Brother Joseph McNally
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Brother John Joseph McNally (b. 1923, Ballintubber, Ireland - d. 27 August 2002, County Mayo, Ireland), nicknamed Brother Joe, a brother from the Catholic La Salle Christian Brotherhood who had dedicated 37 years of his life to teaching in Singapore and Malaysia. He later gained renown as a sculptor and artist and was also the founder and President Emeritus of the La Salle-SIA College of the Arts.
Brother Joseph's ancestors were Welshmen who had migrated to West Ireland along with the Normans in 1190. His surname, McNally, can be interpreted either as "son of Nally", after the first McNally ancestor, Nally Baret, who settled down in Ballintubber; or "son of the Ulster man" meaning "son of the poet".
Born in Ballintubber (Gaelic name meaning "fountain or well of St Patrick"), Ireland, in 1923, Brother Joseph grew up on a farm on the West Coast, in the County Mayo. This farming community, with its roots in ancient history and a harsh glacial-stripped landscape, would shape Brother Joseph's artistic vision in adulthood. Although he was a sickly child, Brother Joseph was well-sheltered and cared for by his family. His first attempt at art was a caricature drawing of a village resident, which was received with appreciative laughter. At the age of 14, he left his hometown to join the La Salle Brothers, the path of a religious educator rather than that of the priesthood.
Teaching first at De La Salle College, Mallow, Ireland then moving to St. Joseph's Institution, in Singapore, Brother Joseph continued to teach at St. John's Institution in Kuala Lumpur, before returning to Ireland to pursue further studies at the Irish National College of Art, Dublin. Upon graduating, he taught at St. Paul's Institution in Seremban, Malaysia (1955), moving on to teach at St. Xavier's Institution in Penang in 1957. He was appointed as a staff member of St. Joseph's Training College in 1958 and eventually become the Principal of St. John's Institution in 1963. He also took up Malaysian citizenship in 1965.
In 1973, Brother Joseph joined St. Patrick's as a teacher and became its principal in 1975. He implemented many radical changes during his stint at St. Patrick's, such as the eradication of all forms of corporal punishment, the setting up of a Student's Council and also a student's Parliament where elected students were allowed to make changes to the school rules, in keeping with the mission and motto of the school. He also contributed greatly in many areas to the school's development with the building up of the school's facilities such as a sports complex and a hostel. In addition, Brother Joseph formed The Patrician Society, where parents, teachers and old boys could come together for school discussions and programmes and also permitted the teaching of religions other than the Christian faith, such as Buddhism and Hinduism.
He remained Principal for eight years before retiring from this position in 1983. Subsequently, he stayed on to head the St. Patrick's Arts Centre in 1984, that later expanded to became the existing La Salle-SIA College of the Arts, focusing on developing and nurturing creativity in the visual and performing arts. He became a Singapore citizen in 1985. He retired as President Emeritus in 1997 but remained active in both the education and art circles. Some of his students eventually became well-known principals, including Rudy Mosbergen (Raffles Junior College), Eugene Wijeysingha (Temasek Junior College and RI) and Bernard Fong (Hwa Chong Junior College).
Brother Joseph was also a highly regarded sculptor, having created over 200 works (sculptures and paintings) in his lifetime, using a diverse range of materials such as wood, bronze, glass and metal. His sculptures are an ingenious blend of both the East and the West, centring on the themes of humanity and nature and are strongly influenced by Celtic mythology incorporating the human figure, symbol and cultural values from Southeast Asia. Many of his sculptures were created out of thousand-year-old oaks from peat bogs that were shipped to Singapore recovered during his bi-annual vacations in Ireland.
Brother Joseph died at the age of 79 as a result of a heart attack, while visiting his hometown on 27 August 2002.
1937 - 1939 : studied at De La Salle Retreat, Castletown, Ireland.
1939 - 1940 : Novitiate: De La Salle Retreat, Castletown, Ireland.
1940 - 1943 : Scholasticate: De La Salle College, Mallow, Ireland. Here he studied art along with other subjects for six years. He garnered the first prize in an art competition.
