JOHN LIMER (1938-2019) – a modest tribute by Tony Corcoran September 2019

After a long illness, bravely borne, John Limer passed quietly away last week.Born in Hebburn on the south banks of the Tyne, he was raised in the heart of a vibrant Catholic – Irish community the values and traditions of which he absorbed and cherished all his life. He was a man of many passions and interests. The following were possibly his top ten:

1 His wife, Joan, his family and the many youngsters they fostered and cared for.

2 His Christian faith especially the Roman Catholic prior to Vatican Two.

3 Ireland

4 Guinness

5 Irish and Folk Dancing

6 Newcastle United

7 Gilbert and Sullivan

8 Cricket

9 Biggles

10 The Daily Telegraph crossword.

John was not a man to “cross to the other side of the road” or stand idly by. He was always there to lend a helping hand and worked tirelessly for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Catenians. He was a “character” who acquired a semi-legendary status wherever he operated. In South Tyneside, where he held several senior local government posts, he was the go-to man for everything. Brendan Foster may have got the credit for the Great North Run but it would never have happened without Limer.  All the barriers, signage and paraphernalia for the famous finish on South Shields front were arranged by him and his team. He also provided the Christmas lights in the borough and his friends would look out for the Limer touch such as the green, white and orange displayed by Hebburn’s Iona Club. Those of us working in the area would often hear the advice “Ask Limer”: true enough he could get anything from a shovel to a sound system.

John made a major contribution to Irish culture in the North East especially through the ceili dances he taught and popularized and his long association with John Doonan, the celebrated Hebburn flute player. He formed the Tyneside Irish Dance Troupe in the 1960’s and took them to prestigious festivals all over Europe. With Phil Conroy he was part of the folk dance festival revival in the North East in the seventies which resulted in the Teesside Eistedfodd , the Tyne-Wear Folk Moot and the Billingham International festival which survives to this day.

Personally, I owe John a great deal as he introduced me to the feis – convincing me that I was competent to play the fiddle for Irish Dance competitions. I wasn’t but once he had decided I just had to get on with it. Through that I became involved in Comhaltas and the Irish Centre.  Later I was able to return the favour when a group of us took him to Ballycastle, County Antrim, and persuaded him to enter a hall hosting an Irish set dance workshop. He emerged an instant fan and came back to organize the first class at our centre in Newcastle.

Trips to Ireland with John were always full of incident and merriment. He managed to park in the officials’ space at the Giants Causeway by claiming we were European Union inspectors of causeways. Only with him could you share a pint of Guinness with Brian Friel, the playwright, and Ian Botham, the cricketer, all in the same day. Over his impersonation of a clergyman once in Dublin it’s better to draw a discreet veil. Save to say it was typical of his sense of mischief which was never far below the surface. Indeed, it helped us survive the many seasons he, Peter Kelly and I “enjoyed” at St. James’s Park.

John Limer was a stalwart and loyal member of the Irish Centre committee until his final illness brought him down. He was also a board director of the Tyneside Irish Cultural Society and Festival which he joined at a difficult time for us. His presence and sound advice proved vital. He was not a man to panic or take rash decisions and his organizational experience helped us steer to calmer waters.

Men like John Limer are not easily replaced. He will be sadly missed. Our sincere condolences to Joan and all the Limer clan. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

John’s funeral takes place on Thursday 12th September at St. Anne’s Catholic Church 10am, to Saltwell Crem at 11.15am and back to the Tyneside Irish Centre Concert Room from noon.

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