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Funeral parade for ‘King Papa’ to stop at Islington pub where he reigned for over two decades

‘He always wore a flat cap and you knew he was going to dance when he turned the flat cap around’

17 January, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

John “King Papa” Adewale

IF he had stayed in Nigeria then he would have been a chief, John Adewale would tell friends if they ever asked about his homeland.

But it was at the Kings Head, in Blackstock Road, Finsbury Park, that Mr Adewale, known as “Papa” to his friends, made a throne of his own.

“He knew everyone, literally everyone,” Papa’s friend and fellow King’s Head regular Gerry Smith said. “No one would walk past the pub without shouting ‘Hi!’ to John.

“I keep expecting to see him in his seat at the end of the bar when I come in. It feels weird now without him. He’s going to be so sorely missed.”

Mr Adewale moved to the UK in the 70s after spending a few years in Hamburg, Germany.

He worked as a baker at Cosmos Patisserie, based in Highbury. He continued baking until his death in December last year.

The Romilly Road resident battled cancer for the best part of two-and-a-half decades and lost his voice to the disease in the late 80s.

If he wanted to take part in pub chat he had a pile of betting slips where he would write his comments.

Mr Smith said: “He never complained. We knew he had cancer but he never told us how bad it was.

“I went to see him in hospital after he had his leg amputated before he died and he was on cracking form.

“I think the nurses were amazed by how many visitors he got.”

Mr Adewale was up on the dance floor at the Kings Head a week before he had his leg amputated.

“He loved his music,” Mr Smith said. “He always wore a flat cap and you knew he was going to dance when he turned the flat cap around.

“He’d then get up and he would be on the dance floor for the rest of the night. It was King Papa’s night after that.”

The King’s Head was Mr Adewale’s social centre. He refused to have Sky TV because he knew it would be too tempting to stay in his house.

Mr Smith said: “He was a gentle and kind man who was comfortable in anyone’s company, young or old.

“His other big passion was football. John was a massive Arsenal fan. He also supported the Irish football team Mayo.

“He had their strip and would come in wearing it every time they were playing. I think it was a nod of respect to the Irish landlords who were from Mayo.”

Mr Adewale’s funeral cortege will leave from Essex Road at 1pm today (Friday) and pause at the King’s Head on its way to Islington and St Pancras Cemetery in East Finchley, where the funeral service will start at 2pm.

The Kings Head regulars are organising Mr Adewale’s funeral as they could not find any family.

Mr Smith, a construction worker, said: “He didn’t tell us much about Nigeria or his family. Islington became his home.

“If I ever asked about Nigeria, he would just say that if he had stayed then he would be a chief.

“I think he became a chief here in his own way.”

John “Papa” Adewale died on December 17, 2018, aged 73.

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