Joe Whittle was born in Dunlavin on February 26th 1920. The first reading of the last Home Rule Bill was introduced on the same day. His parents wereAnne and Francis Whittle and he had two sisters, May and Christine and three brothers, John, James and Francis.
After National School he and some other local boys went to Shrigley, a Salesian boarding school in Lancashire, England. Three of these boys were subsequently ordained in the Salesian Order: Sean Butterfield, (Rathsallagh), James Conway, (Brewel), and Joe Whittle.
After Shrigley, Joe took his B.A. in U.C.D., and, after taking Holy Orders in 1950, he spent over twenty years in Pallaskenry, Co. Limerick, first as Dean and, later, as Headmaster. Past pupils generally found him strict but fair – to quote Goldsmith – “If severe in aught – the love he bore to learning was at fault.”. Joe certainly did not suffer fools gladly.
In the early seventies, he left Pallaskenry for a two year term as Chaplain in a reform school at Aberdour in Scotland. Here he perfected a happy facility for getting the best out of wayward boys. He was given to quoting the Scottish proverb – sweep outside your own door and the whole street will be clean.
On his return to Ireland, Joe was appointed Headmaster at Ballinakill school in Co. Laois. He then spent twelve years as Chaplain at Shanganagh Reform School in Dublin. His last official post was a curacy in Mountmellick where he spent ten years. He organised the restoration of the famous Iveagh Chapel Cemetery.
Joe retired to his native Dunlavin where he was cared for by his niece Lily Mulcahy and her family, until his death on March 11th last year.
The Irish seanfhocal, “briseann an duchas tre shuile an chait” is applicable to Joe. That sense of service to his fellow an was in his DNA. His immediate forebears founded Dunlavin GAA and his remote ancestor, Canon James Whittle, was PP in Dunlavin from 1862-1884. Indeed, the same applies to this generation.
Joe loved the great outdoors, the greyhounds and sport in general. He could talk with king and commoner on diverse topics. He could reminisce on the Sallins Tullow Railway line, Tober Castle, Man-O-War, Kit Carroll and Dunlavin GAA, Paddy Lawler and Seamus Deering and Irish Rugby. If you’re in a hurry, I’ll stop!!!
Finally, Joe had a great sense of time and place. In the year 2000 he organised and concelebrated Mass in Dunlavin with Fr. Michael Murphy and fellow Dunlavin men, Finbarr Clancy, S.J., Frank Laverty, CssP, James Conway, Sal., Peter O’Toole, CssP. In his retirement he was always willing to help out in the parish.
Well done, good and faithful servant.
Fr. Joe’s First Anniversary Mass will be celebrated in St. Nicholas of Myra Church, Dunlavin on Sunday March 8th at 12 noon.