29 May 2022

Trip Through Time: Joining the Democrat sixty-nine years ago

Looking back at Dundalk's past, with former Democrat editor Peter Kavanagh

Trip Through Time: Joining the Democrat sixty-nine years ago

A piece of nostalgia that I would like to share with my readers is that 69 years ago last week, April 20, 1953, I joined the staff of the Dundalk Democrat.

I was taking the place of my late brother Paul Kavanagh who had just joined the Irish Independent.

The day was a Monday and I note from an old dairy that Owen B. McGahon, father of the late Brendan McGahon T.D. and son of Thomas F. McGahon, Third Editor of the Democrat, took me to my first journalistic experience - to sit on the Press Bench at a monthly meeting for the Louth Council.

In those days the County Council met in the Board Room in the Courthouse on the third Monday of every month.

What I recall most about that meeting was that the Chairman was Senator James T. McGee from Ardee who held that position from 1925 until he did not contest the Local Elections of 1955.

Senator McGee had the reputation of being one of the finest Chairman ever to control meetings of the Council and I recall that the other members seemed to have a great respect for him.

He had been an Independent Senator from 1938 and was one of the few members of Seanad Éireann to die in office, in January 1956.

He had been replaced as Chairman of the County Council by William Woods from Carlingford who also took his seat in the Senate at a rare by-election to that Chamber in May 1956.

Owen McGahon from St. Mary's Road was an excellent journalist who wrote for the Dundalk Democrat for over sixty years and was also a local correspondent to the Irish Independent.

He, like his father before him, had been a member of the County Council and of the Dundalk Urban District Council and did not sit at the Press table at meetings.

He was, on various occasions, elected Chairman of both bodies and, perhaps, might have been elected to Dail Eireann, had he contested a seat.

It is interesting to note that when I joined the staff of the Democrat there were few women reporters and even less in higher journalistic posts.

The first girl that I knew to work as a local reporter with the Argus newspaper was Mary Bell, from Quay Street who was aunt to the famous Corr musical group.

Earlier Anne Matthews from Drogheda, who was a contemporary of my brother Paul, had worked on the staff of the Drogheda Independent and continued for many years.

Women must have found great difficultly in working in the profession in those days because of male opposition but I am pleased to say that many have succeeded well since then!

Anois ar teacht an tEarrch?

The weather locally has showed a great improvement in the past week and I hope we can say, in the words of the old song 'Now comes the Spring!'

There has been a great burst in growth recently, after an exceptionally dry March.

The weather has been very mixed over the past few weeks, with even hail and frost, but gardens around Town are beginning to look very well.

A friend of mine has remarked that the various trees around town have suddenly burst into leaf and the cherry blossoms have been an especially welcome sight!

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