was born in Killeenasteena in County Tipperary, which is situated
between Cashel and Golden. I
went to school in Lagganstown
until I was 13 years old and after that some farmers employed me for 2
years, but it felt like slavery. I
joined the F.C.A. (Local Defence Force) when I was 14 and was sent to
Fermoy training camp. I
then joined the army in Clonmel when I was 15 years old.
To enable me to join I wrote a note (letter of consent), which
was supposed to be from my mother, this was not unusual at the time as
many other boys were doing the same.
I passed out as an Infantry Man, and after 6 months, I was posted
to Collins Barracks.
Collins, I joined the Engineers doing the course which involved Barrel
Raft Building, Mine Laying, Mine Field Breaching and Bridge Building.
I joined the Boxing Club there and it was renowned as being a
good club. In 1960, there
was also another boxer from the Engineers, his name was Harry Last.
There was a dance hall near Collins Barracks and the others lads in the Engineers liked to do their boxing out of the ring. One particular Saturday night I witnessed a real good punch up. 3 Engineers and a P.A. (Military Policeman) got tore in to. The P.A. was a right bastard so I did not mind. I went back to the billet that night and as usual when there was a punch up people would talk. When I opened the door of the billet the lights were out and someone shouted out “don’t put on the light there are people who want to sleep. I got in to bed and told my story of what had happened and what I didn’t know at the time was there was a Corporal in the Billet called Cotter. He said to me Private 37 Griffin, “You are a witness to a serious assault, you will have to appear at a Court Martial“. I replied, “No I won‘t, I’m only 16 years old“. This meant that the Army had no legal hold on me. I produced my Birth Certificate and shortly after I got a discharge.
evening I went to the Docs, got on board a ship called the Innishfallel,
and went to Holyhead where I boarded the first steam train I had ever
seen in my life. The train
took me to Paddington. I
walked out in to Parade Street where I got on the number 15 bus, which
left me in Ladbrokes Grove, W10. There
I made my way to Portobello Road.
There were many Jamaican people there, the Barrow Boys and of course the Cockneys, at the time I did not understand a word they were saying. Finally I found the house my brother Jim was living in, it was a flat in Faraday Road, W10. I was lucky my brother was washing his car outside the house. I stayed with him for a few weeks and got my first job with him at Standard Triumphs in the Western Avenue. I stayed there for about 6 weeks and I earned £5 per week.
this employment, I moved address and was now living in Westbound Park
Road in a basement flat. There was also a plasterer from Galway living there named
Barney Kenny. Barney
offered me £2.10 shillings per day as an apprentice plasterer.
I accepted it of course and worked for Barney for about a year.
came the bad winter of 1962. All
of the building in London ground to a halt and the snow was piled up in
the streets. Barney at the
age of 53 had to go out shovelling snow as did just about everyone who
worked on the buildings. At
this time I was lucky I got the evening news and there was an advert for
a plasterer/improver with Plastering Limited of Brixton.
I was sent to Victoria to work for Treasons, it was a new
skyscraper office block. I
was put with a gang of plasterers and I worked there for about 4 weeks,
the Foreman told me that I was being transferred to the Treasury, No. 11
Downing Street. I was
living in Gladbrook Grove and so used to get the Metropolitan line and
after some changes got off at Green Park, walked down White Hall from
Trafalgar Square, past the Horse Guards Parade and in to No 11.
I was given a pass to go in to the building.
I could not believe it, an Irish boy with a pass to No.11. That is right! However,
bare in mind this was 1961.
was then put to work with two old cockneys.
They said Oi I Pa, (means alright Pat) you will be Oi to look
after us and we will look after you.
They were very old so I had to do all the manual work, and in
plastering that means just about everything.
They were old but they had the experience, so I could not have
been in better company. The
work was of the highest standard. All
the walls had to be plumb lined and dotted and all ceilings had to be
square with the walls. There
were cornices and centrepieces, picture railings and plaster skirting.
I went to Wilsdon Technical College to study at evening class for
plastering. On Mondays I
had Technical Drawings, Wednesdays - Theory, and Fridays - Practical.
I attended that college for 2 years.
got on very well with the two old boys I worked with and even played
football for the firm. I
was the only Irish person on site.
I couldn’t see that happening after 1979 due to the troubles in
Northern Ireland, so I was very lucky and I can honestly say that after
all my experiences with people of all cultures, the Londoner is the
easiest person in the world to get on with.
the early 60’s, I and my brother Christy were in Acton, West London.
There was a fun fair in Acton Park where there was a boxing booth
and there was also wrestling. In
the booth there was a man on the stand with a black mask, all dressed in
black. The man who owned
the booth was Mel Rees, a well-known Booth Manager.
He had a great bit of banter.
He used to shout out army, navy, air force, amateurs or
professionals, whoever you are, my man the Black Angel will take anyone
on anywhere from anywhere in the world.
and I paid our half crown and went inside.
Christy said he is not much good, he looks like he’s old.
Later that day the man was looking for challengers and was
offering £5 to anyone who would last 5-minute rounds with the Black
Angel. I put up my hand, I
was about 21 and had some amateur wrestling experience, plus a small
amount of judo and had boxed in the army.
I went to the caravan at the back of the booth and took off my
shirt, I didn’t have any gear to get in to,.
I took off my shoes and went in to the ring in my stocking feet. When I looked over to the other corner, the Black Angel did
look like a Black Angel; in fact, he looked like a Headsman.
The bell went off and he came across the ring like lightning and
struck me with his head. I hung on, it was a long 3 minutes until the bell finally
went off again and I got a little time to recover.
the second round, he seemed to be out of breath. I discovered he was not much good on the ground.
Therefore, I took to the canvas and kept him there as much as I
could. In the third round I
put on more pressure, I took him on to the floor and put on an arm lock,
using my leg to lever his arm. I
had adapted a judo move. The
Ref asked Black Angel if he wanted to call it a day and to my delight he
After this, I ended the Bank Holiday working for Mel Rees. He asked me where I came from in Ireland to which I replied I was a Tipperary man. He said we will call you Tipperary Tim. I did not know at that time he was calling me after a famous Grand National winner. I suggested why not the Tipperary Tiger and so from then on that was my alias when I worked for Mel Reese; this allowed me to keep my amateur status.