An observant student wandering around the DCU campus on a chilly winter morning may notice a handful of friendly pensioners from the local area making their way through the crowd to reach the front doors of Londis.
Some are here for their morning walks, but most are here for their daily newspapers, and to see their friend: the man, the myth, the legend, Dave.
Dave Walsh has been an employee in the Glasnevin campus for close to two decades. Since he was recruited to the former Spar in August 2001 as a store assistant, he has won the hearts of DCU students and staff with his irrepressible wit and excitable personality. He’s on a short list of contenders for DCU’s most well-known and well-liked face, and this is a badge he wears with pride, having on more than one occasion referred to himself semi-facetiously as “The Legend”. His tenure in the shop (he joined seven months after it first opened) has lasted through the Spar era and continued into the recently-rebranded Londis, which has been open since June and has attracted attention in the retail industry for several of its groundbreaking innovations.
Every morning, as Dave starts work, he’s one of the first people to arrive on campus, making the short journey from his home nearby. He opens up the shop, lets the waiting deli staff in, turns on the lights and puts out the day’s papers. As the crowds arrive, there’s a friendly community atmosphere in the shop as young students and local residents interact while Dave jokes about the bad weather or the length of the queue.
Although born in London, Dave is both a proud Dub and an avid Liverpool supporter, while his personal heroes include Paul Weller and Belgian cyclist Eddy “The Cannibal” Merckx.
He has two nieces attending university in Spain and gets on extremely well with students (something that can be attributed to his youthful exuberance), especially those who work part-time in the shop. “It’s good for them to get that sort of experience. They’ll have a better outlook as a result,” Dave tells The College View over lunch upstairs in The U student centre.
“Dave has made me feel really welcome,” says Isabelle O’Toole, a first year student who recently started working part-time at Londis. “He’s always checking to make sure I’m getting on okay”. Dave has fond memories of taking part in student projects in his role as something of an unofficial campus mascot, referencing a 2014 video by the RAG Society that featured him dancing to Pharrell Williams’s ‘Happy’, that amassed over 11,000 views.
The opening of the new Londis on the ground floor of The U was a welcome change for Dave and the other staff after a year working in the temporary Spar, previously home to The Venue behind Nubar. Dave recalls, “the basement was freezing. The winter was pretty bad, but [the location] did serve its purpose. We couldn’t exactly go out on the grass in a tent.”
Did the basement ever flood during any storms that hit Dublin? “Nope, it never flooded,” he answers.
“But there was a really cold wind tunnel down the steps.” Dave is glad to see The U open to students, a bright, modern space where he likes to eat his lunch most mid-mornings. “It’s great for them, and good for the shop, it definitely attracts trade.”
Dave feels that just like students see Nubar as ‘their’ bar, the shop should be something they feel proud to have on their campus. “The support of students is very important and we always try to cater to their needs and listen to feedback.” When he started working here, DCU was much smaller but the shop was just as busy. The arrival of cafés in the nursing, business and library buildings has dispersed the crowd somewhat, but the shop remains an essential part of college life, with Dave – once known as ‘The Man From Spar’ and now as ‘The Man From Londis’ – at the till every day.
Lucien Waugh-Daly and Sally Dobie
Image credit: Róise McGagh