- Kenny, Kevin John
Kevin John Kenny was born on 22 June 1881 at 12 Upper Dorset Street, Dublin. His father,Michael was a veteran of the Fenian Rising of 1867 and worked as a lithographic printer, and his mother, Catherine, worked 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.
Authority record identifier
2021-03-12; revised 2021-05-06 [ISO 8601]
Dictionary of Irish Biography (2015) https://doi.org/10.3318/dib.009799.v1