- 1905-2011 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
Name of creator
Kevin John Kenny was born on 22 June 1881 at 12 Upper Dorset Street, Dublin, to Michael C Kenny and Catherine Kenny (née Fleming). Michael, a veteran of the Fenian Rising of 1867, worked as a lithographic printer and Catherine as a bookfolder. Kevin left school early and started working as an advertising agent at the age of thirteen for the Irish Wheelman, a cycling publication. In 1902 he became the manager of the Leader newspaper, edited by DP Moran, and published the Irish Manufacturers' Directory with MF Phelan. He also established his own advertising firm, K. J. Kenny and Co., around this time. In 1908, he helped establish and was business manager for The Nationist, edited by Tom Kettle, and in the same year co-founded The Nationalist with Frank Gallagher, PJ Little and Joseph Mary Plunkett.
Kevin founded Kenny's Advertising Agency (KAA), based at Middle Abbey Street, Dublin, in 1906. KAA would go on to become one of the leading advertising agencies in Ireland. As part of his work at the agency, Kevin solicited advertising and worked on publications with several eminent nationalists in the years leading up to and following the 1916 Easter Rising, including Patrick Pearse, Arthur Griffith, Francis Sheehy-Skeffington and James Creed Meredith (see sub-series C2/1/1/1). Kevin also ran a printing business, Kenny’s Press, which possibly printed many of these publications. Any particular political sympathies indicated by these services did not prevent Kenny's Advertising Agency from accepting commissions from the British government to run a series of recruitment advertisements during the First World War (see sub-series C2/1/1/2); nor, it would seem, did they prevent Kevin from circulating public notices on behalf of the British government (see sub-series C2/1/1/4). Kenny's Advertising Agency would continue this type of service on behalf of the First and Second Dáils as shown in material included in the following sub-series: C2/1/1/1, C2/1/1/3 and C2/1/1/4.
Running an advertising business during such tumultuous times and providing a service for clients on both sides of the political divide meant that the work of Kenny's Advertising Agency often came in for criticism and scrutiny from various parties. This can be seen in the recruitment advertisements sub-series (C2/1/1/2), and in the subseries relating to the Belfast Boycott (C2/1/1/3) when Kenny's ran advertisements for 'Lamb's of Inchicore', whose potential presence on a boycott blacklist had to be established by the 'Belfast Trade Boycott Central Committee'.
Outside of the advertising agency, Kevin was involved in numerous professional, Catholic and charitable organisations: he was a founding member of the Publicity Club of Ireland and the Irish Association of Advertising Agencies, and was a leading member of the Catholic Association and general treasurer of the Knights of Saint Columbanus. He was elected president of Dublin Rotary in 1931 and served as the chair of the Children’s Fresh Air Fund during the 1930s.
Kevin was also active in public life: he served as the honorary vice-consul for Chile to Ireland, and later served as honorary vice-consul for Portugal [item C2/1/2/1/3 in the fonds relates to the awarding of the Portuguese rank of Cavaleiro of the Military Order of Christ to Kenny in 1948]. Kevin also ran as an independent for Dublin North in the 1923 general election, but was not elected.
Kevin married Annette Murphy in 1910 and they had five children: Kevin, Kathleen, Colum, Maura and Michael. Kevin died on 14 September 1954 in Glasnevin, Dublin.
Name of creator
Michael [?Brendan] Kenny was born on 29 September 1919 to Kevin J Kenny and Annette Kenny (née Murphy). He attended school at the Dominican Convent in Wicklow Town, Wicklow; Loreto College, North Great George’s Street, Dublin; Belvedere College, Dublin, and Clongowes Wood College, Clane, Kildare.
He worked at Kenny’s Advertising Agency and became managing-director of the agency when his father Kevin J Kenny died in 1954. Like his father, Michael was a leading figure in the Irish advertising sector and was involved in numerous professional bodies. At various points throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, he was president of the Institute of Advertising Practitioners; president of the Irish Association of Advertisers; president of the Irish Association of Advertising Agencies, and chair of the Publicity Club of Ireland. Like his father, Michael was an active member of the Dublin Rotary (he was elected president of the Rotary Club of Dun Laoghaire in 1973), was a Knight of Saint Columbanus, and served as Portuguese Consul to Ireland for a period.
In 1963, Michael oversaw the move of Kenny’s Advertising Agency from Abbey Street to new premises in Lower Baggot Street, Dublin. His eldest son Stuart succeeded him as managing director of the agency in 1974.
Michael was a keen golfer and cricketer, and was president of Dun Laoghaire Bowling Club at one point. He was a member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association from 1935 until his death.
Michael married Eileen Morgan in 1942 and they had four children: Stuart, Brendan, Colum and May. Michael died on 5 September 1992 in Dalkey, Dublin.
Name of creator
Columcille Joseph Kenny was born on 7 March 1951 in Dublin to Michael B Kenny and Eileen Kenny (née Morgan). Colum studied law and qualified as a Barrister-at-Law before working at RTÉ from 1977 to 1982 as a current affairs reporter and producer. Colum joined the School of Communications at the National Institute for Higher Education Dublin [now Dublin City University (DCU)] in 1982. He is a former chair of DCU’s Masters in Journalism programme and is currently Professor Emeritus.
