Fr. Tony Collier of Clogherhead, Co. Louth

Tony Collier was born in Clogherhead, Co Louth on June 20th 1913. He was educated in the Christian Brothers School, Drogheda 1921 -1926. He attended St Patrick’s College, Armagh, 1926 – 1931. Tony went to Dalgan in 1931 and was ordained there on December 21st 1938.

He was assigned to Korea in 1939. He had not long finished language studies there when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour on December 8th 1941. Together with the other Columban Fathers he was placed under house arrest until 1945.
In 1949 he was appointed as the first Parish Priest in the new parish of Soyangno, Chunchon City.

After Mass on June 25th people talked of fleeing and wanted the priests, Fathers Tom Quinlan, Frank Canavan and Tony Collier to come with them. In Chunchon that afternoon the priests discussed the situation. An American officer offered to take them to safety but they declined. Tom Quinlan later wrote that Father Tony refused saying, “I want to be with my parishioners.”

Killed In Korea

In a letter to our Superior General, Father Brian Geraghty describes the circumstances in which Father Collier met his death.

I cabled you a few days ago that Father Anthony Collier was killed by Communists on June 27. Here is the full story of the circumstances of his death.

As you know, Father Tony was in charge of the second, newly-created parish in Chuncheon city. He had his own little residence, away from Monsignor Quinlan and the other priests, who lived in the central, principal mission residence in Chuncheon.

War Breaks Out
By the evening of Sunday, June 25, I imagine that everybody was aware of the large-scale outbreak of war along the 38th parallel. On Monday June 26th, a U.S. officer asked Mgr Quinlan and the priests to leave Chunchon with him (Fathers Hayward and Burke had gone to Seoul on business the previous afternoon, leaving Mgr Quinlan and Father Canavan in the main parish). Father Collier visited Mgr Quinlan on Monday – both of them realised that the fighting was coming nearer the city – then, late in the afternoon, Father Collier decided to return to his own parish, where he slept that night and offered Mass the following morning.

The Communists Enter Chuncheon
The resistance offered by the Southern army was strong on Sunday and Monday, but in the early hours of Tuesday morning the oncoming Red forces had the situation well in hard and the shell-fire eased off. It seems that Father Collier decided to re-join Mgr Quinlan and Father Canavan and set out for their residence in the early afternoon. He had not gone very far from his church, accompanied by his teacher, when he saw that the Red army had already taken over part of the city at least.

Father Collier Interrogated

A number of Red soldiers were stationed outside the Post Office. On seeing Father Collier one of them rushed forward and asked him who he was. Father Tony replied that he was a Catholic priest, working in Korea solely for the spread of the Catholic faith. Asked next if he was an American he replied no, that he was Irish.

THE WHOLE problem of meeting with such a person and of how he should be treated seems to have been outside the ordinary soldier’s training, so an appeal was made to the officer commanding the men in that particular place. The officer came along, asked the same questions, searched Father Collier’s pockets and removed his watch, rosary beads and money, together with the other personal belongings he had on him at the time. He then warned Father Collier that unless he gave a true account of his work in Korea he would be shot. Father Tony could only make the same answer, that he was a Catholic priest, occupied in Church work only, and that he had no other reason for his presence in the country. His young teacher, to the same questions, replied that his work consisted in helping Father Collier and that he was engaged in no political activities of any kind.

 Priest and Teacher Bound

The officer was not satisfied. He ordered that their hands should be tied behind their backs and that they should be tied to each other. Then they were marched towards the river, apparently with the intention of throwing them in. After about ten minutes, however they were halted and again asked to tell the truth about their position in the city and the particular military and political work they had done. They were promised that their lives would be spared even now if they told the truth. They could only answer as before, so they were ordered to turn their backs and move forward. When they had taken a few steps the first shot from a submachine gun hit Father Collier, then the second and he fell and in falling pulled his teacher to the ground with him. The third and fourth shots hit the teacher, the fifth and final shot hit Father Tony again. The officer and soldier debated whether they should fire again but came to the conclusion that both were dead, and they went away.

