Determined, dedicated, and devoted.
When you first meet Stew, as we usually call him, you know he is a person who sees life differently. He is the type of person whose smile brightens up those around him. While listening to him, you find your belly aching from laughter and good vibes. His inner passion for life radiates through him. You also know that there is a story behind this gentleman. His story draws you into a world of wonder and resilience.
Stew grew up in Cork. His mother raised him more or less in Grange Douglas, a well off part of Cork. As he mentioned, Northern Cork is seen as a bit dysfunctional and a bit rough. Where as the South side, is seen as being a bit wealthier and together. Stew recognized, as a teen, that essentially both sides are basically the same. Just that the South side knows how to conceal their dysfunctionality. This just makes it more difficult when, you are seen as being different.
Being different makes you stand out. Stew struggled in school due to having dyslexia. He would sit in the back and keep his head down. When he did spend time with his Dad, he saw that his dad was a very resilient and resourceful man, you could say, he was a man of the street. As Stew said, “he was street smart: rough, tough, and respected.”
His dad instilled a few crucial beliefs into Stew. One, Don’t Give a F#ck. Get Sh!t Done. No one is going to care about you; so, you have to take care of number one. You knew that he was very resilient. He kept getting back up when life threw him down. His persistence and focused led to him being respected in the Cork. People knew not to F#ck with him. As a result, Stew grew to appreciate that you can’t worry about things and what people think. You just need to get on with life. You need to have resilience.
At the age of 11, his dad introduced him to weight lifting. Weight lifting brought the two closer together. They trained together in the gym. They pushed one another to elevate their mental game. You need to have a concrete image in your head before you start to lift. Each step of the way, you need to have it in your mind that you can lift that specified weight. As he progressed from 30kg to 40kg he recognized the importance of having that mental picture in his head. It is all about your mental game. When you see it in your mind, you can and you will achieve it.
Reading and writing, are a challenge when you are dyslexic. He shied away from reading and writing. The teachers passed him through the educational system. He wrote the way he wrote and didn’t give a damn otherwise. You can say that he had his own unique style of writing. Stew didn’t really care if things were spelt correctly. Gradually, things changed.
When he attended university, as a mature student, he heard about Carl Marx. When he was attending a Social Policy Class they read Carl Marx’s book. The Communist Manifesto resonated with his way of thinking. As a result, Carl Marx’s book, Communist Manifesto, was the first book that he had ever read. He was very clear that he is not a communist. He just liked the ideas and concepts. In UCC, he quickly realized that there were not very many books about the subject, which frustrated him. He needed material to support his arguments. As a result, he wrote his own books.
You got to do something when you have an idea. Take action, as you may have realized, sums up Stew. He needed to get his ideas down on paper. He wrote to give other people material. He wrote for the enjoyment and for the purpose of giving others material to use. As he mentioned, a lot of social change started in the pubs, here in Ireland. Now a days, the social reform is starting to occur over a cup of coffee and in the cafes and coffee shops.
Stew’s love for coffee is synonymous with travel. When you travel, visit the local cafes to get the low down on the place. You really get a feel for the culture, the people, and the authentic food. Stew didn’t elaborate too much on the number of places that he has visited; however, he said that he has been to a lot of places. He did however elaborate on his time in Portugal.
At the age of 18, Stew had already started a career in becoming a tattoo artist. While in a cafe, he happened to meet a Ukrainian man: Yanich and his Brazilian and Portuguese friends. Their life, outside of being Tattoo Artists, revolved around coffee and the idle chit chat, you get in a cafe. The type of chit chat that inspires you and leads to ideas.
When he came back to Cork, SOMA Coffee Company, on 23 Tuckey Street, was already established. He would visit the cafe and feel right at home. The guys were inviting, accepting, and appreciative. Besides that they make a tasty coffee that they roast in house. However, this really isn’t about SOMA’s coffee. Rather, you can walk into the shop and feel the hospitality and openness. The craic and banter is alive and well in the SOMA.
One key component about Stew is his direct approach. He shoots from the hip. His choice of words and how he says things keep you in stitches. You know that he comes from a good place when he says something. He seldom swears; and, if he does, it’s with a smile and a laugh. He grew up in a semi old fashion style upbringing.
When asked what he recommends seeing and doing in Cork, Stew knew the importance of keeping the heritage alive. You could sense that he pained to see how Cork is developing and changing. The old buildings and structures are what make Cork unique and special. They give Cork that special vibe, the connection to the history of the place. He was very adamant about encouraging people to go down to the Marina and the old docks: touch and feel the history. Imagine how things were back in the day when the docks were hustling and bustling. Where people were people.
His worldly advice is pretty straightforward: speak your mind; make sure to respect other people’s opinions, differences, and outlook. You will offend someone; and, someone is going to offend you: deal with it or get on with it. Keep in mind the power of language, as language is powerful. The battle is won; when, you have won the battle in your mind.