J. Joseph Walshe, MD, PhD
June 3, 2021
A grand-nephew of 1916 leader Thomas Ashe and a cousin of Hollywood actor Gregory Peck, Professor Joe Walshe MD, PhD, was a person of distinction in his own right who played a prominent role as a kidney specialist in the Irish medical world.
Professor Walshe died peacefully at Bons Secours Hospital, Glasnevin, on June 3 aged 74 years. He was a consultant nephrologist in Beaumont Hospital in north Dublin until his retirement in September 2011 at the age of 65.
John Joseph Walshe, to give him his full name, was born in Listowel, Co Kerry, on September 4, 1946.
He was the eldest of four children in the family of Dr Thomas (Toddy) and Siobhán Walshe, a domestic science teacher. His father was a local GP who died in 1963 when Joe was only 17 years of age.
Friends still remember the young Joe as a "bright, excited" lad and a mischievous altar boy who enjoyed swinging the thurible at Mass at a rather higher level than the priest would like. He did well at school, getting the highest Leaving Certificate mark in Ireland in Greek. He also showed talent as a golfer.
Joe Walshe started as a medical student at University College Dublin in 1964, where he combined his coursework with a full social life. As a young man he had such a close resemblance, both in features and hairstyle, to soccer star George Best that he was sometimes mistakenly approached for an autograph. In college he met his future wife Máire Sheahan, who was an arts student: they were married in 1978 and divorced in 2017.
Walshe's mother Siobhán, née Ashe, was a niece of Thomas Ashe, who was in charge of the Irish Volunteers at the Battle of Ashbourne in Co Meath, a rare victory for the rebels in the 1916 Rising.
Joe's grand-uncle was a native of Lispole, Co Kerry, who was appointed principal of Corduff National School, Lusk, Co Dublin. He also became Commandant of a battalion of Volunteers who were mainly from Lusk, St Margaret's, Skerries and Donabate.
Ashe was arrested in 1917 and died on hunger strike, on September 25 of the same year, after an inept attempt was made to force-feed him.
His funeral became a seminal moment in the War of Independence when shots were fired over the grave and Michael Collins declared there would be no oration because the volley was "the only speech which it is proper to make above the grave of a dead Fenian".
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