Born: 25 November 1881, Killashee, County Longford
Entered: 07 September 1899, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 31 July 1915, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1918,St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Died: 13 September 1959, Loyola College, Watsonia, Australia - Australiae Province (ASL)
Part of the Manresa, Hawthorn, Melbourne, Australia community at the time of death.
Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ
Transcribed HIB to ASL : 05 April 1931
First World War chaplain.
by 1904 at Kasteel Gemert, Netherlands (TOLO) studying
by 1918 Military Chaplain : 6th Yorks and Lancs Regiment, BEF France
◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280
James Magan was a real character with a boisterous sense of u and was a wonderful companion if one was not feeling depressed. His loud, melodious voice could annoy the more sensitive by his vociferous jokes on trams and buses, and he was good at “setting up” superiors by playing on their weaknesses, especially the provincial, Austin Kelly. His wit was captivating. When introducing himself he would say: “Magan's the name - James William Magan. James after St James, William after the Kaiser, and Magan after my Father.
Magan was a most devoted and respected pastor, especially good with young people. He was also very humble. and would even ask for advice about his sermons and retreat notes, even though he was highly skilled in preaching. He spoke the language of the people in simple terms, putting everyone at ease He even became an expert in the Australian accent.
He was educated at Castleknock College by the Vincentians, and Clongowes College, before he entered the Society at Tullabeg, 7 September 1899. After his juniorate there in mathematics and classics, he studied philosophy at Gemert, Toulouse province, 1903-06, and then taught at Mungret and Clongowes, 1906-12. Theology studies at Milltown Park followed, 1912-16, and tertianship at Tullabeg, 1916-17.
For a few years afterwards, Magan became a military chaplain with the 6th York and Lancasters, British Expeditionary Forces, 1917-19. Afterwards, he set sail for Australia, teaching first at Xavier College, 1920-22, then at St Aloysius' College, 1923-24, and finally spent a year at Riverview.
In Australia he had a most successful pastoral ministry, first at Lavender Bay, 1925-31, then as superior and parish priest of Richmond, 1932-36. He also worked at various times at Hawthorn, 1942-59.
Magan was a very colorful personality. He was an outstanding retreat-giver, and for twenty years gave the ordination retreat to the seminarians at Werribee. He also gave a retreat to the Cistercian monks at Tarrawarra. His short Sunday discourses were always full of bright, homely illustrations. His merry ways made him most approachable. He spoke to everyone that he met along his path, conferring on all and sundry unauthorised medical degrees. Many a junior sister he addressed as “Mother General”.
He regularly preached the devotions to the Sacred Heart during the month of June. Magan was above all a kindly, hospitable man, and definitely 'a man's man'. He died suddenly whilst giving a retreat to the priests of the Sale diocese at Loyola College, Watsonia.
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 1st Year No 2 1926
Residence. S F XAVIER (Lavender Bay) :
Lavender Bay became an independent parish in 1921. Its First Pastor was Fr R O'Dempsey. He was succeeded by Fr R Murphy, who built the new school, enlarged the hall, and established four tennis courts. The present Pastor so Fr J Magan. All three are old Clongowes boys. The parish contains St, Aloysius' College, two primary schools and two large convents. Numbered amongst the parishioners is His Excellency the Apostolic Delegate.
Irish Province News 7th Year No 3 1932
Lavender Bay Parish
Father James Magan, S.J., took leave of Lavender Bay Parish at a meeting organized by his late parishioners to do him honour and to say farewell. During the proceedings several very complimentary speeches were addressed to him, and a number of substantial presents made.
The Catholic Press, commenting on the meeting, wrote “In the Archdiocese of Sydney there is no more genial priest than Rev. Father .J. Magan, SJ., who has just completed seven years as Superior of the Lavender Bay Parish, and has been transferred to the Jesuit house at Richmond, Victoria. His remarkable jovial disposition, a trait that puts his numerous callers in a friendly attitude, is the reflection of a generous heart which, allied with his high ideals of the priesthood, has made his pastorate on the harbour side a triumphant mission for Christ.Needless to say, during his stay at Lavender Bay, Father Magan won the esteem and respect of all who came in contact with him, especially the school children, in whom he took a great interest, His going is a great loss to the parish, especially to the poor, whom he was always ready to help, not only by giving food and clothing, but also money.
