Tullamore’s Roll of Honour in World War 1: a photograph of November 1915

Most of the midland papers carried photographs of soldiers at the Front from late 1915 up to the end of 1916. It was by way of supporting the recruitment effort and providing local news. The year 1915 was difficult with mounting casualties especially arising from the disastrous landing at Gallipoli.

This Roll of Honour contains 62 photographs and by the end of the war in 1918 about 15 of the men shown here were dead. Those who died are shown in bold. Information on these deaths is derived from Tom Burnell’s The Offaly war dead (Dublin, 2010). This Roll of Honour was published in November 1915. Another roll or gallery was published with 16 photographs of Tullamore, one of Clara with six men and numerous individual shots in the King’s County Chronicle, mainly of men from the Birr area. Burnell has commented that both the Chronicle and the Independent provided excellent coverage of the war. The Midland Tribune less so as it was out of sympathy with Irishmen fighting for the British empire when Home Rule was still not in force at home.

According to one estimate up to ten per cent of the people of the urban area, or 452 out of 5,000, joined the war effort. When one takes the relevant population group of males in the 15 to 50 age group it works out at a lot more. Over 400 of that figure of 452 represented the Catholic and Nationalist element. Forty-five are given as killed; 83 as wounded; 6 as missing; 9 as prisoners of war of which 3 have been since released; 21 as invalided; 10 as wounded and invalided; 1 as wounded and missing; 2 discharged; 2 as gassed; 4 as having died; 2 as wounded and discharged; 1 as having died while a prisoner of war in Germany and 1 as having died from wounds.

If 45 were killed up to February 1917 when this estimate was provided then the overall number from the urban district must have been perhaps 70. More work is needed here, but certainly it is a forgotten tragedy notwithstanding the memorial erected in the town square in 1926.

Participation ran in families with a military tradition as with Flanagans, Walsh, Hensey and others from the better-off families in the town such as Egan, Lumley, Goodbody and Williams who went out to fight for the Empire and the small nations. Some families such as Egan and Lumley were lucky to survive while others such as the Henseys of Davitt Street, Tullamore and the Walsh family lost several family members to the war. Those who died in the photograph are highlighted in bold in the list below.

The 1915 photograph has been reprinted by Offaly History and is available from the Society as an attractive posted priced at €5.

tullamore men at front roll of honour

Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society Newsletter – October 2009


Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly


Web site: www.offalyhistory.com Email: info@offalyhistory.com Telephone: 057-9321421




Monday 19 October 2009 at 8.00 pm at OHAS BURY QUAY

A.P. W. Malcomson – ‘The Rosse papers and other big house archives’. This lecture is from the standpoint of someone who has spent a lifetime exploring the big house archives and is not specifically about the Rosse papers. Dr Malcomson has catalogued the Charleville Papers now in Westmeath County Library.

Anthony Malcomson was educated at Campbell College, Belfast and Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and was awarded a PhD in history by QUB in 1970. Most of his working life was spent in the Public Record Office Northern Ireland, of which he was director from 1988 until his retirement in 1998. His publications include John Foster: The Politics of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy (Oxford 1978), Archbishop Charles Agar: Churchmanship and Politics in Ireland, 1760_1810 (Dublin 2002), Primate Robinson (1709-94): ‘A very tough Incumbent in fine Preservation’ (Belfast, 2003), Nathaniel Clements: Government and the Governing Elite in Ireland, 1725-75 (Dublin 2005) and numerous articles essays and editions. In 2009 Dr. Malcomson published the second volume on the Clements family entitled Virtues of a wicked Ireland; The Life and death of William Sidney Clements Third Earl of Leitrim (1806 -1978). In October 2008 he published an important book for Offaly History on the Rosse Papers of Birr. This book is of immense importance for people interested in politics for nineteenth century King’s County and can be ordered through the Society.


This lecture is about the methodology of sorting and listing archives from ‘big houses’ in Ireland, from the initial states of making contact with the owners, through the intermediate state of rummaging in the library, the attics, the estate office and often the pigeon loft, to the final state of making the list fit for presentation on the shelves of a public search room or for publication by the Irish Manuscripts Commission.