Colum was a member of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland/Independent Radio and Television Commission from 1998 to 2003, and was a member of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland from 2010 to 2015. He was a founding board member of the European Union Media Desk in Ireland, and appointed a member of the Irish government's Media Mergers Advisory Group in 2008. He was also elected an honorary bencher of King's Inns in 2017. Colum is a long-standing journalist and author, and a regular columnist with national Irish newspapers.
Colum Kenny donated the Kenny Family Collection to DCU Library on behalf of the Kenny family on 23 November 2011. As well as the archival material described in this finding aid, a large number of books and other published material were also donated to DCU Library by Colum Kenny. These books are not included in this finding aid. A number of letters from Cyril Cusack to Grace Watt, which form part of a series in Kenny Family Collection (see P2/3/3), were donated by Watt to Kenny on 7 January 1994.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
The fonds relates to the lives and careers of three men from the Kenny Family: Kevin J Kenny (1881-1954), his son Michael B Kenny (1919-1992), and Michael’s son Colum Kenny (b. 1951). The collection is arranged in three sub-fonds relating to the three men respectively.
The majority of the collection relates to Kevin J Kenny and his work at Kenny’s Advertising Agency. The sub-fonds relating to Kevin includes correspondence with many of his clients, some of whom included eminent nationalists of the day, such as Patrick Pearse, Arthur Griffith, Francis Sheehy-Skeffington and James Creed Meredith. Kenny solicited advertising for the publications of many of these figures, which often proved essential in keeping the publications afloat and in circulation, as evidenced in particular by the letters from Patrick Pearse regarding advertisements for An Macaomh, the official magazine of St Enda’s. This sub-fonds also includes several sub-series relating to significant episodes in Kevin’s career and life, such as the controversy over Kenny’s Advertising Agency and a contract to run British Army recruitment advertisements during the First World War, and personal memorabilia and publications relating to significant historical events, such as the 1916 Easter Rising, the War of Independence and Civil War.
This sub-fonds also includes a collection of British Army transcribed signals from the first day of the Battle of Gallipoli (25 April 1915), which give a vivid insight into the harrowing experience of some British soldiers fighting on the front line that day. These signals may have come into Kevin J Kenny’s possession from his wife Annette’s brother John Murphy, whose signature may be the ‘J Murphy’ included on some of the signals.
This sub-fonds relating to Michael B Kenny consists of a few items concerning his career in advertising. These include a brief history of the Kenny’s Advertising Agency written by Michael, and two photographs: one of meeting of the Advertising/Press Club in 1956 or 1957, and the other of the Kenny’s Advertising Agency premises at Lower Baggot Street, Dublin.
The final sub-fonds in the collection mainly relates to Colum Kenny’s work on three documentaries for RTÉ, and some of his personal correspondence with various figures relating to topics such as the media, law and Irish history. One of the sub-series relates to Colum’s research for a documentary about ‘The Tailor and Ansty'. The Tailor and Ansty (husband and wife Timothy [‘the Tailor’] and Anastasia ['Ansty'] Buckley) were the subjects of a book by Eric Cross about their storytelling and home in Gougane Barra, County Cork, which became a hub for notable figures of the Cork arts scene in the 1930s and 1940s. The sub-series includes letters from Eric Cross and friends of the Tailor and Ansty, including Seán Ó Faoláin and Nancy McCarthy-Allitt. Two of the other sub-series relating to Colum’s work on RTÉ current affairs television programmes are currently closed and access will be reviewed in 2025.
Another series relates to connections between Colum Kenny’s house, 1 Herbert Terrace, Bray, County Wicklow, and two of its former residents: Cyril Cusack and Grace Watt (née Muggeridge). The series mainly consists of correspondence between Kenny, Cusack and Watt during the early 1990s in which they reminisce about living in the house, and discuss Cusack and Watt’s personal lives.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
The arrangement of the fonds when it was donated to DCU Library by Colum Kenny has mostly been maintained. Colum included a finding aid with the fonds with detailed descriptions of certain items and transcriptions of several handwritten letters. Some of these descriptions have been maintained, while some have been edited and/or supplemented with further contextual information when necessary. The majority of the sub-fonds, series, sub-series, file and item descriptions in this finding aid have been written by the archivist.
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Available by appointment with the archivist at DCU Library Special Collections and Archives.
Conditions governing reproduction
Please contact Special Collections and Archives for further information at firstname.lastname@example.org
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
Uploaded finding aid
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
Kenny, Colum. Irish Patriot, Publisher and Advertising Agent: Kevin J. Kenny (1881- 1954). Bray: Ox Pictures, 2011.
Kenny, Colum. ‘Kenny, Kevin John’. Dictionary of Irish Biography. (ed.) James McGuire, James Quinn. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2015. (http://dib.cambridge.org/viewReadPage.do?articleId=a9799)
Irish Independent, 7 September 1992, page 15.
Oram, Hugh. The Advertising Book: the History of Advertising in Ireland. Dublin: MO Books, 1986.
Subject access points
Place access points
Name access points
Genre access points
Description control area
Rules and/or conventions used
ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000.
Irish Guidelines for Archival Description. Edition 1.0. Ireland: Society of Archivists, 2009.
Level of detail
Dates of creation revision deletion
Finding aid prepared August 2019