24 May 2022

'I used to live and work there. I LOVE DUNDALK, I want to go back there!' Don’t we all sister, don’t we all

Q & A with local filmmaker Niall McCann

'I used to live and work there. I LOVE DUNDALK, I want to go back there!' Don’t we all sister, don’t we all.'

Dundalk filmmaker Niall McCann

Dundalk filmmaker Niall McCann lives in Dublin at present, he recently finished his third documentary titled ‘The Science of Ghosts’, which was released in February

What’s your favourite thing(s) about Dundalk?
Far too many things to list here without using up the whole paper but here’s a few.

We can’t talk about Dundalk without talking about the people. People make Dundalk, I like to say. A few years ago on holidays, I saw a sign in Glasgow which read: People make Glasgow, but some of those people are Rangers fans so I stole it and now I say it about the town.

There is a particular sense of humour in Dundalk, some may call it playful, others call it cruel, but whatever it is, it’s good to know that if you ever get any notions, any big ideas or dare to pronounce your words correctly, you’ll be put in your place with a sharp put down. You may not think the put down is particularly humorous or even clever but you’re wrong – it is.

Seriously though you can’t come from a place and not be marked by it for better or worse and I’ve always been proud of the fact I come from where I do.

There’s a resilience and inner strength to Dundalk people, the town has had its tough times but it always comes through and always will.

You can have your Kerry people, your Cork, your Galway, your Kilkenny, your Dublin peoples, but of all the tribes a human being could be part of the Dundalk one is the tribe for me.

There is a kindness and sense of community about the place, people look out for one another and everyone loves to talk and is curious (nosey).

The music of Jinx Lennon, and the increasingly thriving music scene here, it must be exciting to be a young person growing up and seeing other people from the same place as you make brilliant music.

If you listen to Jinx’s music, it has Dundalk embedded in it, he sings in a Dundalk accent, about Dundalk things, about the beauty of the people and sometimes the darker side, but you need the darkness in order to cherish the light.
Plus The Periods is the best name of any Irish band. Period.

What bothers you about the place?
The bad reputation it seems to have with some (ignorant) people around the country.

Sometimes talking to people who aren’t from here you get the impression they think Dundalk is like East Compton in the early 90’s or something. It’s not.

Boring stereotypes are just that, and I think the town is growing in reputation and stature all the time, even if we don’t always acknowledge it.

The town has a great history, there is so much there once you start to look at things.

The inventor of the first submarine John Philip Howard used to teach in the CBS secondary, my old school, or that the lead singer of Bagatelle Liam O’Reilly was born here.

Then you have Cú Chulainn’s Castle, DKIT, the Roma, Dundalk FC, Ravensdale forest, the Gaels, all the newer businesses that have brought people of many nationalities here to live, the thriving music and arts scene, the abundance of good restaurants and the brilliant schools are just a few of the infinite positive aspects we have here.

Perhaps we don’t help ourselves with our humble nature but we should talk ourselves up more. Be proud of the place that made you, for better or worse.

I do worry we don’t care enough about the scenic side of the town; it would be nice if there were more trees and green spaces.

I am nostalgic for the forest that’s now the Marshes Shopping centre. Sure I know it used to be full of winos but still, it was a forest in the middle of town, to a kid that’s like having Disneyland in your back yard. Kind of. We need to find a way to live with nature, not cover it in concrete.

Oh just a Perfect Day...
My perfect day in Dundalk would be waking up on a sunny day, a walk through the town, down the Navvy Bank and back, pop in to see my grandmother and her sister on Barrack Street.

Watch the Gaels play and hopefully win, followed by one or two pints of Harp in Courtney’s Bar, then onto the Windsor for dinner and a stroll home - maybe feed the horses in the field by Hill Street Bridge on the way home and tell them all about my day.

The music must play on....
Classified Records is a great addition to a town that was crying out for a good record store. It gives the place a focal point, a place for people to meet and listen to music and most importantly a place to buy music. Actual physical music that you can hold in your hands not files stored in a cloud.

When I was growing up here, my mates and I would spend all our time and money in shops like Golden Discs, Record Sleeve and best of all Disctrax, which used to be run by a guy called Joey if I recall, they had a really great collection of music, some quite obscure stuff and he would order in any album you wanted. I don’t think I would be the music fan I am or have made the music films I have done if it wasn’t for that shop and those friends.

Not a new thing, but as I’ve already said it’s great to see the football team do so well, it’s really lifted the town and help bring some of that missing pride back. It gives people a pep in their step and the team has come a hell of a long way from the dark days of the first division.

That’s down in a large part to the people of the town and the supporters club, they helped bring the club back from the brink and set the stage for Stephen Kenny and the players to do the business. People from Dundalk don’t easily give up. Like Alan Partridge we always bounce back.

Change for the better....
DKIT, along with international companies like PayPal and National Pen has brought much needed employment and diversity to the town. I remember when I was younger the square being a kind of no go area at night or at least a part of town best avoided if you valued your head.

Present day, if you walk through the town now on a summers evening you will see people walking their dogs, couples going for a stroll etc in a not intimidating and non violent environment.

I remember being in Bilbao last year at a music festival and while chatting to a local woman in the queue for a taxi, she enquired where I was from in Ireland, when I replied Dundalk, she exclaimed: “I used to live and work there. I LOVE DUNDALK, I want to go back there!” Don’t we all sister, don’t we all.

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