Photographs of Ireland

Landscapes and portraits of Ireland

Background on Athy work

Athy, County Kildare is an ordinary Irish town which is gradually feeling the incursions of industry, comparative wealth and modernity.

John Minihan was raised in Athy and for the past forty years has been photographing the town.

The photographs of Athy have been exhibited throughout the world and the critic Harold Hobson was moved to call them ‘sad, poignant and sublime’.

We see in the photographs ordinary people like Martin Rigney the undertaker, Julia Masson with her bicycle, Breige Pearse in Doyle’s bar, Old Joe and his pipe in the County Home and Mary Byrne with a photograph of herself as a young girl.

Also included in the photographs is the wake of Katy Tyrrell, which Minihan photographed for two nights and three days. She is dressed in the Legion of Mary burial shroud. The mirror is covered with a white sheet. Fires are put out. Clocks are stopped. The wake room is prepared for family and friends to pay their last respects to the deceased. The vigil goes on through the night with only a candle flickering.

About Athy

Athy is situated about one hours drive south west of Dublin in County Kildare, Ireland is a market town on the convergence of the River Barrow and Grand Canal. The town is named after a second century AD chieftain Ae who was killed on the river crossing thus giving the town its name meaning "the twon by Ae's ford".

The town developed from a 12th century Anglo-Norman settlement to an important military outpost on the border of the pale. The first town charter dates from the 16th century and the town hall was constructed in the early 18th century. The completion of the Grand Canal in 1791 and arrival of the railway in 1846 illustrates the importance of the town as a commercial center.

Of the many church ruins in Athy, St. Michael's is perhaps the most ancient. It was built in the fourteenth century. Some of the vestry and sidewalls have disappeared, but there is still some of the original church remaining. The dedication to St. Michael is derived from the St. Michael family who were lords of Athy and it is quite probable that it was this family who were the founders of the church.

The 15th century White Castle, long a private residence, and is said to be opening soon for public visits under its new owner.

Athy also has coarse fishing on the Grand Canal and the River Barrow. Places to stay include the many B&Bs around the town, Forest Farm and Ballindrum House are but two of those available.

Athy is connected to the Irish rail network via the Dublin–Waterford main line.

Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh famously referred to Athy in his poem "Lines written on a Seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin", as a "far-flung town". The town is also recalled in the well-known folk songs "Lannigans Ball" and "We're on the Road to Sweet Athy".


The family of Katy Tyrrell in the Wake room, Athy, County Kildare, Ireland 1977
The Wake of Katy Tyrrell, Athy, County Kildare, Ireland 1977

John Calder, Ireland 2006
Old Joe with pipe, 1967
Miss Birley looking at Domician publications, 1966