TWO more plaques have been launched as part of the Made of Athy project spearheaded by local man Colm Walsh.
The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon travelled to the town on Saturday to unveil his plaque at Ardreigh Lock, affixed to the wall of what would have been his grandfather’s boathouse.
The singer-songwriter, who was born in Derry and lives in Kildare, is also known for penning the theme tunes for sitcoms The IT Crowd and Father Ted and has been involved in the upcoming Father Ted musical.
“Thanks everybody for coming, it’s only me,” he told the gathered crowd. “Thank you for giving to me what you gave to Johnny Marr!”
Mr Hannon’s family links to the town are not very well-known, but his ancestors owned local mills, including at Ardreigh, and his grandfather moved to Northern Ireland in 1917 as a Protestant missionary.
Speaking to the Kildare Nationalist, Mr Hannon explained that his knowledge of his family ties with Athy beforehand was “peripheral”, adding that he has a memory from when he was very young of being in the area while on the way to a family holiday.
“I’ve never knowingly been. So it’s brilliant,” he said. “I knew that the Hannons had owned mills – well, I thought it was just one mill for a start. Apparently there was more than one… Carlow had come up a lot, I didn’t realise it was actually more Kildare, more Athy. So that’s a new thing to me.”
During his visit he also stopped by the town’s museum where he learned more about his great uncles who lost their lives in the First World War. “I knew about the great uncles who were killed in the First War, but then actually seeing them in the roll of honour in the museum… where they were killed… I didn’t really know the details,” he said. “It’s quite harrowing really, because they were all killed in different places.”
A second plaque was also officially launched on Sunday for photographer John Minihan at Doyle’s Pub on Woodstock Street. After the launch, Mr Minihan gave a fascinating lecture in Athy Library which was attended by some of the people he has captured on film. The prize-winning photographer was raised in Athy but went to live in London at the age of 12 and at 21 became the youngest staff photographer for the Evening Standard. Although he remained in London for 30 years, he returned to Athy every year, recording the people and their daily lives.
Athy forms a large part of his work, and his photos of the town have been exhibited around the world. Mr Minihan’s photographs chronicling the wake of Katy Tyrrell in Athy earned the approval of Samuel Beckett and he would go on to capture iconic photographs of the camera-shy playwright, as well as others including the then Lady Diana Spencer.
According to curator Colm Walsh, the project has now launched ten plaques in recent months. Another unveiling is planned for Saturday 16 March. “It’s for the local writer Mícheál Delaney,” he explained, “who wrote the song The Famous Fair Town of Athy.”