1951 - 1954 : Irish National College of Art: A.N.C.A.
1960 - 1961 : Studied in Rome, Italy.
1968 - 1969 : M.A. (Art and Education), Columbia University, New York.
1972 : Doctor of Education, Columbia University, New York.
His initial dream was to do missionary work in China. However, in 1946, Brother Joseph was sent to Singapore instead and started his teaching career at St. Joseph's Institution at the youthful age of 23. This was to start a long career in Malaya, culminating with him taking up Malaysian citizenship in 1965.
1943 : Taught at De La Salle College, Mallow, Ireland.
1946 : Taught at St Joseph's Institution, Singapore.
1948 : Final profession as member of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.
1951 : Taught at St John's Institution, Kuala Lumpur.
1951 - 1954 : Pursued further studies at the Irish National College of Art, Dublin.
1955 : Taught at St Paul's Institution, Seremban, Malaysia.
1957 : Taught at St Xavier's Institution, Penang.
1958 : Appointed as a staff member of St Joseph's Training College.
1962 : Vice-Principal, St John's Institution, Kuala Lumpur.
1963 : Principal, St John's Institution; Secretary of the Conference of Heads of Secondary Schools, Malaysia; Secretary of the Malaysian Guild of Catholic Schools; Member of the Malaysian Christian Schools Council; Member of the Boards of Governors of St Paul's Seremban, St Francis Malacca, St Andre's Muar, La Salle Petaling Jaya, La Salle Klang and of 10 Primary Schools.
1965 : Became a Malaysian citizen.
1966 : Appointed to the District Council of the Brothers.
1967 : Delegate to the General Chapter of the Brothers in Rome.
1971 : Taught at St Joseph's Training College, Penang.
1973 : Taught at St Patrick's School.
1975 : Principal of St Patrick's School.
1978 : Represented Singapore at the first conference of Asian Christian Artists in Bali.
1979 : Represented Singapore at College of Education Conference in Perth, Australia; Appointed Vice-Chairman of the Singapore Education Administration Society.
1980 : Appointed as a foundation member of the Singapore Schools Council and as a member of the Ho Kah Leong Art Review Committee.
1981 : Helped to organise and contributed to the first exhibition in Singapore of Asian Christian Art.
1982 : Retired as Principal of St Patrick's School. Appointed to develop the St Patrick's Arts Centre. Appointed consultant to the Ministry of Education, Singapore. Helped revise the Art syllabus at all levels and appointed to negotiate the adoption by the Cambridge Examinations Syndicate.
1983 : Designed the trophy of the UOB Painting of the year; Set up St Patrick's Art Centre; appointed as a member of the Visual Arts Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Culture; Appointed as consultant to the Ministry of Education on the Art Elective Programme.
1984 : Appointed to the Design Committee of the Trade Development Board; appointed as a panel member of the Sculpture Workshop of the Ministry of Culture conducted at St Patrick's. Appointed as member of the selection panel for teachers of the Art Elective Programme, London.
1985 : Appointed as Chairman of the Visual Arts Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Community Development. Became a Singaporean citizen. Panel member of the second Sculpture Workshop organised by the Ministry of Community Development. Participated in the Fukuoka 2nd exhibition.
1986 : Appointed as consultant to the Ministry of Education STEP Programme. Name of the art school change to La Salle. Personal title changed to President.
1987 : Appointed as consultant to the Curriculum Development Institute (Art resource books).
1988 : Appointed to the Committee on Visual Arts
1989 : Represented Singapore at the ASEAN Sculpture Square Symposium in Manila, Philippines. Member of Sub-Committee on Land Use and Quality of life under long Term National Development Committee.
1990 : On the selection committee to choose the best artworks for MRT stations. Member of the National Souvenir Design Competition organised by Singapore Science Centre. Head of a Study Team for a Merlion Project at Sentosa. Vice-Chairman of the Singapore Heritage Society.
1991 : Member of Japan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (JCCI) Singapore Foundation Awards Advisory Board.
1991 : Chairman of the Creative Taskforce on the Visual Arts hosted by the Economic Development Board.
