and its associated revisit for Irish veterans possible.

You can see photos of the event at our Twitter Account at @IrishEmbKorea.

 Dedication Ceremony

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Presiding Remarks

H.E. Dr. Eamonn McKee

Ambassador of Ireland to the Republic of Korea

We have gathered here in this quiet dell, on the hallowed ground of the War Memorial of Korea, to honour and remember those of Irish birth and heritage who died in the Korean War.

It is a stone monument because stone is an enduring material and we inscribe on it memories that must not be lost to time. 

It is a simple plinth topped by an image of the island of Ireland.  For the Irish of birth and heritage, irrespective of their affiliation with an identity or another citizenship, the island of Ireland is home, the repository of our culture, our community, our family roots and our sense of what we are. It is a hexagon because each facet serves to commemorate a particular aspect of the Irish contribution to the Korean War.

We recall the Irish missionaries who came to Korea, built communities through faith and compassion and who, in the dark hours of war, refused to leave those communities. 

We recall those of Irish birth who joined Irish regiments in the British Army and who shipped under the UN flag to Korea as part of the Commonwealth forces; and those who had emigrated to America and came here with US forces.  Ireland’s tide of emigration carried many into the armed services of the many countries that would fight here under the UN flag.

We recall those of Irish heritage who fought in so many and in such large numbers of the UN Command, predominantly British and US forces but also in Canadian, Australian and New Zealand units.  Their sense of being Irish, of Irish stock and character, was a strong feature of their identity. 

In Ireland, we value and guard that sense of Irishness, the sense of belonging for all of our Diaspora.  And we do so here today.

This monument will bear symbols.  They are symbols of a complex Irish historical narrative where Irish identity can mean different affiliations, different identities and different perspectives.

Because of the Irish peace process and the historic reconciliation between the people of Ireland and Britain, we can embrace all of those traditions and identities are part of the story of Ireland, part of what we are. 

This is a work in progress.  The unveiling of this monument is part of that process, a recovery and an acknowledgement of the service rendered in the armies of other nations, in the service of the United Nations.

Unveiling this stone monument is a simple act but it is symbolic of so much more. It is a reverential acknowledgement of the role of the Irish in the Korean War. It is a testament to the Ireland’s complex history and our embrace of that complexity.   Above all it is a remembrance that Irish lives were given in compassion and service to the people of Korea, in the defence of freedom and in the cause of the United Nations.

Thank you. 

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Early Irish Connections with Korea

Bilateral relations are not just quotidian affairs but are shaped by history.  In many cases, that history is well known so Irish public diplomacy can build on that.  Our relations with the United States is perhaps the most obvious example.  In other cases, historical connections are less well known, even forgotten.  Irish Korean relations are a case in point.  If our historical connections are thin threads, they are nonetheless fascinating stories about the global Irish in times past and the sometimes bizarre coincidences between past and present. The unfolding story of Charles Morris told below could not have happened without the internet which demonstrates what a powerful tool it is in guiding us through the labyrinth of personal histories.  Uncovering and recovering that history not only helps strengthen Irish Korean bilateral relations but adds new mosaics from unlikely places to the picture of Ireland’s Diaspora.

Ambassador’s Message – Colonel McKee and Missionary Charles Morris in Korea

22 May 2012

As you might know, we at the Embassy launched a living history of Irish Korean links on our website.  We compiled what we knew into a narrative and invited anyone and everyone to submit additions.  We have so far managed to push back the date of Ireland’s first engagement with Korea: a distant forebear of mine, Col. Hugh McKee, on the USS Colorado, in Korea as part of a raiding party in 1871.   He led a group, which included four Irish born men, the first to reach Korea as far as we know (very regrettably from an Irish diplomatic point of view!)   They attacked a garrison on Gangwha island, near Seoul, and it seems that Pat Dougherty from Ireland killed General Yeo in the process.  Col. McKee died from wounds sustained in the raid and the Irish born US Marines won Medals of Honour. 

Incidentally, a Korean historian told me that some twenty-five years ago a descendent of Col. McKee visited the monument to General Yeo and met the General’s descendents there, so reconciliation was achieved.  We are needless to say hoping to find an Irish person who got to Korea before them with more peaceful intentions!

