RepositoryJesuits in Britain Archives
Ref NoABSI/SJ/40
TitleFr William Keary SJ (1881-1958)
LevelSub fonds
DescriptionCopies of letters from Fr Keary to his family; a series of dictionaries, grammars and prayerbooks in Makushi and Wapishana; article; obituary.
Admin_HistoryWilliam Keary was born in Woodford, County Galway on 30 April 1881. He was educated at St Ignatius' College in Galway and entered the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus at Tullabeg in 1899. In August 1901, Keary was transferred to the English Province.

He took his first vows at Manresa and completed his juniorate there. Keary studied Philosophy at St Mary's Hall, Stonyhurst. He then taught in Malta, first at St Ignatius' College between 1906 and 1907 and then at St Aloysius College in Birchicara [Birkirkara] between 1907 and 1911. He returned to England to study Theology at St Beuno's. He was ordained during his third year in his native Ireland at Milltown Park in Dublin on 26 July 1914. Keary again returned to Ireland for his tertianship at Tullabeg between 1915 and 1916. In 1916 Fr Keary was appointed a military chaplain and he served in France until 1919.

Following demobilisation, Fr Keary was sent in March 1920 to what was then British Guiana. He was based at the cathedral in Georgetown until 1927, serving variously as Minister, acting Superior and Consultor of the Mission. In 1927 he was put in charge of Morawhanna mission in the north-west district. In 1928, Fr Keary and Fr Henry Mather SJ were sent to re-open Cuthbert Cary-Elwes SJ's Takutu mission at St Ignatius in the Rupununi. After a disastrous first journey to the mission station in which their boat was destroyed in rapids, the two Jesuits eventually reached the remote station. Fr Keary's work here was among the Makushi, Patamona and Wapisiana people. He toured an area of 200 miles around St Ignatius, travelling on horse and on foot and steadily developed a grasp of the local languages compiling a number of dictionaries, grammars and prayer books. Brief mention is made of Fr Keary in Evelyn Waugh's account of the Rupununi in his travelogue 'Ninety-Two Days'.

In 1946, Fr Keary was forced to leave the interior following a bad fall from his horse. The remainder of his time was then spent in Georgetown, although he still periodically carried out supply-work in the interior. In Georgetown he served as chaplain of the alms house and gaol, and worked in the busy Werk-en-rust district.

Fr Keary died at the age of 77 at St Joseph's Mercy Hospital in Georgetown on 3 February 1958 following a bad fall. His Requiem Mass was held at Georgetown Cathedral the following day and he was interred in Le Repentir Cemetery.

A full obituary can be found in 'Letters and Notices' 63 (1958), pp. 150-158.
Related Material - Papers of Cuthbert Cary-Elwes SJ: SJ/1.
- Papers of Henry Mather SJ: SJ/38.
- Papers of Wilfrid Banham SJ: SJ/39.
- Guyana catalogue
- For an account of the death of Fr Robert Monteith SJ during the First World War: LL&NN 34, p. 347.
- Letter of Fr Keary to Fr Morrison (Guiana Superior), 20 November 1928, giving an account of his first missionary tour: LL&NN 44 (1929), pp. 115-128.
- For photographs see SJ/PH/653
AccessConditionsThe papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to archive material in the Jesuits in Britain Archives.
DS/UK/3Keary; William (1881-1958); Jesuit Priest1881-1958

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