Joe Patterson – Via Francigena Trailblazer
William Joseph (Joe) Patterson, one of the trailblazers of the newly-revived Via Francigena and a founder member and former Chairman of the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome (CPR), died on 26 December 2020 aged 84.
A bluff Mancunian and former civil servant, Joe walked from Canterbury to Rome in 2001 in an impressive 66 days not long after recovering from angioplasty. The re-discovered route was still in its infancy; there were virtually no waymarks and accommodation was a constant challenge.
“It was hard work,” he wrote some years later, “but I console myself with the thought that no matter how hard I worked, my Guardian Angel worked so much harder!”
A lifelong sportsman, keen on football, tennis and sailing, Joe took to the hills when living and working in Weymouth in Dorset and completed classic long-distance walks in Britain before also walking to Santiago de Compostela in 1998.
He was one of the 15 Via Francigena enthusiasts who joined William Marques in setting up the CPR in 2006 and he took over as chairman in 2011, serving in that role until 2015.
Under his stewardship, the CPR developed good relationships with other Via Francigena groups, particularly in France and Italy, and it also expanded its membership with new recruits from both the British Isles and abroad. He counted Alberto Alberti, an Italian Via Francigena pioneer, as a very special friend. Alberto was a guest speaker at one of his AGMs.
Joe chaired meetings with great equanimity, speaking with a rolling north country burr, and he used famously to ask those attending the AGM to put up their hands first if they had walked to Rome and next if they were planning to do so.
“Right,” he would say, “You two groups should be talking to each other. You don’t need to hear from me.”
Joe would then talk enthusiastically about the revival of the Via Francigena on Archbishop Sigeric’s route and would invariably conclude reflecting that the afterglow of walking to Rome lasted a good many years.
Born in Longsight, Manchester, in 1936, Joe was diagnosed with serious Alzheimer’s in 2017. He spent his last year in a care home in Dorchester where he would frequently be found walking the corridors; old habits die hard. His wife Constance (Connie) pre-deceased him. He leaves a son Adrian, and a daughter Bernadette, and two granddaughters.
Brian Mooney January 2021