Documenting Portlaoise

PORTLAOISE man John Dunne ‘loves Portlaoise’ and for the past six years he has been running a website which reflects his passion for his home town.

PORTLAOISE man John Dunne ‘loves Portlaoise’ and for the past six years he has been running a website which reflects his passion for his home town.

Anyone who logs onto the website www.portlaoisepictures.com will find a huge array of photographs of the town as well as music from around the county, and the results of his recent surveys.

“I love Portlaoise, all my family are from around the town and I have a huge attachment to the area”, John told the Leinster Express. “With all the technology we have, less is being preserved than ever and we have to preserve something for future generations.”

John, who was a teacher at The Heath NS, says that the website documents local people. For those who have seen the website, there are many familiar faces, places, shops, businesses and people.

“Ordinary people and their lives are just as important as the big political names. It is about the little things in the town, and there are an awful lot of small things that catch my eye.

The website is based on my firm belief that history is not just a thing of the past. It’s all well and good to study ancient castles, famous people and bloody battles, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that what’s happening today is the history of the future,” he said.

John whose great passions are books and music, has a big collection of local music on the site.

“I have been buying records since I was twelve and I listen to everything except Irish country and western and opera. I also have been playing guitar for 40 years. The music scene in Portlaoise seems to be brilliant, there are a lot of young bands in the town,” he said.

John, who is also a published author and recipient of the Listowel writer of the year award, has a vast array of photographs on the site.

“The writer Johnny O’ Brien kindly let me use some of his older photographs but the rest are my own. I carry a camera with me where ever I go,” he says

An example of one of John’s many projects is in 2000, when he took a photo of every shop front in the town over a two month period and is currently working on getting all the images up on the website. In the space of twelve years a lot has changed in the town and there are many places that don’t exist anymore. “It is amazing how the town has changed.”

John’s current project is completing surveys on the attitudes of people in and from the town, and so far the results have drawn some interesting conclusions, from peoples’ eclectic tastes in music to their opinions - good and bad - on what the town has and lacks.

“One of the surveys said that there aren’t enough Gardaí on the streets. Thirty years ago you would always see them. The unemployment is dreadful and I know the drug problems are there but there is so much good in the town.

“You can comment on the town but you’ve got to offer some kind of suggestion to help. Music is a great thing for young people in Portlaoise, especially those who aren’t interested in sports. It is a great town, we have nearly everything we want here,” he says.

John’s website is not just reaching those in Portlaoise, but people around the world, with messages sent from all over and the website viewed in over 40 countries.

“Its great for people living away from home or who have relatives here and it is lovely to receive messages from them”.

Visit www.portlaoisepictures.com to find out more.