Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Jimmy Hickey, Jimmy Deenihan, Namir Karim and a few photos from Cork

Yesterday, February 27 2017 in Listowel

Photo; Jerry Hannon on Facebook


Early Morning , Listowel Town Square, February 2017


Jimmy Hickey, Shoemaker and Dancer

Jimmy Hickey's unique combination of talents is currently being recorded for posterity by Jimmy Deenihan. Jimmy has assembled a crew of video and sound recording specialists and he is recording the various aspects of this special Listowel man's life.

As well as his work as a very successful dancing master, Jimmy also turns his hand to shoe repairs in his workshop in Listowel. Jimmy comes from a family of shoemakers. He brings his understanding of the importance of footwear to bear on both aspects of his life. When he is not tapping his heels in his dance classes, he is tapping his hammer in the shoemaker's workshop.

Jimmy Deenihan decided that it was high time that this man's unique talents were put on film. I was privileged to be present at Jimmy's dance classes in Dromclough National School while the recoding was in progress. It was a joy to watch the master in action and to see the enthusiasm and the skill of his young pupils.

Two Jimmys; Jimmy Deenihan and Jimmy Hickey, passing on the torch to the next generation.

The team recording the dance class.

Jimmy Hickey speaking directly to camera about the dances and their history.

Learning from the Master: In time Jimmy Hickey's  young pupils will appreciate how lucky they were to have learned the steps from a true dancing master in the age old tradition.

Dromclough is magnificent, well resourced school with an appreciation that a truly rounded education includes song and music, art and I.T. as well as the traditional three R's.


In Cork's North Main Street

When I saw this lovely little street sculpture on North Main Street last week I was reminded of a incident I witnessed on that same street some years ago. Dunnes Stores used to have a shop on that street. I was at the Customer Service Desk in the shop and I was behind a lady who was returning a bag of onions and asking if she could exchange them for a bag of carrots.


Giving Alms

There was a time when every shop counter had an array of alms boxes, often called mite boxes after the bible story of The Widow's Mite. There used to be a green one with a three D "black baby" on top. Saint Anthony's one was very popular because you could bribe him to help you find things. Every missionary society had its own one and they employed someone to come round and empty them regularly. Some of the boxes were anchored by a chain but the more trusting ones left their loot at the mercy of sneak thieves.

Are those boxes completely gone, I wonder?


Happy Ever After

Ryan Tubridy met Namir and Kay and he broadcast their extraordinary story

Namir is the proprietor of this very popular restaurant in Ballybunion. But who is Namir?

Namir Karim was born in Basra in the south of Iraq. He was the eighth of ten children in his family.  He has seven brothers and two sisters. All of their names begin with the letter N.  By his own admission Namir was his mother’s pet. He loved to sit with her while she knitted and he helped her to prepare and cook the family meals.

 Namir’s father worked in the port of  Basra. There was a club there where the British socialized. Namir’s father worked in the club and Namir and his family lived side by side with the British and enjoyed the same lifestyle, casinos, discos and music. Then the Iran Iraq war started in 1980 and soldiers moved into Basra from all over Iraq to protect the port. It was the end of the good times.

Namir was raised as a Chaldean Catholic.  This form of Catholicism is like a pre Vatican 2 version of Roman Catholicism. They acknowledge the authority of the pope and have the sacraments. Women still cover their heads in church and the priest celebrates mass with his back to the congregation. 

Namir has family scattered all around the world. Some like Namir are fleeing war, others went to college in Britain or America and never came back to Iraq.

Namir has told his story on radio and television in Ireland and he has been asked about Iraq, about Saddam Hussein and life there .  Saddam was a cruel dictator. His people lived in fear. Because it was forbidden for an Iraqi to socialize with a foreigner, Namir took big risks to be with Kay.

 Happy wife; Happy life, is Namir's motto

1995 was a happy year for Namir and Kay. Kay decided to enter Namir into a competition to select the Husband of the Year. The competition was run by The Star newspaper and an RTE programme called Twelve to One. Kay wrote a short essay describing why she thought Namir was special. She described how he had given up everything to be with her. He left home and family to “take a chance on me” she said.

Namir won the competition and was declared Husband of the Year.
He is still Kay's Husband of the Year to this day.
Call in to him in Namir's in Ballybunion or Scribes in Listowel.

Monday, 27 February 2017

The Gallant Greenville team, Namir Karim and Blackbirds

Zebra in Fota

Photo by Chris Grayson


There is nothing like a bit of local rivalry to inspire a poet.

The Gallant Greenville Team 

by John B. Keane

Come all ye true born Irishmen
From here to Healy’s Gate
And I’ll sing for you a verse or two
As I my tale relate.
You may speak about Cuchulainn bold
Or the mighty men from Sneem,
But they wouldn’t hold a candle
To that Greenville team.

