John James Bernard (‘J. B.’) Malone

(13/12/1913 - 17/10/1989)

John James Bernard Malone, author who popularised walking as a leisure activity in Ireland and lived appropriately in Walkinstown with his family.

John James Bernard Malone, widely known as ‘J.B.,’ was born on December 13, 1913, in Leeds, England, to James Bernard Malone and Agnes Malone (née Kenny), both originally from Dublin. Despite the family’s frequent relocations, J.B. spent much of his formative years in England, receiving his education at the Marist Brothers College in Kent, where he completed his senior certificate examination in 1929. It wasn’t until 1931, upon returning to Ireland, that Malone embarked on his serious exploration of hill-walking.

Initially employed by C. P. Glorney, a builders’ providers firm, and later with Irish Mutual Insurance, Malone’s true passion lay in the hills of Ireland. His deep connection with nature and walking led him to meticulously document his excursions from 1932 to 1945 in hard-bound journals, providing valuable insights for his future contributions to Irish walking routes. In 1938, he began writing a regular walking column called ‘The open road’ for the Evening Herald, a commitment that continued until 1975, significantly contributing to the popularisation of walking as a leisure activity in Ireland.

Malone’s journey took an interlude when he joined the Irish army in 1940, serving as a mapmaker in various locations, including Dublin, Athlone, Letterkenny, and GHQ in Parkgate St. His passion for walking persisted, with much of his leave during the Emergency (1939–45) spent exploring the Dublin and Wicklow hills.

Post World War II, Malone briefly worked with Maguire & Gatchell in Dawson St. before joining the Department of Posts and Telegraphs in 1947 as a draughtsman. His military experience as a mapmaker contributed significantly to his ability to design and illustrate walking routes.

In 1966, Malone proposed the idea of a guided walking route through the Wicklow hills, laying the foundation for what would become his most enduring contribution – the Wicklow Way. His retirement in 1979 marked the beginning of his role as a field officer for the Waymarked Ways of Ireland, overseeing the development of long-distance walking routes. The first section of the Wicklow Way opened in 1980, with the full route to Clonegal completed in 1982.

Beyond his achievements in walking routes, Malone’s legacy extends to his various publications, including ‘The open road’ column, ‘Walking in Wicklow’ (1964), ‘The complete Wicklow Way’ (1988), and ‘Know your Dublin’ (1969), co-authored with Liam C. Martin. His television series ‘Mountain and meadow’ in the early 1960s, along with a one-hour programme on the Wicklow Way in 1980, further showcased his commitment to sharing the beauty of Ireland through walking.

J.B. Malone’s affable and knowledgeable nature endeared him to many. His love for Ireland’s landscape, history, and exploration was evident in his writings. He passed away on October 17, 1989, but his impact endures, with an annual J.B. Malone memorial walk organised by An Óige. Malone’s resting place is in Bohernabreena cemetery, and a memorial plaque overlooks Lough Tay on the Wicklow Way, celebrating the life of a pioneer in Irish hill-walking.

Person Photo
Connection with area: Walker and pioneer of guided walking routes in Ireland, who ironically lived in Walkinstown.