The last of the five old Meath Chronicle printing presses.

Stop the press... for restoration

The final press from the historic Kells printing works has gone for restoration,

The historic piece of machinery which was used to print the Meath Chronicle for many years from when it was founded in 1897, is one of five machines from the old Newmarket Street Printworks, which was rediscovered in 2016.

The other four machines have been restored and the final milestone, is the restoration of the Wharfedale press with the help of a grant of €15,000 from the Heritage Council of Ireland.

The Wharfedale press, is now in the workshop of Cyril Lee, who has so far restored the other four.

This particular model printed the Meath Chronicle newspaper from 1897, when the Daly brothers set up the newspaper.

It was printed in Newmarket Street, and appeared on Saturday morning as an eight page newspaper and had a print run of 2,200 copies a week. As well as being the founder of the Meath Chronicle, Tom Daly was its first editor. In 1907, James Davis began printing the Meath Chronicle on a contract basis for Tom Daly in Navan.

In 1917 following the death of the Daly brothers James Davis purchased the Meath Chronicle title which is still printed in Navan to this day.

The invention of the Wharfedale in 1856 revolutionized an industry whose technology had been largely dormant for four hundred years. The foundation document of the Irish state, the 1916 Proclamation, was printed on a Wharfedale press in Liberty Hall on Easter Sunday night 1916.

There is one functioning Wharfedale in Ireland, in the National Print Museum, which was used in 2016 to print copies of the 1916 Proclamation, commemorating the centenary of the original printing.

The Wharfedale now under restoration is an integral part of the print heritage of Kells and when it goes on display in the Sawmills in Kells will draw visitors and provide a focal point to develop and preserve the Letterpress printing skills.

“The community can engage through letterpress classes, talks, exhibitions and artists in residence programmes.” says Carol Lee of Meath Type Trail.

The printing works was rediscovered in Kells in 2016 – over 30 years after it was locked up in situ when the owner Briany Finnegan died.

The time-honoured contents of the complete printing works were donated to the people of Kells for an educational project by the last living member of the Finnegan family – Surrey based priest Fr Sean Finnegan.