John looks back to the 'Good Old Days' with launch of new book

John Cleary launches his new book at the Kerry County Library book launch last week. He is pictured here signing copies for Enda and John O’Shea
John Cleary launches his new book at the Kerry County Library book launch last week. He is pictured here signing copies for Enda and John O’Shea

Stephen Fernane

It's fair to say the contribution of people like John Cleary is more important than ever in an age when technology and IPhones pretend to be the standard-bearers of photography.

The age of the 'selfie' may rule, but thanks to John's trojan work over 50 years, the social, cultural, political and sporting history of Tralee and County Kerry is preserved forever in picture form.

The appreciation for John's work was obvious on Tuesday last when friends and well-wishers turned out for the launch of his latest collection of photographs: 'Tralee in the Good Old Days: A Photographic History of Life in Tralee and County Kerry'.

The book is a wonderful collage of memories spanning the decades and is guaranteed to  take you on a 'Reeling in the Years' journey.

There's a great collection of Christmas Swim photos in Fenit, one of the nation's largest and oldest festive swims; there's group photos of the FCA, Garda, local clergy and political gatherings (to name a few). 

John himself features in some of the photos and there is a nice picture of him with the late Teddy Moynihan during their FCA days in Ballymullen Barracks.

Another interesting aspect of the book is its depiction of Tralee's streets. Photographs of different street works and developments are an essential guide to how Tralee has developed over the years.

Images of local business people standing outside their premises is another nice angle. New also to this book is a series of profile pieces from some well-known people of Tralee. Mike O'Donnell, Mark Leen, Ena O'Shea, Eddie Shanahan, Oliver Hurley and Jimmy McDonnell all give their account of life and living in Tralee. This is a great addition to the book as it builds a story behind many of the photos. 

John is proud of his latest collection, a collection he describes as like bringing people 'on a journey' back through the years.

"It always surprises me when putting a collection like this together just how many of the pictures I remember taking," John said.

"I might not always remember the names but the beauty of photography is that you're unlikely to forget the time and the place," he added.

John explains that he is glad he introduced the profile pieces in the book. 

"It brings people into the story a lot more. At the end of the day it's the people who create that sense of place and the six contributors to this book certainly have a great story to tell."

John said the reaction to the book has amazed him with people already buying copies to send to people living overseas. 

Books like these are all the more important when one considers the amount of precious photos that are now stored on mobile phones and other electronic devices, many of which are lost over time. John's book is an example of why we should not only treasure our pictorial history, but also share it.

"I think people enjoy the 'who's who' aspect of the book. That's the beauty of it," said John.