ATHY’S fantastic, colourful history got a great showcase on RTE’s Nationwide programme on Wednesday night when historian Turtle Bunbury gave an enthusiastic account of some of the people and events that makes up the town’s past.
The programme segment opened at the railway station in Athy where a Past Tracks poster tellings some of the town’s history has been installed. Turtle explained that Athy is one of 10 railways stations where the local history posters have been installed. Sponsored by Flahavans with illustrations by artist Derry Dillon the Athy poster includes the story of Athy’s most famous son Ernest Shackleton. It also includes the story of war hero John Vincent Holland and relates the Athy connection to Edward the Bruce.
One of the more unusual stories included is entitled The Ape and the Earl. Turtle explained that when the Fitzgeralds lived in Woodstock Castle there was a fire in the building and the young baby John Fitzgerald was scooped up and brought to safety by an African ape.
Turtle also explained the origins of the name Athy which comes from the Irish for the Fore of Ae.
He highlighted Athy’s strategic position on the river and pointed out the Normans arrived in 1213. “Where there are Normans there are monks,” said Turtle and this was the case in Athy where the Dominicans arrived in 1257 and only departed the town a few short years ago. Turtle also highlighted the town’s diverse religious history which included Methodists, Presbyterians and Quakers.
“Athy has always been about the water,” said Turtle highlighting the arrival of the Grand Canal in 1791 which opened the area with a direct connection to Dublin.
“Everywhere you look in Athy there are signs pointing you to something significant in Athy that happened around here,” the interviewer said. “Athy is full of great historical figures and great stories,” he said adding that the Past Tracks posters are a great jumping-off point into local history.
The Nationwide programme is available to view on the RTE Player at HERE