Type of entity
Authorized form of name
Finn, Daniel J, 1886-1936, Jesuit priest
Parallel form(s) of name
Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules
Other form(s) of name
- Dan Finn
- 范達賢神父 (芬戴禮)
- Finn, D J
Identifiers for corporate bodies
Dates of existence
24 March 1886-01 November 1936
Born: 24 March 1886, Cork City
Entered: 06 September 1902, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 24 January 1919, Zakopane, Poland
Final Vows: 02 February 1924, St Ignatius College Riverview, Sydney, Australia
Died: 01 November 1936, London, England
Part of the Holy Spirit Seminary community, Aberdeen, Hong Kong at time of his death.
by 1910 at Oxford, England (ANG) studying
by 1914 at Innsbruck, Austria (ASR-HUN) studying
by 1919 at Zakopane, Poland (GALI) working
by 1920 at Petworth, Sussex (ANG) health
by 1928 second batch Hong Kong Missioners
◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280 :
His early education was at Presentation Brothers College Cork. While still underage he won first place in Ireland in the Preparatory Grade, 1896, against over 2.600 competitors, securing 90% all round in his subjects. He was presented with a large gold medal and chaired through the College by his school fellows. Two years later he came second in the Junior Grade, winning four first composition prizes in Latin, French, German and Italian. He obtained a First Class Exhibition in his Middle and Senior Grades, while still underage, and in the Middle Grade, a gold medal for first place in three modern languages. During these years he also showed special devotion to Our Lady, and was noted for a certain gravity and cheerfulness of disposition, which he never lost.
He Entered the Society under Michael Browne in 1902 at St Stanislaus College Tullabeg
1904-1907 He remained at Tullabeg for his Juniorate.
1907-1909 He was sent to Rathfarnham Castle and University College Dublin gaining a BA in Archaeology.
1909-1910 He taught the Juniors at Tullabeg and went to St John’s College Oxford, where he gained a Diploma in Archaeology, and working under Sir Percy Gardner.
1910-1913 He was sent to Clongowes for regency, teaching Bookkeeping, Latin and Greek. His lectures to the community at this time on the great works of painting and sculpture were much appreciated.
1913-1917 He was sent to Innsbruck for Philosophy, and while there he learned Hungarian and some Slavic languages. His first sermon was in Irish on St Brigid, and while there he continued his interest in art and archaeology. Then because of the Italian entry into the war he was banished from the Tyrol and went to Kollegium Kalksberg close to Vienna, and he began Theology there in private, and gaining a sound knowledge of Hebrew.
1917-1920 He joined the Polish Theologate at Dzieddzice in Prussian Silesia. As a result of a severe cold here he contracted TB and was sent to the Jesuit residence at Zakopane, a famous health resort. He was Ordained there on 24 January 1919, in order to have consolation of dying a Priest. However, he was able to return to Ireland at the end of June that year, after spending the winder of 1919-1920 at Petworth Sussex in England.
1920-1922 He was sent to Australia and completed his Theology studies there and made Tertianship at Loyola Greenwich, whilst at the same time teaching the Juniors.
1922-1926 He was sent to St Ignatius College Riverview as a Teacher and Prefect of Studies. Here he was remembered for swimming in the baths, rowing on the river in the Gladstone skiff of a four, or throwing himself into a production of the Passion Play. Meanwhile, he taught one boy Japanese. During his time in Riverview he volunteered for the Japanese Mission, but he was diverted by Superiors to the Hong Kong Mission.
1926-1928 He resided in Hong Kong, engaged with the language and was employed at the University as a lecturer in pedagogy
1928-1931 He was in Canton in charge of the studied at Bishop Fourquet’s Sacred Heart School. There he also began the study of Chinese archaeology. He also translated several volumes of “Researches into Chinese Superstition” written by Fr Henri Doré SJ.
1931 He returned to Hong Kong he was appointed Spiritual Director of the Seminarians, Professor of Church History, and also a Lecturer in Geography at the University. In addition he found time for the research for which he would be chiefly remembered - his archaeological research in Lamma Island and other regions around Hong Kong which greatly enhanced the reputation of the Church in the Far East.
He represented the University and the Government at an International Congress in Manila and Oslo in 1936. His paper at Oslo was entitles “Crucial Doubts about the Most Important Finds in the Hong Kong Region”. At this same time he also managed to have published thirteen articles in the Hong Kong “Naturalist” entitled “Archaeological Finds on Lamma Island 1932-1936”
1936 he left Dublin for the British Museum on October 05, to continue his reading and discussion of the prehistoric specimens he had brought home with him. He was engaged in this work up to the 10th when he developed a carbuncle which indicated a general blood infection. He was transferred to hospital on the 16th, where despite expert treatment he failed to respond and he died.
He carried his learning lightly, and he laughed amusedly at the pedantic and ponderous. He was extremely humble, unassuming and simple, though a man of intense intellectual concentration and power for work. He was gifted with a strong robust character that knew no temporising or equivocation. His literary gifts were of a high order, as appeared from the little that was left in the way of letters written during his first years in China. He was an extraordinarily fine linguist, speaking Chinese, Irish, Latin, Greek, French, German, Polish and Japanese.
His early death saddened both his Jesuit and scientific colleagues.
◆ Hong Kong Catholic Archives :
Father Daniel Finn, S.J.
By Thomas. F. Ryan SJ
The news of Father Finn’s death came as a shock to all who knew him even by name, and it was a painful blow to those who knew him personally. He was one of those rare characters that are equally conspicuous for qualities of heart and of head, and among all who came in contact with him his genial disposition will be as well remembered as his brilliant intellect. His death is a loss to science and especially to Hong Kong, and it is particularly tragic that he should have died abroad while on a scientific mission, representing both the Government and the University of Hong Kong.
It is close on forty years since I first met Father Finn, and I can still remember the first occasion on which I heard his name. It was at the first distribution of prizes which I attended at school. As a new boy and a very diminutive member of the lowest class, I listened with awe to the Headmaster’s account of the successes of the year, and I can recall his attitude and the tone of his voice as he told how one Daniel Finn found himself in a very enviable dilemma after his first public examination - he had to choose which of two gold medals he would accept. He had qualified for two, one for being first in Ireland in whole examination, and the other for being first in modern languages, but even in those amazing nineties when gold medals were awarded so liberally, no student in this examination could receive more than one. I forget which he chose, but I remember that the Headmaster fully approved of it - as headmasters always do on such occasions.
