Nicholas Jaroslav Kirke

Alexis Kirke
10 min readOct 28, 2022

My brother died a couple of years ago in his early 40s, and I thought the time had come to pay tribute in a more lasting way.

Nick was born 5 years after me in 1975, and though he was always my little brother, he had the larger personality.

Early memories of Nick are that he was incredibly cute. Many recall his baby face and pout. Imagine the effect that had on his young mother Margaret, who would coo adoringly to him “Mummy’s little Boo”. And thus was born the nickname that stuck with him.

The first strong memory I have of Boo involves peanuts. He and I were raiding the larder in the house we live in at Lockyer Road. I obligingly shared some peanuts between us. Well I assume it was my idea since I was 5 years older. Boo started coughing and didn’t stop. He was rushed to hospital in an ambulance with a peanut fragment blocking his airway and it was touch-and-go if he would make it. In fact the doctors said there was nothing they could do, and it all depended on Boo. Well he did pull through, and he and I went on to be huge fans of the peanuts at the bar in the Holiday Inn, where our father had an unlimited account — but that’s another story…

Nick’s closest childhood friend, who also became a lifelong friend — was Ben Pennington. Ben’s mother and father Jane and guy were close friends with Boo’s mother and father Margaret and Nick. Jane became a sort of surrogate mother to Boo, and he felt very at home in her house.

Boo and Ben had many “cute” habits. Ben tells how — around the time that Boo was a 1st team front prop in Rugby at Plymouth College, and feared by all on the field — he could not be separated from his “golly” — a white fluffy comfort blanket provided for him by his mother. There was also the famous “Floppy Club” which Boo and I formed around a nucleus of 30 of his cuddly toys. Ben joined eagerly. The club involved talking in a voice like Orville the Duck and occasionally going into raptures of shouting “Floppy, floppy, floppy”.

Boo and his dad were always adventurers. We went on a trip to Malaysia when Boo was 10, into the jungle. A trip so unusual that we had to borrow special forces equipment from Nick’s old friend Graham Kerr. In fact the diaries of our journey were published in the Sunday Times. Some of the memories are too shocking to share, but one involved — according to my dad — driving off and leaving Ben on some deserted Malayan beach until he behaved himself. Ahhh — the good old days.

Boo’s school career was event-filled. Having an unusually strong personality, Plymouth College found the teenage Nick hard to deal with, despite loving his rugby-playing popularity. For some reason, when his French teacher Chalky White tried to confiscate Nick’s 20 Benson and Hedges, Chalky thought it was unreasonable when the 15-year-old boy took offence and told him to eff-off. Thus was Boo shuffled sideways to Blundells at the gentle request of Plymouth College. Even the prestigious Blundells school was at a loss of how to deal with such a unique individual.

Boo was always been a great fan of cars — with Top Gear being one of his favourite mags. Unfortunately for my father, in his teenage years little Nick put this love into practice with his ever-trusty companion Ben. Here is the story in the words of my father Nick:

`I had just arrived in Plymouth from Prague in my brand new, 2 day old, 60 thousand Euros, bright red 6 litre Golf. I went to bed exhausted after the long drive to be woken in the early hours by a phone call that went something like this; `Nick, this is Ben, I have some very bad news for you. This is the worse news I ever had to give anyone. Boo nicked your car keys off your bedside cabinet while you were sleeping and we took your car for a test drive.`

‘By now I was breathless with a mixture of fury, disbelief and worry. Ben continued `We had both been drinking and we crashed on the motorway. The car looks to be a write off. We are now in Charles Cross police station`.

`Were either of you injured?` I asked. `Well, I bruised my knee a bit` said Ben. I felt like saying `was the all?`

I feel my father felt that a few broken bones might have been more appropriate…

When he was 16 Nick fell in love with one of my mother’s younger friends Sara. An unusual relationship — they would walk into places and some people would confuse them as mother and son. But to be fair, Boo always had a baby face — especially at that age. He moved to Exeter to live with her, and also began to attend college.

Nick became a Torquay-dweller in the late 90s, first working at a gentlemen’s clothes shop and then at the Sony Centre. Around this time he met James Davidson who ended up becoming a lifelong friend and business partner. At some point while living in Torquay, Boo entered a bit of a limbo with his drinking. He still managed to work at the Sony Centre in Torquay with James, but was starting up stories about various relatives fictional funerals so he didn’t have to go into work on hangover days… These hangovers took on a more serious quality.

Things came to a head for him when our mother Margaret died in 2000. It was a tragic death and Boo and Margaret had been especially close. I remember him speaking at her funeral — and I think his words forced out through a shaky voice, were the greatest testament to our mother. Her passing drove Boo to a decision point. In 2001 he met the same man who had helped me to stop drinking when no one else could — Wayne Perry. Within a few months a astonishing transformation began to take place. Before Nick met Wayne, he was simply locked in his flat in Torquay, poisoning himself with drink. So when he stopped there was an initial dangerous period of detox. Ironically, one of the funniest things I remember about him was when I home detoxed him after he met Wayne and decided to quit.

