‘Paddy Joe’ (1895-1960): a tribute to a 1916 fighter

Recollections and a reflection by Jim Stephenson

My earliest memories of Paddy Joe are of a quiet man who smoked, and smoked all the time! I remember the trips in his car, a Morris Minor, when he would clean, fill, and light his pipe whilst driving! the floor of the car beneath his feet was littered with spent matches.
I recall a visit to his offices where he was Chief Librarian, in Pearse Street, ---the chocolate biscuits, and the half- crown I was given, before going on the visit he had arranged to the nearby Fire Station, -pure, unadulterated pleasure, excitement, and riches for a 10 year old!

I remember also the morning I was sitting in the kitchen in his home in Stillorgan, when he came in to make breakfast for my Granny ‘Mamie’ and himself. I watched him set up, using only one hand, a tray with cups, saucers, plates, and so on, fill an electric kettle, placed slices of bread on a gas grill, make tea, during which time uttering not a word to me, because throughout the exercise he was busy reading a book! Oblivious to anything apart from the book and breakfast, which he must have prepared in that manner for many years. He prepared the breakfast faultlessly (apart from some very burnt toast) with one hand, whilst he held the book with the other, Of course, he had to put the book down to carry the tray, then he saw me, and gave me a Good Morning!

Almost every photograph of Paddy Joe, even formal group photographs such as wedding party or work photographs, show him with a pipe, or cigarette in his mouth! I know from my Father that he was under Doctors orders to stop smoking or he would suffer a heart attack, or stroke, and of course he was to die of a massive stroke.

I was told by his son, my Uncle Noel, that coincidently, he had arrived at No 3. Woodbine Avenue, just as his father was having the brain haemorrhage, and immediately called the Family Doctor, who was also a family friend.

The Doctor said he was on the way, however he did not arrive for quite some time, much to Noel’s anger and frustration, eventually the Doctor arrived but it was too late. Noel’s attention was now focused on his distraught Mother, so the Doctor escaped the consequences of the usual Stephenson temper which might have come into play.
Noel told me some time later, he was able to ask the Doctor why it took him so long in getting to his Father, the Doctor explained that he felt it would be better for Paddy Joe to die, rather than suffer severe disability through brain damage ….so he walked slowly! and by so doing, prevented any future suffering Paddy Joe might have had.

Brendan Behan lived with Paddy Joe’s son Desmond in his Artist’s studio in Baggot Street for about a year when he was writing Borstal Boy.
He came for a meal and stayed for a year, Desmond offered Behan a place to stay, as he felt that he wanted to help Behan who had just got out of prison, and was broke.
There was an occasion when both Desmond and Brendan wanted to go to see a particular film showing at a Cinema in central Dublin, but Behan had no ‘suitable’ attire, Desmond went to his parents house and borrowed (without permission) one of his Father’s suits for Brendan to wear.
Unfortunately for Desmond whilst they stood in the queue along came Paddy Joe and Mamie who joined them in the queue for the same film!
Paddy Joe complimented Brendan on how well he was looking, but Maime, recognised the suit!

5 extraordinary sons!
An Extraordinary man who had 5 extraordinary sons all very accomplished in their chosen careers, top of their professions; all can be referred to as extraordinarily self made men.
Paddy, an incredibly intelligent, academic, who educated himself in the University of Life and was in his day, Ireland’s most successful Labour relations/Personnel Director.
Dan, a hugely charismatic man who attended the same University as Paddy, and who is without doubt, the most successful and prominent Irish Auctioneer ever.
Dessie, ARHA, Associazone Artistica Internazionale, was becoming one of Irelands foremost Artists, but was cut off in the prime of his life, and his Art.
Noel, who in his time was Ireland’s most successful businessman in the world of Insurance,
And Sam, an enormous Irish personality and simply…. the most famous Irish Architect of them all.

Paddy Joe was a man who was so proud of Dublin and all things Irish,
How proud that quiet spoken Librarian Rebel must be of his Sons.

Now they are all together again.
December 2006