Thursday, January 10, 2002

Athy's Newspapers 1849

Last week I wrote of one half of the newspaper industry which had a short life in Athy in the early part of 1849. The Irish Eastern Counties Herald was printed in Athy and its first issue was brought out on the 13th February 1849 for the sole purpose of undermining a newspaper which was planned to be published and printed in Athy to compete with the Maryboro printed Leinster Express. The Talbot Family were Proprietors of the Leinster Express and they moved quickly to protect their readership from any inroads which might be made by The Kildare and Wicklow Chronicle which first appeared on the 17th February 1849. Frederick Kearney of Emily Square, Athy was the proprietor and editor of The Kildare and Wicklow Chronicle which he claimed would be the only newspaper printed and published in Athy. The Talbot’s of Portlaoise moved speedily to bring out an Athy edition of the Leinster Express which was restyled as The Irish Eastern Counties Herald.

The Kildare and Wicklow Chronicle priced at five pence consisted of four pages and like all local newspapers of the time was a mixture of advertisements, items of local interest with news and parliamentary reports culled from London newspapers. Kearney’s newspapers styled itself as the nationalist newspaper in contrast with the Talbot Family production which had a definite Establishment or Unionist leaning. Interesting then to identify the local businessmen who supported Kearney’s newspaper. These included James Dowling of Leinster Street, T. Fagan of the Tea Warehouse and Fogarty’s of Leinster Street.

Dowling described as “Proprietor of a Grocery, Tea, Wine and Spirit Warehouse” offered for sale five varieties of black tea, four varieties of green tea, five varieties of coffee as well as the usual assortment of Wines, Spirits, Ales and Porter in his advertisement. Not to be outdone, the Tea Warehouse operated by T. Fagan advertised “tea for sale by retail at wholesale prices”. One of the more interesting advertisements was inserted by William Fogarty who advised all and sundry that he had adopted “the Dublin system of baking” and would sell bread at “Dublin weight and Dublin prices”. Obviously there was an advantage in this for the consumer but what it was I have not yet worked out. In any event Fogarty’s was an old established bakery where you could buy a four pound loaf of bread for six and a half pence and a two pound loaf for three and a quarter pence.

That first issue of the Kildare and Wicklow Chronicle reported that Captain Henry was to make a tour through several Poor Law Unions including Athy to select young females for the Workhouse Emigration Scheme to South Australia. The Chairman of the local Union, Caption Lefroy caused some merriment amongst the normally staid members of the Workhouse Board when he claimed “Captain Henry will not restrict himself as to numbers, but will probably take away all the pretty girls”.

The Editor of the Kildare and Wicklow Chronicle in his first editorial referred to the “artful dodge resorted to by issuing nominally for the County of Kildare a reprint of a newspaper produced in Maryboro ….. a subterfuge too palpable, too flagrant, to blindfold the patriotic and enlightened inhabitants of the County”. Quite clearly Frederick Kearney was drawing the battle lines with the Talbots of Maryboro who sought to torpedo his fledging newspaper by rushing through their own plans for what they described as an Athy newspaper. The second issue of the Kildare and Wicklow Chonicle on the 20th February 1849 carried an extract from John Dalton’s “History of County Kildare” which had previously appeared in a number of publications including The Carlow Sentinal.

The third and final issue of the newspaper which could truthfully claim to be the only newspaper edited, published and printed in Athy was dated Saturday, 3rd March 1849. It carried a Report of the Narraghmore emigration meeting of the 26th February presided over by W. Pelan P.L.G. which agreed to strike a rate of ten pence in the pound to send sixteen local girls to Australia from the Athy Workhouse.

Frederick Kearney unable to get advertising for The Kildare and Wicklow Chronicle from the public institutions of County Kildare or even from the local workhouse, found himself unable to continue his newspaper beyond its third issue. On March 6th, The Irish Eastern Counties Herald under the headline “Sudden death of the Kildare and Wicklow Chronicle” reported
“After a miserable career of three weeks, the above journal has ceased to exist. The melancholy intelligence was communicated to us yesterday by its disconsolate parent. The bantling - a sickly peevish creature from its birth - never exhibited any promise of maturity although very strenuous efforts were made to preserve its existence by a few (but indeed a very few) incompetent-quacks, in the town of Athy, who formed an overweening estimate of their capabilities”.

Only one local newspaper appeared on the streets in Athy that weekend and on March 13th, The Irish Eastern Counties Herald announced to its readers
“The principal object for which this journal was established having being effected, many of our friends very reasonably concluded that upon the demise of the so called “Kildare and Wicklow Chronicle” its publication would cease. We have already explained the immediate occasion of the Herald having been commenced in connection with the Leinster Express - viz for the purposes of meeting upon equal terms a new competitor , which we were led to believe would have engaged considerable talent, great influence and large capital. We anticipate a contest of some duration and from our regard for Kildare and the honour we feel in representing at the Press such a county, we prepared to dispute every inch with any candidate for public favour; but we must confess that if we had known the wretched opponent we would have had to encounter, we would have allowed him to test the power and severity of his friends - as it would not require any obstruction from us, to satisfy the most sanguine that there was not the least possibility of the success of the speculation.”

With its fifth and final issue, the Irish Eastern Counties Herald ended Athy’s short involvement in the Irish Provincial Press Industry.

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