West Clare connections to the Shanghai Municipal
Police and other parts of the Chinese administration
8:00 p.m. Tuesday 7 May 2019
From the Treaty of Nanking in 1842 to 1946:
- Hong Kong was ceded to the U.K.; and
- five additional treaty ports were established at
- Fuchow; and
In March 1865, HSBC opened its doors for business in Hong Kong.
Greater Shanghai had three sections:
- the Shanghai International Settlement;
- the French Concession; and
- the Old City of Shanghai.
The Shanghai International Settlement began originally in 1842
as a purely
British settlement but always remained Chinese sovereign territory.
Americans and French and other foreign powers gradually became
part of the
administration of the settlement.
The Shanghai Municipal Council first met on 11 July 1854.
In the late 1930s Japan's involvement became of increasing
The international settlement came to an abrupt end in December
Japanese troops stormed in immediately following the attack on Pearl
1943, the settlement was retroceded to Chinese control.
Shanghai Municipal Police were on patrol by September 1854.
Recruitment was by London agents, John Pook & Co.
By 1936, there were 4,739 men, of whom 457 were in the Foreign
which the British and Irish served.
Force commanders included Pierre B. Pattison (Captain
Superintendent, 12 Feb
1898-30 September 1900), on secondment from Royal Irish Constabulary.
For lots more, including lists of names, see the Shanghai
Municipal Police web page by Robert
Chain migration from West Clare to Shanghai
Most of the West Clare men who went to China were (or became) part of
the Bermingham, Keane or Keating dynasties.
The pioneers appear to have been Micho Gibson and John O'Toole, who were both in
their early 20s when they joined the Shanghai Municipal Police from the
Royal Irish Constabulary in 1900.
Thomas Bermingham (1840-1924) of eviction fame m. 25 February
(Kilkee parish) Margaret McGrath and two generations of their
descendants worked in Shanghai:
- Matthew (1871-1952) of Moyasta
- Catherine (1877-1952) m. 1904 Martin O'Connell of Moyasta (family
- Mary (1906-????) m. John Campbell of Shanghai Municipal
- Bridie (1907-1996) m. (1) Anthony
(1888-1933) of Carrigaholt, Chief Inspector, joined 1912, died in
Shanghai of appendicitis. His grave was possibly erased by Chairman
Mao's Cultural Revolution, according to his late nephew-in-law Tom
who looked for it with help from the Consulate. Tony had a "brother in
the force" (Thomas O'Dwyer in the gaol branch?)
Bridie m. (2) Cecel W. McPherson, another police man, and had a son.
They remained in the Far East (including Siam) until at least 1950.
- Michael Joseph (1912-2007), the M J O'Connell who
served in the Shanghai Municipal Police's gaol branch from 1933.
He returned home and married Delia Carmody in 1945.
- Elizabeth (Ellen) (1882-1973) m. 1911 John O'Toole
(1877-????), home on leave from Shanghai, eventually Assistant
Commissioner of Police, and had nine children, including at least four
born in Shanghai:
- Kathleen (1918-2007)
- James Davitt Bermingham (d.1973, Brookline MA)
- Sheila (1921-2018), who tells the story of growing up
in Shanghai in
her "Memoir: The Reminiscences of Sheila Lawlor", published privately
and launched on 19 Nov 2013 by Fr. Tom Stack
- and probably also Margaret Mary Birmingham (1917-1996)
B.L., known as "Shanghai Lil", only the 21st woman called to the Irish
- eight more children, including three sons in the Dublin
Thomas Keane (1864-1934) of Carrigaholt m. 12 February 1890
(Carrigaholt) Mary Anne Cahill and had 11 children, including:
- P[atrick] Keane was in the Shanghai police service from
1911 to 1921
- Michael Keane (1896-1941) joined the Chinese Maritime
Customs Service in Dec 1920 as a Probationary Tidewaiter, and died from
cancer when he was based in Shanghai as a Tidesurveyor. He worked in
Nan king, Newchang, Canton and Shanghai. He lived at different times in
Shanghai, Canton, Newchawang, Nanjing and Tintsin. Married in Shanghai.
Every four years, the family would return home to spend a year in
Ireland as a condition of employment with the Custom Service.
- Thomas (Sharkey) Keane (1898-1963), West Clare Brigade, Old
IRA, and chairman of Carrigaholt Sinn Féin club
- John Keane (1911-1992) of Keane's pub stayed at home
John Keating of Feeard (d. 1878 aged 68) had three children who
remained in the area, all of whom had children who went to China:
- John jr. of Feeard (d. 1886 aged 45) m. 11 February 1872
(Carrigaholt) Margaret McInerney and had 12 children, including:
- Pat Keating (d.1961) who may have been in
the Shanghai Police, but Mary Culligan says that Pat wasn't in the
Police Force but
had something to do with Posts & Telegraphs.