IF THE FULL story of this Korean War is ever written, it will contain many accounts of men escaping from the very jaws of death. It was common to line those to die along a trench or drain and shoot them into it. The first man in the line had no chance of escape, but some have saved their lives by falling into the pit as the shots were fired and waiting there among the dead. The number who thus escaped at any particular time was in proportion to the number to be executed, but apart from Father Collier’s teacher, I know of no other one escaping when only two victims were concerned.


Gabriel Kim Escapes

The boy, Gabriel Kim, was shot through the shoulder and throat, but he tells me that he never lost consciousness, and to him we owe this detailed account of Father Collier’s death. Two or three hours after the shooting the same, or other, Reds covered the bodies with a rice bag and from that time there were no passers-by. Gabriel lay beside the body of the dead priest a day and two nights, working feebly to free his bound hands from those of Father Collier. An empty house was at hand and he made his way there, tied up his own wounds, changed his European shoes for a pair of Korean rubber shoes, got an old coat to put on over his blood stained shirt and made his painful way to the hills. He was helped on his way by one old man who was not too inquisitive about the manner in which he had got his wounds.

ABOUT TEN DAYS later Gabriel got word of Father Collier’s death to his father, the head Catholic of Chuncheon, who had himself been compelled to take to the hills. But there was nothing that the father could do about burial, as the Reds were not driven out until October 3rd.

Father Collier’s Work

Father Collier will be remembered by our own priests and by the people for the care and thoughtfulness he always showed in his work, and for the exactness with which he attended to his church and mission compound. He was to build a church this year, for which he had already been collecting materials and had marked out the site. There, I think, I shall bury him finally. I feel sure that is what he would want: to be with the people of this parish he had started. There is one consolation he may have had in dying: he lived long enough to know that his boy would probably live; even, that in dying he had been instrumental in saving his life. To his mother and all his family the priests here send their deepest sympathy.

Very sincerely yours,




This account is by Gabriel Kim, who was with Fr. Collier in his final hours and death.

The Martyrdom of Tony Collier - an eyewitness account by Gabriel Kim.

According to the request of Your Excellency, I Gabriel, describe here briefly what I saw and felt during the “martyrdom” of Fr Anthony Collier.

On the 25th of June 1950 we met some refugees after the Sunday Mass and were informed that the roaring of the guns we had heard earlier that morning was that of the invading Red Army. The shells began to strike the streets in the afternoon, but the church was still safe since it was under Mount Bong Ui. We had the Evening Prayers with several Catholics who lived near the church, and though we did not know it, it was to be our last Benediction.

On the 26th after Mass the shells began to strike spots nearer and nearer to the church, and Fr Collier who had said “If anything happens, I must remove the Blessed Sacrament” consumed it. After luncheon, we moved from the kitchen into the shelter in the backyard of Soyang parish Church to escape the danger of bombardment. A shell struck the kitchen soon after we had left it, and nobody was hurt. Father said” It`s just as well I removed the Blessed Sacrament” and he added “It`s dangerous here. You should move on. I will watch the Church”. At that time James, Therese and I were there with Father Anthony. His decision was so firm, that Therese and I left Father, and went home during an interval in the bombardment.

Having told my parents who live Hyo-Ja-Dong that I would go back to Father Anthony, I left for Juk-Rim-Dong Church to see Your Excellency- Bishop Quinlan. After reporting to the news of So-Yang-Tong parish I said Goodbye to Your Excellency, who had been wounded on the face. When I went back to So-yang-Dong parish I told Fr Anthony about Jug-Rim-Dong Church and the down-town situation. He was glad to hear the news, and worried about Your Excellency`s wound.

The shelling continued all night long. On the morning of the 27th, we knew that all the South Korean Army had evacuated the position near our Church and we saw the Red Army advance along the road. At about 1 pm, I recommended Father to go to Juk-Rim-Ding, instead of staying alone at So-yang-Dong Church. To his enquiries about the local Catholics, I replied that everybody had safely escaped from the town.

Having finished the Breviary, he said it might be better to go to Juk-Rim-Dong where Your Excellency was and we left. I can`t help but feel sorry that I recommended him to go to Juk-Rim-Dong as there were other possibilities for his safety.

