Originally penned September 2021

Now that travel is slowly but surely returning with some degree of normality, it was hard to resist the opportunity to not hop on a plane and explore a city. Granted, Liverpool is merely a hop and a skip away compared to some of the more far flung and remote parts of the world I’ve visited in the last five years, but even with that, it’s a city that’s good for the soul. 

By Jonathan Foley

Although I’m better known for being a Celtic fan in many circles, I’ve never denied the fact that when it comes to English football, I’ve always been a Red deep down. With the restrictions easing on attendances at matches across the channel, the Liverpool vs Chelsea fixture at Anfield had to be taken in once the sights and the sounds of Merseyside had been done.

While it was my late father who passed on his enthusiasm for LFC to me, it was my mum who did likewise with her love of The Beatles. And although I’d been to the city numerous times before, mainly for trips to other matches, this was really the first time I ever took an extra day to wander the city streets and famous dock areas that make the place what it is. 

As an Irish History graduate, there’s no denying that when it comes to our country’s history of migration, predominantly from the mid-nineteenth century, the port of Liverpool is just as much a part of our heritage as anywhere else. While on a stroll around the district of Everton, I couldn’t help but notice that I passed a local Catholic church with a road sign for Roscommon Street. 

Having nipped for a pint the night before – well, maybe a few more than that – I’d also got chatting to two local and fairly-elderly Scousers who went by the surnames of Mahon and McDermott. A pair of easy going and light-hearted lads who informed me that they both had grannies who came from Dublin. This gave rise to the famous old gag: 

“What’s the true definition of a Scouser? He’s a Dubliner who could swim well!”

Perhaps one of the best features about the city is that everywhere is fairly walkable. Matthew Street was noticeably busy on Friday evening as the pubs and clubs filled up with stag parties, hens and ones looking to start the weekend off in style. This being the same street that’s home to the Cavern Club and the statue of a young John Lennon created an ideal photo opportunity. 

The aforementioned docks, now known more commercially as Pier Head, is within walking distance. While it’s become much more touristy with its fancy cafés and souvenir shops since the city’s rejuvenation as ‘City of Culture’ in 2008, there still remains here a chance to take in the sea air and see for yourself the dockside that once made the city flourish in the old days. 

As good as the sights are, it’s the sounds and the energy which drives the city. Liverpudlians certainly have their own distinct high-frequency accent which is unlike anywhere else in the United Kingdom. Like the people, it’s welcoming, endearing and humorous while a love of live music and conversations about football are prioritised over anything else. 

Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that Liverpool’s ground at Anfield produces a special atmosphere. Having been away from stadiums for so long, and with all the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic, the pre-match rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ was notably spine-tingling and even a tad emotional. 

On a personal level, Covid-19 has carried a real and ongoing threat to my own career plans these past 19 months, but places and songs like these possess an uncanny ability to put things in perspective. They make you realise that you’re far from being the worst off person in the world, you become thankful for what you have and sure, as they say, money can’t buy me love. 



When people hear about the name Liverpool mentioned, the first thing that may spring to mind is the image of a famous red and blue wearing football teams, the city that gave rise to the Beatles or a high-pitched accent that was popularised – although hated by Scousers themselves – by the 1990s comedy stylings of Harry Enfield. 

Liverpudlians are often branded as aggressive, tracksuit wearing undesirables who delve in anti-social activity while claiming welfare due to the lack of work in the city. Beneath the surface of that stereotype, however, lies a unbreakable sentiment and spirit that should be considered as more a message of inspiration to us all however; especially to us here in Donegal. 

By Jonathan Foley

Our native county is by no means anywhere near as urbanised as Liverpool. Their population has a much higher density than ours and a walk around both places is contrasted by how they possess a lot more street corners and tall redbrick buildings while ours offers coastal viewings and roads with grassy bits up the middle. And yet, we still share some notable similarities. 

Without paraphrasing one of the closing lines from Derry Girls too much where the character of Michelle quoted that being from the Maiden City “was a state of mind”, that could be said for the people of both Donegal and Liverpool too. A look at both our recent histories can provide evidence for this.

