Joe O’Leary has been a soldier, carpenter, furniture maker, café owner and wilderness survival instructor but the one thing that has remained constant throughout his life is his passion for the great outdoors and an overwhelming desire to learn everything there is to know about self-reliance in the wilds.
As a young man, Joe spent as much time as possible exploring the local woodlands influenced by any story laced with knowledge of the countryside and tips and tricks on carving an existence from the natural world; Danny, champion of the world and Brendon Chase being notable examples. As soon as he was able to spend nights out in the woods (which involved some carefully planned fibs in the early days) almost every weekend was filled with campouts and hare brained adventures. Nights were spent in natural shelters, food was nearly always caught in a variety of ingenious ways, everything cooked on an open fire and every minute of it spent hiding from the local gamekeeper. These early experiences stood him in good stead for an eight year stint in the Army where he met his wife, learnt his trade as a carpenter and joiner and greatly expanded his knowledge of field craft.
Since leaving the Army he has developed his knowledge of survival skills learning first hand from some of the best bushcraft instructors in the UK. Taking his inspiration from these experienced practitioners and deciding that the best way to learn is to teach, in 2002 he became an instructor for a well established survival school where his reputation for hand carving wooden cups, bowls and spoons through the night whilst eating vast amounts of chocolate became legendary.
Keen to go beyond basic survival training and further towards advanced bushcraft skills combining traditional crafts, primitive technology and up to date outdoors know how, in 2007 he started his own company ‘Wilderness Survival Skills’ which has grown to become one of the busiest full time bushcraft schools in the UK. Always pushing the boundaries and striving to offer original and unique courses, it is now considered as one of the market leaders in the bushcraft industry.
Joe is a published author with The Wilderness Survival Guide and has been a regular contributor of articles and advice for magazines such as The Bushcraft Journal, Bushcraft & Survival Skills, Trail and EQPD forces magazine. He is also working on his follow up book as we speak, focussing on the craft element of bushcraft. You can check out his bushcraft blog here:
Special skill – making pancakes.