It was not long before the “Daniel” of the Headmaster’s speech gave place to “Dan.” Three years is a considerable gap between school-boy ages and to me Dan Finn was one of the Olympians, but he was a very cheerful divinity and was as much a hero to the smaller boys as if he were a proud athlete who never passed an examination. He never changed much in appearance from what he was as a boy. He was of the same build then as later, short and sturdy, with the same quizzical look about his eyes, and the same pucker of the lips, and the same odd angle of the head when he was hesitating about something. He grew careless about his clothes as the years went on, but as a boy in Cork forty years ago he was neatness itself, and the wide white collar above the Norfolk coat of those days was always spotless. He took no active part in games, but his best friend was a prominent athlete, and at school football-matches he was constantly to be seen on the touchline, leaning on the shoulder of some companion, and talking incessantly.
He had many family sorrows during his school-days, but they left no scars, and his good-humoured disposition never varied. His success in studies was phenomenal. It was commonly said of him in our school-days that he got first in every examination for which he sat. I am sure that this was an exaggeration, but it cannot have been very far from the truth. He was the only boy I remember whose photograph was hung in the school immediately after he left it. It was put over the fireplace in my classroom, and as we sat around the fire before class or during recess, remarks were often made about him.
“Where is he now?” someone asked one day.
“He is gone to be a Jesuit,” someone else answered.
That was the first time that I heard of anyone I knew becoming a Jesuit.
After a few years he began his University studies in Dublin, and before long the name of Rev. D. Finn, S.J., began to head the lists of examination results. As a boy he had taken up modern languages - French, German and Italian - for no other reason than that the school which we both attended cultivated them particularly. At the University he took up classics, and it was classics that formed the basis of the wide culture that was afterwards his. His entrance into classical studies was almost sensational, for after six months study of Greek he won a scholarship and first place in Greek and Latin in the University entrance examination. First with first-class honours in every examination, and every scholarship within reach, would be a correct summing up of this university career.
Recording examination successes is a monotonous thing, and in the case of Father Finn the less said about examinations the better if a proper estimate of him is to be given. He hated examinations. The humdrum work which they demanded was nauseating to him, and it was fortunate that preparation for them demanded such little effort on his part. He was always at his best when off the beaten track. I remember once meeting him in a country place when he was resting after a bout of examinations. He had a geologist’s hammer in his hand and was off to a railway cutting to look for fossils. The byways of the classics soon interested him. He stopped his first reading of Homer to make a model of a trireme, and a very ingenious model it was, with the oars made to scale and of a much more reasonable length than some antiquarians suggested. A year later he had developed a new theory for completing the friezes of the Parthenon, and he beguiled a number of people into adopting statuesque poses and allowing themselves to be photographed to demonstrate his theory. I have a vivid recollection of the sheepish look of a village shoe-maker who found himself dressed in a trousers and a long red curtain, standing on one leg and holding his arms at unnatural angles.
Whenever he seemed on the point of demanding a return to modern clothes and village dignity, Father Finn used tactfully to interject a remark about his splendid muscles, and so secure a continuance of the pose for another photograph.
On being awarded a Travelling Studentship from the University in Ireland, Father Finn went to Oxford, and from his time his classical studies were carried on more and more in museums rather than from books. His reading indeed was then as at all times, enormous, but he was by nature an explorer in unusual spheres and henceforth his reading was mainly a background for his explorations. In Oxford he devoted himself to the writing of a thesis on the colouring of Greek sculpture. It won him the highest praise, and one of the professors excused himself from the usual examination on the plea that the reading of the thesis showed that the writer know more about it than he did. When he returned to Ireland the first thing that he did was to look up the Greek professor in Dublin who had whetted his interest in archaeology and suggest to him that they should start some excavations on the hill of Tara.
A few years teaching classics in a secondary school followed. These were undistinguished years, for preparing boys for examinations was emphatically not Father Finn’s strong point. But he interested some of his cleverer pupils in all kinds of strange branches of study, and years later many men acknowledged their indebtedness to him for an interest in intellectual pursuits which they would otherwise never have had.
When it was time for him to go abroad to do further studies I received a letter from him. I was then in Italy and he wanted to know if it would be good for him to go to study in Rome, as was suggested. His idea was that an alternation of lectures in philosophy and visits to museums would be better than whole-time philosophical studies. But before my reply reached him it was decided that residence in a German-speaking house would be most useful for his future studies in the classics. So he was sent to Innsbruck, in the Tyrol. This decision, with which he was delighted, was to prove a fateful one for him.
In the December before the war broke out I was passing through Austria and met him in Innsbruck. I was bewildered by the number of new interests that engrossed him. Munich was near enough for an occasional visit to its museums and picture-galleries, but now the social movements in Germany and Austria had begun to attract him, and Austrian folk-lore was tugging at his attention too. He had always been a student of art, and his special leaning was towards Gothic architecture and Gothic sculpture, and he found time to give considerable time to it in Innsbruck. There was a problem here, too, to attract him, and I was not many hours in the town before he had me standing beside the Emperor Maximilan’s tomb while he expounded his theories about the identity of the famous figures surrounding it.
In the following summer the war broke out and Fr. Finn, from being among friends, became a stranger in a hostile land. Though the Austrians treated the alien residents with all that courtesy in which they excel, yet war is war and conditions were hard. At first things were not so bad, he was allowed to continue his studies, and all that was demanded was that he should report regularly to the police authorities. Then he had to do hospital work; then supplies began to run low - then his health gave out. The remaining years were difficult ones. An effort to get permission for him to leave the country did not succeed. But within the possibilities of wartime conditions he was treated with every consideration. He was moved from place to place, to countries that have since changed their names, and after some time in Lower Austria, in Hungary and in Czechoslovakia he was sent finally to Poland, where he could continue his studies. He was fond of Poland, and spoke more of it than of any of the other countries in which he lived. He learned the Polish language and a certain amount of Russian. It was in Poland that he was ordained to the priesthood.
