'Standing on the hallowed turf of Mullingar'

Niall Horan - The Homecoming with Lewis Capaldi

On Sunday night, most of Mullingar, and probably the rest of the country, tuned in to watch the Guinness documentary, Niall Horan’s Homecoming: The Road to Mullingar with Lewis Capaldi.

The viewers were treated to a story of friendship between two of the biggest names in music, spectacular footage of our little country from Belfast to Dublin’s Fair City, and Mullingar, the capital of Westmeath that gave birth to a popstar named Niall Horan.

“I moved away from Mullingar when I was 16,” says Horan. “For a long time I’ve lived away from it so any time I get to go back is special, and this was extra special,” says the former One Direction singer.

Niall Horan and Lewis Capaldi at the Guinness Storehouse. Photo by Lucy Foster

“There was a big music festival going on,” he explains, referring to Mullingar hosting the Fleadh Cheoil, “I was bringing Lewis to the hometown for the first time, we were gonna play a gig, it was a good mix of excitement and big nerves.”

“Three days on the bounce together,” was how 29-year-old Horan described the trip, as he took the wheel and showed Capaldi, three years his junior, the best Ireland has to offer.

Oyster farming, handmade Lowden Guitars used by Ed Sheerin and Dermot Kennedy, busking on Grafton Street, and of course, pints of Guinness.

The pair met five years ago, Capaldi tells us, and were supposed to tour together when the Pandemic happened.

“Do you know what’s so sad,” says Niall, “We’ll probably never get to tour together again, so we have to make the best of these three days.”

And this they duly did, cracking jokes, taking off the Irish accent, having a singsong on Dublin’s Grafton Street, to the more serious stuff, when Niall tells of how he launched his solo album on “the day” the world went into lockdown.

It is a heartwarming tale of a beautiful bromance, as Capaldi states “I bloody love this country, the Emerald Isle”, and hints at looking for love with an Irish girl:

“I would love to live here… meet a lovely Irish lady, dark hair, blue eyes.”

In Dublin, the pair join busker Jacob Koopman, where Lewis sings Horan’s hit ‘Slow Hands,” before moving onto Windmill Lane Studios, synonymous with U2, where they both record a rendition of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”.

Busking on Grafton Street. Photo by Lucy Foster

Capaldi asks if Niall had not become famous, would he have moved back to Mullingar.

“You’re never happy with where you grew up until you don’t have it anymore, and then you want more of it,” answers Niall.

When they reach Mullingar during the height of the Fleadh Cheoil, Niall walks Lewis through the main streets, pointing out where he went to secondary school in St Mary’s CBS; and takes him to Rochfort’s shop on Dominick Street, where Niall bought his first guitar - a Tanglewood.

Horan visits Rochfort's on Mullingar's Dominick Street where he bought his first Tanglewood guitar.

“This is one of them shops that does a bit of everything, you’d probably get your school uniform in there,” says Niall in his affable way, as he spots a photo hanging on the wall of himself as a nipper on X Factor with owner Tommy Nally.

The pair walk on and Niall gets a picture of himself with his mural on Dominick Street, and stop for a high five with the Joe Dolan statue, “Joe Dolan’s the real star of Mullingar” says Capaldi goodnaturedly.

They visit the Greville Arms and talk with manager John Cochrane, who proudly presents a showcase displaying Niall’s Brit awards and various memorabilia, as well as a visitor book where fans travelling from around the world to visit Mullingar can leave a message for Niall.

Capaldi and Horan at the mural of Niall in Mullingar.

It’s where the town’s “most famous guest in many years”, Lewis Capaldi writes a sweet message for Niall of his own.

There’s a quick stop for food, a chicken fillet roll from Spar on Dominick Street, which reminds Horan of his schoolboy days, before the pair make their way to Clarke’s Bar on Patrick Street, to perform.

It is packed in expectation of the famous duo’s arrival, and among the audience is Niall’s friend Conor Gilsenan, former teacher Geogina Hourican, his mum and his dad.

“He used to sign his name on everything, and I used to say to him ‘Niall, stop writing your name on everything,’ he was about 13 at the time. And he said ‘You won’t be saying that when I’m doing this for a living’,” reflects dad Bobby Horan.

“I just look at him and think ‘That’s my Niall,’ and I can’t believe it to see him up there performing, it just melts my heart,” adds mum Maura Gallagher.

Oyster farming at Carlingford Lough. Photo by Lucy Foster

Niall and Lewis perform a few songs, including Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars, a nod to Horan’s schooldays, and his own ‘This Town’, written about Mullingar.

The crowd erupt into “Ole, Ole, Ole” as Niall says “It’s good to be back home and see yis all soon.”