Irish Province News 35th Year No 1 1960
Fr James W Magan (1881-1959)
(From the Monthly Calenday, Hawthorn, October 1959)
The death of Fr. Magan came with startling suddenness, although we should have been prepared for it; for during the last year or so, he had been looking very frail, and aged even beyond his years. Had he lived till the 25th November, he would have been 78 years old. He was, however, so ready to undertake any apostolic work that no one dreamt, when he walked out of Manresa six days before, on the day of his Diamond Jubilee, to begin the first of two retreats to the Bishop and clergy of the diocese of Sale, at Loyola, that he would in a week's time be brought back to Hawthorn in his coffin for his Requiem.
The day he went to Loyola for that retreat was a memorable one for Fr. Magan, because it marked the sixtieth anniversary of his entrance into the Society of Jesus. Normally it would have been a festal day for him, celebrated amongst his fellow Jesuits and friends; but he elected to postpone the celebration of his Jubilee till the two retreats were over. He seemed, however, to have had some inkling that the end was at hand, for in saying goodbye to a member of the community at Hawthorn, he thanked him earnestly for kindness shown to him during the last few years.
Towards the end of the first retreat, Fr. Magan became ill and his place was taken by another priest during the final day. A doctor saw him and urged him to rest for a few days. He did as he was told and the sickness seemed to pass away, and although he did not say Mass on the morning of his death, he was present at Mass and received Holy Communion. He rested quietly during the day and appeared to be well on the mend and in particularly good form, but a visitor to his room at about 3 p.m. found him with his breviary fallen from his helpless hands. He had slipped off as if going to sleep, and I feel sure, just as he would have wished, quietly and peacefully, with no one by his side but his Angel Guardian, presenting him to the Lord, and it is hard to believe that when he met the Master in a matter of moments, he would not have indulged in his wonted pleasantry : “Magan's the name - James William Magan. James after St. James, William after the Kaiser, and Magan after my father”.
Fr. Magan was born in Kilashee, Co. Longford, Ireland. His school. years were spent partly at the Vincentians' College of Castleknock. and partly at the Jesuit College of Clongowes Wood in Kildare. His novitiate was made in Tullabeg, followed by his further classical and mathematical studies in the same place. There he had as one of his masters, Fr. John Fahy, afterwards the first Provincial of Australia. His philosophical studies were made at Gemert, Holland, after which he taught at Mungret and Clongowes Wood Colleges, before proceeding to Theology at Milltown Park, Dublin. There, in due course, he was ordained to the priesthood on the feast of St. Ignatius, 1915. His Tertianship in Ireland was interrupted at the outbreak of the First World War, when he was appointed Chaplain to the British forces in France and Belgium; and at the conclusion of the war he completed his Tertianship in the French Jesuit College, Canterbury, England.
His next important appointment was to Australia and his travelling companion was Fr. Jeremiah Murphy, for many years Rector of Newman College. He taught at Xavier College, Kew and St. Aloysius College, Milson's Point, Sydney; and he was Prefect of Studies at Aloysius and later at Riverview. But his obvious gifts for dealing intimately with souls induced Superiors to put him aside for parish work. He was parish priest at Lavender Bay and also at St. Ignatius, Richmond. For many years he was stationed at the Immaculate Conception Church, Hawthorn, where a splendid tribute to his memory paid by a church packed with priests, parishioners and friends from far and near, hundreds of whom received Holy Communion for the repose of his soul; and at the conclusion of the Requiem Mass a beautiful and perfectly true-to-life panegyric was preached by His Grace, Arch bishop Simmonds, who presided. There were present also in the Sanctuary, Bishop Lyons of Sale, who with his priests had just made with Fr. Magan the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius; Bishop Fox, the Auxiliary Bishop to Archbishop Mannix, and Fr. Swain, S.J., the English Assistant to Fr. General.
Fr. Magan was a colourful personality, whose coming to Australia was a great boon to our country. He was an outstanding retreat-giver to clergy and laity and for quite twenty years he gave the Ordination Retreat to generations of young Corpus Christi priests; many times also to various Jesuit communities in Australia, and to religious, nuns and Brothers throughout the length and breadth of our land. He was, I think, the first to give the annual retreat to the Cistercian monks at Tarrawarra, and wherever he went he left behind him happy memories and most practical lessons for the future.
“Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat?” - “What is to prevent one driving home an important truth. in a merry way?” - seems to have been almost a cardinal principle with Fr. Magan. His short Sunday discourses were always full of bright homely illustrations, but there was no mistake possible as to the lesson he set out to teach.
His merry ways made him most approachable. He spoke to everyone that he met on the way, conferring on all and sundry unauthorised medical degrees, and many a junior nun, perhaps even a novice, was swept off her feet and constrained blushingly to disclaim the title, when addressed by His Reverence as “Mother General”.
He loved to tell the following incident where he met his own “Waterloo’. It was long ago in an almost empty tram in North. Sydney, Fr. Magan boarded it at the same time as a lady who was carrying a pet monkey. When the conductor came to take his fare, Fr. Magan said (possibly not in a whisper) : “Are monkeys allowed on this tram?” The conductor replied : |Get over there in the corner and no one will notice you”.
He was always very ready when asked to preach or to give a course of sermons on special occasions. I wonder how many times be gave the “Novena of Grace”, or how often he gave the Devotions of the Sacred Heart during the month of June? The writer remembers well how on one Saturday evening in June he was in the pulpit and he was speaking on the text : “Those who propagate this devotion will have their names written on My Heart, never to be effaced”. He told how he had been asked to give this course on Devotion to the Sacred Heart and how he would never, while he lived, decline such a request. “And why should I”, he said. “Did you not hear my text : ‘They shall have their names written on My Heart, never to be effaced’? Won't that be the day for the Magans!” he cried. And assuredly, if that honour is due to anyone, it would be due to him, for devotion to the Sacred Heart was, one might say, almost a ruling passion with him.
Some years passed by and Fr. Magan was very seriously ill. A critical operation was impending. The writer went to see him in hospital. “How are you, James?” I asked. “Weak, terribly weak”, he replied. “Still I think you are going to make good”, I said, “I don't know that I want to”, was his answer. “Well, James”, I said, “at any rate your name is written deep on His Heart, never to be effaced. I have no doubt of that”. His eyes filled with tears and they coursed down his cheeks, and be blurted out : “Please God. Please God”.
Yes, Fr. Magan was a devoted priest of God. Deep down in his soul, under the veneer of what Archbishop Simmonds called his rollicking humour, was a faith in God and a love of God, for Whom with might and main he strove in the Society of Jesus for sixty years. Multitudes of people are indebted to him. He had a heart of gold, as those who knew him best can testify, and he was a devoted, faithful friend. The writer', at any rate, believes that his name is written deeply in the Heart of Christ, never to be effaced.
J. S. Bourke, S.J.
◆ The Clongownian, 1918
We should have liked to be able to give a series of letters from Army. Chaplains, Past Clongownians, and former members of the Clon gowes Community, describing their professional experiences. We made considerable efforts and received promises not a few. But in the end, all found that their life was too busy and too irregular to make formal composition of that kind possible, and they one and all shrank from the task. Very often, too, no doubt, there was the fear of the Censor in the background. But notwithstanding this we thought it would be of interest to many readers of the “Clongownian” if we pieced together from these letters the scattered fragments of news coll tained in them. And this is what we have done. We begin with Father Corr, who for several years most worthily filled the position of Editor to this Magazine, and to whom is due the magnificent Centenary Number, 1914
Father James Magan SJ
Father Magan is in France with the 6th Yorkshire and Lancashire. He has, perhaps, come in contact with more Clongownians than any other of our Chaplains. He it was who had charge of the funeral of Lieut. C Shiel, RFC, whose death is announced else where, and among CWC men present at the graveside was R L Rice. He has also come: across J J Keating and poor David, who has recently been killed, and George Maher and Dr Carroll and others. He paid us a short visit during the year, and some of his adventures would make very interesting reading were it not that space, and possibly DORA, will not allow us to record them. Some of his escapes were as amusing on after thought as they must have been nerve-racking at the time.
◆ The Clongownian, 1919
Our last number gave an account of the work and experiences of those Army Chaplains who were connected with Clongowes either as boys or masters. Since then a number of those mentioned have found their way back to civil life.