Anthony Malcomson joined the staff of PRONI in 1967 and, as noted was the Director of that institution from 1988 to 1998. During that time he specialized in the administration of big house archives, both those already deposited in PRONI, those still to be run to earth, and many in the 26 counties of Ireland and not strictly in PRONI’S bailiwick. Among Offaly archives he has ‘majored’ on the Rosse Papers in Birr Castle and on the Charleville Papers now in the Longford / Westmeath Library.

For those accustomed to using neat and tidy lists of already processed archives, it will be of interest to hear about the difficulties experienced and the decisions taken in the early out-ward bound phase of the operation.

We are very fortunate to have Dr. Malcomson come to speak to the Society from Belfast and we hope for a full house on this occasion. Attendance is free of charge and tea/coffee will be served after the meeting which will commence at 8p.m. The public are welcome to attend.

30 November 2009 Philip McConway, ‘The Free State army in County Offaly, 1922-24’. Please note the revised date.

Friday 11 December 2009 Annual Christmas party at OHAS Bury Quay.

Local History Course on County Offaly Autumn 2009

A Local History Course on aspects of Sources for County Offaly History is in progress with two nights left to run. Currently about 12 people are on the course.

Thursday 15 October: Books and periodicals published on Offaly History – Michael Byrne

Thursday 22 October : Maps for County Offaly history – Niall Sweeney

In January 2010 we will again hold a European History Course

Details of films and readings to be advised and continue on 21 January, 28 January and 4 February.

Family History Course Spring 2010

After a very successful course last year we propose to have a second family history course this year to commence on Thursday the 11th of February 2010 with the subject matters to be as follows:-

11 February at 8p.m. Photographs for family history

18 February at 8p.m. Directories of trades and occupations for family history

25 February 2010 The wonderful world of wills

30 February 2010 Newspapers in Offaly Family History

11 March 2010 Maps for family historians


Friday 16th and Saturday 17th October

Mushroon Hunt – The Lives of Fungi: Some awesome and gruesome details.

Friday 8.00pm Meet at Kinnitty Community Centre for a preparation talk by John Feehan

There is always a great interest in mushroom hunts and this offers a great 24 hours starting off with a talk all about fungi on the Friday evening and a trip to collect and identify fungi on the Saturday.

Sunday 1st November

Winter Migrant Birds

11.30am – Meet at Turraun, part of Lough Boora parklands adjacent to Pullough. Alex Copland of BirdWatch Ireland will lead the trip to see what birds have arrived to over winter in Offaly.

Discover Tullamore event

Participation in this recent event proved very successful for the Society. Publications for sale were a very popular attraction and several new members were enrolled. Family history information and our internet site were demonstrated on computer. All the Society’s activities and functions were publicised and many of those present were shown around the library. The two history tours were an outstanding success. We estimated that about five to six hundred people passed through our display. All who attended will have learned a great deal more on what contribution the Society makes to the community. Many thanks to our staff who came in and helped on the day and who set up the stands.

Newspapers – a source for Local History

Newspapers are a br

illiant primary source for local history research and for some time now we have been drawing up a computerised events index including newspaper articles of reports and stories relating to Offaly. In addition to the local newspapers, one title dating back to 1831, we have also been looking at the Irish Times which commenced in 1859.

Below is listed a sample of some of the local stories which appeared in the 19th century.

24/08/1859 Rahan

On Tuesday, the 16th instant, John O’Brien, Esq., J.P. , of Rahan, Tullamore, brought a mowing machine on a portion of his property, of which he had lately got possession under ejectment proceedings having been obliged to adopt this course in consequence of the difficulty of obtaining mowers to cut and labourers to save the crop. The horses having become restive, the mowing machine could not be worked on that day, and on the same night a party of armed men visited the house of the man who had been in charge of the horses, and, having taken him forcibly out of bed, threatened to shoot him if he ever worked again in a similar way for his master. On yesterday Mr., O’Brien proceeded to the same lands with the mowing machine, accompanied by about 200 men, all of whom were his own tenants, and 100 horses. Sub-inspector Watkins, with a party of 30 of the constabulary from Tullamore, were in attendance, so as to prevent any violence being used, but no attempt, at outrage was made. The field, consisting of 11 acres, was cut down before evening set in, and the grass carted off the lands to Mr., O’Brien’s lawn, about two miles distant, where he expects to make it into hay without further molestation. We understand that Mr. O’Brien is a Roman Catholic gentleman who gives much employment in the locality. He is a member of the Board of guardians of the North Dublin Union, and has a residence in that city, where, as well as in his own neighbourhood, he is very generally respected.