After the war he returned to Ireland sadly broken in health. He had developed tuberculosis, and the only hope of saving his life was to go to a drier climate. He went to Australia and there he made a rapid recovery. To anyone who knew him in Hong Kong it would seem fantastic to suggest that he was a delicate man, but it is true that his health was never the same after the period of semi-starvation which he had gone through in the last years of the war, and it was only by adopting a special diet that he could keep going. The diet was not an attractive one, but he certainly kept going.
In Australia he became Prefect of Studies in Riverview College, near Sydney, and there as usual he continued his interest in all kinds of side issues. It was one of these latter that eventually brought him to the East. There were some Japanese pupils in this College, and in order to be able to help them in their studies Father Finn began to study Japanese - a language more or less never worried him. Inevitably he soon became interested in Japanese antiquities, and before long he was in communication with some fellow-Jesuits in Japan.
There is a Jesuit University in Tokyo, directed by German Fathers, and when they found that a man of Father Finn’s standing was interested in things Japanese, they declared at once that the place for him was Tokyo, and they made demarches to get him there. After some negotiations everything was arranged, and he left Australia on a boat that was to bring him to Japan. That was in the beginning of 1927.
Then happened one of those things that people say happen only to Jesuits. When the ship was on the high seas and Father Finn was immersed in his Japanese studies, a wireless message came to him, telling him that he was not to go to Japan after all, but that he was to get off at Hong Kong and go no further. It had happened that between the time that arrangements were made for him to go to Tokyo and the end of the Australian school year, when it would be possible for him to start, it had been decided that some Irish Jesuits were to come to Hong Kong, and it was felt that this colony had first claim on the services of Father Finn. So, a little bewildered by the unexpected change that blew all his plans sky-high, Father Finn landed in Hong Kong in February, 1927. He was then forty-one years old.
It happened that during his years in Australia his position as Prefect of Studies in a large college had brought him a good deal into educational circles and aroused his interest in pedagogical matters. As interest for him found expression in deep study, he set to work to master the theory of education. In a few years whatever he had to say on matters connected with education was listened to with respect, and when he was leaving Sydney there was public expression of regret that New South Wales was losing a leading authority on education. Hong Kong at that time was looking for a substitute for Professor Forster, to take his place as Professor of Education in the University while he was on leave, and the result was that Father Finn was only a few days in the Colony when he was asked to take the position, So his connection with the Hong Kong University began.
Always a conscientious worker, Father Finn took the greatest care to do his work in the University in a way that was worthy of his position, and this was little short of heroic on his part, for, having come to China, his one desire was to go as deeply and as quickly as possible into the new field of antiquities that was open to him. He found time to begin the study of Chinese, however, but it was not until his temporary occupancy of the professorship was at an end that he was able to devote himself with all the intensity that he desired to his new studies. But he was not long free, and his next move was to Canton, where he taught, and later directed, the studies in the Sacred Heart College. Here his colleagues had an opportunity of seeing the way in which he worked, for, while most of his day was given to work in the classroom, he managed at the same time to give from five to seven hours each day to the study of Chinese. He made rapid strides in the language and, though he never acquired a good pronunciation, he learned to speak fluently Cantonese and some other local dialects and to read Chinese with such ease as is rarely acquired by a foreigner.
From that time forward Chinese antiquities occupied every moment that was free from his regular duties. When he spent some time in Shanghai, part of it was given to translating some of the Recherches sur les Superstitions en Chine, by P. Doré, S.J., and in whatever house he lived in Hong Kong his room soon took on the appearance of a museum. There was never any such thing as leisure time in his programme-study of one kind or another filled every available moment. He worked with great rapidity. He got to the “inside” of a book in a very short time, and every book that he read was a work of reference to him ever after, for at a moment’s notice he seemed to be able to trace any passage or any illustration in any book that he had read. In the few years that he had it was remarkable how much ground he covered in Chinese antiquities. On this subject his reading extended to practically every work of note in English, German and French, and to a considerable number of books also in Chinese and Japanese-for he had worked hard at Japanese when he realized that it was necessary for his antiquarian studies. His appointment as Lecturer in Geography in the Hong Kong University revealed another side of his interests, for it was only when his name came up in connection with the position that it was realised how fully abreast he was of modern methods of geographical study, and how detailed, in particular, was his knowledge of the geography of China.
His interest was gradually converging on archaeological research in Hong Kong when an accidental circumstance threw him right into the midst of it. He was living in the Seminary at Aberdeen, and one morning, about five years ago, he crossed the creek in the early morning to go to say Mass in the Convent of the Canossian Sisters in the village. As he climbed up from the sampan he saw a pile of sand being unloaded from a junk by the shore. His eye caught a fragment of an arrow-head in the sand. He picked it out, put it in his pocket and went on. But on his return an hour later he stopped to examine the sand, and found that it came from an archaeologist's gold mine, for within a short time he found several other interesting stone fragments and a few pieces of bronze. He questioned the men who were still engaged in unloading it, and found that it came from Lamma Island out in the bay. Further inquiries revealed that the work was being done under Government authority, and the sand was being removed rapidly by shiploads. To him this was vandalism and tragedy combined. He knew already from the work of Professor Shellshear and Mr. Schofield how important were the archaeological remains to be found around Hong Kong, and how illuminating they might be in their relation to many of the unsolved problems of pre-history, and here he found valuable evidence of the past being used to build walls and make drains. He had to act at once if he was to do his part for science and Hong Kong, he got through preliminaries as quickly as possible and within a week he was excavating on Lamma Island.
The results exceeded all expectations. To the uninitiated the stones and bits of earthenware which he handled so reverently were a disappointing result after hours of digging in the glaring sun, but to him and to others that were able to read their message, they were keys to unlock new storehouses of knowledge of the past. He now began to communicate his discoveries to scholars in other lands, and their interest was manifest. The Government of Hong Kong was alive to the importance of this new field of research and it gave a grant towards the expense connected with it. Henceforth Father Finn’s big interest in life was the archaeology of Hong Kong.