We are glad to have the opportunity of publishing an account of the Armistice “celebrations” and the events that followed, as viewed by one of our Chaplains, Father Magan, who found himself near Mons when the order (which, apparently, they did not get) to cease fire was given. Father Magan was attached to the 6th Yorks and Lancs. Regiment, and this letter was written home by him on the 20th of November last.
6th York and Lanc, Regiment,
Dear Father Finlay, PC,
For the past few days I have been doing rather unusual work. I am in a little village one side of which is Belgian, the opposite side is French. It was peculiarly placed during the war, as no one was allowed to go from one country to the other, no one might cross the street or even bid good day to those on the other side. There was a church for each side and a Curé for each side. It is called Goegnes-Chaussée, about 13 kilometers from Mons. Well, this village is on the high road to Germany, so there are hundreds of our prisoners who got free somehow or other from the Germans. Some were let go, some broke away. The costumes are most varied. Some come as smart young Belgians in hard hats, collars and ties; others in khaki ; others half and half, khaki and civilian; others come in prisoner usiform; others in clothes supplied from home. To each and all I supply cigarettes, having got a good supply from the Weekly Dispatch Smokes Fund, and I bear those who want to go to confession.
I met Irish of many regiments - Dublins, Connaughts, RI Rifles, RI Regt, SI, Horse, Leinsters, Munsters. Also Eoglish, Scotch, Australians, Newzealanders, French and Italians.
The Belgians on the way back treated them right royally. At Charleroi the nuns bustled aside the now subdued Germans and got the Catholics to their first Mass for eight months, The Curé there in his sermon exhorted his congregation to see that none of the returning prisoners were short of anything, and tbey followed bis advice to the letter. All they had to spare in the way of clotbes, food and smokes was open to them, I never saw such gratitude as they felt to the Belgians.
When taken they suffered extraordinary privations. To get a drink on the way back last November or March they drank the water off the streets and got no other drink. In the prison cage watches and chains were freely given for a drink of water. They worked at forward dumps of rations or shells or as grooms to German bosses, some even as mess waiters. Food varied according to the chances of scrounging. Not even the mess waiters fared well, as tbe German officers' mess was exceedingly bad. Some always cooked and ate rats when they were lucky enough to kill one. Potato skins were washed and cooked - nettles were freely eaten Tobacco was a most peculiar mixture of leaves of all kinds. Many bring back samples of the blacker brand which is vile. A loaf cost 8 marks, and it was 8 men to a loaf. They were offered 200 marks for boots coming from England; clothes went 500 marks a suit, ie, £25. I saw an overall coat made from nettles and it looked fine. Ropes and sandbags and even towels were made of paper.
I paid a visit to the famous Mons. It is a fine town and not much damaged. There are shops with fair supplies, but everything is fearfully dear-a bar of chocolate, 2/6; an egg, 1/-,
Peace was a rather tame affair out here. It started as a rumour which no one believed. Then at 11 am. the bands played, The Curé of Aubrois, where I was, made a speech to congratulate the British for having saved Belgium. I translated it; there were three cheers for the King, for Belgium, and for France, and all went their way. For days we heard, as it were, far-off guns which were hard to explain, but it was caused by German dumps being fired.
The most wonderful part of the German retreat was the way they blew up the roads behind then. Every cross road was completely blown to pieces, leaving a huge hole which caused endless inconvenience. Miles of traffic was held up by it. Side roads and main roads suffered alike. The difficulty is that there is little or no road metal to be found to fill in these lioles. For a day or two no rations could come, even aeroplanes had to drop buliy and biscuits to the troops. The papers spoke of a dramatic order to cease fire, unfix bayonets. I heard nothing of it. The war fizzled out like a dying candle. and no one knew it. The prisoners all say it is wonderful how the Germans held out. They were playing the game of bluff; their transport was hopeless - even cows being used for limbers, their harness all ropes, and those paper ropes. Their men had lost their morale; at Aubrois they broke their rifles rather than go into the line. Their treatment of civilians would demand a whole letter, and I must say good-night.