I regret that another outrage was committed near this town, on Saturday night. A man named Hewitson, a miller, was leaving the town when he was assailed in a most cowardly manner, by some man, who knocked him down, kicked, and beat him severely. He was most severely injured, and at present lies in a dangerous condition in the county infirmary. A man who is supposed to have been the assailant has been arrested. Hewitson is a most respectable, inoffensive man, and it is difficult to assign any reason for the outrage.

11/11/1859 [Daingean] Court of Common Pleas

This was a motion, on behalf of the defendant, to set aside the service of the writ, of summons and plaint, on the ground that, inasmuch as he was at present undergoing his sentence of penal servitude, he could not be legally served without the order of the court, which had not been obtained. The action was brought to recover the sum of £15; and the summons and plaint described the abode of the defendant~ “Philipstown Convict Prison, King’s County“. In his affidavit he stated that he was tried and convicted in Green-street, for forging and uttering a cheque; that he was sentenced to three years’ penal servitude, which he was now undergoing in Philipstown Convict Prison. Counsel contended that he was not amenable in a civil action, and that, even if he were, the order of the court should have been obtained authorising the service on him of the summons and plaint. Mr Kernan, Q.C., With Mr. Tottenham, appeared in support of the motion.

26/07/1860 Gas lighting in Tullamore July 25: – Pursuant to the statute 17th and 18th Vic. (Towns Improvement Act), a meeting of the “rated occupiers and lessons of, and in, the town of Tullamore” was, on Thursday last, convened by a requisition, signed by Captain the Hon. Alfred Bury, and Dawson French, Esq., for the purpose of taking into consideration the expediency of adopting towards the improvement of that, the county town, the provisions of the act, in whole or in part. Messrs. Dowling and Whelan, solicitors, appeared on behalf of the promoters of the measure, and Mr Sheppard, of Roscrea, for those opposed to its introduction.

01/08/1861 Cricket; Tullamore v Geashill

A match was played between these clubs on Friday, on the estate of Lord Digby, which resulted in favour of the former, having seven wickets to go down. Geashill having won the toss went in. The batting was good, especially that of Mr. Mallinson and Mr. Flanagan. However, they were disposed of for 57 in both innings. The bowling of Messrs. Belton and James Redley was very good. The Tullamore men played very well, the batting of Messrs. Flanagan, John Redley, and Dann was steady, especially the latter, who played remarkably well. The round-hand bowling of Mr. Mallinson and Nesbit was excellent, doing great execution. The players were very much pleased at the hospitable manner in which they were received by Thomas Weldon French, Esq., J.P. the agent for Lord Digby. Lady Digby, Miss Digby, Mrs. And Miss Clarke, favoured the field with their presence in the evening.

28/05/1862 (Philipstown) [Daingean]

To be let, in Philipstown, a Tan yard, with drying lofts, etc; also a Chandling House, both in complete working order, with several dwelling-houses attached; can be let for any term of years required. These premises could be used as a corn store, or made available for the carrying on of any business requiring room. For particulars apply to Mrs E Payne, Philipstown.

30/07/1862 Caution to Workhouse Girls ~ At the Tullamore Petty Sessions held on Saturday last, a girl who had been an inmate of the Tullamore Workhouse was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment for absconding from the house, and taking with her the clothes of the union. Another who also had been an inmate; was sentenced to two weeks imprisonment for deserting her child.