After we left our Church, we saw nobody on the streets of Chunchon, till we came across two Communist soldiers at the Rotary in the main street of Chunchon. They held us up, stole everything we had and bound our hands together. They asked Father Anthony “who are you”. He replied “I am a Priest”. They asked again, “aren`t you a spy” and he answered calmly , “I am a Catholic Priest, a Missionary”. Then we were taken to the Post Office which was about 100 meters from the place where we had been arrested. There were many Red Army military cars there.

The two soldiers reported to a man, who seemed to be a Commanding Officer, that they had caught two spies. Father Anthony declared again that he was not a spy but a Priest. The officer ordered them to take us somewhere, but where I could not hear clearly. They ordered us to go to the nearest river, and we walked along a road behind the Chunchon High School towards the down-town section. I guess Father Anthony already knew he was on his way to his death. We came across several groups of Red Army soldiers, who mocked us, but Father Anthony walked on calmly. I thought I would soon be in Heaven also, since I was with Father Anthony, who had devoted his life to Our Lord, so I asked him to forgive me for all my faults in the past. He said “yes”. When he started to continue speaking, the soldiers shouted to us to keep quiet. So we walked on in silence.

When we arrived at Kyong-Chun Road they ordered us to go into a lane. We stopped in front of a small empty sloping garden at a distance of about thirty meters from Chun-Chon Revenue Office. The soldiers said to Father ”If you have any family or relations we will send them news, so speak up” Father replied ”I have not” They asked Father “Will you make a will” Father said ”No”.
They proposed covering his eyes, but Father refused and they shot him in the back. I did not know what kind of gun they used as they had three kinds of guns, a rifle, a pistol, and a magazine-rifle. They fired five times and the first, fourth and fifth shots were aimed at Father. It was about two o`clock in the afternoon. Father fell down without any words.

The state of my mind was so serene that I had no dread of death. At the moment of hearing the shots, all my mind was filled with the hope of Heaven, since I thought I would be dying with Father, who had sacrificed his life for Our Lord, and there was no room for any other thought about this world.

Considering that such a worldly person like myself possessed such a state of mind, at that time, I do believe that Father who had spent all his life for Our Lord, had a mind full of love for Our Lord, which made him walk on the way to death with no complaint or refutation, but with a calm attitude and even a smile.

I lost consciousness when the Red Army left the place. When I first regained consciousness, Father was still breathing, and the sun was still high. When I came to my senses again, he had stopped breathing, he was covered with a straw mat, and the sun was setting. There were bullet wounds on Father`s face and arm. I left the place on the morning of June 29th.

I attended as a witness at the exhumation of Father Anthony`s remains by U.N. soldiers on the 9th October 1951. The place was correct, and they were indeed Father Anthony`s clothes. The body had wounds on its face and arm and there were three medals which Father always wore. After prayers for the dead, the remains were removed to Juk-Rim-Dong Cathedral.

The next day October 10th, the Requiem Mass and Final Absolution were held by Fr Tji, at the partly ruined Cathedral, and the funeral took place behind the Cathedral.

I swear that all of the above about Father Anthony Collier is true.

Signed: Gabriel Kim Kyong Ho.

After signing the original document in Korean, Gabriel Kim took an oath that it is all true, in my presence in Chunchon 5th October 1968.
Thomas Quinlan.
Tit Bishop of Boccorica. 13th January 1969.


In the November 2020 edition of the Far East Father Liam O’Keeffe writes:

“The 70th anniversary of the Martyrdom of Fr Anthony Collier (1913 – 1950) was celebrated in a special ceremony in Chunchon on 27th June last. The 70th anniversary of the founding of Soyangro parish, where Fr Tony was the first pastor, was also celebrated. His life is depicted in various tableaux in the parish grounds.

Bishop Luke Kim was chief celebrant of the Mass attended by priests of the deanery and a full capacity congregation. Father Thomas Nam, vice director of the Korean region, and I represented the Columbans. Also present was Susanna, the younger sister of Fr Tony’s catechist Gabriel Kim. She was a teenager at the time of Father Tony’s death.”


 Columban missionaries Fr Liam O’Keeffe and Fr Thomas Nan, Susanna Kim, younger sister of Fr Tony Collier’s catechist Gabriel Kim, and Fr Julio Kim.


Father Tony was 37 years old. He was the first of the seven Columban Fathers to die.