Clare Emma Whitty

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Mother Mary Clare, CSP
Mother Superior of the Society of the Holy Cross
ChurchChurch of Ireland
Rt Revd Mark Trollope, 3rd Bishop of Korea[1]
Predecessornewly created position
Personal details
Born30 May 1883
Enniskerry, County Wicklow, Ireland[2]
or Fenloe, County Clare, Ireland[3]
Died6 November 1950(1950-11-06) (aged 67)
Chunggangjin, North Korea[2]

Mother Mary Clare (born: Clare Emma Whitty, 30 May 1883 – 6 November 1950) was an Irish Anglican nun, missionary and botanist who was killed during a nine-day death march led by retreating North Korean soldiers during the Korean War.[1][2]

She arrived in Korea in 1923, one of eighteen missionaries sent to the peninsula by her nursing order, the Community of St Peter between 1892 and 1950. In 1925, following the founding of the Society of the Holy Cross by the Rt Revd Mark Trollope, 3rd Bishop of Korea, she was appointed Mother Superior of the order.[1][2][4][5]

Early life[edit]

Mary Clare was born to an Irish noble family on 30 May 1883 in either Enniskerry, County Wicklow, Ireland[2] or Fenloe, County Clare, Ireland.[3] Her father, Richard Lawrence Whitty – a qualified medical doctor and land agent, was born in 1844 in Rathvilly, County Carlow to a clerical family. He was the youngest of four children, to Reverend William Whitty, curate of Rathvilly, and his wife Gertrude (née Langley).[3] Her mother was Jane Alicia Whitty (née Hickman), who was from a family of local landowners. Through her mother, she was the great granddaughter of Edward Stopford, Bishop of Meath, making her a distant cousin of Irish historian, Alice Stopford Green. She had one sibling, Sophia Angel St. John Whitty, who was named after their maternal grandmother. In the 1891 census, the family is recorded to have moved to Loughton, Essex, England. In the 1911 census, Whitty is recorded as an "elementary teacher". In the 1910s she received training in art in Paris, which she became a fluent speaker of French.[3]


In 1912, Whitty joined the Anglican Community of St Peter, then based in Kilburn, London and took her vows as a sister in 1915, taking the name, Mary Clare.[3] Just before the outbreak of the Great War The Rev'd Mark Trollope who had been vicar of St Augustine's Church in Kilburn, was appointed the third Anglican Bishop of Korea, and requestedfor Whitty (then Sister Mary Clare) to aid him in the founding of a society of Korean sisters in Seoul. She eventually reached Korea in 1923, following the difficulties places upon travel following the war, she undertook Korean language studies. In 1925 in Seoul, with the help of the Trollope, she founded the Society of the Holy Cross and was appointed novice mistress, later becoming the first mother superior of the order.[3]


After refusing the opportunity from the British embassy to evacuate from Seoul, instead opting to stay with her congregation, on 6 November 1950 near Chunggangjin (present day North Korea) during a nine-day death march (which began on 30 October) following her capture by retreating North Korean forces, she died.[1][6] She is believed to be the first recorded Irish-born woman to have lived in Korea.[2]


In 1929, Mother Mary Clare contributed two articles to the 29th volume of the journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch, which she contributed as A sister of the Community of St. Peter.[7][8][9]

  • A sister of the Community of St. Peter, (Sister Mary Clare) (1929). Some Wayside Flowers of Central Korea (XVIII:22–40) (PDF). Seoul, Korea: Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch.
  • A sister of the Community of St. Peter, (Sister Mary Clare) (1929). Herbae Koreanae, Being a First List of Some of the Commonest Herbaceous Plants Found in Korea. XVIII:43–82 (PDF). Seoul, Korea: Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Member Church Links – The Anglican Church of Korea – Religious Communities SHC – Society of the Holy Cross – Seoul". Anglican Communion. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Hughes, Bernard (2016). "War Memorial of the Irish Dead of the Korean War – Brief history of Irish people in Korea". Irish Association of Korea. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  3. ^ "전쟁기념관_6.25 전쟁조형물". 네이버 블로그 | 피쉬트리 Boom차성훈 (in Korean). Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  4. ^ Ireland, Government of. "Korean-Irish Relations – Irish in the Korean War". Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  5. ^ Chinnery, Philip D. (2009). "2.4". Korean Atrocity! Forgotten war crimes, 1950–1953. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military. p. 76. ISBN 9781848841093. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  6. ^ "Full Texts by Volume". Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  7. ^ "마리아클라라수녀의 한국 중부 길가의 들꽃(1929)". 네이버 블로그 | 한수당연구원 (in Korean). Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  8. ^ Hoare, James E (2015). Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Korea (3 ed.). Rowman & Littlefield. p. 607. ISBN 0810870932. Retrieved 5 June 2017.