Sun Yat-sen is revered as the Father of New China and Michael Davitt was the Father of the Irish Land League and one of the greatest influences in the early Irish independence movement. What do they have in common? Academics in China and Trinity College, Dublin, as well as historians in Shrule, Co Mayo, are digging into the past to find out.
Sun fled to Hong Kong in 1895 after a failed rebellion in China against the Qing Dynasty but at the request of the Qing authorities he was expelled from the city by the British. Michael Davitt, then an MP in London, brought the matter to the house of Parliament and kept pressure on the British government to recognise Sun’s independence movement.
Davitt even planned to visit China in 1899 to meet Sun and find out more about the situation.
Students from China are now at Trinity researching the contact between Sun and Davitt, and the Davitt memorial Museum in Shrule, near Davitt’s birthplace, is making a documentary about the relationship.
As it happened, it was in Shrule that the Columban Fathers (then known as the Maynooth Mission to China) opened its first college in 1918 and 330 young Irishmen left Shrule for China before the college moved to Co Meath in 1944.
Neither Davitt nor Sun thought there might be that connection.