“Ha-ha!’ says Billeen Sweeney,
“Sure I’ll tackle up my ass
And I’ll put on my brown suit
That I wear goin’ to mass.
I’ll hit the road to Listowel town
By the morning’s airy beam,
And I’ll bring home Berkie’s mutton
For the gallant Greenville team!

“The dry ball won’t suit ’em”,
Said the pundits from the town,
But they pulverized the Ashes
and they mesmerised the Gleann.
Next came the famous Boro,
Their fortunes to redeem,
But they shriveled up like autumn leaves
Before the Greenville team.

“’Twas the white trout that done the trick,”
John L was heard to say.
“We ate them morning, noon and night
In the run-up to the fray.
They hardened up the muscles
And they built up the steam
Until no power on earth could beat
The gallant Greenville team.”


Dear Old Athea

From; Born in West Limerick on Facebook


This is Namir Karim with his friend and work colleague, Brigitta pictured in Scribes of Church St. Listowel

From Iraq to Listowel

(a love story)

There is nothing ordinary about Namir. Just one of the extraordinary things about him, is that he is an Iraqi Christian. Above and beyond that he is a Christian, a living example of Faith Hope and Charity. His latest Christian act is to start a Friendship Club in his restaurant in Ballybunion. Twice a week he  hosts a kind of men’s shed for everyone. He  provides the venue and people can come and sit and talk and just enjoy a bit of company. Everyone is welcome and if people would love to come but have no way of getting there , Namir will do what he can to solve that problem too.

So who is Namir Karim and how did he find his way to North Kerry?

Namir met his wife who was then his girlfriend in Iraq. Namir’s mother was very seriously ill and she was being cared for in a hospital which was run by an Irish organization on behalf of the Iraqi government. Kay Carr was nursing in this hospital and she grew fond of her very ill patient and maybe a little fond of her son as well. Kay advised the Karim family to take their mother home to die. She told Namir that his mother would go straight to heaven. She had done her suffering on earth. Namir remembers that as his mother left the hospital, Kay had tears in her eyes. “ I wondered if the tears were for my mother or for me. Either way it made me feel good.”

Namir contrived an excuse to return to the hospital to see Kay. He said that he was having trouble with some of his mother’s equipment. Kay offered to come to help the family sort it out. Kay took a big risk in visiting an Iraqi home. Fraternising with the local people was forbidden for the staff at the hospital. Kay stayed for dinner at the Karim home that evening . Both she and Namir knew that this was more than good friendship.

When Kay returned from a short visit home to Ireland, Namir asked her out. They began seeing each other in secret and they pledged their love to one another. All students in Iraq at the time had to spend at least two years in the army. Namir was doing his compulsort service in the army. He was in his final years of training to be a civil engineer. A fellow soldier told a superior officer that he had seen Namir with a ‘foreign’ girl.  He got five days in jail for the offence.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait Namir’s national service was extended by a year. Initially Kay and the other Irish citizens were not allowed to leave. Saddam Hussein’s regime was at its height and it was very dangerous to flout any of his laws. Eventually Kay and the others were allowed to leave. She bad a tearful farewell to Namir and they promised they would find a way to be together once the war was over.

When the Gulf war started in January 1990 all communication with Baghdad was stopped. Namir wanted no part of the war and he devised a plan to escape active service. There was a rule that if a soldier donated blood, he was given a week off. During this week, Namir escaped with his family to a Christian area in northern Iraq. Due to a very happy coincidence, his disappearance went unnoticed as the office building based in Baghdad was bombed and destroyed and all records of who should or should not have been present were destroyed.

When the war ended, Namir returned to the city and gave a Red Cross worker he met a letter to get to Kay, who he knew would be worried sick about him. Namir began to plot his escape. He planned to get over the border into Jordan and if Kay still wanted him he would sell up what he had in Iraq and fly to her.

Easier said than done. Iraq did not want skilled engineers leaving at a time when it was trying to rebuild the country after the devastations of war. Kay still loved him but getting to her proved very tricky and involved a lot of lying. Love found a way and Namir and Kay were reunited at Dublin airport on November 5 1992, a day before Kay’s birthday. They married in a registry office when Namir’s visitor’s visa ran out. They had their proper church wedding in Kerry in June 1992 with lots of music, dancing and celebration.

Namir lost no time in assimilating into the Kerry community in which he now lived. He built on the skills he had learned from his mother who was a great cook and crafter. Namir started work in his brother’s restaurant, The Captain’s Table. Since leaving there he has gone on to own his own restaurants and  shops. Nowadays in 2017 Namir has two restaurants, Scribes in Listowel and Namirs in Ballybunion. He also has Craftshop na Méar in Listowel.  Namir has played badminton with the Listowel club and soccer with Lisselton Rovers.

