▲ Father Patrick James McGlinchey is presented with his award by Irish Ambassador to Korea Aingeal O'Donoghue (far left). Photo courtesy Jeju Sori
Irish Ambassador to Korea Aingeal O'Donoghue visited Isidore Farm on Feb 12 to hand over the Presidential Distinguished Service Award to Father Patrick James McGlinchey.
O'Donoghue had received the award on McGlinchey’s behalf in Dublin due to the Jeju Irishman’s fragile health. The award recognizes the contribution of Irish people living abroad to both their newfound homes and the greater Irish community.
McGlinchey came to Jeju Island as a 26-year-old with the Missionary Society of St. Columban. He told the Korea Times he found an island deep in poverty and set about trying to contribute in any way he could, primarily through agricultural training.
McGlinchey said he was shocked at the state of farming when he arrived in 1954, stating even some of the traditional pig rearing methods “were wrong.”
"They didn't know how to feed them. Three-year-old pigs couldn't reach 50 kilograms."
In addition to introducing modern farming methods, McGlinchey founded St. Isidore Farm, Aewol-eup, which remains thriving to this day, as well as the first credit union on the island. He still had a hard job getting people on board.
▲ Father McGlinchey is part of Jeju’s living history. Photo by Angela Kim
“[T]hey wouldn't listen to me," he told reporter Kang Hyun-kyung. "Farmers ... thought they already knew [everything] because [this is how] their ancestors had done the job for hundreds of years," he said.
Reflecting on this, and some of his own mistakes, McGlinchey joked to The Jeju Weekly in an earlier interview, “I was just a stupid foreigner.”
Deciding to target the less stubborn, younger farmers, McGlinchey founded his farm in 1961 to introduce the latest farming techniques from one Emerald Isle to another and to increase production on under-utilized land.
The farms were a huge success and profits from their organic milk, cheese and beef helped to establish, among other things, a clinic, nursing home, hospice center and youth center.
Ambassador O'Donoghue said at the award ceremony that McGlinchey had brought “a unique blend of spiritual leadership and an array of practical initiatives to help lift thousands of Jeju citizens out of poverty."
"For 60 years, Fr. McGlinchey's extraordinary drive, dedication and vision has changed the lives of those on Jeju, and Ireland is now forever associated with this great island."
President Park Geun-hye granted McGlinchey the highest national honor, the National Recommendation Award, last December at the Blue House. He also received the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1975 and the Jeju Culture Prize in 2002.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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