“Athy Way - News, View, Features” produced by Junior Chamber, Athy bears the price 12p on its front cover under the oft photographed view of Athy’s most famous landmark, the Barrow Bridge. The twenty eight page magazine does not have a date of issue but it apparently appeared shortly before the local elections of June 1974. The editorial staff was headed by Fr. R. Mitchell with John Jennings as Production Manager, Ann O’Mara as Assistant editor and Publicity and Sales under the control of Eileen Connolly and Angela Jennings.
Junior Chamber Athy was founded 1973 with membership open to everyone between the ages of 18 and 40 years. The magazine “Athy Way” was the Junior Chambers contribution to the Community Week Festival which I believe was held in Athy in the Spring of 1974. The first Chairman of the Junior Chamber was John Jennings with Raymond Pelin and Michael O’Gorman as Vice-Presidents. Ann O’Mara was the Honorary Secretary while the purse strings were in the capable hands of Barry Spring. Members of the Executive Committee of the Chamber were Charles Chambers, Pat Carroll, Eileen Reen, Moira Finnegan and Nicholas Walsh.
The magazine, which I had never previously seen, was recently sent to me from New Zealand. It consists of an interesting series of articles on Clubs and Associations in and about the South Kildare Town. Martina Dunne gave an account of “Fanfare For Youth” an organisation founded in September 1973 following a meeting between members of Aontas Ogra and Paul Stafford. Sponsored by the Bleach and District Community Association, “Fanfare for Youth” was specifically for young adults, with the objective of fostering cooperation between different art groups and improving the public image of young people. It was not a club as such, rather a youth service. The first officers were Paul Stafford, Chairman, J.O’Neill, Treasurer and Denis Whelan P.R.O.
Kathleen Dooley wrote of Ballyroe twenty six years ago in a piece headed “Ballyroe - a lively spot”. In it she dealt with the Community Centre created a year previously out of the vacant old National School, where several clubs in the area met on a regular basis. The Gaelic Football Club, the I.C.A. as well as the local dance group and a youth committee where just some of those whose activities were boosted by the newly opened centre.
Sheila Gleeson wrote a brief account of Aontas Ogra, the organisation founded eighteen years previously, of which she was then the Chairman. Colette Doran was secretary with Peter Murphy as Treasurer while Teresa McFadden, Stephanie O’Toole, Peter Kehoe, Michael Aldridge, Denis Whelan and Danny McEvoy comprised the Aontas Ogra Committee. Its members were encouraged to take an active part in community activity and indeed had taken on the responsibility of maintaining the fountain in Emily Square and cutting the grass along the banks of the Canal and River Barrow. I wonder for how long that lasted?
Scattered throughout the “Athy Way” magazine, was details of the various candidates standing in the Urban Council elections for 1974. Enda Kinsella was an independent candidate who wanted to have ground rents abolished and medical cards assessed on basic wages rather than taking overtime into account. The magazine editor wrote “he says that South Kildare will not be like the lad that fell out of the plane concerning footpaths, roads and general improvements”. I wonder what was intended by that claim?
Angela Jennings wrote a tongue and cheek piece which she called “In Defense of Housewives” where she explored ways and means of cutting down on the housewives working hours. It all boiled down to doing less as for example with the washing up, where the housewife was encouraged to “keeping dumping everything into the sink until no more will fit and then do a complete wash up, thereby saving your time and saving money on detergents”. It occurs to me that this labour saving method was discovered by the men folk many years ago!
Mary Grufferty gave a short contribution headed “Kilmead has its Queen” but managed to sign off before telling us who that was, while Mary Lacey wrote of community action in Barrowhouse. The Barrowhouse Community Committee was set up in September 1973 following the closure of the local National School. The teachers were transferred to Ballyroe School and plans were made to bus the pupils to the same school. However, under the Chairmanship of William Malone, the Community Committee employed substitute teachers and kept the Barrowhouse School open. Following a meeting with the Minister for Education, Richard Burke T.D., it was agreed that the School could be re-opened provided the two teachers already transferred to Ballyroe were prepared to return to Barrowhouse and the local Committee carried out repairs to the existing school building at their own expense and without the aid of State funding. The action group set about decorating the old School building and installed heaters and toilet facilities before Barrowhouse School then re-opened with 43 pupils on the rolls. Isn’t it quite extraordinary to think that a generation ago, a Government Minister expected a local group to fund the installation of toilets and other facilities in a National School. Times certainly have changed!
Joanne Evans wrote an account of “Athy Girls Friendly Society” which was organised by the local rector’s wife. Girls from three different age groups ranging from four to twelve years met on Saturday afternoons in the local parochial hall, to be taught dancing, skipping and action songs as well as undertaking bible study.
Moyra Troute gave details of the St. Vincent de Paul Junior Conference which met every Friday night at No. 81 Leinster Street while Athy’s first Community Week Festival was put under the microscope by Charles Chambers. More than twenty local clubs took part in the festival which was regarded as reasonably successful even if some felt it lacked variety. Michael Reen was the author of an essay on the duty an responsibility of “Youths and Adults in Society”. Robin Greene wrote of “Farming in South Kildare”, Jim McEvoy of the “Urban Council in Athy” and John Jennings wrote a piece on “The White Paper on Wealth Tax”. There were brief details of two other independent candidates in the local elections, one of whom, Jack MacKenna was a past pupil of the C.B.S. with fourteen years membership of Kildare County Council and seven years as an Urban Councillor. A member of Fianna Eireann before 1921, he was an adjutant in the Local Defence Forces in 1937. The other candidate, Gearoid May had lived in Athy for twenty years and was employed locally. He was active in Aontas Ogra, Fanfare for Youth, Knights of Malta and Athy and District Schoolboys Soccer League.
“Athy Way” was sponsored by Byrne’s Supermarket, DKL Limited and the Cock Robin Cabaret Rooms both of Leinster Street. Neither are in business in Athy today and the Junior Chamber has long disappeared from the Community Agenda. How many issues of “Athy Way” were published I cannot say, but perhaps someone out there can answer that question as well as identifying those responsible for producing the magazine and the various contributors to that first issue of twenty six years ago.