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Keane, Augustus Henry


Journalist; b. Cork, Ireland, June 1, 1833; d. London, Feb. 3, 1912. He studied for the priesthood in Ireland and at Rome's Propaganda Fide College (renamed in 1962 the Pontificia Università Urbaniana), but did not proceed beyond minor orders. His flair for languages and anthropological research, already evident in Rome, grew with studies at the Catholic University in Dublin, where he received a B.A. degree. He also devoted himself to journalism, and, in 1862, took over the editorship of the weekly Glasgow Free Press (1851), the only Catholic newspaper published in Scotland. In 1864 he became its proprietor.

The religious situation in southwest Scotland was complex and explosive. In 1862, more than 200,000 Irish-born Catholics had settled in southwest Scotland; they had left Ireland in the two previous decades as a result of the famine and lived mainly in and around Glasgow. This sudden expansion brought the organization of Scottish Catholicism almost to a breaking point. Differences of national temperament and politics between the immigrants and the native clergy led to misunderstandings and strife; the Free Press had begun by 1859 openly to champion the grievances of the immigrants against the alleged partiality of the Scottish vicars apostolic. Though he had taken over the Free Press with expressions of loyalty to ecclesiastical authority, Keane soon began a virulent attack on Bp. John Murdoch, the vicar apostolic resident in Glasgow; on his successor, Bp. John Gray; and on all native-born Scots priests. This attack increased in violence until 1868, when the newspaper was condemned by the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith; the Free Press ceased publication in that year.

The Free Press incident is important in the development of the Church in modern Scotland: the very real threat of schism it produced made it clear that the Church in Scotland badly needed reorganization. The result was the reestablishment of the Scottish hierarchy in 1878. After the suppression of the Free Press, Keane devoted himself to academic pursuits and contributed extensively on ethnology, geography, and allied subjects to learned journals and encyclopedias. For some years he was professor of Hindustani at University College, London, and, in 1897, received a Civil List pension of £50 "for his labours in the field of ethnology." The fact that he was cremated would seem to indicate that he had given up the practice of his faith.

[d. mcroberts]

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