It would seem as if all his previous life was a preparation for these few years. Up to this time one might have said of him that he was taking too many things in his line of vision and that he would have done better if he had concentrated on some one branch of study. He had in him the capacity to do really great work in some one direction, but the multitude of his interests made him just a man of encyclopaedic knowledge when he might have been a specialist of eminence. But now all the jigsaw elements of his previous studies seemed to fall together and to make the essential background for his work in an almost unexplored branch of science. His classical training, his long study of classical archaeology, his scientific interests, his close study of history and geography, his knowledge of art-these were all essential to him now, but they could only be utilised because he possessed the archaeologist's flair that made him know what to seek and how to interpret, and gave his work in this field the character of genius. He enlarged the field of knowledge in this particular branch of archeology, even though, as he claimed, his work in it had hardly begun. His numerous articles in the Hong Kong Naturalist, ably illustrated by his esteemed friend Dr. Herklots, and the collection of objects excavated by him are all that remain as a record of his work. What he might have done if he had been spared for a few years more we can only surmise. It is the possibility of great achievement that makes his death so tragic.
And what of the man behind the student and the scholar? I have told of him as a well-liked boy even though of a class rarely conspicuous for popularity. As a man, among his Jesuit associates and with his few other friends, he was known and will always be remembered for his delightful disposition and perennial good humour. I am sure that no one who ever came into contact with Father Finn ever found in him a trace of conceit. The mere suggestion of it is ludicrous to anyone who knew him, and when any were led by ignorance of his own particular field of research to be critical of its utility, he was never provoked-even in their absence-to anything more than a good-humored sally. His wide interests embraced the work of all his companions. He knew what interested each one, and he was genuinely interested in it too. In everything he was always ready to help those who wanted his assistance, and much as he deplored the loss of a moment of time, he gave it unstintingly when the need of another claimed it. His thoughtfulness and sympathetic kindness made him a friend of all who knew him, and it is those who were associated with him most closely that will miss him most.
When writing of a priest-scholar it is often thought enough to add a paragraph at the end stating that, of course, this scholar was also a priest, and that he was all that a priest should be. To do so in the case of Father Finn would leave the picture of him very incomplete. His life was essentially that of a priest and religious devoted to science and scholarship rather than that of a scholar who happened to wear a Roman collar. The principles that moulded his life were visible in his attitude towards every duty assigned him and every branch of his study. If at any time, for any reason, he had been told to drop whatever work he was doing and turn to something completely new, he would have done it without question at a moment’s notice. Everyone who knew him realised that. From the moment he came to China he regarded himself as a missionary. His work was to spread the knowledge of God’s Truth, and he was ready to do it in any way that came within his scope. He did it abundantly by his example alone, and the testimonies about him since his death show that this influence of his example extended over a far wider field that he would ever have imagined.
In June, 1936, he left Hong Kong to attend an Archaeological Congress in Oslo. His report there on the work in Hong Kong attracted wide attention. Invitations poured in on him-to go to various centres of learning in Europe and America, to join in excavations in many lands. He was able to accept only a few, for he had already arranged to join in some research in the Malay Peninsula next spring. But he visited Sweden, Denmark and France, and then made a brief visit to his native Ireland. From there he went to London, to study in the British Museum. While in London he was attacked by some kind of blood poisoning-the result, he believed, of something he contracted in his archaeological work in Hong King, but who can tell? The doctors could not trace the source of the infection, but it proved fatal after a month’s illness.
When the news of his death came to Hong Kong it was felt as a personal sorrow by those whose sympathy he would have valued most. Poor boat-women on the sampans at Aberdeen wept when they were told it, and little children on Lamma Island were sad when they were told that he would not come back. It was the welcome of such as these that would have pleased him most if he returned; it is their regret at his death that most reveals to us his real worth. May he rest in peace.
The Irish Jesuit Directory and Year Book 1938
From Milan to Hong Kong 150 Years of Mission, by Gianni Criveller, Vox Amica Press, 2008.
Note from Thomas Ryan Entry
In 1941 he published “Jesuits under Fire”. He edited “Archaelogical Finds on Lamma Island”, the work of Daniel Finn.
◆ Biographical Notes of the Jesuits in Hong Kong 1926-2000, by Frederick Hok-ming Cheung PhD, Wonder Press Company 2013 ISBN 978 9881223814 :
He excelled at school in modern languages, being awarded Gold medals for French, German and Italian. He did a brilliant thesis on the colouring of statues by the ancient Greeks.
1913 He was sent to Innsbruck Austria for Philosophy. There he took up a keen interest and fascination in Austrian folklore.
1931 Chinese antiquaries absorbed him when he taught at the South China Regional Seminary in Aberdeen. He made a study of the deities and statues of the Aberdeen boat people, ad then he sent these to the Lateran Museum in Rome. In the 1930s he lectured also at The Chinese University of Hong Kong in Geography.
1932 While teaching Theology and Scripture at Aberdeen he came across a fragment of an arrowhead in sand brought from the south western shores of Lamma Island. He traced the source and found stone fragments and bronze pieces along with pottery fragments. This led to his writings on the Pre-Han and Stone Age history of the South China coast, which at the time was new to the archaeological world. He was a pioneer in archaeology in Hong Kong
Note from Thomas Ryan Entry
In 1941 he published “Jesuits under Fire”. He edited “Archaeological Finds on Lamma Island”, the work of Daniel Finn.
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 10th Year No 3 1935
Works by Father Dan Finn SJ :
- “Researches into Chinese Superstitions," by Rev. H. Doré, SJ (Shanghai - Translated into English by Father D. Finn, S.J.
- Vol IX : Taoist; Taoist Personnages, 1931 - pp xx + 227, 76 plates
- Vol X : Boards of heavenly Administration, 1933 - pp ix + 179, 39 plates (Both published at Tusewei Printing Press, Shanghai)
- A booklet : “Some Popular Indulgences Explained” - Messenger Office
- A series of articles on “Archaeological Finds on Lamma Island” - They appear in the Hong Kong Naturalist (Quarterly), From Vol. III, Parts 3 and 4, Dec. 1954, up to current issue.
Irish Province News 12th Year No 1 1937
Father Daniel Finn
Following so soon on the loss of Father Lyons, the unexpected death of Father Finn in a nursing home in London on Nov. 1st comes as a tragic blow to the Province and the Hong Kong Mission. Had he been allotted the normal span of life he would in all human probability have emerged a savant of the first order. He died just as he was winning a European reputation through his archaeological discoveries in China.
