Homeless man murdered in Cork was ‘talented chef’ who served Elton John

Timmy Hourihane, ‘the warmest, kindest man’, spoke to The Irish Times in 2017

Timothy Hourihane had been a chef: ‘He served Elton John and Lionel Richie. He loved his food’

Timothy Hourihane had been a chef: ‘He served Elton John and Lionel Richie. He loved his food’

 

A homeless man who was savagely beaten to death in Cork over the weekend was a talented chef who had bravely battled alcoholism without losing his sense of humour or his spirit.

Timothy (Timmy) Hourihane (53), who was originally from Bantry in west Cork gave a poignant interview to the Irish Times on Christmas Day in 2017. I met him shortly before 10am as he was eating his Christmas meal at Penny Dinners in Hanover Street in Cork city. The charity provides daily meals to the homeless.

Hourihane said he had a feeling of immense gratitude for the blessings of the day.

He appreciated the special meal provided by the River Lee Hotel and was enjoying the Christmas music having just come from Mass.

“I went to Mass this morning at the church down the road at half eight. I went to the Polish Mass last night. There was a beautiful woman who prayed for me. It was fantastic.

“This is relaxing and I feel safe. This is my happiest day for a long time. Because I went to the church. I came here. People are lovely.”

Hourihane spoke movingly of his addiction to alcohol. He said he had battled through periods of sobriety only to see his life derailed by relapses.

“I stayed off alcohol for a year and a quarter and I was proud of that. At least I am trying. I was on the Simon (Community) floor last evening but we were out at seven this morning. So I am glad to be here.”

Hourihane admitted that he was “going around in circles” looking for accommodation.

He mentioned his sadness at the death of homeless woman Kathleen O’Sullivan (43) who had died on the streets of Cork just weeks earlier.

“Homelessness is out of control. I knew Kathleen O’Sullivan. She had a good heart for me.

“When you sleep on the streets you are lucky to wake up with your trainers still on. It has happened to me where I have woken up with one trainer missing. You have to laugh cos you think why didn’t they take the two?”

Hourihane was lavish in his praise for Caitriona Twomey who runs Penny Dinners, saying that she had “the most beautiful heart in Cork city.”

He briefly mentioned that he had been a chef. I chatted afterwards to a friend of his, Christina Chalmers of the Helping Cork’s Homeless charity. I soon learned that he was underselling himself.

Hourihane had worked in prestigious restaurants in and cooked for a number of celebrities there such as singers Elton John and Lionel Richie.

Chalmers said she was in total shock but welcomed the opportunity to pay tribute to Timmy.

“I’m lost for words. He was the warmest, kindest man. He never caused anyone any hassle. He was so kind to other homeless people. He was great fun. One year he ran in the mini marathon for charity dressed up as a woman. That was Timmy.”

Talented chef

Chalmers said that Hourihane was an extremely talented chef who struggled in the wake of his alcoholism. His troubles really began close to a decade ago when he lost his partner to cancer.

“Timmy nursed his partner Michael who had cancer. He lived by the train station and used to walk up and down twice a day to the hospital. When he died that is when the addiction kicked in. Timmy was a top chef in England.

“He served Elton John and Lionel Richie. He loved his food. We would go to the Market Lane restaurant with him sometimes and he knew his food and dressed well for going there.

“I want him to be remembered for who he was. He watched out for vulnerable homeless people. My family all loved him. We are devastated,” she said.

For the purposes of the Christmas interview, I asked Hourihane a few questions. But when I switched off my record button he had a few inquiries of his own for me.

His first question was, “What in the name of God are you doing in Penny Dinners interviewing people on Christmas morning? Do you hate your family that much”.

He made me laugh so much that I could have been dining in the one of the fine restaurants he had once cooked in. His presence transformed the surroundings and with his twinkling eyes and hearty laugh his charisma filled the room

Wham’s Last Christmas came on as we chatted and of course we discussed the death of “Poor George” a year earlier.

Hourihane said that George Michael was an idol of his and that he hated to think of him dying a sad and lonely death on Christmas Day just 12 months previously. Addiction, he said, was the great leveller.

Then he moved on to trying to figure out where he might find cigarettes on a Christmas morning. Was there a petrol station open?

Then with a laugh and a wave he was gone out the door and the daily struggle that was homelessness and addiction continued until his premature and sad demise in a “tented village” in the city.

It is understood that many homeless people camped in the same place in a bid to feel safe.

Gardaí in Cork have begun a murder investigation after a postmortem examination found Mr Hourihane died from injuries sustained in an assault.

Gardaí investigating the killing say he may have been the victim of more than one assault and more than one person may have been involved in the final fatal assault which killed him.