IF you live or have lived among the London Irish community and particularly its large GAA fraternity since the early 60s it is quite likely you will have crossed paths or at least have heard of legendary publican and Galway native Ambrose ‘Flash’ Gordon.
Having recently published his memoirs - Sex, Flights and Videotapes – now even those who have never met him will realise that the Killimor man is anything but another ordinary exile who left their native home in their teens in the hope of seeking fame and fortune.
A real character
The Irish community in London has certainly unearthed more than its fair share of real ‘characters’ from the construction industry and licensing trade, especially since the first major wave of emigration in the 50s, with Ambrose Gordon also rightfully earning his place among them.
It’s not surprising therefore that the life story of this charismatic and charming individual also reads more like a script from a soap opera rather than a real life autobiography, which is why this book is such a compelling and entertaining read.
Even the book’s title Sex, Flights and Videotapes is quite intriguing and makes reference to the time when Ambrose was at the pinnacle of his life achievements while managing the first of many of his popular Irish haunts in the 80s and 90s – The Half Moon pub on the Holloway Road.
After a baptism of reality of a working life on building sites in London since 1961, Ambrose’s nose for business and his entrepreneurial flair finally tempted him to dip his toe in the very competitive licensed victuallers trade in 1983.
But Ambrose never appeared to be the settling type and always seemed to be on the lookout for his next challenge.
Being a hurling fanatic, both as a player, team manager and administrator, the promotion of GAA was also among his own personal priorities, especially in the 80s when the daily Irish Independent was only available in London a day after its publication
‘Sunday Game’ videotapes and all that
Although there was always a huge interest in the GAA Championship in Ireland it was not possible to even see RTÉ’s ‘Sunday Game’ on the day of the match.
However through the medium of VCRs Ambrose Gordon devised a very effective network and supply line of tape recordings that ensured every London Irish pub was always packed on Monday evenings watching recordings of the ‘Sunday Game’ of the previous day’s action.
That ‘nice little earner’ for Ambrose and his satisfied fellow publican customers lasted for six years until the RTE authorities caught up with him.
But Ambrose’s high-flying life as a publican, entrepreneur, socialite, playboy and gambler, which earned him the nickname ‘Flash’, also took its toll on his domestic life resulting in three marriage break ups.
However, like a true survivor, he took it all in his stride and has still remained the same Ambrose – a real people person with unlimited levels of energy who has that unique ability to connect with all fellow human beings, whatever their status.
The author compliments the many positive developments in the GAA during his time, not least in McGovern Park, south Ruislip – the home of London GAA.
But although many may not even realise it, Ambrose had also played a huge part in promoting Gaelic games in London, until RTÉ stopped him in his tracks in 1989.
Doyen of St Gabriel’s GAA
Sadly Ambrose’s undoubted ability as a leader and entrepreneur was somehow always overlooked by the London GAA County Board, although he did manage the county hurling teams in every decade during his involvement.
But what was London’s loss was certainly the St Gabriel’s club’s gain and indeed the Thomas McCurtains’ club’s gain who he led to a famous senior county hurling championship title in 1987. However Ambrose Gordon will always remain synonymous and even be regarded as a ‘doyen’ of the St Gabriel’s club.
Nevertheless, while Ambrose gives a very detailed account of the highlights of playing activity over the decades he made little if any reference to the recruitment of players including the ongoing scramble and chase to acquire the services of many of the top players who were about to take up residence in London with offers of accommodation and a job.
With the exception of four years spent in Dublin, Galway and Ayia Napa (Cyprus), Ambrose has spent his entire life in London and after calling time on his life in the ‘pub game’ just a few years ago at the Man of Aran in Rayners Lane, he is now enjoying retirement in Denham, Buckinghamshire and within close proximity of his own family rather than opting for a return back home to his native Killimor.
The book will therefore be a must read for all St Gabriel’s members past and present.
It the author’s own version of a concise history of the club since its foundation and also includes some very nice photographs.
He had spoken for some time about penning his memoirs and like so many of his other life achievements and challenges he can now take real pride in his self-published finished article.
I have personally known Ambrose Gordon since 1984 when he was close to the height of his life achievements in what he himself described as the real ‘game-changer’ of his working life in London, while managing the famed Half Moon pub on the Holloway Road.
Thirty-seven years later the best compliment I can pay him is that despite all the differing deviations of his eventful and sometimes turbulent life he is still the same Ambrose - still looking amazingly well for a man approaching his 80th birthday but above all still full of the life he enjoys so much even if he is now showing a little bit more of his greying hair, and, above all, still mad for a chat.
I suppose the only real difference is that he’s gone completely off wedding cake.
It’s quite appropriate then that I should leave the final word to ageless Ambrose himself: “I would like to think that I made some contribution to the promotion of our proud Irish heritage in the huge metropolis of this great country – London, but above all I hope you enjoy the read!”
Priced at £15, Sex, Flights and Videotapes is available to purchase online here.