It was Joseph Peake’s dying wish that his daughter Aileen Madden perform ‘Ag Chríost an Síol’ by his graveside and so amid immense grief she did just that following his death earlier this month.

It was a poignant moment as the sound of her voice filled the air in tribute to the former Enniskillen teacher who died peacefully at Omagh Hospital on May 1 surrounded by his wife Rosaleen and daughters Deirdre, Fionnuala and Aileen.

The 80-year-old’s family have spoken of the “warmth and kindness” they have received since.

On the day of his burial, which was made all that more complicated due to the Covid-19 restrictions, mourners stood on the roadside between Newtownbutler and Clones, where Mr. Peake had lived with his wife.

“We couldn’t believe our eyes and when the hearse stopped for a few seconds for us to lock eyes with you all, the warmth, kindness and solidarity was almost palpable. You have no idea the comfort and support you gave by being there for us at this heart-breaking time,” said Aileen.

“Although we had to bury dad in this strange time, he had told us the hymns and readings he would like at his funeral and we managed to get those into the little graveside service. Ag Chríost an Síol was a favourite of dad’s and he wanted me to sing it so I recorded it on my phone before the service and we played it for dad.

“Deirdre did his favourite Gospel reading and Fionnuala said a few words about the incredible man that he was,” she said.

Joseph William Peake was born on October 28, 1940 in Liverpool. He was welcomed into the world in a dramatic way as the hospital was shelled by the Germans that night.

Mr. Peake was born to an Irish Catholic mother and an English Protestant father and spent his school years and early adult life in Liverpool.

“There he embraced his Irish Catholic identity and also took great pleasure in ensuring his colleagues of Northern Irish protestant descent celebrated July 12 as he taught them all the Orange songs he knew,” explained Aileen.

After studying in Manchester, getting married and having his first child, he moved with his young family to Kenya where he and his wife worked as lay mission helpers with the Italian Consolata fathers for five years. The family returned and moved from Manchester to Clones, County Monaghan, the birthplace of his wife.

Mr. Peake then took a post as a teacher in St. Joseph’s Secondary School, Enniskillen.

“Many of his pupils have fond memories of ‘wee mad Joe’ the teacher who took them on school trips, had snowball fights, taught them how to Irish dance and instructed them in science lessons to make stink bombs and ice-cream,” said Aileen.

Following the Enniskillen bomb, Mr. Peake was involved with ‘Enniskillen Together’, an organisation which sought to promote peace and dialogue between the two communities. As one colleague told the family: “Joe would cross forbidden ground to listen and ask and hear the pain of the maimed, broken hearted and bereaved at a time when it wasn’t necessarily safe or prudent to do so.” He spent many years working in conflict resolution all over the world.

He was a devoted family man and according to his daughter “had an insatiable passion and curiosity for life and everything it had to offer”.

Mr. Peake was described by one of his medical consultants as ‘a Renaissance man with a firm moral compass’ – a description his daughters say captures his intellect [he has a string of diplomas, degrees and masters], thirst for knowledge and eagerness for human connection and culture which kept him in deep discussion on a many an occasion.

He loved music and had a wide ranging taste from the operas of Puccini to traditional jazz to Irish airs. He would admit himself that he couldn’t sing, not that this stopped him says his family, and explained Aileen, “was anticipating the wonderful tenor he would become in heaven, where he would duet with Pavarotti among others.”

“Father Brian Darcy reflected that Mr. Peake meant many different things to many different people. He had a natural affinity with everyone he met. His Catholic faith was the essence of his very being and he participated in many church groups in the parish and strived to increase his own knowledge and understanding of his faith,” she said.

She added: “For many years, my mum ran the very successful Peake School of Irish Dancing. Dad, although he would tell you had two left feet, helped out with teaching the little beginners which gave him and the little ones, great enjoyment.”

Over the past 30 years, Mr. Peake had suffered greatly from poor health and also from the loss of his daughter Orla, which he always held present. However, throughout his life, his overriding desire was “to love God and love his neighbour and this he did to the very best of his ability”, said Aileen.

“Dad was diagnosed with Polysistic Kidney Disease when he was in his 30s. He went on pilgrimage with me to Medjugorie in 1996, where he felt unwell and was looked after by a fellow pilgrim, who happened to be a heart surgeon staying in the same guest house, Brendan Madden from Dublin.

“Brendan got him to hospital in Mostar where he diagnosed that he’d suffered a heart attack. Brendan ended up marrying me and Dad had great delight in his father-of-the-bride speech, telling everyone that ‘it was the best heart attack I ever had’,” said Aileen.

Mr. Peake went on kidney dialysis and subsequently had a kidney transplant in Belfast in 2003. Since then he spent many episodes in St. George’s hospital in London for treatment, under the watchful eye of Brendan, now Professor of Cardiothoracics, and also the last few years under the care Dr. Drake in the City Hospital, Belfast following his cancer diagnosis.

Aileen added: “He passed away peacefully under the wonderful care of the palliative care team on the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker.”

“Our thanks go to all those who cared for dad over the years including the fantastic team of doctors and nurses here at the Lakeside medical Practice in Enniskillen and those in Gordon’s Pharmacy for whom nothing was too much trouble,” she said.

Mr. Peake was predeceased by his daughter Orla and is very much missed by his family; Rosaleen, his wife and his daughters, Aileen, Deirdre and Fionnuala, also by his brother John and family, his close relatives Gertie and Dessie and his sons-in-law; Brendan, John and Paul and his grandchildren; Aisling, Aoife, Niamh, Róisín, Rónan, Conor, Ciara, Aoibheann, Oran and Orla-Rose.