Both locations are in the remote northwestern regions of their respective islands, a fair trek away from their capital cities (in both distance and in culture) and both have long endured the pangs of economic downturn, recession and emigration. We’ve both felt a sense of abandonment by our governments but still have carried through with great purpose and resolve. 

The sense of identity and spirit which engulfs both places has always remained despite the issues that were just mentioned. The people of both Donegal and Liverpool have a (sometimes) quiet sense of pride in their own identity and despite the doldrums of inflation and recession, they’ve carried on to go on and create music, art and sporting heroes of great note. 

Of the two, Liverpool is better known on the global scale and, even with its frailties and flaws, it could act as a sort of inspiration to us and to many communities throughout the world. 

The closing of the shipyards on Albert Dock brought a profound sense of loss to the city; not just financially but always economically, emotionally, socially and psychologically on thousands upon thousands of local inhabitants. 

Housing became derelict and opportunities lessened. A rise in crime and violence occurred, but was it was all too easy to see that this behaviour – although undesirable – had reasons behind it. 

Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government were pursuing policies that were purposely bringing about a massive decline to the city. When riots broke out at the Toxteth in 1981, many locals still claim they were right to rebel and they still stand by the belief that “if you treat us like animals, then we will act like them!” 

The situation became much worse throughout the eighties, but still, an indomitable spirit shone through. In football, Liverpool and Everton became the two most successful clubs of the decade; winning numerous trophies between and twice competing against each other in the FA Cup Final during a three year period.

Despite financial problems at home, both teams regularly had huge followings of supporters who would follow them anywhere they travelled across England and Europe. You have to remember that top-flight English football was much cheaper to attend in those days and, in such barren times, maybe these people needed heroes and something to feel inspired by.  

At one stage in 1984, the UK top 40 music chart had no less than 18 bands or artists from Liverpool filling up the slots. Frankie Goes to Hollywood are probably the best remembered of them all, but when they were banned from Top of the Pops for the sexual undertones to their song ‘Relax,’ many Scousers supported them for how the band spoke out against the statement that was released by the (government-owned) BBC. 

Many believed that the reason behind the successes of Liverpool-based football teams and music acts inadvertently derived from the lack of employment; less hours in the factory meant more time to kick a ball or write a song in the upstairs bedroom. 

One man who deserves a mention is playwright Willy Russell. A personal favourite of mine and one who used the abject surroundings of his home city to create some of the most memorable pieces of drama that you are ever likely to see. Having created ‘Blood Brothers’ and ‘Our Day Out’, his stories were predominantly based around the experiences of younger kids growing up in Liverpool. 

That’s not say they are kids stories though. Certainly they provide unforgettable moments of comedy, storyline and musical performances, but underneath the surface, there are subtle messages to the pressing issues that generated a sense of suffering across the city. Unemployment, a feeling of abandonment etc. Essentially, he didn’t bemoan his surroundings, he used them as an artform to teach the world through popular entertainment.

And yet despite all the indignation the city faced after the trauma of the Hillsborough Disaster of 1989, the city’s inhabitants stayed united and loyal in a sense of community. They campaigned tirelessly to have the deaths of 96 football fans cleared after a smear campaign by The Sun newspaper and the Tories publicly tagged them as being responsible for their own deaths due to drunkeness, hooliganism and acts aggression towards the police. 

All of which was proved to be lies in 2016. The sense of community had won over the established order of rule. 

Like us, not everybody from Liverpool is an angel, but while a lot of our people like to bemoan a politician or a bad Donegal result in the football or social media or radio phone-in shows, the city of Liverpool has shown us that it is possible to use that same energy to produce heroes and icons, no matter how tough a situation can get. 

So far, we’ve both faced austerity and produced artists, musicians, writers,poets and sporting heroes and it’s been great to see. The Beatles may be long finished, but the city of Liverpool is continuing to do it, so why can’t we? And never forget, it’s one of the few cities that truly welcomed and embraced mass Irish-migration down through the centuries.