Following the passing of Bray on January 24, his friend Louis O’Rourke paid tribute to a man who founded the Bray Strollers and Hill Walking Club and led the it for many years. Louis, who befriended Joe upon joining the club in 2001, said he still recalls the day he met his good friend for the first time.
“A set dancing friend of mine, Brendan McGuinness persuaded me to go for a walk and he introduced me to Joe,” Louis recalls. “That was about all Brendan did as he never marked my cards about what the walk would entail.
“Joe looked me over and asked ‘have you a sandwich and something to drink with you?’ I replied, ‘no, but do I need them as surely we will not be that long out’. Joe strongly suggested (as only he could) that I get some supplies in the local shop which I duly did.”
On that first day of climbing, Joe, Louis and the rest of the club scaled “Djouce, or maybe Maulin” during a hike which required some sustenance as it progressed. “I was glad I had taken Joe’s advice as I surely needed that sandwich and water. I would have been reduced to eating the bark off the trees without them I had got so hungry,” Louis says. “That lovely day out, meeting a great group of new people, good fresh air and exercise hooked me on hillwalking and I have kept it up for many years.”
Describing Joe as “a good leader and motivator” and someone who “always had an encouraging word to help keep us going when things got tough” Louis vividly remembers one wet day descending Lug and Joe’s reassuring words as they battled the elements.
"He stopped and told us that we would be back at our cars, into dry clothes and on our way home within the hour and he was right.”
Over time as their friendship strengthened, Louis says he came to know more about Joe’s life previous to his arrival in Bray and how he had wandered the globe as a younger man,.
“He was quite private and it was only over the years when walking with him that I learned a bit about the wanderer he was. He travelled to New Zealand on one of the assisted packages on offer for £10 and I know he worked in a gold mine there. He also spent some time in the fire brigade but I never found out what city or town.
“I learned that he worked in Canada and went for a job in a petrol station thinking that if he went early in the morning he would get ahead of the posse only to find a line of men ahead of him. So off he went and joined the Canadian Army. He served with them for some years ending up in Germany with them.
“He spent time in Egypt and in Suez, worked in England and came home from there and set up a café somewhere along Burgh Quay in Dublin. He is reputed to be the first person to set up a Wimpy Bar in Ireland.”
During their time in the club together Joe and Louis walked and climbed all over Wicklow on hills like Tóin le Gaoth, Derrybawn, Scarr, the Spinc, Lough na hAnagan, Tourlough Hill, Lough Firrib, Lugnaquilla and many more.
“Joe also brought us to Kerry for a good few years where we walked the old Butter Road from Kenmare back to Killarney and around the lovely lakes as well and there were walks too in Connemara. Over recent years Joe’s health deteriorated but he still walked a lot along the Prom in Bray. Unfortunately the fall he had that broke his hip ended with him in hospital. I met him there one day shortly before he died and it was so sad to see him reduced in this way. We will never forget you, Joe.”
Joe was the beloved husband of Joan, much loved by his daughters Susie and Orla and stepdaughter Jenny, granddad of Ben, Donnacha, Skylar, Seán, Aaron and Callan, dearly loved brother of Terry and Tommy, sadly missed by his son-in-law Brian, sisters-in-law Margaret and Joan, nieces, nephews, extended family and friends.
His funeral service was held on Saturday, January 28 in the Victorian Chapel, Mount Jerome Crematorium, Harold’s Cross, Dublin.