25 May 2022

VIEW: Trip through time to way it used to be at the Dundalk Democrat


VIEW: Trip through time to way it used to be at the Dundalk Democrat

VIEW: Trip through time to way it used to be at the Dundalk Democrat

Classic horn-rimmed glasses sit atop the noses of the many, mostly older-looking, gentlemen. They look like real seasoned veterans, and just as quick with their tongues as they are with their hands, no doubt. Occasionally you spy the tell-tale silky blue smoke trail leading to a lit cigarette perched between the fingers. An eyebrow arches above the glasses as the camera passes them by.

These men remind me of my grandfather. Men you would have found in the many factories that once dotted this town.

The place itself looks like the inside of a foundry or a heavy engineering works.

The background noise is all clicking and clanking. The footage jumps every so often and new/old faces appear/reappear - same glasses, same noses.

It's becoming clearer as you watch the footage that this is an old printworks of some sort.

To an outsider it might take a little while longer to realise that instead of this being a 1950s or 1960s ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at a local print plant, it is in fact 1995 and it's the old Dundalk Democrat premises on Earl Street (where Riva Restaurant is now located).

It’s staggering to watch just how old-fashioned and almost medieval the print process was back then; but remember this was barely 25 years ago and the internet was already striking out on its unrelenting march on the world of printing and publication.

But here, as you watch the great metal machines thump and boom, with the end result being the unveiling of neat crisp, black and white copies of the Democrat newspaper, the idea of a ‘computer’ seems positively science fiction.

The footage captures the date of the paper in question, not accurately, but enough to know it's sometime in 1995.

Earlier on you saw the lining of the metal typefaces being set into rows and columns, followed by their cumbersome transportation by hand-winched pulley down to the dark 'engine room' below.

I recognise a face or two.

A young Pat Coburn talks to the camera, the smile ever present, he's humorously decrying the effort it takes to try and decipher some journalist's copy. Elsewhere, current Trip Through Time columnist and former editor Peter Kavanagh is spotted outside from a window above Earl Street.

Gerry Prendergast, former sports editor, appears. He's sitting at a monstrous church organ-type machine. Whatever it does is lost to me as I continue to watch this wonderful 'found footage', which has been posted to Facebook recently. Gerry's showing the camera the lasting impact of his labours - a permanently crocked index finger, by the looks of it.

It's fascinating to watch, more so now, knowing that a few quick clicks of a mouse achieves much the same physical effort far more efficiently.

But there’s a loss of, perhaps not 'romance' (a look at the grim and archaic conditions would put paid to that notion), maybe 'communal endeavour' is a better choice of words here.

There's effort and toil in achieving these worthy tasks. Folks needing to work hard and with absolute dedication to convert the written script into a biblical metal page tablet and then eventually into the finished printed article.

It's Friday evening and the week's work is bearing its ultimate fruit. The relief is clear on many of the faces. The fevered draw of the local pub equally magnetic, no doubt. Another edition of the Dundalk Democrat newspaper will appear the next day.

And then it will all begin once again on Monday morning.

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