Irish Jesuit celebrates 100th birthday!

Fr. Joe Mallin SJ Japan

Irish Jesuit Joe Mallin celebrates his 100th birthday on Friday 13 September. Joe’s father, Commandant Michael Mallin was executed by the British after the 1916 Rising. He was second in command of the Irish Citizen Army under James Connolly and was based in St Stephen’s Green. His second in command was Countess Markievicz.

Fr. Joe Mallin SJ Japan

Click here for coverage in the Irish Times – The ‘oldest Irish priest’ turns 100 in Hong Kong

The last eighty years have seen momentous changes and Fr. Joe Mallin SJ has been a witness to many, during his years of service in China.
Clearly a life of service to others was not unknown in his own family – his brother Sean entered the Society a few years before him and his father was Commandant Michael Mallin, executed by the British for his part in the Easter Rising of 1916.

Fr. Mallin was only two and a half years old and therefore has no memories of his father but was very moved by an article about him written in 1917 by an American Jesuit. Fr. Mallin remembers his mother as a wise woman, who tried to let them experience as normal a family life as possible. At the time of his execution she had four children and was expecting their fifth. In a final letter to her, her husband wrote ““to pray for all the souls who fell in this fight, Irish and English”.


On the ship out to Hong Kong the Catholic cargo supervisor died and
Fr. Joe was asked to conduct the burial service at sea. It was a very moving experience he remembers and the captain was most helpful.
Fr. Mallin arrived in Guangzhou (Canton) in early September 1948. But in May 1949, the Jesuits had to leave the city for Hong Kong due to the advance of the Chinese Communist army.

Hong Kong in the late 1940s was not in good shape due to the Japanese occupation and the Allied bombing but it recovered very quickly.
Fr. Mallin didn’t have much time to explore his new home but got to work straight away. He had to take over the top floor of the Paris Foreign Mission Society house which had kindly been handed over to the Jesuits.

An incident he recalls clearly was when a phone call came one night, very late, from the Queen Mary Hospital asking for a priest to come to attend a dying patient. He went down to the street and stopped a taxi. The taxi driver got him to the hospital very quickly. When he thanked him, the driver replied ““I am a Muslim, and my father told me that if a Catholic mission priest ever stopped me in the middle of the night to go to a hospital I should drive like the wind because it was very important.”

Few words, but many loving actions

He had a very varied apostolic life, successfully doing the job of minister in the community, Mission Bursar, Director of a Social Centre, secondary teacher, Headmaster of Pun Yu Primary School in Hong Kong, Principal of Ricci College in Macao, among other things. He was known as a man of few words, but of many loving actions.

National Museum Dublin

Fr. Mallin played the flute, which had belonged to his father. Indeed his father had played it in Liberty Hall in the Workers’ Orchestra on the eve of the 1916 Rising. The flute and his father’s watch are now in the National Museum in Dublin.

When asked if he regretted anything about leaving Ireland, he said that he would like to have had some more time working as a priest in Ireland. He said that he also missed the rain!

Fr. Joe Mallin has been a Jesuit for over 80 years and will celebrate his 100th birthday next September! He is viewed with almost incredulous amazement for all he does at his age. He is deeply respected by all those who know him.

A Letter to Fr. Mallin on his 100th Birthday

Dear Father Mallin,

On my own behalf and on behalf of the people at home, can I extend to you wishes for a very happy 100th Birthday.

As a nation we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the sacrifice made by many men and women through the generations. The price paid by your Father in laying down his life, the price paid by your mother who lost her husband, the price paid by you and your siblings who grew up without their father is a debt un-repayable by any nation.

The account of your visit to Kilmainham Jail in May 1916 is tragically moving when considering the heartache your mother and father must have felt knowing that it was the last time he would see you in this life. He must feel great joy in seeing you fulfil the hope contained in his last letter – ““Joseph, my little man, be a priest if you can“.

Those who fought in the 1916 Rising did so for justice in an Ireland where there was little hope. Your father and the others brought hope to Ireland and reshaped our country. The proclamation whose ideals they tried to fulfil contains concepts that are both timeless and universal.

Those aims are as relevant to people struggling for rights all over the world today as much as they were for the people of Ireland in 1916.

Best Wishes and Happy Birthday,

Is mise le meas,

Senator Mark Daly Seanadóir Marcus O’Dalaigh

Senate Spokesperson for the Irish Overseas and Diaspora