Joe Graham (RIP)
30th January 1944 - 9th December 2022
Greatly missed by his loving wife Ann, his children and his grandchildren.
As many of you may already know, our much-loved founder, father and grandfather Joe Graham passed away on 9th December 2022, at the age of 77.
This page has been created to serve as a permanent memorial to Joe... May he rest in peace...
Above: Joe pictured with his loving wife of 55 years, Ann.
Above: Joe and Ann with their children, Deborah, Joseph and Sean.
Above: Joe pictured with his sons and grandsons.
Above: Joe pictured with his youngest grandchild, Brian, on the day of his First Holy Communion.
Above: Joe with his grandsons, Joseph and Sean.
The Funeral of Joe Graham
The photos below were taken by Joe's close friend, photographer Bobbie Hanvey.
Our father, Joe Graham's remains leaving our family home.
Joe Graham: A Tribute
By Gary Donnelly
When I left my home on the Glen Road in West Belfast in the mid-1990s to go to university, I was, to borrow a phrase from Simon and Garfunkel, ‘no more than a boy’. Very aptly I chose to study History. Less predictably, I was bound for Cambridge University on that dark, late September morning. When my dad stuck the Skoda into first gear and, right on schedule, we began our long haul from one world to another, I left much behind. Not least a brokenhearted mum and sisters, though little did I realise it at the time. But one thing I carried with me was an ingrained understanding of where I had come from. And my knowledge of Belfast’s complex history and folklore was in no small measure due to Joe Graham.
Joe’s Rushlight magazine has become as much a part of modern Belfast’s folklore as the stories and history he so passionately brought to life on its pages. It was often to be found on our kitchen ‘top’, near where our grandfather’s gloves and pipe rested. We were so lucky that Granda Jimmy Webb lived with us. And, like Joe, whom he read and followed with great interest, Granda was an historian, author and regular contributor to the Andersonstown (Andytown) News who passed his passion for Irish history and culture to his whole family. When I started to write, I balanced my laptop on the shoulders of such giants, great thinkers and workers both. And it was in Joe’s Belfast Born, Bred And Buttered that I found a magical spark of inspiration.
On page twenty one I read that “There were many strange ‘disappearances’ of people thought to have been informers… taken by “The Moiley”... as though Moiley was some kind of phantom who took people away…”
Even now as I return to these words I relive that same tingle of excitement, and recall the epiphany which they delivered. It’s what fiction writers live for, that ‘What if?’ moment which opens a new door and allows a story to be told or retold. What if someone, while engaged in dark deeds during the Troubles, inadvertently summoned this phantom, The Moiley? What if it latched itself to that person, becoming the embodiment of the past they cannot shake?
What if…? From such small acorns.
I changed the name to The Moley, only because it sounded creepier. But as Joe brilliantly said, “... a wink is as good as a nod to a blind donkey.” My first novel, Blood Will Be Born, grew from this story. When it was published in 2017, I had permission from Joe to include his quote about The Moiley at the beginning. It was a small detail, but it made a world of difference and I cannot think of another popularly available history in which I could have found this obscure, local reference. It was classic Joe Graham. And without his work, such snippets from oral history would have been lost.
I returned to Joe’s research when working on my second novel, Killing In Your Name. It involves a shady cabal of establishment figures and former paramilitaries. On reading Joe’s chilling account of the sectarian murders undertaken by a rogue band of RIC officers in Belfast in the early 1920s, I knew I had my character’s names. Those who read my book will find, amongst the villains, are Nixon, Golding, Glover, Gordon and Sterrit. The same names of the gang who terrorised Catholic Belfast a century ago.
We lost our Granda back in 2001, and because of this I valued my contact with Joe all the more. As I mentioned to his grandson, also Joe, I only regret not having met him in person and heard his stories first hand. When I saw his birthday reminder on my phone in January, it brought to mind the saying that when a wise man dies a library burns. But in Joe’s case, I don’t think we have to lament this. His work on Rushlight ensured his knowledge of Belfast’s history and traditions were documented and preserved, and this will live on. Colm Tóibín was recently appointed Irish fiction laureate and said that Irish writers are ready to write stories that have not yet been told or else need a new version. Those of us who dip the quill into the history of Belfast, would be best advised to have a read of Joe Graham when looking for inspiration.
Gary Donnelly is a writer and teacher from Belfast who lives in London. He is the author of the DI Sheen series, published by Allison and Busby.