Quinlan, Thomas (1896–1970), Columban missionary and catholic bishop, was born 13 September 1896, in Pallas, Borrisoleigh, Co. Tipperary, son of Thomas Quinlan and his wife Mary (née Gleeson). He was educated at CBS, Thurles, and Mount St Joseph's Cistercian College in Roscrea. In 1914 he entered St Patrick's College, Thurles, to study for the priesthood. On hearing an appeal from Edward Galvin (qv), co-founder of the Columban Fathers (Maynooth Mission to China), for missionary volunteers, he immediately recognised his missionary calling and joined the newly founded society. Ordained in 1920, he went to Hangyang in central China where he worked until 1933. In 1934 he moved to Korea, where there was already a tradition of catholic missionary work, which allowed the Columban fathers to build on the work of the French foreign mission society. In the late 1930s the Columbans initiated a building programme in the southern tip of Korea. In 1940 he was appointed prefect apostolic of Chunchon. Following the Japanese occupation of Korea, Quinlan and other Columbans were interned from 1941 to 1945, when he was able to resume his duties at Chunchon.
When North Korea invaded the south in June 1950, Quinlan once more found himself in captivity. In the winter of 1950 he survived a 100-mile march, on which many died, to a prison camp on the Yalu river near the Chinese border; he was not released until April 1953, when he returned to Ireland via Moscow and England; he was met at RAF Abingdon by F. H. Boland (qv), Irish ambassador to Britain. Large crowds, many of them singing ‘Faith of our fathers’, turned out at Dublin airport, where Quinlan was greeted on arrival by the tánaiste Seán Lemass (qv) and the minister for external affairs, Frank Aiken (qv). After a year's recuperation he returned to South Korea as regent of the apostolic delegation in Seoul. In 1955 he was appointed bishop of Chunchon and was consecrated in November. He died in St Joseph's clinic, Sam Chok, on 31 December 1970.