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Saturday 17 March 2018

Padraig Kennelly

Longest-serving editor of a regional paper and keen lensman, writes Majella O'Sullivan

PADRAIG Kennelly, who died last Sunday aged 82, had accomplished everything he had set out to do in a fulfilled life.

The founder of the Kerry's Eye newspaper, editor, writer and photo-journalist, passed away at his home in Tralee, Co Kerry, surrounded by his family, following an eight-year battle with bone cancer.

Just two weeks before he died he had travelled to Paris for an exhibition of pictures taken by him and his wife, Joan, of General Charles de Gaulle's trip to Sneem in 1969.

His son Jerry, one of Ireland's most successful entrepreneurs and founder of Stockbyte and, said his father's demeanour in Paris belied his age and condition. "He did not play the part of an 82-year-old cancer sufferer and was still giving jib to government ministers," he said.

"He presented Lucinda Creighton with a copy of his book Eye Witness and signed it for her. She was thanking him profusely and he said: 'Minister, if you had spoken for half the time I'd have given you two copies.'"

The book, a bestseller, contained photographs from the Kennelly Archive, a collection of over 500,000 images taken by Kennelly and his late wife Joan between 1953 and 1973.

But Kennelly hadn't started his career as a photographer. He qualified as a pharmacist in 1953 and the same year bought his first professional camera.

Photography was his passion and his motivation for changing his career path.

In 1956 he married his childhood sweetheart Joan O'Connor, and the couple had four sons, Padraig Jnr, Jerry, Brendan and Kerry.

They built a successful postcard business at their home in Ashe Street.

In 1959 they moved into photojournalism, covering news, sports and social events.

Among the major stories they worked on were the Irish visits of US Presidents Kennedy and Nixon; the Littlejohn spy affair; Sean Bourke, the Limerick man who arranged the prison escape of Soviet spy George Blake; and the transatlantic crossing of John Ridgeway and Chay Blyth on the English Rose III in 1966.

They also had successful careers as television cameramen and contributed to RTE programmes Seven Days, Hall's Pictorial Weekly, Newsround and Guth na Gaeilge.

Jerry Kennelly can remember when his father changed career once more.

"He came down to breakfast and told us he was starting a newspaper and he was doing it next week and we all had a job to do. I was 14 at the time," Mr Kennelly recalled.

He said he and his brothers never went to university. They learnt at the university of life at Ashe Street.

The businessman said his father was his mentor.

"Even his battle with cancer he saw as a project to be dealt with and he was not going to be defined by his illness," he said.

The illness was bone cancer, which he fought for eight years. But even trips to Cork for treatment were an opportunity for learning, and he spent hours in the library at UCC between appointments.

When he retired as editor of Kerry's Eye last year, Padraig Kennelly was the longest-serving editor of a regional paper.

He was laid to rest in Rath Cemetery, Tralee, on Tuesday beside his wife Joan.

Sunday Independent

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