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West Clare-China links stretch back a long way

CLARE’S links with China stretch back to the early part of the last century, when several people from the west of the county served with the Shanghai police force and in the judiciary.

In a week when Clare County Council voted to accept an invitation from the vice-president of Yunnan Province to visit the region in April or May, with a view to building links between the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark and the Stone Forest Geopark (Shilin Geopark), located in the south-west of China, historian Paddy Waldron has told The Clare Champion of the connection between Carrigaholt and Cross to Shanghai, in particular.

Pat Keating from Fierd in Cross returned to Ireland from China in 1933 and later donated one thousand pounds for a marble altar in the Catholic church in the village, near his birthplace. He bought Plassey House, known as the White House to University of Limerick students, in 1933. He is thought to have got into financial difficulties, when events in China eroded the value of his pension and investments.

A diary kept by Hannah Synnott from Lisdoonvarna, who worked as a teacher in Shanghai, says that Pat Keating was based in Canton at the time of her arrival in China in 1911. He travelled to Hong Kong to meet her and her husband, Micho Gibson, as they passed through on their honeymoon voyage.

Mr Keating spent many years in Manchuria as a judge in the British Colonial service. In his early 20s, he joined the British Civil Service and went to China in 1906. This decision, it appears, was influenced by his friendship with Kilbaha man, Michael Gibson, who went to Shanghai at the beginning of the 1900s.

During Mr Keating’s almost 27 years in China, he enjoyed various challenges and responsibilities. The Shanghai Statistical Department of the Inspectorate General of Customs notes his involvement with Customs and Excise and Foreign Currency Exchange. He also served in the postal department in the central office in Peking.

Tony O’Dwyer, from Carrigaholt, was a chief inspector in the Shanghai police department, joining in 1912, aged 22. He died of appendicitis in Shanghai in 1933. It is believed that his grave and, indeed the cemetery, was erased by Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

The Keane brothers, Patrick and Michael, also from Carrigaholt, also served in the Shanghai police force and the customs service respectively.

They were sons of Thomas Keane and Mary Anne Cahill, Carrigaholt. Patrick Keane served in the police from from 1911 to 1921, while Michael Keane joined the Chinese Maritime Customs Service in December 1920, as a probationary tidewaiter. He died from cancer in January 1941 when he was based in Shanghai as a tide surveyor.

He worked in Nan king, Newchang, Canton and Shanghai. He married in Shanghai and every four years, the family would return home to spend a year in Ireland as a condition of employment with the custom service.

Daniel Ginnane (Carrigaholt) served in the Shanghai municipal police from 1912 to 1936. He is related to Mary Ginnane, retired postmistress in Carrigaholt, who has a collection of memorabilia from Shanghai.

By Peter O’Connell

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