Masked Men unveiled – and Mask Maker revealed

The following two tabs change content below.

Our readers’ competition to identify the two masked men in this picture turned out to be way too easy – but a whole lot of fun. And it led to some fascinating discoveries.

To recap, we offered a bottle of fine Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand to whoever could not only name the mystery duo but also come up with the most appropriate and/or witty caption.

The first part was – not surprisingly given their respective high profiles and the give-away national colours – straightforward. All but one of our entrants got the answer right and even the incorrect entry (more of that in a moment) had a lot going for it.

Our masked men were of course Dubai Airports CEO and proud Englishman Paul Griffiths and Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman & CEO, and staunch Irishman Colm McLoughlin. So far, so good.

The incorrect entry? Well, that came from Colm himself, who mistook – quite understandably – the chap on the right for American actor and heartthrob George Clooney. That caused our judges to pause and verify the identity but despite the commonality of features forensic examination confirmed that it was indeed Colm rather than George on the right.

So to our winner. Lots of captions, most of them publishable, but we liked two of them equally, so in the spirit of recent US Presidential elections we are declaring two winners.

The first goes to Nick Inkster, the walking, talking airport food & beverage guru who retired last year after a stellar 25-year career at SSP.

“Behind their masks, they are singing the refrain from the well-known Frank Sinatra song ‘Strangers in the Night’,” wrote Nick.

Really? How does it go?

“Dubai Dubai Do,

Be Dubai Do Do.”

A nice musical touch, something to which I shall return in a moment.

Our second winner is Rajiv Bhatia, drinks industry and travel retail veteran, who brought a touch of politics to play with his entry.

Colm McLoughlin & Paul Griffiths – First among Equals – ready to give Biden & BoJo a run for their money.”


Given the said BoJo’s [UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson] bewildering leadership on the COVID-19 crisis during recent months, I’m not sure Paul would be too happy about the analogy. But the comparison would likely bring a smile to Colm’s face as the US President-elect does, of course, have strong Irish roots, as Rajiv implies.

Mr Biden’s great-great grandfather Patrick Blewitt was born in Ballina, Co Mayo, in 1832, leaving Ireland in 1850 to settle in America. The Blewitts ended up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Joe Biden would be born on 20 November, 1942. 79 years later (in January 2021), he will be sworn in as the 46th US President. See what happens when you pass the Mayo?

And so to another discovery (one which nearly cost you that bottle of Cloudy Bay, Rajiv). According to The Irish Times, Mr Biden’s Irish relations (through his other great grandfather, Own Finnegan) include Ireland rugby internationals Rob and Dave Kearney.

Four years ago, Mr Biden congratulated ‘cousin’ Rob Kearney and the Irish team “on behalf of the Bidens” for beating my beloved New Zealand All Blacks for the first time – on US soil in fact at Soldier Field, Chicago, The Irish Times reports. The Irish star tweeted back after the US election result became obvious to all except the incumbent, “Congrats to you Mr President.” That’s almost enough to make me support Trump (I said almost).

There’s a postscript, a quite delightful one, to this story about two fine masked men. It arrived in the form of an unexpected email response to my competition.

“Just to say, I really enjoyed reading your article, passed onto me by Jo, Paul Griffiths’ wife,” it began.

“My name is Ann Barnard and I’m a musician from the UK. Needless to say, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands since March and so have been making face masks. The two gentlemen in your photo are sporting two of my creations!”  [Note: Paul Griffiths is also a musician. A very good one, in fact. In 2019, he played the organ in front of a live audience of over 135,000 people in Abu Dhabi gathered to meet the Pope, with millions more watching on television. Rather wonderfully, he told local media, “I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren I’ve played to a bigger stadium crowd than U2 or The Beatles.”]

Ann makes bespoke masks that are 100% cotton, washable, reversible, adjustable, wired at the top to help glasses from steaming up, and contain a filter pocket with a complementary filter enclosed.

“I have a showcase of examples on my Instagram account that is called AnnieInStitchesShop and have just sent Her Majesty The Queen a very special one,” Ann continued. “She would only have received it yesterday and so may not even have seen it yet. However, even if she had, I’m sure she wouldn’t dream of wearing it this morning at a socially distanced service, as to wear diamonds before 6pm would be deemed too ‘vulgar’!”

By royal appointment only

I checked out Ann’s Instagram account and discovered lots of her brilliant creations (including those worn by the new English and Irish supermodels, who appear on the page). But I discovered something more important. Ann makes her bespoke masks to help musicians made redundant due to COVID-19’s impact on the British music and entertainment industry.

(Top left) Ann’s creations are now worn by some of the world’s leading supermodels

It’s a vital cause. Interviewed by The Guardian today, UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said that the pandemic has dealt a “catastrophic blow” to the music industry with tens of thousands out of the almost 200,000 people who work in the sector at risk of losing their jobs.

“Our music industry is a key national asset,” he said. “It contributes £5.8 billion a year to the economy, generates £2.9 billion in exports and supports almost 200,000 jobs. The UK music industry was a vibrant, fast-growing and commercially successful sector before the pandemic hit.”

Impressed by the cause and Ann’s creative efforts, I wrote back, asking if I could help publicise her enterprise and if she could make me a silver fern-adorned mask so that I could sport my national colours when next in the good company of Paul and Colm.

Ann was delighted at the offer of assistance, noting, “If this creates more awareness of the importance of wearing face masks and encourages more people to do so by offering the opportunity to express their personalities through their own designs, then we are one step closer to protecting our loved ones – and, should anyone order from me, more help for my fellow musicians! Yay 😁”

Yay indeed. Nick and Rajiv, an unmasked bottle of great Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from my homeland is winging its way to you both. My thanks for entering our competition but also for helping me discover Anne in England and Annie in Stitches. Truly a case of a CSR project that has struck the right chord.

POSTSCRIPT: After she read this Blog, Ann actually suggested her own caption. We loved it so much that there is now a third bottle of Cloudy Bay winging its way to you Ann. Who said Kiwis can’t fly?

You can order your own personalised mask at