Another fascinating Irish connection has recently surfaced.  The following is something of a detective story, pursued by Frank O’Donoghue, whom some of you may recall was Deputy Head of Mission here up until last year and the new Deputy Head of Mission, Ruth Parkin.  I want to thank Frank for his dogged research on Irish Korean relations, despite finishing his posting here. 

The story has thrown up some extraordinary coincidences.  Frank had thought that Charles Morris, an Irish born missionary active in Korea from 1901 until his death in 1927, may have been born Church of Ireland but could not find a registration of his birth in either the Anglican or Methodist churches of Portlaoise, Ireland. Out of the blue, a granddaughter of Morris, Ms Janet Downing, contacted the Embassy because she saw the reference on the Embassy website.  She provided us with her detailed and fascinating contribution.  When Ruth mentioned the story of a Methodist who died in Korea but was born in Laois to her parents (her father is a Methodist minister), her mother immediately suggested Ballyhupahaun as a possible location for Charles Morris’s birth without any knowledge of the context.

Our serendipitous team of detectives have given permission for me to publish their exchanges below, for which thanks.

As you will see, the story is a wonderful series of human and historical connections, linking Huguenot settlement in Ireland in the 18th century; the conversion of an Irish Huguenot to Methodism by the founder of Methodism John Wesley during the latter’s last of many trips to Ireland (some twenty-one between 1747 and 1789);  Irish emigration to American; American missionary work in Korea; and Irish American genealogical research in Ireland which yielded yet another amazing coincidence involving an old post card. 

We have put obituaries of Charles Morris on the Embassy website which give an indication of the esteem in which he was held in Korea.  It is also clear that his wife was a heroic missionary too, staying in Korea for another thirteen years after his death in 1927.

 I hope you enjoy the story.

Best wishes, 

Eamonn

Extract from Frank’s email, December 2011

“In the spring of 2011, along with a fellow country man and Anglican priest, we stumbled upon the above-mentioned Irish born but US reared and educated Methodist missionary in Korea from 1901 to 18 January 1927.”
 
“The Reverend Charles David Morris is buried in the Yangwhajin or Foreigners’ Graveyard in Seoul, South Korea(Republic of Korea). On the steel stake beside his gravestone there is biography in which it is stated that Charles David Morris graduated from Drew Theological Seminary in 1900 and ministered as far north as Pyongyang and places between there and Seoul such as Incheon.  It was also stated that he was of French Huguenot origin. My own surmise is that Charles David Morris was Church of Ireland (Anglican/Episcopal) when in Ireland as a community of Huguenot descendants worshiped in French in Portarlington, County Laois ( then Queens County) until about 1869 but that his family joined the Methodist Church after they settled in the USA.”

 

Extract from Frances Bristol, General Commission on Archives and History,
The United Methodist Church,
New Jersey, USA, January 2012

“Dear Mr. O’Donoghue,

Thank you for your request.  There is quite a bit of information available at this location on Rev. Morris, but, unfortunately, no mention of the names of his parents.  Attached to this message please find extracts from the Mission Biographical Reference file on Rev. Morris.  Also included is an extract from the Alumni Record of Drew Theological Seminary related to Rev. Morris.”

 

Extract from Frank’s email to myself and Ruth, May 2012

“Ambassador, Ruth,

This is some research provided me by the United Methodist Church concerning one Charles David Morris. I have found from the attached that he was born in 1869 in a place called Ballyhupahun, Queen’s County (now County Laois). The current spelling is Ballyhuppahaun, Roseanallis, County Laois close to Portlaoise.  I went to school in Ballyfin nearby (1968-1971) and some of the locals said to me at that time that ‘Roseanallis’ was so called by a local Quaker landowner who had three daughters Rose Ann and Alice!

What is unclear is if Charles David Morris was born into the Church of Ireland given his Huguenot background but most of that community were closer to Portarlington where services were conducted in French within Church of Ireland until, curiously, the year of his birth. There is (was) a Methodist Church in Portlaoise (then called Maryborough) but in the days of the horse and cart the Morris birthplace would have been quite a distance to travel each Sunday. It is possible the Morris family worshipped closer to home perhaps in Mountmellick or Mountrath where there would have been long established Anglican/ Church of Ireland and Society of Friends(Quaker) communities/congregations.”

