A stalwart of the town’s cricket club

Joe Smylie. INLM0413-213
Joe Smylie. INLM0413-213

A STALWART of Lurgan Cricket Club Joe Smylie, (pictured right) was a pillar of the local community.

The eldest of seven children he was born on 15th May, 1920, and lived with his parents and grandparents in Lisburn, from where he married his first wife Gertie. They had one son Rodney and subsequently two grandchildren, Robert and Joanna. Sadly Gertie died in 1983 and was greatly missed.

Joe met his present wife, Elizabeth in 1985. They were married in 1987.

He attended Brownlee Primary School which was attached to Railway Street Presbyterian Church. After leaving school he delivered milk then got a job on a message bike while at the same time attending evening classes studying Book-keeping, Business Methods and Arithmetic.

Most of his friends were in the First Lisburn Company of the Boys` Brigade, serving apprenticeships as fitters on textile machinery in the Albert Foundry in Belfast and in 1937 he too got an apprenticeship in the Drawing and Roving Department. He changed his night tech subjects and passed exams in Machine Drawing, Maths and Workshop Practice and completed his five year apprenticeship.

Joe joined the Engineering Union and got a job in Short Bros and Harland as a qualified tradesman, moved to Sydenham, east Belfast where they repaired aircraft damaged in operations in the Second World War. He got a transfer to the new Altona factory, Old Hillsborough Road, Lisburn. It was here he met his first wife, Gertie Hewitt from Moira.

As the war was coming to an end he sought a job which would continue in peacetime. A factory being set up in Lurgan making spectacle lens and frames sounded ideal. He started as a tool-maker and, along with about a dozen or so other chaps, was sent to London to learn the business.

Joe did very well at the United Kingdom Optical Co which at one time employed 1,500 people from Lurgan and the surrounding area. Joe took his work very seriously and progressed in every department in the factory before ending up as Manager in the Frames Division, both plastic and metal.

Joe had many happy memories of his time in Lurgan. He and Gertie moved to Wood Lane shortly after they were married and took great pride in their new family home. Joe always had the garden full of vegetables which Gertie made into wonderful food. Neighbours joked that the well-manicured lawn had somehow been procured from the Cricket Club.

Shortly after arriving in Lurgan the late William Hancock invited him to assist with the Boys’ Brigade Company attached to High Street Presbyterian Church. He organised camps in both Scotland and the south of Ireland and started the bugle band in the Third Lurgan Company by buying a set of four second hand drums from Finaghy Pipe Band and a bass drum from a dance band in Lurgan. Members of the congregation bought the bugles at £5 each and had their names inscribed on them. The band was a great success and in great demand at the camps where his wife Gertie and Mrs McQueen provided the food and were constantly surprised at how much ‘Joe’s boys’ could eat.

His other passion in Lurgan was cricket. He stopped for a few years after leaving primary school. Then at 16 years old, while working in Mackies he joined Lambeg CC rather than Lisburn where they insisted on the players wearing “whites” for both practice and playing. Lambeg played mid-week matches and you could wear what you pleased.

When he came to Lurgan he soon became involved in Lurgan Cricket Club, and when in 1947 Lurgan was first promoted to the senior league, Joe was elected to the Cricket Committee and served on the Selection Committee.

When the grandchildren came along he and Gertie would take them to Tullymore or Clare Glen most Sundays and there was the occasional camping trip to the south of England where Joe, showed his BB camp training and would not be beaten by equipment or weather.

Every autumn the entire family would make a pilgrimage around Moira to collect damsons for two Smylie specialities – jam and wine. Well known for packing a considerable punch, the wine once stripped the enamel off the bath.

Joe could turn his hand to anything and when Gertie sadly passed away in 1983, he built a garage at the house, a camping trailer, developed his fine range of flowers and vegetables along with countless trips to Hillsborough Rifle Club and the cricket club. He even tried, unsuccessfully as it turned out, microwave cooking.

It was 1985 while on a Christmas skiing trip in Italy he met Elizabeth. Many trips back and forth to Yorkshire later they were married and Joe’s life was full once again.

In 1981 the Rugby and Cricket clubs amalgamated and he continued on both Management Committee and Selection Committee. In 1987 he was elected as Chairman of the Management Committee and while he said it was a privilege it was a good excuse to accompany the Rugby section on their tour to Canada.

Joe and Liz moved to Corby Drive and when Liz also retired they gardened together and were great company for each other

To Robert and Joanna he was the best grandfather anyone could wish for.

In recognition of all the work he did for the club in 1994, along with Harry Jordan and Jim McCarter, he was made an honorary member. Then in 1997, when Jim McCarter passed away, Joe and Harry Jordan were invited to become joint Club Patrons. Sadly Harry passed away in July 2002.

He will be sadly missed by his wife Elizabeth, his son Rodney, daughter-in-law Julie, his grandson Robert and wife Vanessa, his granddaughter Joanna and his many friends.