Born in Cork city, 24th March, 1886, he was educated at the Presentation College. When still under age he won 1st Place in Ireland in the Preparatory Grade, 1896, against over 2,600 competitors, securing 90 per cent all round in his subjects, and was awarded by his school a large gold medal, and was chaired through the College by his school-fellows. Two years later he came second in the Junior Grade, winning four first composition prizes in Latin, French, German and Italian. He got first-class exhibitions in Middle and Senior Grades, while still under age and, in the Middle Grade, a gold medal for first place in the three modem languages.
In these youthful days he had a wonderful and outspoken devotion to Our Blessed Lady and was noted for a certain gravity and cheerfulness of disposition which he never lost.
He began his noviceship in Tullabeg 6th September, 1902, remained there for two vicars' juniorate, during which he won 1st Place in the Classical Scholarship Examination (Royal University) and then went to College Green, where he began the study of Archaeology. After getting his B.A. degree he was sent for a year to Tullabeg to teach the juniors. In 1909-10 he studied Archaeology at Oxford, and secured a diploma in that subject. For the next three years he was a master at Clongowes. He could scarcely be pronounced a successful teacher on Intermediate lines and was given other classes. In them, with a number of other subjects, he taught book keeping with characteristic zest and humility. The delightful lectures he gave to the Community during these years reveal an astonishingly detailed acquaintance with all the great works of painting and sculpture.
He began his philosophy at Innsbruck in 1912, and during the three years acquired a certain fluency in Hungarian and in three at least of the Slav languages, keeping up his knowledge of Irish all the time. His first sermon in the refectory on St. Brigid was preached in his native tongue. His first loves, art and archaeology were by no means neglected.
in July 1915, in company with Father Halpin, and with the writer of the present lines, he alas banished from the Tirol by the War authorities, on Italy's entry into the struggle, and went to our College at Kalksberg near Vienna, where he began theology in private. While there he acquired a profound knowledge of Hebrew.
In 1917 he was able to join the Polish theologate at Dziedzice in Prussian Silesia. It was here, as a result of a severe cold he contracted consumption and was sent to the Jesuit Residence at Zakopane, a famous health resort. He was ordained on 24th February, 1919, in order to have the consolation of dying a priest.
However, he was able to return to Ireland at the end of June, and after spending the winter of 1919 at Petworth, when he continued his study of theology, he was sent to Australia. At Loyola he did his “third year”, and spent another year teaching the Juniors, getting completely rid of his delicacy. His chief work in Australia was done as Protect of Studies at Riverview 1922-26.
During that period he volunteered for the Japanese Mission and, after a splendid send-off from Riverview, set sail. A letter of his to Father Fahy best explains that he landed not at Yokohama but at Hong Kong.
For a year he resided at Hong Kong engaged on the language and employed at the University as lecturer in pedagogy. From 1928 to the summer of 1931 he was at Canton in charge of the studies of Bishop Fourquet's College. Just then things were looking bad, and there was a possibility of martyrdom. It was at Canton he began the study of Chinese archaeology. Returning to Hong Kong he was made spiritual director to the Seminarians, their professor in Church History, lecturer in geography at the University. Notwithstanding all this, he found time for that fine work for which he will be chiefly remembered - his archaeological researches on Lamma island and other regions around Hong Kong, by which he greatly enhanced the reputation of the Church in the Far East. He represented the University and the Government at the International Congress of Manila in 1935. and at Oslo in 1936. This latter was the occasion of his return to Europe, His paper read at Oslo was entitled - “Crucial Doubts about the Most Important Finds in the Hong Kong Region”. The full bearing of his discoveries he had not yet been able with certainty to divine, and herein lies the full tragedy of his untimely death. However, we have an enduring monument of his powers of research in the thirteen articles printed in the “Hong Kong Naturalist”, entitled “Archaeological Finds on Lamma Island”. They date from December, 1932, to 1936.
On October 5th Father Finn left Dublin for the British Museum to continue his reading and discussion of the prehistoric specimens he had brought home with him. He was engaged in this work up to the 10th when he was attacked by a carbuncle trouble which indicated a general blood infection. On the 16th he was transferred to SS. John and Elizabeth's Hospital, where, despite expert treatment, he failed to put up an effective resistance, and died at 10.10 am. on Sunday, 1st November, having received Holy Viaticum for the last time about an hour before his death. He was buried in Kensal Green cemetery on 3rd November.
Father Dan carried his learning lightly. He laughed amusedly at the pedantic and ponderous when he met them, he was extremely humble unassuming and simple, though a man of intense intellectual concentration and power of work. He was gifted with a strong, robust character which knew no temporising or equivocation. His literary gifts were of a high order, as appears from the little he has left in the way of letters written during his first years in China and preserved in the Province News of that period - in them are best mirrored his character and gifts of imagination and heart, his profound humility, his Ignatian spirit of obedience, his exquisite sensibility, his love of Christ and souls.
We owe the above appreciation and record of Father Finn's life to the great kindness of Father john Coyne, Socius to Father Provincial.
Irish Province News 12th Year No 2 1937
Father Dan Finn - Hong Kong Letters
News of Father Finn's death came as a very severe blow. It is unnecessary to say how much the Mission feels his loss. both as a member of the community and as a worker who had won for the Society very considerable honour by his industry and erudition.
Many letters have been received from all sections expressing their sympathy. The following is that received from the Vice Chancellor and Council of the University :
Dear Father Cooney,
There is no need for me to write to tell you how profoundly affected I am by Father Finn's death. Father Finn was a great scholar and his was an all-winning personality. His death is a
severe loss to this University, to this Colony, to China, and indeed to the rapidly disappearing world of scholarship and culture. What Father Finn’s death means to his fellow Jesuits in Hong Kong I can faintly imagine but am totally unable to express. The University Council will, at its next meeting, record a resolution. Meanwhile, on behalf not only of myself, but also of the University. will you please precept my sincerest sympathy.