04/07/1864 Edenderry Workhouse, Friday: – Today an adjourned inquest was held before W. A. Gowing Esq., coroner, on the body of Patrick Conroy, an infant child. It appeared from the corroborated evidence of the mother, Mary Conroy, that she, her infant, and mother were inmates of the Edenderry workhouse, and without any apparent reason were desired to leave for Tullamore. When Mary Conroy left for Tullamore the child was ailing, and it appeared that she had no means whatever to sustain the failing strength of her infant- no food, no clothes, and not even a place to lay her head. The poor babe died on the road to Tullamore in the arms of its mother, and she was obliged to carry the corpse of her offspring a distance of five miles back to the Edenderry workhouse, where she was re-admitted. The mother lived almost entirely in the district of the union, so that great indignation is felt at the treatment which has apparently hastened the death of the infant. The jury, after some deliberation, returned the following verdict: “That Patrick Conroy died of convulsions, resulting from pneumonia, and we are further of opinion that this child’s death was hastened by the withholding of medical aid, cold, and exposure; and we do not know who is culpable for this neglect”.


Yesterday, Robert Gunning, Esq. for years past principal manager, and for the past two years – agent, over the Charleville property, died suddenly at his residence in Tullamore. Few men have been removed by death in the King’s County whose demise has given rise to such a universal feeling of sorrow, and the suddenness with which he was snatched away has heightened the deep regret of the people, Mr. Gunning rose on Monday morning in his usual health, and when dressing himself after breakfast he dropped dead. Disease of the heart was the cause of death. The deceased gentlemen showed himself as shrewd as he was humane, and the best pro

of of this is that no man can deny that he has left behind him, as the result of his good management, one of the most prosperous properties in Ireland. Both the Countess of Charleville and Lady Emily Bury are at present absent from home, but the death of their valued agent will probably be the cause of their immediately coming back to Tullamore.


At the monthly Petty Sessions at Kinnitty on Tuesday, before Colonel Bernard J.P., and Captain Cole Hamilton, resident magistrate, Sub-Constable Shannon, of the Cadamstown station, was put forward charged with committing a grievous bodily assault on Sub-Constable Nolan of the same station?

From the evidence tendered it would appear the accused broke out of his barrack after roll call one night about four weeks since, Sub-Constable Nolan went in search of him, and immediately after coming across his the alleged assault took place. Shannon was under the influence of drink, and while being conveyed to the barrack he drew a bottle from his pocket and struck Nolan in the face, inflicting severe wounds, and completely disfiguring his face. It was stated, on behalf of the accused that his previous conduct in the force was exemplary and this caused the justices to deal lightly with him. After hearing the evidence, and taking into consideration the gravity and bad example of the assault, the accused was sent to Tullamore Jail for nine months, and ordered to be kept to hard labour.

Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society Newsletter – September 2009


Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Web site: www.offalyhistory.com Email: info@offalyhistory.com Telephone: 057-9321421

NEWSLETTER September 2009

21 September 2009

Our September lecture marks the publication of P.J. Goode’s new book and is in two parts – starting at 8.00 pm on Monday 21 September at OHAS Bury Quay, Tullamore

Title     ‘The O’Dempsey sept in East Offaly’ by   P.J. Goode


The O’Dempsey sept were located in the tuath of Clanmalier on both sides of the present border of Offaly and Laois. The family emerged as sub chiefs to O’Conor Faly sharing a common ancestor. By the strategic use of political cunning, loyalty and pseudo loyalty to the crown, they managed to hold on to a greater part of their ancestral territory right up to the Cromwellian period. Geashill, Raheen, Ballykean,Walsh Island, Cloneygowan, Cloneyhurk.. all these places in Offaly have strong O’Dempsey connections. The talk deals with these members of the old Gaelic nobility who were petty kings and lords of their own nation and often times loyal captains of the Dublin administration.  Illustrated with photographs of castle sites,  church ruins, documents and maps.


Title:  Introduction to Portarlington history by Ronnie Mathews.

Summary: The roots of the town and its beginnings. The hinterland and the O’Dempsey, Huguenot and Anglo-Irish connections.The street layout, building design and historical structures. Stories and tales from the Offaly side. Early 20th century street photographs.


