The first edition of the Kerryman landed on shop shelves in Kerry on August 27th,1904 with a print run of 1200 copies costing just one penny each. It emerged from the successful printing business called Kerry Printing Company backed by a modest investment of 500 pounds and a second hand printing press. It was set up by Dingle man Maurice Griffin and cousins Daniel and Thomas Nolan from Tralee.
Of the three founding fathers only Maurice had any experience in journalism. He had worked as a correspondent in Dingle with The Kerry Weekly Reporter. Many people predicted it would not survive but it is still the dominant provincial paper in Kerry 121 years later. On its arrival in 1904 it entered a crowed pitch in the county with many more regional papers in circulation, the Kerry Evening Post 1813 to 1917, Kerry Sentinel 1878 to 1918, Kerry Weekly Reporter 1883 to 1936, Killarney Echo 1899 to 1920, Kerry News 1894 to 1941, Kerry Evening Star 1902 to 1914 and Kerry People 1902 to 1928. The Kerryman would outlast them all. In its fledgling years it encountered some turbulent times on several occasions because it was in direct conflict with crown forces.
The paper was founded on staunch republican grounds because Maurice Griffin had strong affiliations with Arthur Griffith and he was a member of the Sinn Fein movement. He was elected to the Tralee urban district council in 1908 and served as The Kerryman’s managing director for many years. Maurice along with his business partner, Thomas Nolan, sat on the Kerry board of the GAA alongside the prominent Austin Stack. Daniel Nolan, an accountant, was associated with the Gaelic revival and served as secretary of the Tralee branch of the Gaelic League. Edited jointly in early years by Maurice Griffin and Thomas Nolan it included news from around the county, a story in the Irish language, GAA events and adverts from such firms as McCowens, Revingtons, Latchfords and other advertisers. It was an independent paper conducted on catholic and nationalistic lines. In 1914 the paper opposed the proposal of Irishmen joining the British army in WW1 and a general unwillingness to support British war efforts. This and the condemnation of the murder of the 1916 leaders. The publication of “Proclamation of Independence” resulted in the Kerryman having its first major showdown with British Empire.
In 1914 a sister evening paper of the Kerryman came on stream entitled “The Liberator” and operated until 1939 from the same building on Edward Street, Tralee. On May 9th, 1916 the RIC supported by British troops rounded up and arrested over sixty rebels, sympathisers and Maurice Griffin in Kerry charged with sedition. He spent six days in Ballymullen Barracks before being transported to Richmond in Dublin and eventually moved to Frongoch, Wales. His incarceration was brief and he was released at the end of May unperturbed as he wrote on the June 6th edition of the Kerryman after it returned to print following a four week outage that he ” would not have liked to have missed the experience of prison life”. On August 19th, a letter published in The Liberator calling for the release of Austin Stack and other men “unconstitutionally convicted” incensed the English authorities. This again led to British troops under instructions from General John Maxwell in Dublin Castle to shut down and seize all printing equipment of The Kerryman and The Liberator and remove it to Ballymullen Barracks. This didn’t prevent The Kerryman from publication because Griffin and the Nolan cousins arranged with the Gaelic Press in Dublin to print a shortened edition and it was smuggled in by friendly railway workers. Maxwell defeated, his order was rescinded and the papers returned to print on September 30th, 1916. Again in 1919 the paper was prevented from printing for several weeks by British authorities because the paper advertised the sale of bonds to support Dáil Éireann. The Black and Tans imposed a reign of terror on the town of Tralee in November 1920 known as the “Siege of Tralee” and closed the Kerryman for another two weeks.
After the brutal ten day siege destroyed many buildings, a new British officer Major John Alastair MacKinnon was sent to Tralee. He was a brutal enforcer of British law who personally executed two IRA men on Christmas Day, 1920. Four months later he was shot and killed while playing golf by the IRA. The British authorities demanded the Kerryman and The Liberator acknowledge the passing of this great man, but these papers did not regard him as a great man and refused to comply choosing not to print his obituary. As a result, the Auxiliaries were ordered to blow up the print works which they carried out and used sledgehammers to destroy the printing presses that survived the explosions. The paper was out of commission for over two years not returning to print until after the Civil War in 1923. The paper returned with a pro treaty paper stance and increased its readership. The Kerryman survived these turbulent times proving its resilience with an almost unbroken publication. The only other attempt on the Kerryman was in 1974 when the IRA threatened to murder teditor Seamus McConville if he printed an article by Con Houlihan condemning the IRA. Like Maurice Griffin and the Nolan’s before him he was not intimidated by threats, preserving the dignity and integrity of The Kerryman.
It endured two World Wars, the 1916 Rising, War of Independence, Civil War and the economic war as well as the constant attack in the early years from British forces. The first editor of the Kerryman was one of the founding members Tom Nolan from 1904 to 1926, succeeded by Con Casey a staunch republican who retired in 1974. Other editors were Seamus McConville, Brian Looney, Gerard Colleran, Declan Malone and at present Kevin Hughes. Dan Nolan, the son of one of the founding members was the managing director from 1939 to the early 1970s. During that period he was the driving force behind the paper demanding high standards. Some of the best sports journalists associated with the paper were Paddy Foley, John Barry who played hurling with Kerry, Eamon Horan, a champion handballer, John Barrett, the son of Joe who won six All Ireland medals with Kerry, Con Houlihan, Des Cahill now with RTE. Regular columnists were John B Keane and Micky MacConnell once wrote that the paper covered funerals, fleadhs and festivals, concerts, christening, and confirmations, robberies, riots and rows, marriages, murders, and massacres. Resident photographer was Kevin Coleman and at present Michelle Cooper Galvin.
In 1972, the Kerryman was taken over by Independent News & Media of Dublin but still retains its original style never losing its appeal to its faithful readers. The Kerryman has an average weekly circulation of almost 20,000 copies with three different editions, South Kerry, North Kerry and Tralee region. The first printing press was near Rock Street, then it moved its office and printing to Clash Industrial estate and now it is printed in Dublin. The Kerryman newspaper office is now on Denny Street in Tralee.
The library in Tralee has the archives of the Kerryman newspapers dating back to 1931 and every issue is held on microfilm back to 1904. The archives are open to everyone.