Br T J “Joe” O'Donovan


Just got word that Joe O'Donovan died today in Baldoyle. He must have been around 96, falling short of the 103 years his mother clocked up. Joe was from Timoleague (Tigh Molaga in Gaelic) near Clonakilty. He attended the local National School which had two teachers — Mrs Collins and Bat Murphy. When it came to talking about his early days, Joe had total recall. He maintained Bat Murphy knew little or no Irish and had to consult Mrs Collins all the time. Joe would recite the Irish/English “poem” Bat taught him.

Yesterday morning — Maidin inné
I killed a goose — Do mhairbh mé gé
The knife was too sharp — Bhí an scian ró-ghéar
I cut my finger — Do ghear mé mo mhéar.

Joe joined the Brothers in England, attended University College Dublin to obtain his BA.  He was missioned to India and taught in many of our schools. He was mainly a maths teacher.  Joe was a lovable simple soul in whom there was no guile. Quite unusual in a Corkman! He couldn't understand duplicity in anyone. He loved field sports and was a formidable back on the soccer field.  He often recalled how the late Br John Joe O'Shea shouted “Leave it to me!” during a football game in Ledsham. Joe obliged and the ball bounced over goalie John Joe's head.  As the years  advanced Joe became hard of hearing. If one stood outside his room while he was correcting papers one would think he had a pupil inside with him. “O, you old rascal!”  “Good man, yourself!” Joe spoke very audibly to the absent boys whose papers he was correcting.

Joe was a man of solid piety, always regular at community exercises and spiritual reading. He used to read to himself out loud! We knew which book he was perusing! He went to see the visionary, Christine Gallaher, in Ireland, but was cute enough to say nothing about it as he knew the Brothers might think him gullible. Amazingly, Joe was fearless in confronting demonstrators in St. Pat's, Asansol. He upbraided them although they were wielding knives and made them remove red flags from Our Lady's grotto. “O, the old rascals!” He shouted at those in the clerk's office and told them to get out.

He became so concerned with his health that he almost developed hypochondria. Eventually he moved to Baldoyle where he found the central heating too hot, and the sun on summer mornings too bright. That after sixty years in India!

Joe died unexpectedly today — the Feast of the Holy Innocents. It is a fitting day for Joe to go home.  No doubt he will meet up with old friends and companions — Alban O'Sullivan, Danny Burke, Mel McCann, Paul Mulcahy, Norbert Foley and many other comrades in arms “who endured the scorching plains of Hindustan.” We extend condolences to his sister, Breda Kelly, who lives in Scoby, Enniscorthy. To Xavier Leonard also who is now the sole remaining ex-Indian Province Brother in Baldoyle. Rest in peace, Joe.

— Anonymous