I remain, etc.,
J W Magan SJ, CF
Behind the German Lines
We are indebted to another letter of Father Magan's for the following account of life in a Belgian occupied village :
The people told ine of the invasion. Everything was commandeered Brass of all kinds, knobs of doors, windows, beds, all bedding and loodstuffs. The great complaint was against the “Komandatur” (i.e., the town major and the police). If people were found boiling potatoes the police threw out the potatoes and a fine of 50 marks was imposed. Some had a procès verbal six times a week, and so marks each time. One woman had three in one day. She got up at 6 am - procès No I. She was caught talking with others in the street procès No 2. She lit a light in her house and went straight to shut the window, but was caught (all lights should be covered) - procès No 3. All cattle and hens had been taken, so the country was exceedingly poor. Still there remained some American Red-Cross supplies, cocoa and coffee, to which they treated us.
◆ The Clongownian, 1960
Father James William Magan SJ
On a summer's evening exactly fifty years ago a lost new boy stood amid the pile of trunks on the Higher Line Gallery, searching his pockets for the nth time for a lost key. A voice behind him said: “Cheer up, young man, if I can't find a key to fit it, I can lend you a couple of sticks of dynamite”. That was a characteristic introduction to Father, then Mr James William Magan, or as he liked to say: “James for my patron saint, James the apostle, William for the Kaiser, Magan for my father”. There cannot be many who remember the boy who came to Clongowes from Castleknock nor even very many who can remember him as Gallery Prefect, but the recollections of those who do must be vivid and vital, for Mr James Magan was a vivid and vital person. The first and not the least important thing about him in those far-off days was his high spirits. Banging his great bunch of keys with a smile that was close to a grin, he would sweep down the gallery driving the laggards out to walk the track or play “gravel” with a jovial roar, “Omnes Ex!” (“All out”).
We boys were probably quite unaware of the tonic his good spirits and energy were when the monotony of school routine threatened. The office of Gallery Prefect is not the easiest position to fill on the Clongowes staff, though it may well be reckoned one of the most influential. Father James Magan filled it perfectly. He was a strict disciplinarian who was always just, and never harsh. If you deserved it he taught you your lesson, and that done he resumed at once the friendiy relations that were his habitual attitude to all men. The writer still remembers the astonishment with which he heard the ex-gallery prefect recommend him to a successor it was hard to believe he had ever been in trouble. But James Magan was no mere disciplinarian, he could hold a group around his desk under the clock talking first sport and then books and then almost imperceptibly the things that mattered. High spirits can be trying, and they can be a matter of mood or temperament. Father James' were never irritating for he was spontaneous, unselfconscious and always kind. And they were constant. Now constant good spirits through the days and months of a Gallery Prefect's commission and for fifty years to come are not an affair of mood or temperament, they are quite simply a virtue.
He carried the same bubbling energy into his class work. He had one group of the rejected by the experts from Father James Daly's carefully picked “Honours Boys”. These mathematical morons he pushed, one and all, through their exam, a few, to his undisguised delight, took higher honours than some of the chosen race.
After these first school years I met Father James only three times. Once when a tertian father, he brought all his old power to cheer to bear on a novice in some need of it. Again, when in a Captain's uniform and talking, as he liked to do, a special soldiers' jargon inter larded with French tags, he came back from the Somme and Paschendale with unbroken cheerfulness and a completely unheroic manner. It was an unexpected visit to Australia that gave me my last glimpse of him ten years or so before his death. He had been very ill, and his chances of life were put very low. I believe he knew it, but he certainly did not show it, and he was on his way from one retreat to another. He had no intention. of “resting”. Had we ever seen him rest? In the event he served a full sixty years and fell ill and died while actually engaged in giving a clergy retreat.
And here, perhaps an apology is due for a memory of Father James that omits any real account of his life work, his years as a teacher in Australia - he was prefect of Studies in Sydney's great school, Riverview; of the long labours, half a life time, as a parish priest, a preacher. The greatest authority in Australia said to the present writer: “Father Magan is undoubtedly one of the best preachers in Australia”, and added with a touch of Father James's own humour; “And he knows it”!!!
For twenty years he had given the ordination retreat at Corpus Christi, the seminary of the Melbourne archdiocese. And it was not surprising that Dr Symonds, the Coadjutor Archbishop, should comment on the tribute the great gathering of priests at Father James's funeral was to the man he eulogised with such affection and understanding. But all that and a great deal more is told elsewhere, here it is simply the wish of one old Clongowesman to express for all his contemporaries the gratitude and affection he feels for his “prefect” and the pride he feels in his school fellow.
To his sisters and to his nephews, Michael and John, we offer our sincere sympathy.