By Neil Ahern The name started when a man who owned a bell factory named Henry McShane was being delivered goods for his business. He was told he needed a place name to send the goods to and it was then when he nailed a sign to a tree saying “Dundalk”, remembering the place in Ireland in which his parents hailed from.
Last Monday week there was a party held in the Lisdoo Arms for the group of scouts from Dundalk, Maryland, USA who were visiting Dundalk, Ireland and they seemed anxious on telling the story of their very own Jebediah Springfield, the founder Henry McShane.
It is an area which is very open and not as nucleated as the town it draws its name from but still boasts a population of 100,000.
Speaking to the American group leader Al Lainke Jnr., a man who had visited Dundalk (Ireland) seven times previously, I learned of the story which holds legendary status over in Maryland. He was also keen to tell about the hospitality he recieves in Dundalk every time and how he has made his visits here almost an annual “pilgrimage”.
“The people are very welcoming” and every time he comes over he becomes “more impressed by the friendliness” he receives.
Al outlined that the exchange started when a leader from Dundalk rang him up out of curiosity and they talked about the Dundalk group possibly making a visit. The next year they did just that and they enjoyed themselves immensely, forming an immediate bond with the Americans.
The American scouts were due to visit the next year, however due to the fear of the war in Iraq and terrorism they stalled it for another year.
“This just happened to turn out for the best”, said Al, concluding that this year was the 50th anniversary of the Dundalk group, making the trip all the more celebratory. He also described the link between themselves and the Dundalk scouts as a “great relationship” and said it is an exchange they “hope to make regular”.
Jim Karawczyk, another leader from the American group, also talked of the many parallels between the two Dundalks. He said the kindness and warmth they recieved would also be expected in their home town and also the fact that Dundalk, Maryland “is the largest community in America which had not yet recieved township”. With Dundalk apparently being the largest town in Ireland not to be classified a city, there does seem to be some similarities.
However, Jim explained that the weather across the Atlantic was nothing like over here. Dundalk in Maryland is a place where, in one year, you could be skiing over a period of time and also another time catching some rays in the scorching heat, with temperatures “ranging from 12 below zero to 102 degrees”.
Also, talking to other members of the group, 13-year-old Joshue Laiison and 15-year-old Daniel McGuire you heard of how the people were “much more hospitible” over here. When describing their first impressions they both agreed it was “very green”.
“The views in the Cooley Mountains when hiking were absolutely beautiful”, said Daniel, obviously captivated by the Irish landscape.
21-year-old Shawn Wise was more interested in the partying and described Alan Matthews’ 21st which they visited as “wild”, saying he would definitely come back as he is now invited to two more parties! Sporting a head and face of red hair, a distinct Irish look as well as a pint of ale in one hand, he commented, “I’m fifty percent Irish, that’s why I came here”.