Namir and Kay have two lovely adult children, Roza and Peter. Roza is named after Namir’s beloved mother who was the Cupid who brought Namir and Kay together.

Namir and Roza

More tomorrow


 Blackbirds singing in the Garden of Europe


Mea Culpa

Totally my fault that the link to this great video didn't work previously.  I have now made the video public. I am grateful to  Charlie Nolan for alerting me to the problem.

This short video was shot by Jimmy Hickey and digitised by Charlie Nolan. It shows some local people walking and skating on the frozen river. Charlie has accompanied the track with the heavenly voice of Joan Mulvihill, who is far too young to remember the frozen river, singing My Silver River Feale.  It's well worth a watch. Sorry again for messing it up the first time.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Ballybunion, Cameras, a Lenten Story and Listowel's Plaza Cinema

Rough Seas at Ballybunion 

Photo: Mike Enright


An Old Ciné Camera

Did you watch the old video footage of the frozen river Feale in 1963
This little film was made by a young Jimmy Hickey on the below Kodak Brownie.

The 8 minute film strip ran reel to reel and when you reached the end you rewound it with the winder shown below.

I think you'll agree that camera technology has come a long way since 1963.


Some Spring Colour in The Garden of Europe


Reminiscences  from Delia O'Sullivan

Lent and Laughing Gas

By Delia O’Sullivan (published in Lifelines, an anthology of Writing by the Nine Daughters Creative Writing Group)

In 1950s Ireland Lent was a time of penance, prayer and self restraint. For forty days and forty nights we were encouraged by the nuns to give up sweets – a scarce resource anyway.  We were to give our pennies to the missions instead. The mission box was adorned with pictures of little naked, smiling shy black children. It was brought out after morning prayers. Each offering was carefully recorded. The nun said that this was important, as, on reaching the half crown mark we would then have bought our own black baby. Michael’s mother was the local maternity nurse and he did well from all her clients, so he was a clear winner and the only person to reach the target. Michael was told that he could now name the baby but we were all very disappointed to learn that the baby would not be travelling. He would stay in Africa. The nun said that maybe someday Michael would visit him.

When we reached our teens, we found the dancehalls closed for Lent. The showbands headed for the major English cities. But every rural village in Ireland had its own dramatic group. The plays and concerts were not frowned on by the clergy as they brought in much needed funds for churches and schools. This was a wonderful time for us. As part of the Irish dancing troupe we travelled on Sunday nights with the players. We sold raffle tickets, met “fellas” and experienced a freedom that our parents didn’t even dream of.  We got bolder, inventing concerts in far-flung area, returning later, saying there was a cancellation.

In 1959 we were student nurses in London. During Lent we could enjoy the dances and the showband scene denied in Ireland. But, with only two late passes a week we were restricted. However we found ways around it – mainly by signing for a late pass in the name of a fellow student who never went out. One of these was Mrs. Okeke.

As young country girls in Ireland most of us had never been beyond the nearest small town. In our small rural Catholic environment, foreigners were the occasional English or American husband or wife, brought on holidays by an emigrant. They spoke with strange accents and didn’t seem to understand the rituals of standing and kneeling at mass. In Ireland I had only ever seen one black person, Prince Monolulu, adorned with a headdress of feathers and very colorful robes, performing the three card trick at Listowel Races. We were now part of a multi national society in a huge teaching hospital. It overlooked Highgate Park where we watched the squirrels climb trees and nibble at shoots. We also saw a steady flow of visitors to the grave of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery. We integrated well, most of us being of the same age group.

The exception was four Nigerian ladies who were older and dour. They never smile. One of them, Mrs Okeke asked us why we stared and , if we laughed, she called us silly girls. Off duty, they dress in bright robes and huge turbans. They chewed on sticks to whiten and strengthen their teeth. They cooked spicy foods on the gas rings which was supposed to be used only for boiling kettles. When reprimanded by the Home Sister, they pretended not to understand.

It all came to a head on the day  the anaethestist was giving us a demonstration of the different types of anaesthetic. We were encouraged to participate. As Mrs. Okeke’s hand went up for a demonstration of laughing gas, we all kept our heads down. A small whiff and she was laughing hysterically, displaying a number of gold teeth. We laughed until our sides were sore. Suddenly her face took on its usual dour look but by then we were unable to stop laughing. She couldn’t retaliate with the anaesthetist present.

Some days later we met her on her way back from the Matron's office.  She had been asked to explain why her name had been signed for seven late passes in a row, even though she was convinced that she had never had a late pass. Her perplexity deepened when one of us suggested that she was suffering from the after effects of laughing gas.


Help for a Family who have suffered an appalling tragedy


Remembering The Plaza

During the week I posted an old picture of Listowel's Plaza/Ozanam Centre. Here is the story behind its construction from Vincent Carmody's Snapshots of an Irish Market Town


Michael Martin met some local people on his walkabout in town yesterday