W. W. HORNELL
Extract from the minutes of the seventh meeting of the Council held 6th November :
The Council learned, with great regret, of the death of the Rev. D. J. Finn SJ, the University lecturer in Geography, and passed the following resolution - “The Council wished to place on record its poignant regret at the death of the Rev. Father Finn of the Society of Jesus. The Council realises the devoted work which Father Finn did not only for the Colony of Hong Kong and its University but also for the world of scholarship, learning and culture, and is painfully conscious of the loss which his untimely death involves. The Council hereby instructs the Registrar to convey to the Superior and Procurator of the Jesuit Mission in Hong Kong its profound sympathy with the Mission in its heavy loss. The Council will be grateful if the Superior would convey to the members of Father Finn's family the assurance that the University shares with them the affliction of their bereavement.” The members indicated the adoption of the resolution by standing in silence.
On 7th November there was a Sung Office and Solemn Requiem Mass at the Seminary. The Bishop presided at the special invitation of the Italian Fathers, who said that they regarded Father Finn as “one of their own priests,” a Solemn Requiem Mass was celebrated in the Cathedral on 26th November. Amongst those present were His Excellency, the Governor of Hong Kong, the Vice-Chancellor and Professors of the University, and many friends, both Catholic and non-Catholic. The newspapers gave a full account with the title “Tribute paid to Jesuit - Governor attends Requiem Mass for Father Finn” “Indicative of the high esteem in which Hong Kong held the late Rev. Daniel Finn, S.J., who died in Europe three weeks ago, was the big attendance of distinguished non Catholic mourners who attended the Requiem Mass for the repose of his soul in the Catholic Cathedral this morning. Among them was His Excellency the Governor, Sir Andrew Caldecott, who took his seat with Sir William Hornell, Vice-Chancellor of the University, near the impressive catafalque” etc.
Father Finn's last letter to Father Cooney, dated London, 10th October, ran :
“Here I am enjoying myself as usual. Most days at the British Museum from I0 am. to 5.30 pm. l have developed some boil trouble which I am getting a local doctor to overhaul. I suppose it will be nothing.”
At the Mass the Seminarians. from Aberdeen formed the choir. Father G. Bvrne preached a short panegyric.
◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973
Father Daniel Finn 1886-1936
Fr Daniel Finn, a native of Cork, entered the Society in 1902. With his University studies over, he went to the continent for his philosophical and theological studies.
In 1919 he returned to Ireland in poor health, and for this reason he was sent to Australia, where for seven years he was Prefect of Studies. He was on his way to Japan in 1926 when notified of his attachment to the Hong Kong Mission. Here he turned to what was really the big work of his life, for from his University days in Oxford he had excelled in Archaeology.
In spite of all his work, travels and successes, he never forgot the primary object of his life – God’s greater glory, and he always had a notable devotion to Our Lady.
He went, on his way to an Archaelogical Congress to in Oslo, when he fell ill in London, and he died there on the Feast of All Saints 1956, being only fifty years of age.
◆ Our Alma Mater, St Ignatius Riverview, Sydney, Australia, 1928
Letter from Father Finn
Dear Mr Editor,
Here I am living this past month under the comforting shadows of a pair of Gothic spires in the heart of a fascinating Chinese city - and I have been too lazy to stir out! I have settled down again to being a school-master-and a very uneventful schoolmaster at that.
It is over a year and a half since I left 'View and since then I have seen many a new sight in China - yet it is always China. There are the full-breasted waterways with their traffic of ill-assorted craft where the Western built steamer hustles about the little sampans or the statelier junks; then there is the setting of the rivers, amid vast fertile alluvial plains, or cutting through crowded. hills. But these rivers have come thousands of miles and they bring down timber, produce, refuse, the living and the dead. Even the very earth itself. On them live people in their hundreds of thousands, even millions, who never quit them; their boats are their homes. I have only to walk two short streets to reach the Canton Bund, and there I can see one of the most characteristic sights of all China. It is a long quay beside the water-way that runs be tween the City proper and its suburb - Ho-nam. How many miles long, I don't know, but it is a very long way to the Railway station at the one end and it is over a quarter of an hour to Shameen at the other end, and this latter we count as near, All that long stretch is lined thick at both sides with craft, mostly small things, a little bigger than a Lane Cove fisherman's boat, but covered over for about half the length by a tunnel-like cover of matting. Down towards Shameen, every day when the Hongkong steamer comes in, there is a sudden scattering of these like the disturbance of an ant's nest, when the big river-boat makes for her berth. At places these boats merely cater for the pleasures of the Cantonese, and on them you can have meals-music-opium perhaps, but far more interesting are the other boats that earn a hard-won livelihood as passenger or cargo boats.
On board you can see all the members of a family, from the grandfather and grandmother down; all of them work. You will see an old woman at an oar, and on her back is strapped one of the newest members of the family. whose neck seems to be made of rubber, to judge by the case with which he sleeps amid all sorts of movements to which his head bobs about. The younger limbs of the household who can crawl about or walk for themselves are usually clad in full costumes of sun-tanned skin with a little crust of dirt to deepen it. Perhaps a charm hangs about the neck, but almost certainly a gourd or a kind of wooden drum will be hanging about the waist, with perhaps a bell tied at the child's ankles; still more cautious parents have a light rope tying their valuable offspring to some post.on board; such methods help to lessen the inevitable risk of tumbling overboard. A further stage of boyhood hops in itself for a swim in the yellow brown water, but that is not yet and it needs no precautions. Domestic animals dogs, cats, hens, pigs, are equally carefully guarded against the useless process of getting into the water.
Life is lived in all its stages on board: sleep at night on a mat-spread floor and completely under a padded quilt; the meals of rice with scraps of fish and vegetables - all washed down with tea - are cooked in an ingenious kitchen-well on board, and often eaten under the oar-handles in very movement. But it was the rowing that interested me. Here, I said to myself, is the solution for 'View. They have a style - of course it is not for outrigged racing boats - but it is a “style”. They row facing the direction in which the boat is going--and only in difficult currents do they need a steersman aft; they row standing and they fling their weight on to the long oar or sweep when it is fairly deep; the oar handle is then as high as their heads. To secure their rhythmic swing of the body, there is a definite scheme of foot-work, resembling, too, that of the Chinese carpenter as he uses his long saw with a similar movement. Now, actually the youngsters of four, five and six have got that body swing and foot-work by imitating their father and mother in play before ever they can contribute to the driving force of the boat. Hence the lesson! Put your “Eight”
into the boat from say four years of age - let them pick up “style” while they are young! The Prefect of Studies would be happier later on.
