Letterbrock, Liscarney, Westport, Co Mayo
Joe was born on 26th August 1934 and was the fifth of six sons to the late Tom and Julia Friel of Letterbrock.
On 6th September 1961, Joe married Ann (Gavin) of Roigh, Liscarney and they spent 57 very happy years together during which time they had six children: Majella, Dympna, Julie, Carol, Joseph and Michael. Joe was a wonderful husband and father and his passing has created a deep void in all of their hearts and their lives.
Joe loved his family more than anything else and even though some of them set up their lives abroad, everyone was welcomed home with love in equal measure. Many happy family gatherings brought great joy to Joe. The first of twelve adored grandchildren arrived with the birth of Karen in 1989. One of the most difficult periods of his life came with the untimely passing of his grandson Niall in New York in 2012.
Joe had a great pride and admiration for the place where he was born and for the people of the area. Letterbrock, Drummin, Westport offered him everything he wanted in life and he rarely looked to go on holidays but always enjoyed seeing new things on his trips with family and friends.
Hard work was a way of life for Joe. He worked on the family farm from a young age, at the same time as working on the buildings by day and playing music by night with his brother Pat. In later years, he concentrated entirely on the farm and there was always work to be done, from saving the hay to developing the land where he reared Cattle and Sheep. Hard work was never an issue, no job was too big and a problem was just another challenge to be solved. He loved to whistle as he walked through the fields or on his tractor and was sometimes referred to as whistling Joe. Even though he was not able to work the farm as much in recent years, he kept things running with the help of family and friends.
Traditional music was a big part of the Friel family and Joe was a highly accomplished accordion player. Even if he never learnt to read music, he was able to pick up new tunes by ear. In the early years, he would travel to neighbouring houses for sessions and later he joined a band with Pat and travelled across Mayo bringing joy to many with their music. Joe made his own CD in 2005 entitled “Drummin Long Ago”, with a mixture of his favourite music and songs. His music was appreciated everywhere. “Did you bring the box Joe”, was a question often asked during a night out.
Joe was a lover of all kinds of sports but especially Gaelic football. He had a great knowledge of sportsmen and the personalities involved in the GAA. At the age of just 17, he travelled to Croke Park to watch his cousin Liam Hastings play for Mayo as they won their famous last All-Ireland in 1951. He followed the team religiously and attended many All-Irelands since but did not get to repeat the joy of 1951.
Joe suffered a stroke in 2009. He didn’t let that hold him back but quickly learned to accept his new reality without complaining. Although he lost the power of his left arm, he became “Knacky” as he described himself and put his walking stick to many uses to get the job done. He was always a man who couldn’t rest until a job was done and the job had to be done right. He was a ‘neat’ man in all that he did.
Joe had a strong faith and dedication to the church and the rosary.
In the Eulogy delivered at Joe’s Funeral mass, we were reminded of his 84 happy years, a life characterised by Love, Care, Kindness, Gentleness and Honesty. He would always put others well-being ahead of himself and has left only friends behind him.
The large crowds at the funeral ceremonies bore ample testimony to the regard in which Joe was held around the area. Father Tony King was the chief celebrant at the requiem mass and delivery a lovely homily celebrating his life. He was joined by Father Micheal McGreal and Father Ger Burns. The traditional Irish music and songs provided by Pat and Sandra Friel (Joe’s brother and niece), Liam Grealis and Mary Friel made a very fitting tribute to a life in which traditional music and song was always front and centre.
Joe was pre-deceased by his parents Tom and Julia and his brothers Ted, Michael and John and his grandson Niall Heraty.
He is survived by his loving wife Ann (nee Gavin); his four daughters Majella (Dublin), Dympna (Derrada, Sheeaune), Julie (New York) and Carol (London); his two sons Joe (Dublin) and Michael (Paris); his brothers Tom (Dublin) and Pat (Westport); his 11 Grandchildren (Karen, Melissa, Conor, Caitriona, Luc, Ryan, Emily, James, Daniel, Jack, Leo); daughters-in-law Edel and Cécile; sons-in-law Pat, Michael, Vincent and Tony; his 3 sisters-in-law Mary Friel, Mary O’Malley and Nellie McDonnell and his brother-in-law Paddy Gavin; nieces; nephews; his extended family and a wide circle of friends and neighbours.
Joe, when you were born on August 26 1934, you probably cried, and the world rejoiced with you. When you died on March 7th 2019, you surely rejoiced, and now the world cries for you.