by Chris Tobin
Jimmy McGuinness (73) is an Irishman with a twinkle in his eye and an impish sense of humour.
It explains why he has collected every item of junk mail (it does not include The Courier) that has come through his Avenue Rd letterbox over the past 10 years, then bound and stored them in a spare bedroom at his home.
The pile had grown so much he believed it was time to call enough.
He wanted to let people know what he had done and has now created a throne made out of the numerous bundles of papers in his front yard.
“I can sit there, play my accordion and have a cup of tea at the same time,” he said smiling.
But why do it?
“Just to see how much I could get and to save me putting it in the wheelie bin,” Mr McGuinness replied.
The pile of papers included samples of cat food (16 in total) from a manufacturer trying to entice people to buy; letters that promised fortunes to be made which have been left unopened, circulars, supermarket catalogues, the list goes on.
“Some are nearly as thick as the Timaru phonebook,” Mr McGuinness said.
The volume coming through the letterbox had increased dramatically also, he said.
“Each year I was getting approximately 150; this year alone I’m up to 763.”
This was not the first paper mountain Mr McGuinness has collected and created.
When living in Lower Hutt he did the same thing but for a shorter duration, one year.
“I ended up live on the Holmes TV show with it and on Channel 3 News on Christmas Day.
“They had the Queen on first giving her Christmas message and I came on straight after her. I’ve got all the tapes inside.”
The Wellington pile of junk mail was eventually sold to “a gentleman” who opened a bar.
“He bought it because he called his bar the Circular Bar but he went out of business after three months and it all ended up in the Happy Valley tip.”
The bar owner was not the only person who wanted the papers either.
Mr McGuinness had the offer of a crate of Irish Bailey’s whiskey – a great temptation for an Irishman.
The potential buyer intended to use the papers as part of an advertising campaign.
Born and raised in County Louth, Ireland, Mr McGuinness worked in the glass industry before going to sea. He said he ended up in New Zealand because he got lost.
For four years he was a barman at Bellamy’s in the Beehive.
“Sir Basil Arthur, Robert Muldoon, Bob Tizard, David Lange, they were all good customers subsidised by the Government.”
In this period there were bars all over the Beehive.
“There were 11, the members’ bar, the Prime Minister’s bar, the Opposition’s bar and so on
“I used to tell them Irish stories. I told them more stories than what they told me.”
Robert Muldoon would come in for a beer at the end of the parliamentary day, his favourite drop being a Steinlager beer.
“I’d ask him what sort of a day he had and he’d say ‘a bastard of a day’. I’d say, ‘well, I’ll give you a nice cold beer’.”
Did they over-indulge?
“A little bit.”
David Lange was his favourite but Mr McGuinness found the work boring. On Lange’s suggestion he applied for a job with the railways as a steward and was successful.
Mr McGuinness is a talented accordion player, having started at the age of 8 and built a repertoire with a vast range of Irish traditional music.
“I go to the rest-homes and play, not for money, just for a cup of tea and a biscuit.
“I travel round the country and go into the hotels. They give me a room then I play in the evenings and tell stories.
“I’ve had dozens of articles written about my accordion playing.
“Once in a small village near Waterford – the graveyard was bigger than the village – I started playing at 8 o’clock at night. Two fellas walked out and came back with a guitar, violin and tin whistle. We kept going till five o’clock in the morning.”
Mr McGuinness said he would keep his junk mail collection until the end of the year.
“People can come along and sit on the throne and take – what do they call them? – selfies, if they want.”
Then, anyone interested in having the bundles of junk mail could have them, he said.