Who was John Nolan? The Irish pensioner found in flames on a London street
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Who was John Nolan? The Irish pensioner found in flames on a London street

ELDERLY Irishman John Nolan's tragic end shocked the quiet corner of London he made his home, but his eternal absence has hit hardest. 

Mr Nolan had planned to watch his native Mayo take on Dublin in the All-Ireland Final, but his clothes mysteriously caught alight just yards from his home while on a quiet Sunday afternoon walk.

He was airlifted to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford with third degree burns on 65 per cent of his body, injuries a strong young man would struggle to survive.

Mr Nolan passed away on Monday evening, September 18 and, in the days after his death, his friends reached out to The Irish Post to speak of the ‘life long friend’ they had found in him.

The Irishman, who had just turned 70 in June, followed his sister Mary to London in the 1960s from Swinford and they were later joined by their three siblings.

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He would do anything you asked of him 

He had worked previously worked in the construction industry, but suffering a stroke in the 1980s meant he had to retire.

While other ailments meant he had become frail in body in recent times, Mr Nolan was not weak of heart.

To his family he was a gentleman in its truest meaning.

"John wouldn't hurt so much as a butterfly," his brother-in-law Tom Byrne said.

"In fact he'd find a way to bring the butterfly home and care for it. He was a gentle man who would do anything you asked of him."

To his friends, he was well known from a respected family, and a quiet, good-hearted man.

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Orchard Place, where Mr Nolan was found ablaze. (Picture: Maps)

At the Haringey Irish Centre, just minutes from his home, Teresa Intavarant Advice & Support Service Manager told The Irish Post, “John was a very quiet man who kept himself to himself.

"He was quite dignified, a respectable man. Everyone liked him, and he was very popular. Even people at the library knew him. You don’t expect that kind of a ripple, and as time goes on there will be more people who’ll remember him.

"He was a very kind man, and we’re very shocked with the news. It’s just horrific.”

Tony Brennan, manager of the Haringey Irish Centre remembers Mr Nolan as a ‘determind’ person.

“He was a quiet person, inoffensive, he had difficulty walking, but he was quite determined to get around."

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A truly lovely man 

Pam McGuigan, a long term neighbour of Mr Nolan, said their friendship was formed over their shared love of animals.

“When I moved in about 13 years ago, he had this three-legged dog which he actually rescued after another man passed away.

"He loved her, and while he was slow on his feet, she’d hop along beside him and he looked after her, rain hail or shine.

"He loved all animals, and his dogs were always well looked after.

"He never passed without a hello, a good morning or a good evening. He was always pleasant to everyone, and you never heard him say a cross word to anybody.

"In the years I have lived around here, I have never heard a soul say a bad word against him.

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"I always loved how gentle he was with animals, and very quiet. He was very softly spoken, and a truly lovely man.”

John Nolan will be laid to rest in his native Swinford Co. Mayo, alongside his parents Mick and Mary Ellen and brother Michael.

Metropolitan Police have said they are treating Mr Nolan's death as unexplained and enquiries are ongoing.

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.