Wednesday, April 23, 2014

'A Week in the Life of Athy' - Athy's Photographic Study

Sunday 7th September will be the first day of a unique photographic project in Athy organised by Athy Heritage Centre with the co-operation of Athy Photographic Society and the people of the south Kildare town.  The project which is scheduled to last for one week is intended to record in photographs and film the people of Athy in their homes, at work and in their leisure hours and so create a documentary archive of Athy town to be called ‘A Week in the Life of Athy’.

The project will be headed up by photographers from the local Photographic Society, but will also include anyone with a camera who wishes to be part of what is intended to be a highly important social documentary of our time.  The project primarily aims to photograph the local people, the buildings of the town and the events which will take place in Athy during the week commencing Sunday, 7th September.  Everyone with access to a camera is encouraged to take part by photographing whatever scenes, people or events they wish. 

Family group photographs taken during that week are particularly relevant in a project of this kind and every household is encouraged to participate in the project by having a family photograph taken during the week.  If you know of some family or neighbour who might not be able to have a photograph taken why not do it for them and include it as part of your contribution to the project.

This week I am reproducing two photographs, the first of which shows Matty Brennan in old age sitting on a stool at his front door in Offaly Street.  This was a common sight, well remembered by many of us and the photograph was taken approximately 20 years ago, just a short time before Matty died.  He was one of the great characters of Athy and will be remembered as the courthouse caretaker and caretaker in the Catholic Young Mens Society when it was based in St. John’s Lane. 

The second photograph was taken in or about 1949 and shows a family group in Shrewleen Lane.  The Minch Norton building is to the left of the photograph and on the right can be seen some of the old two-roomed houses which were later demolished to accommodate the old folks houses now located there.  The family group consists of John Carey and Tom Poole at the back and in front Margaret Carey, Nell Poole with her son Anthony and Mary Roche standing on the right.  If you look closely at the photograph you will see a trench which had been dug in the middle of the road.  I don’t know what work was going on at the time but I’m sure many of the readers will recall what was involved.

Returning to the photographic project, because it is being operated on a voluntary basis no payment will be made for photographs taken.  Nevertheless everyone in the town is encouraged to take a photograph or two, whether of their own family or a neighbour or indeed anything that takes their fancy and submit them to the Heritage Centre at the end of the project week.  Incidentally you can hand in printed photographs or CD’s of the photographs taken.  Either format will be accepted to help create a photographic archive of life in Athy.

The photographs collected will be the subject of a future exhibition in the Heritage Centre and hopefully many of the photographs will be included in a book to be published at a later date.  The week long project will also hopefully provide a substantial photographic archive which will in future years be an important source of material for social historians.

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