Barrow Quay has been the site of a Public House for as long as anyone can remember. Markey's were the last owners of the Pub there which had previously been owned by Tony Dillon and before him by his Father "Chopsie" Dillon. The same premises is shown on a Lawrence Photograph of Barrow Quay at the turn of the Century with the name Sterling over the door.
The current owners are presently involved in refurbishing the building and have removed the plaster from the front of the premises exposing the fine cut stone. They have also revealed some lettering high up on the building which proved extremely difficult to decipher. However, some research in "The Irish Book Lover" of May/June 1929 which carried an article on "Printing in Athy to 1900" helped to unravel the mystery posed by the lettering which was removed last weekend. In an article in that journal we find that in 1864 Michael Carey had his printing office at Barrow Quay and in that year he printed "The twenty Fourth Report of the Kildare Diocesan Education Society". The letters exposed on the front of the Public House last week formed part of the sign "Printing Office"'
This then was the office of Michael Carey who was one of the many Printers who carried on Business in Athy during the 19th Century.
Another Printer was W.H. Talbot who 163 years ago printed a a sixteen page pamphlet entitled "A letter to R.M. O'Ferral and E. Ruthven Esqrs. as members of Parliament for the County of Kildare". The earliest reference I have traced on Athy Printer's was in Walker's Hibernian Magazine of 1802 which noted the death of John Richardson Printer, Athy. The 1833 pamphlet of W. H. Talbot is the only known example of his work coming from his Printing Office in Athy. Successive members of the Talbot family were to be involved in printing and publishing in Athy over the following 50 years. The Maryborough Branch of the Talbot Family were to have an even longer involvement with the publishing world through their proprietary interest in the Leinster Express which they founded in 1831.
Another name which has long passed from public memory is that of Thomas French who had a spectacular but unsuccessful publishing career in Athy in the 1830's. From his printing office in Market Square, French carried on a general printing business including among his customers Athy Borough Corporation. In 1836 he came to the notice of a wider public with his printing of the 7th edition of the "Biographical Sketch of the adventures of Captain Grant with a full report of his trial". On November 14th of the following year French embarked upon the ambitious scheme of Publishing and printing a literary magazine from his printing works in Market Square. "The Athy Literary Magazine" was to have a longer life than later publishing ventures based in the town. The only copies in existence end with the 25th issue dated the 13th February, 1838. On sale every Tuesday, the small eight page magazine cost one penny. Throughout its short life, the magazine gave an unvarying mixture of leading articles of local interest, extracts from literary works such as Dickens Pickwick papers and material from national magazines of the period.
The last known edition of "The Athy Literary Magazine" was the 25th number which appeared on Tuesday, 17th April, 1838. The Royal Irish Academy has copies of the first eighteen issues but of the remaining seven issues, the only known copies were in the possession of a Dublin family in Drumcondra in the 1920's. Their present whereabouts are not known.
Within a few months of the ending of the Great Famine Athy was to experience a Journalistic feast. Controversy revolved around the proposed publication of a newspaper called "The Kildare and Wicklow Chronicle" which its promoters indicated would be the only paper printed and published in Athy. Before then the Leinster Express published in Maryborough, now Portlaoise had enjoyed a monopoly position in South Kildare. In the face of the competition posed by the Chronicle, the proprietors of the Express rushed through plans to print and publish a local paper in Athy called "The Irish Eastern Counties Herald". Edited by James E. Talbot "The Irish Eastern Counties Herald" was put on sale on the streets of Athy on Tuesday, 13th February 1849. " The Kildare and Wicklow Chronicle" appeared for three issues only before folding while "The Irish Eastern Counties Herald" appeared as usual on March, 13th with Editorial which undoubtedly surprised the Athy Newspaper reading public which only one week previously was adjusting itself to the habit of two weekly local papers were previously none existed. The Editorial acknowledged that the principal object for which the paper was established having been effected, the printing of the Irish Eastern Counties Herald in Athy would be terminated. So ended a short but lively era during which Athy for the only time in its long history was a centre of the provincial newspaper industry. "The Irish Eastern Counties Herald" and "The Kildare Wicklow Chronicle" have passed largely unnoticed in the history of newspapers in Ireland.
In January 1852, Samuel Talbot a member of the Talbot family already noted was responsible for the last major publishing event in Athy. He published Volume 1 of "The Press" which was intended as a monthly magazine "devoted to the advancement of science, literature and industrial arts". Published in Athy, it did not survive to a second number. Costing four pence it consisted of 36 pages with items of local interest such as an article on Woodstock Castle and a summary of a lecture delivered by Mr. Reece, Manager of the Irish Peat Company given on the 10th December, 1851 at a meeting of Athy Mechanic's Institute.
Talbots unsuccessful venture was the last major publishing event in Athy, until the advent of the Stephen Scroop Press which published a number of books in the 1980's from an Athy address.