Last Sunday there was a celebration in Westport that connected that popular tourist town of the West with China.
John Blowick from neighbouring Belcarra attended school in Westport from 1894 to 1908 and then went on to study in Maynooth. As a student there he attended a talk on China by a Canadian missionary that left an indelible impression on him and he wanted to go to China!
However his future seemed bound up in Ireland until he had a visit from Corkonian Fr Edward Galvin, just back from China with the plan of setting up an Irish missionary group dedicated to that country.
Fr Blowick gave up his teaching post in Maynooth to join in Galvin’s project though his actual time in China was to be limited to short visits. He became the home organiser of the Galvin-Blowick team known as the Columban Fathers, or ‘Maynooth Mission to China.’
Yet, he was one of the first to visit and inspect the area in China where Columbans were to work until they were all expelled by 1954. It was Hanyang, a city on the Yangtze river, 900 miles upstream from Shanghai.
When he walked through the gates of that ancient city he said to Edward Galvin, ‘Imagine, these walls were in existence when Mary and Joseph walked to Bethlehem before Jesus was born and we are the first Christians to come here!’
It was only fitting that two Chinese students, sponsored by the Columbans, were at the celebrations in Westport and that the schools there celebrated the first 100 years of the China adventure their past pupil had helped make possible.