MICHAEL MCDERMOTT: ‘Hey, Dundalk is the centre of the universe!’
Michael McDermott is a well-known local poet and writer. He recently released a new book of writing titled: ‘(Lay down your phone) To Ride A Poem’
Tell us a bit about yourself?
Seven generations of my ancestors on both sides came from the Cooley Peninsula so maybe I can consider myself a local. I grew up in the old customs house for Dundalk Harbour, (built c.1750 by the Elgees,) opposite Saint Helena Park, and attended the local Christian Brothers Schools. After working a lifetime in construction, two years ago I began writing poetry and short stories. The launch of my book, ' To Ride a Poem,' so soon afterward and with such terrific local support was an enormous buzz that I never expected to experience.
Describe what Dundalk means to you?
Though I lived in Dublin and London for periods and traveled quite a bit when younger, I always considered Dundalk my base. Then I married my beautiful neighbor, Catrina Corrigan, from the opposite end of Saint Mary's Road and settled down. We have lived in Ravensdale for forty years, and hardly a day goes by when we don't drive or cycle into town. We drove the five miles several times in our pony and trap with the kids when they were small, and went for lunch at the Derryhale Hotel on at least one of those occasions. Most of our family and many friends we see regularly live in or around Dundalk, so we have no need to 'chase the sun around the Cote D'Azure. ' Dundalk, quite simply, means a warm, welcoming home to us.
Best things about Dundalk?
When returning to the town after travels I always sensed that the people were well abreast of what was happening elsewhere. Hey, Dundalk is the center of the universe. It has a fantastic geographical location between the Cooley Mountains and our spectacular bay, and its strategic position between two especially interesting cities gives us convenient access to the rest of Ireland and beyond. There are many important cultural, historical and industrial landmarks in the town and its environs which provide interesting excursion opportunities at weekends. The townspeople are very friendly, with a quick sense of wit, and a charming modesty when admitting to having the best football club in the world.
If you could change anything about the town?
We should accept the changed nature of people's living habits and re-designate empty retail buildings in the centre of the town for residential and leisure use. The town management should drastically overhaul our principal street arrangements with better support for would-be cyclists and older pedestrians to move about with ease without being bullied by the car. The centre of town is an oppressive place at present when busy. If I had Trump's defense budget to play with, I'd create an amazing new piazza at Roden Place with a People's Palace as its centrepiece and plenty of room for oat chomping horses. I would also reinstate the Fair Green with a permanent Tipi type theatre, and flood the Castletown River with a weir for boating and other water activities. I might even remove some of the mud from the harbour while I'm at it, to open up The Quay area for more people to enjoy it.
Fondest memories of Dundalk?
I had a very happy childhood playing in St Helena Park, on the old disused railway, and around The Quay, reading books borrowed from the old library in Chapel Street, (which we later bought from the council and converted it into apartments), going to the Magnet cinema on Saturdays, the pool at Blackrock in the Summer and discos at the Tennis club on the Ramparts at weekends. All of these delights prepared me for the world at large.
Plans for 2020?
I want to continue to write more poetry and short stories, and Catrina has a novel written about a vampire problem in the Ravensdale area that we intend to have published in 2020 when the editing is complete.
Describe a perfect Saturday in Dundalk?
Cycling into town to walk around Church Street and Clanbrassil Street in the sunshine to shop for bits and pieces. Visiting close family members, then maybe finishing with a curry in Park Street before cycling home again full of wine. No Lycra for us you'll be glad to hear. Cycling at a modest pace is a great way to meet people, and you can take a call from Stockholm without stopping.