Belfast Telegraph

Is Dungannon really home to UK's happiest people and Cookstown its most anxious?

By Nevin Farrell

The people of Dungannon are happy to be described as happy. While the good folk of Cookstown are feeling a bit anxious about being described as, well, anxious.

The two County Tyrone towns may be just 10 miles apart but there is a bit of division over the results of a survey from the Office for National Statistics which found the people of Dungannon to be the most cheerful in the UK – while their Cookstown neighbours are a bit more down in the mouth.

The Belfast Telegraph visited the area yesterday to see if there was any truth to the results of the survey.

At The Garden Corner centre midway between the two towns, staff who hail from both saw it in different ways.

Julie Henry (29), from Cookstown, the owner of its cafe, admitted she sometimes gets anxious.

Meanwhile, Garden Corner sales assistant Tracey Dobson (43), from Killyman near Dungannon, said: "I have always been happy".

"We get customers from both Dungannon and Cookstown and as far as I can see there are happy people from both," she said.

Julie added: "I perhaps am more of an anxious person but I can be happy too. If I was maybe getting ready to go out somewhere I might be anxious."

But the majority of people we spoke to in Cookstown wanted to dispel any notion they were anxious.

They may have the longest main street in Ireland but they are keen to point out they don't have long faces.

Sheena McStravick (24), a reporter with the Mid-Ulster Mail, said: "It has always struck me as a very laid-back, happy-go-lucky town."

And in Dungannon the people we spoke to agreed it is a happy place.

One well-named business in Dungannon is 29-year-old Gareth McMullan's Happy Feet Foot Clinic.

"I would say Dungannon is a happy place and in my business I say if you have happy feet it all starts from there because you are then happy to go walking, dancing or play golf or whatever.

"I had a wee baby recently and I'm happy... but tired."

Alan Parks (53), a market trader from near Lurgan, comes to Dungannon to sell flowers every Thursday and also goes to markets in Lisburn and Nutts Corner.

"The happiest people are here – Tyrone people are a happy bunch," he said.

Dungannon teenager Daniel McAlynn (18) declared the people friendly while his girlfriend Caoimhe Sheridan (19) agreed.

Dungannon butcher Brendan Lowe (50) said: "I am a happy person, you have to keep the spirits up."

Back in Cookstown, Kathryn Crawley (25) agreed with the survey and felt her fellow townsfolk could be anxious.

"It is a bit bleak Cookstown isn't it? There maybe isn't a lot to do here and perhaps they need more mental health services."

Her boyfriend Anthony Kelly (28) disagreed, saying: "That survey made me laugh. I like Cookstown, I'm grand and people seem to be happy."

Dentists are places that some people associate with being rife with anxiety but at the Diamond Dental Clinic in Cookstown, receptionist Arlene Fox (33) said she didn't believe Cookstown people were an anxious lot.

Mary Robbins (67) is from Loughmacrory which is closer to Omagh than Cookstown but she prefers to shop in Cookstown because the shops are central and there are no parking issues.

Eva Canavan (34), originally from Lisburn but now living in Ardboe, also stuck up for the sunny disposition of the Cookstown folk. "Having lived in the Lisburn and the Belfast area, the people in the Cookstown area are much more friendly and I don't agree they are anxious," she said.

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