In his early twenties, Pat joined the British
Service and went to China in 1906.
Having returned to Ireland around 1933,
he donated a thousand pounds in 1938 for a marble altar in the Catholic
in Cross village near his birthplace.
For many years, he owned and lived at Plassy House, now the president's
house at the University of Limerick, and hence known as The White House
to UL students.
Kevin Hannan (who never cited his sources) wrote:
Plassy was in pristine condition when purchased from
Eric Baily in 1933 by Patrick Keating, a Co. Clare bachelor, who made
his money in the Far East wtihout fighting any battles, spending many
years in Manchuria as a judge in the British Colonial service. He was,
apparently, a daring gambler on the property and business market and
when he arrived at Plassy he retained considerable investments in the
Keating certainly got into financial difficulties when events in China
the value of his pension and investments.
Keating's life-line was cut by Mao Tse Tung in 1949 and thereafter he
had to depend on the produce of the extensive Plassy green houses to
maintain the estate and sustain himself. Though he was later forced by
grim necessity to sell the fabric of the old mill, he never suffered a
tree to be damaged in any way. From the beginning of his tenure he took
steps to prevent picnicers from damaging trees by lighting fires close
After Keating's death, in 1961, the Rehabilitation Institute of Ireland purchased the estate ...
During his lengthy stay in China, where he lived for
almost twenty-seven years, he enjoyed various challenges and
The Shanghai Statistical Department of the Inspectorate General of
notes his involvement with Customs and Excise and Foreign Currency
also served in the Postal Department in the Central Office in Peking.
- Mary m. 17 March 1859 (Carrigaholt parish) Martin
Gibson of Moneen and had 13 children, including:
- Thomas (d. 1934) m. 17 February 1885 Mary Behen of
Rehy East and had 7 children, including:
- Bernard Keating, who was in the Shanghai Police from 1910
to 1916 before going on to Australia
- Volunteer Patrick Keating, West Clare Brigade, member of
the Volunteers since 1917, mortally wounded by Enemy Forces in 1922 and
buried with Military Honours, in Kilballyowen.
- Mary Anne Keating m. 30 Jul 1935 (Cross) John Thomas
Scanlan (1890-1975) of Moyarta, who served with the police
force in Shanghai from 1912-1915.
John Scanlan got sick in Shanghai, with
something like cholera or malaria, and after a long time in hospital,
came home only three years after he went out. The outbound
journey alone had taken three months.
The two Scanlan families living in Moyarta became known as
Shangs and the Westbys to distinguish them from each other.
- Martin Blake (21 April 1883-9
September 1913) from Kilbaha, ex-R.I.C, brother of Henry
Blake, native Irish speaker, dancer, story-teller and
- The anonymous "Mr. Costello" who was best man at the
Micho Gibson and Hanna Synnott on 4 November 1911 was the groom's
Shanghai police colleague Stephen Costello (b. 18 Nov 1885) from
Kilbaha. Stephen appears to have arrived back in Ireland on leave
some time between the census of 2 April 1911 (when he was not with his parents in Kilbaha South
and does not appear to have been in Ireland) and his father's death in
Kilbaha on 18 Jul 1911 (when Stephen Costelloe of Kilbaha was present at death).
- Photograph of Blake and Costello, courtesy of Kilbaha Gallery.
- Michael Duggan (b. 8 March 1895) of Kilmihil was also in
- Daniel Ginnane (23, also from Carrigaholt) joined with Tony
O'Dwyer in 1912
- b. 24 Sep 1890, served in the Shanghai Municipal Police from 1912 to
Related to Mary Ginnane, retired postmistress Carrigaholt, who has a
of Shanghai memorabilia.
- ?Stephen Power (1887-1924) and/or Jimmy Power (1892-1978)
Champion, 16 January 2015 (by Peter O'Connell,
greatnephew of two of the Claremen in Shanghai)
- The Loop Head Gathering (2004), pp. 54-6
- Robert Bickers, Empire
Made Me: An Englishman Adrift in Shanghai (Columbia
University Press, 2003)
- Kevin Hannan, Limerick
Historical Reflections (Limerick Leader Print, 1996)
- Memoir: The
Reminiscences of Sheila Lawlor (née O'Toole) (published
- Unpublished honeymoon diary of Hanna Gibson (née Synnott)
- Thanks to Robert Bickers, Robbie Brown, Fergus Clancy,
Murray Ginnane, the O'Connell family, Mary O'Looney, Tom
Veale (R.I.P.) and Pat Wall.