The social life of these people reproduces the life on land. They have their floating shops, mostly for comforts or food things, cakes, fruit, cigarettes, and wonderful brews; they have their beggars afloat in their own tubs; they have religious rites for marriages and deaths with the same squealing music and the droning chants; they have magic decorations in red with the fascinating characters; they probably have the wise-acres, who will write letters for them or tell their fortunes. Even just as you see men and women on the road ways tugging huge loaded trucks (where we are accustomed to see only draught animals at work), so you will see the boat people towing from the bank their boats up some river. against a heavy current. I don't know whether they have schools afloat; usually the people know enough characters for ordinary purposes - but there is no place for a library. We hope later to get into closer touch with these people when we have our place at Aberdeen (Small Hong Kong); perhaps then, we shall have to rig up a floating church. Up in the Shanghai Mission, however, they get such Catholics to bring their boats in groups to certain churches situated convenient for them.
But what is the use of all this writing? One must leave half the scene untouched. The accompaniment of unending chatter, of warning shouts, of abuse at times, of bumping boats, of creaking oars, the yelling in emergencies, the monotonous two-note chant of the coolies loading or unloading cannot be produced in ink. The heat, the glistening perspiration, the strange smells - tobacco being one and joss sticks another - the streams of rickshaws moving along the Bund, the thick current of white or black clad pedestrians, the big buildings and their green, red or blue signs with gold characters; you cannot get all in the picture if you want the Canton Bund on paper.
Now you see how long it takes me to get finished once I start with one thing here in China. So I must jettison all the notes I wrote on the back of your letter. I then intended to make “a short article” (your words) on the Hongkong New Year (Chinese) Fair which comes about the end of January; if anybody wants to get something distinctive let him come himself and see its booths, its crowds, its varieties. or again, if I were to start on Zi-ka-wei Shanghai with its Ignatius Church and College, I should take pages to tell you of the Communion rails crowded daily and of the Corpus Christi procession, wonderful displays of Chinese Catholicity. No Sydney man would feel homesick in Shanghai - but of its European flavour I shall not waste space. Personally, I prefer the Chinese town with its three-century-old Church (which has been in one interval a pagoda), its quaint tea-house in a gold fish pond, its temple with a stream of men worshippers. But there I am again! I seem to discover bits of myself in different places - -a library in Zi-ka-wei, ruins in Macao, unbroken quiet in the rice fields of Tai Wan or the snug village of Wong Tung, art at Tsat-Shing-Ngam, sea and hill at Hongkong, mediaevalism at Wai Chan - and I love to rehandle the fragments. And yet - and yet - the Riverview fragment still gets mixed up with the others, and somehow blends with the scheme. If Riverview but helps with prayer, it will fit in perfectly.
◆ Our Alma Mater, St Ignatius Riverview, Sydney, Australia, 1936
Father Daniel Finn
A cable announcing the death of Father Daniel J Finn SJ, on November 2nd, arrived as the Alma Mater was due to go to press. It is fitting that some account, how ever inadequate, should appear of a remarkable man and one to whom Riverview owes much,
Memories of a quarter of a century's friendship call up many varied scenes, some lived through together, others known from delightful letters and from reminiscences in later years - a Greek class in Clongowes (Ireland) clustered round Mr Finn's desk while he expounded the glories of Greek architecture and sculpture and coinage, as a change from reading Euripides and Thucydides; Mr Finn in his shirt sleeves arranging the Greek antiquities in the University museum in Dublin; revelling in the beauties of the mountain scenery and the historical associations of the Tyrol; teaching youthful Grafs and Freiherrs in Vienna; adventures in the midst of great battles on the Polish-Russian frontier during the war; at Riverview, swimming in the baths, on the river in the Gladstone skiff or in a four (Joe Alagna and other small boys of the time will remember coxing on these occasions); throwing himself heart and soul into the production of the Passion Play; then years later at Hong Kong, lecturing to Chinese students; with his gang of coolies excavating on Lammas Island; in his museum expatiating on the significance of the prehistoric pottery and arrow heads and rings he had discovered, or hunting in the glorious confusion of his room to find some notes on the ancient Chinese constellations.
Fr Finn was born in Cork just fifty years ago, After a brilliant career at Oxford, where he acquired a reputation in Greek archaeology, he taught for some years at Clongowes. In 1913 he went to Innsbruck to study philosophy and was interned in Austria, and later in Poland, during the war. For some time he taught at the College of Kalksburg, Vienna, then was sent to the college of Hieruf in Poland. This college was the chief building for many miles around, and, during the fierce battles that raged there, was used as headquarters by Russians, Austrians and Germans in alternation as the tide of war ebbed and flowed. Fr Finn was not ill-treated - that is not the Austrian way. He was not put in prison or in a concentration camp. Nevertheless, the privations he underwent, in common with the rest of the population, undermined his health so seriously that the doctors did not give him long to live. He went to the Carpathian mountains, where he studied theology and was ordained very soon, so that he might die as a priest. However, he was able to leave Austria in 1919, though quite broken in health.
He came to Australia in 1920, and in time his health was completely restored. During his five years as Prefect of Studies at Riverview (1922–1926) he got through an amazing amount of work. Many Old Boys will recall with gratitude now much their education owes to him. In addition to the ordinary routine of teaching and work as Prefect of Studies, he maintained a number of other activities. Each year saw a play excellently staged, due largely to his untiring exertions (as Mr. Harry Thomas testifies)—Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Hamlet, and, culminating triumph, the Passion Play in 1925.
A boy wanted to learn Japanese. Father Finn agreed to teach him. That was the overt reason why he undertook the study of Japanese. The main reason was not known until later.
For some years Fr Finn had been interested in missionary work in Japan. From a close friend of his, a German Jesuit, who worked for years in Tokyo, he obtained detailed information about the tasks and prospects of Catholic missions in Japan. He was fired with the desire to devote his life to helping on the conversion of Japan. The difficulties of the work, about which he had no illusions, did not deter him. The first of these difficulties, the language, he tackled vigorously in the intervals of his work at Riverview. When he had mastered it sufficiently, he obtained leave from Father General to transfer himself to the Japanese mission and sailed for Tokyo at the end of 1926.
