Joseph Blakely was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England on 7 November 1889.
Hailing from a Roman Catholic family, he was the son of James Henry Blakely, a schoolmaster, and the former Elizabeth Cadley. His mother died shortly after his birth and his rearing was assisted by his maternal grandmother until his father remarried, that second union providing him with several half-siblings. By 1911 the family lived at 29 Cairns Street in Liverpool, but Joseph was absent when the census was conducted, presumably at sea.
He first appears on crew lists in 1909 whilst serving as a waiter aboard Ivernia, later working aboard Carmania by the close of the following year. In April 1912 Blakely was serving as a waiter aboard the eastward-bound voyage of the Carpathia when that ship rescued the survivors of the Titanic.
Joseph Blakely later left the sea and worked as a bus cleaner. He was married in 1914 to Ethel Richards, with whom he raised a family. He died in Liverpool in 1972.