Joe Carlisle Remembered By Ballynahinch RFC

Obituary for Joe Carlisle, a founder member of Ballynahinch RFC

Obituary for Joe Carlisle, a founder member of Ballynahinch RFC

The 2023-24 season began last week with a Ballynahinch victory and the usual craic and banter in the clubhouse as old friends and teammates reunited after the summer break.

However, a shadow hung over proceedings as Ballynahinch embarked on their first season without Joe Carlisle, founding member and driving force throughout much of the club’s history, who passed away on 4th August aged 92.

His life was celebrated during a service at the club with evocative and typically humorous contributions from Bill Caldwell and Philip Gregg.

The amazing care given to Joe in his latter years by his long-term friend Sam Robinson was also highlighted and applauded by all those present.

A service was held at the Ballynahinch RFC clubhouse for the late Joe Carlisle, a founder member of the club. (Photos courtesy of Ballynahinch RFC).

For the first fifty years of rugby at Ballynahinch one name was synonymous with our club, a constant presence as we established ourselves on the rugby landscape.

That name was Joseph Kirkpatrick Carlisle. ‘Wee Joe’ to everyone who knew him in rugby circles in Ulster, Ireland and all over the world.

Joe was a founder member of the club and fulfilled the role of 1st XV Captain, Match Secretary, Chairman, Groundsman and Tour Manager as well as having the honourable distinction of being the only man to have served as President twice.

He was an ever-present on the Club Council and served as club representative to the Ulster Branch for 45 years until 2004.

These bare facts hide the colossal influence of Joe in the early years of this club as he drove it on from very humble beginnings in 1954 to a much sought-after Town’s Cup triumph in 1964.

Despite his diminutive stature, Joe was a wing forward on that team and was known for his relentless training regime.

The late Joe Carlisle.

His 30-year playing career ended on The Evergreens in the early 80’s.

Joe’s role as match secretary for twenty years was absolutely crucial given his unique ability to dig out players when all seemed lost, recruiting players at Down High on Saturday mornings to fulfil fixtures later that day.

Complete strangers would often appear for 2nd XV matches in the early days saying that Joe had instructed them to turn up and play!

Despite his tireless work on behalf of the club, Joe’s greatest pleasure throughout his rugby life were the friends he made along the way.

A keen tourist, he travelled the world to follow rugby and even took in some of the 1974 Lions fixtures in South Africa.

He was tour manager on the legendary 1984 Ballynahinch tour of Canada as well as partaking in a few trips away with the Evergreens.

When promotion to the AIL was secured in 1996 Joe was a regular spectator at games all over the country and could be seen at every 1st XV home fixture in his familiar spot on the 22m line until recently.

The flat cap, long navy Adidas coat, familiar cough and half pint of Tennents should conjure up an image of Joe to everyone who knew him, and to countless others who have passed through our club in recent years not knowing the huge influence he has had on rugby in these parts.

When Joe received the Spence Award in 2020 in recognition of his enormous contribution to the club, Emma Rice commented that “a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.”

Joe was lucky enough to enjoy the shade of the tree he helped to plant almost seventy years ago. The rest of us can continue to nurture and enjoy it for years to come.

Thank you Joe,  and may you rest in peace.