Thomas Francis RYAN [1889-1971]

Submitted by brian edgar on Wed, 12/11/2013 - 21:09
Thomas Francis
Birthplace (town, state)
Ballintemple, Cork
Birthplace (country)
Cause of death
Heart problems

Father Thomas Ryan came to Hong Kong as a Jesuit in 1933.

During the 1930s he carried out his religious duties, taught at Wah Yan College, and was active in projects of social reform and betterment. In 1934 he helped found a social service club among students of the Jesuits and in 1938 he joined with Anglican Archbishop Ronald Hall to set up the Hong Kong Housing Society. He also worked with Archbishop Hall on the Hong Kong Emergency Refugee Council which tried to help the tens of thousands of refugees who fled to Hong Kong after the Japanese attack on south China in late 1938.

He described his own work and that of his fellow Jesuits during the 1941 hostilities in Jesuits Under Fire In the Siege of Hong Kong (1944) - this remains one of the best sources for the civilian experience of the fighting. After the surrender he lived for a time at the French Hospital, until he was allowed to leave with other Jesuits in April 1942.

He returned to Hong Kong in 1945 and was asked to become 'Director of Marketing/'Acting Superintenent of Agriculture' in the new administration - it has been claimed that this was the first time a priest held such a role in the history of the British Empire.

He was made Superior of Hong Kong's Jesuits on August 24, 1947, but was removed in 1950 after a number of controversies. He remained in Hong Kong, writing music criticism for the South China Morning Post, but a severe heart attack in 1957 curtailed his activity. He died at Canossa Hospital in February 1971 after years of continuing heart problems.

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Father Ryan’s description of being asked to conduct a funeral service for Pte. Maxwell, the HKVDC soldier killed during the 1941 battle and the only burial in the grounds of St. John’s Cathedral, is well worth reading in “Jesuits Under Fire.”