1991 : Member, Coin Advisory Committee hosted by the Board of Currencies.
1991 : Member, the Singapore National Arts Council.
1991 : Member, the Lee Kong Chian Art Museum Committee, NUS.
1992 : Member, the Hospital Management Board of Mt Alvernia Hospital.
1993 : Secured a funding of $15m from Singapore Airlines and changed the name of the college to La Salle-SIA.
1997 : Retired as President Emeritus of La Salle-SIA College of the Arts.
1948 : Singapore Art Society exhibition.
1954 : First one-man show at Brown Thomas, Dublin.
1957 : Penang Art Society exhibition.
1969 : One-man exhibition of Painting and Sculpture at Teachers' college, Columbia University, New York; One-man exhibition of Painting and Sculpture in Bermuda; Group exhibition with Abdul Latiff Mohidin and Foo Hong Tatt in Madison Avenue, New York.
1970 : One-man exhibition of Painting and Sculpture at Crypt Gallery, Columbia University, New York and a one-man exhibition at Castletown, Ireland.
1976 : Exhibited at the opening of the National Museum Art Gallery.
1980 : Participated in the Fukuoka 1st exhibition.
1981 : Singapore of Asian Christian Art exhibition.
1982 : One-man sculpture exhibition in Galway, Ireland.
1985 : Participated in the Fukuoka 2nd Exhibition.
1991 : Exhibited at Della Butcher Gallery with Multi Media Master of La Salle.
1994 : Group exhibition at the opening of the Atrium Gallery, Singapore.
1994 : A Terrible Beauty, Sculptures exhibition at La Salle-SIA College.
1996 : A Flash of Lightning, Sculptures exhibition at La Salle-SIA College.
1946 : First Prize for Painting, Festival of Limerick, Ireland.
1990 : Singapore National Day Award (Public Service Medal).
1994 : Honorary Doctor of Arts, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia.
1995 : Honorary Doctor of Laws, National University of Ireland.
1996 : Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International.
1997 : La Salle-SIA Medallion Award; Singapore National Day Meritorious Service Medal.
1998 : Montblanc de la Culture Award.
Father: Thomas McNally, was of Welsh origin.
Mother: Brigitte, came from Mannion ancestry in the pre-Celtic times.
Siblings: Two older brothers, James and Aiden and two sisters, Brigitte and Theresa.
Corkery, V. (2002). Brother Joseph McNally fsc 1923-2002 : educator - painter - sculptor - La Salle Brother. Ipoh : La Salle Centre, St Michael's Insitution.
(Call no.: YRSIN 266.25957 COR)
Nayar, P. (2002, August 31). Moving on, with passion. Business Times, Executive Arts, p.15.
Pates, I. (1986 December 16). A study of Ireland. The Straits Times, Section Two, Décor and Design, p. 3.
Ranganayaki, R. (1995 January 17). Artist sculpts a message of love and caring for Woodbridge. The Straits Times, Arts, p.13.
Shekaran, K. (1992 November 8). Nature's inspiration. The Sunday Times, Sunday Plus, p.4.
Suhaila S. (2002, September 1). McNallys mark.The Straits Times, p. 34.
Tan, J. (1984 June 12). Bold, open and expressive. The Straits Times, Section Two, Outlook, p. 2.
WJLA/NewsChannel 8. (n.d.). Brother McNally. Retrieved January 12, 2005, from www.wjla.com/externalwebsite.hrb?website=http://www.bromcnally.com.sg
McNally, J. (2003). Brother Joseph McNally : an invitation to nature: 26 March to 20 April 2003, Atrium of the Office of Public Works, Dublin. Singapore: National Arts Council and National Heritage Board.
(Call no.: RSING 730.95957 MAC).
Tan, B. T. (1998). Wind of the spirit: A retrospective exhibition of Brother Joseph McNally. Singapore: National Arts Council & National Heritage Board.
(Call no. RSING 730.95957 MAC)
The information in this article is valid as at 2002 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
McNally, John Joseph, 1923-2002
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