Sunday Ogunyemi

‘I was born in Lagos and I’m now happy to call Killeigh my home’

As part of its efforts to highlight the need for a new community centre on the site of the old Macra Hall in Killeigh, the development committee has been putting together profiles of local people. Sunday Ogunyemi is the latest person to be featured.

"My name is Sunday, like the day. I am originally from Lagos, Nigeria and was born in 1955. I come from a very close and nice Christian family. Growing up, it was morning prayer and evening prayer every day, along with Sunday school and choir practice. I expected to become a Reverend when I grew up, and go to Bible college, but I chose the film industry instead.

I have three sisters and two brothers. I was the first born, then my sister who lives in Houston, Texas, then my late brother, followed by my sister who lives in Nigeria, then another brother who lives in Bristol and then the last girl, who is the wife of a Reverend father in Nigeria and has the official title of 'Mother of the yard of God'. So my family was quite planned - boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl!

Lagos was a wonderful place in which to grow up in the 60s. It's situated on the Gulf of Guinea, and there were many small shops and stalls selling everything and anything. It was very clean and you would not see a pickpocketer, or any crime at all. We lived down by the harbour and at 12 noon daily you would hear a big loud sound from the horn of the ferry coming in to the harbour. The sound would ring out again at 12.30 and everyone would then close their stalls and little shops and go for their siesta (sleep).

They would open again at 3.30. Between those times, people would leave their stalls unattended with a small amount of coins, should anyone want to buy anything and take their change. Nobody would steal anything. It is very different now, and it's quite painful for me to say that.

In the 1960s there was a population of 332,000 people but after it got its independence from the British in the 1960s the population grew, and it now has some 25 million people living there. I was last there in 2017, and I still miss my old Lagos. It was a really beautiful place. I remember we used to buy Smartie sweets and it was a big thing for us as a child to be able to buy these sweets from a shop down by the harbour. We would walk from our school, three kilometres, to get to the shop that sold them.

After my high school education I travelled to Athens in Greece to study in 1977. I studied film production, theatre and arts. In my first year I was a walk-in actor. I found out quickly that I was the only black male actor at that time in Greece so I played many roles as a black man in many films. Before I joined the industry, there were no black men to play those roles - they used to paint the Greek actors black to play those parts before I arrived.

I fell in love with Greece, and lived there for many years. After my graduation I was invited to work in Nigeria, at the television channel LTV8 in Lagos. But I returned sometime after to Greece and continued to work in film, creating some films of my own too.

My first wife was from Finland and we both decided to move there. My work involved working with the film department of Finland on TV1, the national television channel, and I also made some movies and programmes. I started a film department in Helsinki City Council, which was very enjoyable

I returned back to Greece for a short time, then moved to London in 2004 and worked there until I moved to Ireland, where I have been living since 2007. I work in front of the cameras with some students and do small roles and productions for CBS in America which they record in Ireland.

I moved to Killeigh in 2009. It is the best and first countryside place that I ever lived in. Before this it was always city life, but this is beautiful. I have really fallen in love with Scrubb Hill and one day I am going to write a poem about it.

I live with my wife Funmi and my nine-year-old son Femi - they just came last year to join me and have settled in quite well. Femi is very much in love with Harry Potter at the moment and has just finished his seventh book.

My very good friend is John Gill, a member of my Church in Tullamore, who brings me fresh hen eggs weekly from his hens. I know most of the people that live around me. Joe Walsh is a very helpful neighbour and is always pleasant to talk to. I must also mention one gentleman that I really appreciate meeting in my life and that is retired postmaster Joe Plunkett, and his late wife Brigid. It was a joy to get to know both of them, and I always enjoy meeting Joe for a chat. The McElduffs family too, and especially John, who I call the 'Scrubb Hill Saviour'.

I am now quite happy to call Killeigh my home. I love nature and swimming and working out in the gym a little, but I also love food. My wife is African, and a good cook. And that's my life in a nutshell!

A community centre in the village would be of huge benefit to all, of course, including to me and my family. The number one benefit would be about being able to connect with more local people, and socialise with the locals, because nowadays people don't get to talk and get to know each other as much as I would like.

I would also wish in the future to perhaps share my experience of the film industry with the younger generation and anyone that is interested in it. I would look forward to that."