At Brisbane a cable from the General reached him to say that the Irish Jesuit Province had been commissioned by the Pope to undertake a Mission in Hong Kong, and that his services would be wel comed there. Father General realised, however, that it would be hard, after lab ouring for years to prepare himself for work in Japan, to abandon that work and start all over again on the extremely difficult Chinese language. Accordingly, Father Finn was left perfectiy free to go on to Japan if he thought well. He left the ship forthwith and took the next boat to Hong Kong.
On arrival at Hong Kong he was at once offered a temporary chair in the (State) University. Later on he was given a regular professorship there. He acquired a profound knowledge of Chinese, and in particular of ancient Chinese characters (incidentally, he already spoke Irish, Latin, Greek, French, German, Polish, Japanese). He has produced several learned volumes on Chinese religion and mythology. The branch of learning which owes most to him during these years is archaeology. His thorough training under expert archaeologists, his wide learning and real flair for the subject were given adequate scope. He carried out systematic excavations on Lammas Island, near Hong Kong. One day each week was spent on this island, directing the operations of some thirty coolies which the Government put at his disposal. He made many important discoveries, and seems to have opened up a whole new phase in the prehistory of Southern China.
In Hong Kong, Father Finn lived in the Seminary in which the Irish Jesuits educate for the priesthood Chirese students from all Southern China: He did his share in this work of training.
This year he went to Norway to attend an archaeological congress. Apparently he died while still in Europe, but no details have reached us so far. The results he achieved in the short space of not quite ten years in Hong Kong gave promise of a truly remarkable output had he been granted the normal span of life. Talents and labours and labours were devoted unstintingiy to the service of God. For that he has earned his reward, but the Chinese mission and the learned world are the losers by his early death. His learning was tempered by modesty, humour and charm, and friends in many parts of the world will mourn his loss.
D O’C SJ
◆ The Clongownian, 1937
Father Daniel Finn SJ
The Irish Province of the Society of Jesus was deprived of one of its ablest members by the death of Father Finn on 1st November last. Although he was not at school at Clongowes, he spent three years here as a master (1910-13) and during that time the boys knew him as a man of extraordinarily varied interests with a particular flair for archæology and a deep enthusiasm for the study of Greek and Roman antiquities. He wrote several articles for “The Clongownian” in which he described the Clongowes Museurn and gave an exhaustive account of some classical coins in the collection.
At the National University he specialized in Classics, and won distinctions innumerable. Afterwards he went to Oxford to write a thesis on the colouring of Greek sculpture, a work that brought him the highest praise from the professors there. He began theology in Austria, but owing to the outbreak of the Great War he was transferred to Hungary and finally to Poland. Through this period, his genius in mastering languages enabled him to add Polish and Russian to his knowledge of French, German and Italian, in all of which he had been proficient since his schooldays. However, on his return to Ireland, it was found that he had contracted tuberculosis, and the only hope of saying his life was to go to a drier climate. Accordingly he went to Australia and spent some time in Riverview College as Prefect of Studies. But here he became interested in Japanese antiquities, and the staff of the Jesuit University of Tokyo hearing of him obtained permission to have him transferred to Japan. It was while he was on his way there that he got orders to change his destination for Hong Kong where the Irish Jesuits were just starting a mission.
In this seemingly fortuitous way he came to be living in a land teeming with relics of bygone ages. With the kind assistance of the Government, he carried out extensive excavations on Lamma Island close at hand, and made numerous valuable finds. His reports on the new field of discovery won world-wide attention at the Archælogical Congress held in Oslo last year, which he attended as the representative of the Government and University of Hong Kong. It was shortly after the Congress, when he was working in the British Museum that he began to suffer from some curious type of blood-poisoning of which he died within a month.
The fifty years of his life had been years of unceasing toil, not merely as a student and archæologist, but also in his later years as a priest and missionary. No more fitting tribute could be paid him than that at the Requiem Mass for the repose of his soul offered in Hong Kong, the congregation numbered people of all classes; HE the Governor, University officials, merchants, boat-women and little children: a truly representative gathering of many who esteemed him as a friend as well as a scholar. RIP
Functions, occupations and activities
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Finn, Daniel J, 1886-1936, Jesuit priest
Dates of relationship
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- County Cork » Cork City
- England » London
- England » Oxfordshire » Oxford
- Austria » Innsbruck
- England » Sussex » Petworth
- Poland » Zakopane
- County Offaly (King's) » Ballycowan (Bar.) » Tullabeg » St Stanislaus College
- Hong Kong » Aberdeen (Hong Kong)
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Rathfarnham » Rathfarnham Castle
- County Dublin » Dublin City » St Stephen's Green (Dublin) » University College, Dublin
- County Kildare » Clane » Clongowes Wood College SJ
- Australia » New South Wales » Sydney » Greenwich » Loyola College (Greenwich)
- Australia » New South Wales » Sydney » Riverview » St Ignatius College (Riverview)
- China » Guangzhou
- County Dublin » Dublin City
- England » London » Bloomsbury » British Museum
- Germany » Bavaria » Munich
- Japan » Kantō » Tokyo » Chiyoda City » Kioicho » Sophia University
- Hong Kong » Lamma Island
- Poland » Silesian Voivodeship » Czechowice-Dziedzice
- Hong Kong » Central Avenue » The Chinese University of Hong Kong
- Hong Kong » Aberdeen (Hong Kong) » Welfare Road » Holy Spirit Seminary
- County Cork » Cork City » Mardyke » Mardyke Walk » Presentation Brothers College
- England » Oxfordshire » Oxford » St Giles » St John's College (Oxford)
- Austria » Vienna » Promenadeweg » Kollegium Kalksberg
- China » Guangzhou » Sacred Heart School (Guangzhou)
- Norway » Oslo
- County Dublin » Dublin City » College Green » Trinity College Dublin
- Italy » Rome » Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano » Lateran Museum
- England » London » Kensal Green » Harrow Road » Kensal Green Cemetery
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