Television documentary “A Finglas Story” captures real heart of the community

by Rose Barrett
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Rose Barrett

From the expansive urban sprawl it covers today, it’s hard to imagine Finglas as a country village. But a village it was with only a few hundred residents, until Dublin Corporation introduced its massive housing development of the 1950s which saw an exodus of inner-city residents move out to outlying areas such as Finglas.

“A Finglas Story” spearheaded by Declan Cassidy, himself a native of Finglas, looks at the rich history of the small country village, from its’ rural roots to the growth of the ‘corpo’ houses, to the multi-ethnic community it is today.

Filming has already commenced on the three-part television mini-series that celebrates the spirit of the true Fingallian.  It is, for Declan Cassidy, a “very special journey”.

“Employment in the ‘50s was found in farming or working in the local Merville Dairy (now Premier Dairies), owned by the Craigie family. First to be interviewed for the programme is Myles O’Connor, who delivered milk to residents of the growing town for over three decades,” he said.

The Cassidy Family

“Born in Finglas in 1938, Myles is an avid sportsman who took to the field for Dublin and his local Erin’s Isle. He recalls an annual fundraising GAA game between arch rivals, Finglas and nearby St Margaret’s, all in aid of the Finglas Pipe Band.”

“The winning prize was a football, but the prize held over for years because the matches never finished. They always ended up in a ‘handbags fight’ – a fist fight – between the players, so they never had to give the prize out!” recalled Myles.

During the early filming stages, Myles recalled too how the sectarian divide between local Catholics and Protestants was imposed by one particular priest. Craigies were a local Protestant family who owned the dairy, and generously sent a large container of ice-cream to a local fair.

However, this priest forbade the attendees to eat the ice-cream and sent the container back! He furthered forbade his church goers to go and view a Craigie wedding.

“Myles had so many tales to tell – such as how 20 or 30 people would arrive at the new cinema in Finglas on the back of a trailer and tractor, or how school children would pee in St Patrick’s Well on their way to and from school. The local priest would lead an annual procession there, then bless the water – and encourage people to drink from it. There was no way Myles ever drank from that well!”

Huge interest

“The idea for the series grew out of a 24,000-member strong Facebook group called ‘Finglas Memories’,” noted Declan. “When I first suggested making a documentary, the response from the group was huge – people came forward with memories, photographs, videos and suggestions.”

“My father was a painter and decorator by trade, but an artist in his heart. He was very involved with the community, fighting the Dunsink Dump, looking for facilities, etc. He was one of the founding members of Finglas Credit Union, who’ve played a key role in the development of Finglas.

“Indeed, this documentary series was made possible thanks to additional funding from Finglas CU, and via the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI)’s ‘Sound and Vision’ scheme and EurAV European Audio Visual CLG.”

Myles 2nd from the left

Declan recalled there were eight of them living in a three-bedroomed house in Finglas and it was the CU loan that made it possible for his parents to build a much-needed extension!

“Ironically, I remember the front sitting room, the parlour with a china cabinet, was probably the biggest room in the house and rarely used!”

Declan himself started a Finglas festival committee in 1988, and introduced the festival, in conjunction with Dublin millennium celebrations. In 1987, he founded a local newspaper, The Courier, later the Finglas Forum. In 2010, Declan’s short story ‘Whatever turns you on’ qualified for the Oscars. He has since made several short films, and studied languages at Trinity College.

“The series uses our family experience of growing up in the community as a starting point for the wider story. The story of Finglas mirrors the experience of many of Dublin’s suburbs, so I feel it will have a wider audience.  

“We posted a short clip from the interview with Myles on our social media (@DeclanCreative), and the response was phenomenal with thousands of views,” revealed Declan.

A Finglas Story is set to air next year on Dublin’s community channel, DCTV, that will broadcast over the Virgin Media network, along with being available online.

Production crew with Patricia and Myles O’Connor

The first episode looks at Finglas as a country village, the second follows the growth of the community after the explosion of Dublin Corporation housing in the area, and the final episode examines the multicultural Finglas of today (one in six residents in Finglas today are not classified as ‘white Irish’ so it’s a diverse mix of ethnicities).

“We’re going to post regular social media clips as we film the series in Finglas so that interested persons can follow our journey and get sneak previews of what to  expect,” said Declan. “We’d also be delighted to hear from anyone with material or information that might add to the series.”

Painting by Declan’s dad

Declan’s social media handle is @DeclanCreative on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube.

MAIN PHOTO – 84 year old Myles O’Connor who remembers Finglas as a village

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