Extract from Janet Downing to Ruth, granddaughter of Charles Morris, 3 May 2012

“I was absolutely thrilled to find my grandfather, Charles David Morris, listed on your Embassy of Ireland website.  One little correction, I would like to make is that his parents did not emigrate to the US.  ‘Since both of his parents were deceased, he emigrated in 1888 at age 19 to the United States…’

 He was an amazing man and I wish that I had known him, but it is wonderful to see him remembered on your website.”

Reply from Ruth, 4 May 2012

“We are in the process of developing a project on Irish links with Korea and would be interested in any further information you may be willing to share. Frank was unable to find a record of his birth but thought that perhaps he had been raised Anglican before converting to Methodism on or before travelling to the US. We really have little other than in that short paragraph so anything you know will be extra. Obviously it seems he married and had children – in Korea?”

Email Response from Ms Downing, 4 May 2012

“I am just thrilled to hear from you! I have quite a bit about Charles Morris because my mother and her sister were both born in Yeng Byen.  My mother went back to Ireland with her parents in 1925 and so learned quite a bit and although very young, remembered it because he died in 1927.”  

“I will go through my documents, but off the top of my head – the Maurices were Huguenots who built Water Castle near Abbeyleix.   I only have them back to a James Maurice and Muriel Tarlton from the 1700’s, who are buried at the Old Church on the De Vesci Estate.  Their son John Maurice is said to have been converted by John Wesley in the old church at Maryborough in 1789.  His son, John Maurice married Hannah Knight and got a farm at Ballyhupahaun.  His son James stayed on the farm and anglicized the name to Morris and was Charles’ father.  Charles always said that if he had sons, if would have changed the name back to Maurice “to remind us of our noble ancestors who left the land of their birth rather than give up their faith.”  Charles was born in Ballyhupahaun. There is also a small Methodist Church in Ballyhupahaun which was built in 1848, but has an old stone inside which says AD 1795 – it appears that there had been a Methodist Church in that area since very soon after John Wesley was in Ireland.”

“I am very much into genealogy and have been trying to find out as much about my Irish ancestors since I did not know this special man.”

“My grandmother Louise Ogilvy grew up in Topeka, Kansas in the US and when she was 18, missionaries came through looking for a teacher for the school age children of the missionaries in Pyongyang.  Although so young, they could not find anyone and so she went to Korea in 1901 and there met Charles David Morris.  She married him in 1903 in Kobe, Japan.  They were in Yeng Byen 1905 – 1912, then Pyongyang until 1916, when they went to Wonju until he died.  He itinerated all over and started many churches and schools.” 

“I went to Ireland with my mother in 1988 – one hundred years after Charles had left.  We found the farm in Ballyhupahaun and met the man who bought it after Charles’ brother, Robert, died in 1950.  I said I was the granddaughter of Charles Morris and he said “Robert had a brother who went across the seas to preach.”  Just amazing after 100 years!  Then I went to a house near to the Methodist Church and met Olive Graham.  When I said I was the granddaughter of Charles Morris, she turned pale and said to a granddaughter, “bring that card we were looking at last night.”  It was a postcard from Charles to her mother in 1900 when he was on his way to Korea.  She knew her mother was a cousin, but I have still not quite made that connection, although Olive did not think it was important.  She had cared for Charles’ brother, Robert, until he died.  She was just so kind to me and had me all over the county and Dublin meeting “cousins.”  What a magical time it was.”

“My grandparents gave their lives to their work in Korea and loved the Korean people, but with so much of their time in “North Korea” one wonders about their contribution.  But it appears that they were truly loved when they were there.  My grandmother stayed on in Seoul until 1940, when she was forced to leave [with all the other missionaries], and she died a year later.  (I knew neither of my grandparents – they were both gone before I was born.)  Actually, my mother went back to Korea in 1934 after she graduated from college, having difficulty finding a job.  The superintendent of the Oriental Consolidated Mining Company had loved her father and offered her a job teaching.  My father had been going to Colorado School of Mines and got pneumonia.  He saw an ad in the papers for supervisors needed in the gold mines of Korea and thought that sounded much more exciting than going back to school.  So both my parents and grandparents fell in love and married in Korea.  So although I have never been there – it is certainly a big part of my heritage!”

 

 

ENDS

 

 

 

 

 

 

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