It was hour 18 of the detox in my flat and the middle of the night.
I was sick of ensuring Nick didn’t jump out the window. I needed sleep. For me, a recovered alcoholic, the idea of giving a recovering alcoholic drugs was frightening. I had already given him the maximum dose of tranquilizers. Nick started to believe he was in the Russian army. He began to discipline me in my own kitchen as a bad soldier in the Speznatz. I called the Mental health unit begging them to give me permission to give him more drugs so I could sleep, and having an evil smile on my face as I crumbled extra tranquilizers into a soft drink to give to my “commanding officer”.

To go from this insanity and period of hopeless drinking to being rocketed into sobriety and optimism — what a thing. Our father was shocked and elated by the transformation. He took my brother and I on a holiday together to Cuba. My brother became obsessed with helping other alcoholics and spent much of his free time on this work.

But he also wanted to build a business. In this he was so much like his dad.
After showing great promise at the estate agent Connells, Boo went on to the inspired idea of corner shops selling pay-as-you-go sim cards. We’re all use to this now. But it was Nick who drove around the shops in Plymouth — walking in and cold selling. He made deals so that he had a commission on every sim activated. And who’d have thought it? Shop after shop took up his offer.

Soon Nick was driving around the country, to towns he’d never been to before. Walking into new shops and selling them on stocking sim cards. All the time this was happening, he would call our father regularly and they would talk about Boo’s business in amazement as the revenues began to grow. Boo showed an amazing aptitude for building and managing rapid growth.

And it clearly was a rapidly growing business. NKSupply was incorporated in 2010, and must have — percentage wise — employed more recovered alcoholics than any other business in the country. I slowly watched my little brother go from rags to becoming not far off a millionaire.

And his joy did not end there. Nick met Tina in 2007 and they were married 2 years later — in fact the photo here shows Boo at his wedding. It was a beautiful day, at the church by our old family home in Mannamead Road. Though when the classic car or “old banger” that Nick had hired to drive him and Tina to the reception broke down on the road outside the church, Nick’s famous temper raised its head. I wouldn’t have liked to be that driver…

Soon along came Boo’s greatest legacy — Rowan Kirke. A beautiful boy, he looks so much like his father even now. Tina says it hard to put into words how much Boo loved being Rowan’s dad. She talks of how Boo doted on Rowan. I know Rowan’s dad enjoyed taking him camping on Dartmoor, and they also liked to watch the film Toy Story together. Rowan’s dad liked to call him “Boozie” and they would walk the dogs together up in the square at the Millfields, with Rowan throwing the ball for Lucy the dog. Nick said that when Ro was born he became number 1 son, and Ollie the other family dog (also known as Moo) became number 2 son.

This for me was the brightest period of Boo’s life, the business growing, providing employment for people — with the main manager being his loyal friend James Davidson — and married and raising Rowan with Tina. Boo was close to his dad and myself, and getting to know his wider family. He got 10 years of bright shining sobriety under his belt, and lived with a power I have rarely seen in others.

Then like many young men, Boo began to get a little lost in all the money and acclaim. Initially I think he probably had a good time doing this, travelling around the world and partying. He’d always wanted to go to Ibiza and live like a rich man. He and I both had had a lifelong love of dance music. But sadly there was one thing he did then which people like he and I are just not equipped to do — he started using drink and drugs again. What seemed at first like an exciting freedom, soon became something he couldn’t control. He became ill with his alcoholism and addiction. After a few years, he lost touch with his family and, for all intents and purposes, ceased to be the man he had been for those bright 10 years and that we knew as a younger man. James tried valiantly to keep the business afloat but it was truly an uphill and in the end impossible battle, for the proprietor had changed so much.

That is not to write off all of the years of Boo’s return to drink. During that time he also made some friends who truly cared for him and tried desperately to help him. Also older friends like Guy and Jane tried to intervene as well. But in the end Boo was not himself. In the last few years of his life, Boo lost his way but not his heart. I have known so many who have had the same illness and I know that Boo’s behaviour was not a choice.

For me, the brightest spot of the last few years was when my father made another effort to make contact with Boo. It was not easy, as by this point Boo’s extended drink and drug use could make him a lot to handle. But somehow my father was able to love him and help him without encouraging the illness. Although I doubt Boo was on the point of recovery — for this disease has a vice-like grip — I do know is he spent much time on the phone recently to his beloved father. He spent almost every day at Christmas with his father, and meeting his brother from Prague Filip — whom he clearly liked. Thanks to Filip we have some wonderful photos from that Christmas which will live in my heart.

When the news came to me of Boo being found in his bed two weeks ago, and how he had gone to sleep thinking he would wake up but did not, I felt a deep wound open up within me. But then something starting saying “Thank God. Thank God”. By which I mean — thank God he had had 10 years of living gloriously, building a business beyond his wildest dreams, marrying, being with his son Rowan who he adored, and becoming one of the most powerful personalities I’ve ever known. Thank God he had had those last 6 months spending so much time with our dad.

Because you see, Boo, my dad, and Rowan are like peas in a pod. Rowan is Boo’s legacy, but so are the memories I have of those great years. So are the photos I see of Boo walking with his father and Filip that Xmas. So is the knowledge that on the shelf in Boo’s front room, in the last house he lived in there was one large picture — a photograph of his beautiful son. I am proud to have had such a brother, and am happy to know so much good happened in his life.



Alexis Kirke

Alexis Kirke is a screenwriter and quantum/AI programmer. He has PhDs from an arts faculty and from a science faculty.