The late Liam McNiallais presenting the weekly quiz in Rocky Sullivan’s. Photo by Nora Wertz.
By Irish Echo Staff
Liam Nelis (McNiallais), whose mother Mary Nelis was a Derry Sinn Féin MLA, died April 18 in his native Derry.
He was 59 and the cause of death was a heart attack.
During that part of his life spent in New York, Liam was the quizmaster in Rocky Sullivan’s and he also taught Irish language classes in the popular Lexington Avenue hostelry.
Friends and family are hosting a memorial for Liam on Saturday, June 22 in Manhattan.
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Liam was the son of former Sinn Fein MLA Mary Nelis. Tragically, Mrs. Nelis lost another son, Martin (54), in a California traffic accident just last August.
Liam hosted New York’s longest running pub quiz at Rocky Sullivan’s Bar from 1997 until the bar closed its Lexington Avenue location in 2009. The popular event attracted an enthusiastic throng and is credited with popularizing the quiz scene in New York.
By trade, Liam worked as a doorman, or as he liked to say “portal engineer.”
When he wasn’t doing quizzes or assisting Upper-East-Siders with “access and egress,” Liam engendered his love of the Irish language in many with pay-what-you-can Irish classes in Rocky’s back room.
Born in 1959, Liam grew up in Derry at the height of the Troubles. In a 2004 interview with The Irish Echo he recounted his memories of the Battle of the Bogside.
As a 13-year-old he witnessed British tanks invading his neighborhood and setting up an operations center in the next door neighbor’s house.
Liam MacNiallias’ stateside family and friends are gathering to remember and celebrate his life with an Irish language Mass at St. Mary’s Church, 440 Grand Street in Lower Manhattan Saturday, June 22 at 12 noon.
The Mass is being organized by the Gaelic Language Association (Conradh na Gaeilge).
After the Mass there will be a gathering from 2.30 p.m. at Paddy Maguire’s Ale House at 3rd Avenue and 19th Street in Manhattan.