Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Market rights in Athy

When the Commissioners appointed to enquire into the state of the Fairs and Markets in Ireland held its hearing in Athy on 18th December 1852 the Town Clerk, Henry Sheil, came before the Commissioners to provide information on the market rights in Athy. He explained that the Charter granted in 1515 by the English King, Henry VIII, allowed the Town Provost and the inhabitants of Athy to hold markets on Tuesday and Saturday each week in the town in a place decided by Gerald, Earl of Kildare. His claim of a Saturday market ‘as provided in the Charter’ was incorrect. However, it is likely that the holding of an unauthorised market on Saturdays had developed over the years. During the 18th century the market square was identified as the area immediately in front of the Town Hall which had been built in or about 1720. Immediately behind the Town Hall was St. Michael’s Church which was demolished following the building of a new St. Michael’s Church at the top of Offaly Street in 1840. The area between the old church and the nearby River Barrow during the 1700s was marshland. This would tend to indicate that the place decided by the Earl of Kildare for exercise of the market right was the front square which is shortly to be the subject of a planned re-development by Kildare County Council. The market rights have been exercised since they were first granted over five hundred years ago and even if not continuously used could not, as common law rights, be extinguished. However, since the passing of the Casual Trading Act of 1995 Kildare Co. Co. as successor to Athy Borough Council and Athy Urban District Council can pass bylaws to regulate the market. Regulation in that context includes limiting the size of the market, extinguishing the existing market rights and relocating the market if necessary. I have for years advocated for the local Council to regulate Athy’s market so as to make it more attractive for locals and visitors alike. In a previous Eye on the Past I wrote of my experience on a visit to the local market in Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex. There I discovered that market stands and canopies were provided by the local Council whose workers set them up in preparation for the market. Market traders rented the stalls from the Council and the Council ensured that the marketplace was free of parked cars and traffic on the day of the market. Incidentally, Athy’s market square never included Barrow Quay to where the current market has extended and on the basis of the available evidence regarding building layout the area designated by the Earl of Kildare as Athy’s marketplace is unlikely to have included what we now call the back Square. However, it is also clear that the back Square has been used for various markets including the Tuesday market since the demolition of the Church. If Kildare County Council decides to regulate the Tuesday market it will have to provide alternative market facilities for traders whether it is to be Emily Square, the back Square or Barrow Quay. It could reasonably decide to designate the two squares and Barrow Quay as the marketplace under new market regulations. Any such plans should take account of the Council’s proposed redevelopment of Emily Square to ensure that any services required for market trading can be installed during the redevelopment work. The regeneration of the town’s centre requires the Council to take action sooner rather than later to improve the appearance of the Tuesday market. Passing through the market last week it had all the appearance of a tatty and unwelcoming market. The regeneration of Athy’s town centre requires action on many fronts and improving the appearance and quality of the Tuesday market is one action which Kildare County Council can and should immediately undertake. Two weeks ago I mentioned the late Eddie Tubridy as designer of the wall surrounding the GAA pitch on the Dublin Road. The late Fintan Brennan was the source of my information but since then two readers brought to my attention the claim of the late Andy Owens to be regarded as the wall’s designer. Andy was a student of Eddie Tubridys in the Technical School when Eddie offered his class students a prize for the best design for the proposed GAA wall. Andy won the prize and I am told that his drawing was the design used during the construction of the wall. I have just received notice of the death of Peter Behan, Professor Emeritus of Neurology, University of Glasgow who passed away on 31st August 2019. Peter was a former pupil of Athy C.B.S. and a native of St. Joseph’s Terrace. I have written previously of Peter and the Behan family and Peter’s name must be added to the illustrious list of past pupils of Athy’s Christian Brothers school.

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