Everest Self Raising Flour, now that’s a name that older people will be familiar with and I’ll bet they haven’t heard it uttered in many, many years. The reason I mention it is because it has a connection with the famous mountaineer, Sir Edmund Hillary, who died last week. Sir Edmund and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first men, in May 1953, to stand on the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak.

At that time, Waterford Flour Mills in Ferrybank was a thriving industry with a large workforce. All their products were mainly sold in bulk but it was decided to create a new line, a self-raising flour that could be sold in small bags that would suit housewives.

Ferrybank man Jimmy Searson, perhaps better known as the President of the Waterford and District Junior League, was put in charge of the unit that produced the flour that didn’t have a name until, mindful of Hillary’s achievement, they decided to call their new product Everest Self Raising Flour. The flour was a great success all over the country but the name was discontinued when the Odlum company took over Waterford Flour Mills and put their own name on the bags.

Val Doonican at The London Palladium

Some weeks ago, I wrote about a tribute to Val Doonican I had seen on the BBC television ‘Legends’ series and remarked that I was surprised that the Waterford born singer had never been made a Freeman of his native city. Well, the web edition of The Munster Express is read all over the world and I am grateful to Patrick Kennedy, proprietor of The Vogue Gallery in West London and a former President of the Ealing Chamber of Commerce, for responding to my comments.

Patrick informs me that many London-Waterford people are also puzzled at the situation and assures me that Val Doonican’s star still shines brightly in British show-business. The singer recently headlined a special, sell-out show at The London Palladium to celebrate his 60th. year in the business. The proceeds from the show went to the Entertainment Artistes’ Benevolent Fund, of which Queen Elizabeth II is Patron, and some of the biggest names in the entertainment world were queuing up to salute Val by performing on the night.

Some of those who paid homage to the Waterford man from the stage of The Palladium were Frank Carson, John Williams, Rolf Harris, Nana Mouskouri, Bradley Walsh and Jan Navratil and Vilma the celebrated circus performers from the Czech Republic. Also on stage were students from the prestigious Laine Theatre Arts Group who performed excerpts from the hit West End shows, ‘Chicago’ and ‘Guys and Dolls’.

Val Doonican closed the show and, despite all the wonderful talent that had appeared before him, he produced a super performance that left nobody in any doubt as to was THE star of the night.

Huge gambling coup

I’m not a fan of gambling of any kind but I was fascinated by the story of the Gowran, County Kilkenny, man who pulled off one of the biggest gambling coups in recent history when he won €685,000 on three races on New Year’s Eve.

With the blessing of his wife and family, Nigel Cullen, a 36-year-old local businessman, hatched a plan that would see him lay down €15,000 over 69 bets on three races. He had been closely following the form of three particular horses and, on the day in question, he and his two brothers laid down the bets in different bookies’ offices across four counties. Each bet named a horse to win or be placed and no one wager was larger than €200.

Nigel said he would have made about €95,000 if all three horses had been placed and he never expected all three to actually win. Stressing that he wasn’t a fool who sent good money after bad, he said he would prefer to refer to himself as a shrewd investor rather than a gambler.

“I’ve seen the bad side of it and, if you gamble seven days a week, you are never going to win”, he said. I wish Mr. Cullen well but I would still be extremely wary about gambling, especially such a huge sum as €15,000, as the old adage about not seeing too many poor bookies still rings true.

Cead mile failte to Barack O’Bama

It was only going to be a matter of time before some Irish county discovered a link to Barack Obama, one of the front-runners seeking the Democratic nomination for the US Presidency. The Tipperary village of Ballyporeen claimed the late President Ronald Reagan as one of their own and now Moneygall, on the Tipperary-Offaly border, has announced that Mr. Obana is a descendant of a local man named Fulmuth Kearney.

To be precise, Mr. Obama, the son of an American white woman from Kansas, Ann Durham, and a black Kenyan, also named Barack Obama, is believed to be the great-great-great-grandson of Mr. Kearney. RTE television has already been to Ollie’s Pub in Moneygall and, should Barack Obama manage to secure the nomination, there will be a succession of US camera crews following in their footsteps.

Knocking a good tune out of a mouth organ

Speaking about show-business, musical politicians have been all the rage in recent years. In Northern Ireland, the Reverend William McCrea has released a number of albums of his gospel singing and, of course, Dana Rosemary Scallion is another good example of a singing politician as is Councillor Tom Allen, perhaps better known as T.R. Dallas.

US President Bill Clinton was, and is, a handy enough tenor sax player although he mightn’t be as good as Senator Donie Cassidy, formerly of The Firehouse Five Showband. Munster MEP Brian Crowley was a former lead singer with The Galaxy Showband and he can still deliver a good performance when called upon while, the current Republican candidate for the White House, Mike Huckerbee, is an accomplished country singer and guitarist who has toured with Willie Nelson.

So, into that company, comes Councillor Austin Berry from Athlone who is a four-times All-Ireland mouth-organ champion. His forthcoming 18-track album, ‘Sound of the Brosna’ will feature four original tunes relating to his home place of Clonshanny near Clara in County Offaly while the remaining 14 tracks will showcase well-known jigs, reels, polkas and slow airs. The CD is completed and mixed and will be launched at a date to be announced next month so good luck to him.

Of course, there are several Waterford councillors and former councillors who would be well capable of producing CDs of their favourite songs. I’m bound to silence at present but there could be a surprise or two in the not too distant future!

Incidentally, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the influential Time Magazine recorded the death of Joe Dolan in last week’s issue. He was the only European to feature in the ‘Milestones’ page where his singing voice was described as being somewhere between Tom Jones and Tony Bennett.

Birds of a feather
drink together!

A man walked into The Granville Hotel on Friday evening last shortly after 5 o’clock. The bar was busy but he spotted a vacant stool next to a very smartly dressed young woman. He sat down and ordered a pint and was about to open the Late Edition of The Munster Express when the woman suddenly turned and faced him, her beautiful blue eyes locked into his.

“Listen”, she said in a seductive voice, “I’ll screw anybody, anytime, anywhere. I’ve been doing it since I left university and I just pure love it.”

“Wow”, said the man, his face breaking into a wide smile, “it’s nice to meet you. I’m a lawyer too, what firm do you work with?”