A 53-year-old English man, trained as an interior designer, has been living in a small white marquee tent on the quays of Cork city for the past nine months.
The man, who doesn’t use a name and answers to ‘No name’ says his refusal to conform to the concept of a formal identity, is his way of being free from the constraints of society.
He first starting living on Patrick’s Quay in a small tent gifted to him by one of the charitable organisations that offer food and clothes to the homeless in the city.
He now lives in a larger marquee-style tent that has drawn much attention and criticism.
Former Lord Mayor and city councillor Des Cahill has demanded the marquee be removed saying it gives a poor image of the city.
The Englishman, originally from Hampshire, first moved to Ireland 20 years ago in an effort to reconnect with his father who he had not spoken to for 15 years.
At the time, he was living and working in London as an interior designer and back in London he fell in love with an Irish woman who he has a 19-year-old son with.
The young family moved over to Cork three years later and lived down in Bantry in West Cork. ‘No name’ then moved into stand-up comedy, appearing on the John Creedon radio show on a number of occasions.
Around four or five years ago, he and his partner split up and the Englishman moved down to west Cork to look up a friend who was dying from leukaemia.
While looking after his friend, ‘No name’ decided to give up his formal identity and when his friend died he continued on living at the council house, until he had to leave. After that he spent two years sleeping rough.
“I slept in caravans, stables, I lived all over. I worked on an organic farm. I had no income and nowhere to live. I started to lose a lot of friends. I think it was doing away with my name, the presumption was I was probably mad.”
Two years later, he moved to Cork. “I slept on a boardwalk on my first night. Then I got a duvet and moved to St Mary’s Church. Someone told me it was quite safe there.
“I got to know the services and I figured out where you can get food, clothes and cosmetics.” The former interior designer said he tried the homeless unit on Drinan Street but they said without a name or a PPS number they couldn’t help him.
Over the winter, he was sent to prison for obstruction after refusing to move on from St Mary’s Church.
“I was sent to prison for nine months.” After getting out of prison, ‘No name’ reconnected with his son and his former partner and tried to see them every day.
The Englishman was sleeping in a tent in various places and then started sleeping on Patrick’s Quay in October last year.
‘No name’ stuck out Storm Ophelia and Storm Emma on the quays, although he did manage to get a couch to sleep on for three nights during Storm Emma.
“During the real snow, I had three nights away from the tent. Someone I know has an Airbnb, the people who made a booking during the storm couldn’t make it over and I got to sleep on a couch during the bad weather.”
Over Christmas, ‘No name’ also managed to source accommodation. “I had a friend who was going back to London and I managed to get their place under the guise of house sitting.
The marquee tent that ‘No name’ now lives in was sourced through a “fortunate set of circumstances.”
“I was outside the post office one day and One-Armed Tony told me he was selling a tent. I asked what kind and he explained. I went back with him to help him set it up for a viewing. He didn’t manage to sell it and I ended up buying it from him instead.”
Describing his daily routine, ‘No name’ said he gets up early every morning and goes over to the day centre at Cork Simon to get a cup of tea and to use the toilet.
“Then I go to Penny Dinners, which is open from nine until 12 and then there are a number of services dotted around the city.
“People have been good to me, I am happy out living in the tent on the quays.”
The Englishman said he doesn’t mind the winter months, he is never bored and he doesn’t fear getting old.
“I was born a slave, but I will die free,” ‘No name’ said.
“The whole process of losing the name in some sense is an act of rebellion.
“I think everything happens for a reason. I don’t believe in coincidence. I don’t plan for the future and I am not ambitious. I have a home, it just happens to be a white marquee on Patrick’s Quay.”