83 John Carolan – Community Heritage Advocate

  • John Carolan was a well-known Irish-Canadian businessman-builder, community volunteer, and fundraiser for charitable projects including the establishment of Corpus Christi Catholic Liberal Arts College at UBC and Northern Ireland reconciliation projects.

  • Born in 1926 at Kilcrossduff near Shercock, Co. Cavan, he survived a mineshaft-collapse during a period in Yorkshire during WW II.   Having married and started a family, he migrated to Canada in 1957, settling in New Westminster, B.C. where he became a member of St. Peter’s Parish.   Established as a respected member of  the Lower Mainland construction industry, his expertise led him to project commissions throughout the province, in Alberta and the Yukon.  One such project—the river rock and timber-frame restaurant/inn at Kanaka Bar in the Fraser Canyon—became a landmark with North-bound B.C. travellers.   

  • With Gerry Wolfson, a Dubliner and local music shop-owner, Carolan launched The Question Mark coffee-house during the folk and blues era of the early 1960s.  The pair  brought many of the era’s top touring performers to New Westminster’s then-thriving Columbia Street scene, and helped establish the career of Susan Jacks (nee Pesklavits), who with husband Terry Jacks and The Poppy Family went on to enjoy international stardom.  John’s interest in the arts led him to work in local theatre productions with First Nations C & W singer/actor Dan George, who also achieved international celebrity and became Chief of the Burrard Sleil Waututh Reserve.  Actor Shay Duffin, known for his portrayal of Dublin author Brendan Behan, was another old friend. 

  • John maintained a longtime interest in community and political issues and his many friends in public life included Tommy Douglas, Ma Murray, and Bill VanderZalm, with whom he served on the Catholic Charities Board.  He also served with the St. Vincent De Paul Society and was an active member of New Westminster’s Heritage Association, contributing countless hours to the restoration of the historic Gray Home in the Queen’s Park area.  During his retirement he became a hospital volunteer at St. Mary’s, the Royal Columbian, and Queen’s Park hospitals, visiting the sick for some 20 years.  

  • A proud adopted son of the Royal City, John was a lifelong sports enthusiast and joined with many of the Vancouver Irish in playing soccer for the Vancouver Post Office squad (goalkeeper), and in later life enjoyed refereeing Gaelic football matches. 

  • As a boy, John endured a painful experience in the Dominican Workhouse at Bailieborough, near Cavan.  Subsequently, he mixed easily with all kinds of people and having known hard times as a boy he devoted much of his life in Canada to helping the poor.  His goal in life, he said, was to try and make it a better world.  In later years he raised funds on behalf of Ulster youth reconciliation projects.  

  • John Carolan died at New Westminster in 2005, aged 79. 

  •  He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Beatrice.  His children are former North Vancouvermunicipal Councillor Dr. Trevor Carolan; Glenys (Welters); Dan (businessman, Penticton); and Sean (businessman, Vancouver).  Nine grandchildren:  Clayton, Jeffrey, Patrick, Erin, Niall, Olivia, Eloise, Finn, and Aoife.  Three great-grandchildren: Palmer, Hudson, Carter.