Clonmacnoise 3 October 2009

Please note that there is a valuable seminar being at held at Clonmacnoise on Saturday 3 October starting at 9 am and details are attached. The registration fee inclusive of lunch is €8 and you will be treated to a day of excellence and scholarship.

Some of the leading researchers in Ireland in Early Christian Ireland will be speaking and if you wish to reserve a place you should do so before 28 September.

Discover Tullamore Sunday 4 October 2009

This is a free event being organised by the Tullamore Chamber, Waterways Ireland and other parties and includes a number of events about the town including the following:-

  1. Tullamore Dew Heritage Tour 2.30p.m.

  2. Walking Tour of Tullamore starting at Days Hotel 2.15p.m.

  3. Charleville Caste tour at 12 noon

  4. Monastic site tour 10.45a.m.

  5. Open day at OHAS Bury Quay 2p.m. to 6p.m.

  6. Slieve Bloom walk guided trail

  7. Lough Boora guides

  8. Publicity in the local press and leaflets are being published and you should watch out for these.

We will also email members with an up date on the event for those who have email. If you are not receiving our newsletter on email you should send your email address to OHAS as above and mark it urgent for amendment to newsletter addresses.

19 October 2009 A.P. W. Malcomson – ‘The Rosse papers and other big house archives’. This lecture is from the standpoint of someone who has spent a lifetime exploring the big house archives.

30 November 2009 Philip McConway, ‘The Free State army in County Offaly, 1922-24’. Please note the revised date.

Friday 11 December 2009 Annual Christmas party at OHAS Bury Quay. Speaker to be confirmed in Shortly. Please note change of date from 4 to 11 December.

Local History Course on County Offaly Autumn 2009

A Local History Course on aspects of Sources for County Offaly History will be given by local historians over four Thursday nights in October 2009. The cost of this course for participants is €20 which will include tea/coffee on the four nights. The number of participants is limited to twenty-five so please book early at info@offalyhistory.com or 05793 21421.

Thursday 1st October : Land Records and title deeds for County Offaly – Michael Byrne

Thursday 8th October: Old Newspapers relating to Offaly History – Stephen McNeill

Thursday 15th October:- Books and periodicals published on Offaly History – Michael Byrne

Thursday 22nd October : Maps for County Offaly history – Niall Sweeney

In January 2010 we will again hold a European History Course to widen the study of local history and to appreciate that of other parts of Europe and the World. For 2010 we have taken the subject of Russian History and the Russian Cinema and the series of four films and discussion classes will commence on Thursday the 14 of January. Details of films and readings to be advised and continue on 21 January, 28 January and 4 February.

Family History Course Spring 2010

After a very successful course last year we propose to have a second family history course this year to commence on Thursday the 11th of February 2010 with the subject matters to be as follows:-

11 February at 8p.m. Photographs for family history

18 February at 8p.m. Directories of trades and occupations for family history

25 February 2010 The wonderful world of wills

30 February 2010 Newspapers in Offaly Family History

11 March 2010 Maps for family historians


Details already advised. If you are interested contact Maura Nolan or the Research Centre.


Friday 18th September National Moth Night

8.30pm till late! Meet at Teach Lea, Boora for an introductory talk followed by moth trapping at the Pavilion in the Sculpture in the Parklands area. This will be led by Alex Copland. While many of us are familiar with moths coming in through windows on a summer’s night – this is also the extent of our knowledge too! This night will provide an introduction and an opport

unity to understand more about Offaly’s moths.

Friday 16th and Saturday 17th October

Mushroom Hunt – The Lives of Fungi: Some awesome and gruesome details.

Friday 8.00pm Meet at Kinnitty Community Centre for a preparation talk by John Feehan

There is always a great interest in mushroom hunts and this offers a great 24 hours starting off with a talk all about fungi on the Friday evening and a trip to collect and identify fungi on the Saturday.

Sunday 1st November

Winter Migrant Birds

11.30am – Meet at Turraun, part of Lough Boora parklands adjacent to Pullough. Alex Copland of BirdWatch Ireland will lead the trip to see what birds have arrived to over winter in Offaly.

Launch of Wildflowers of Offaly.

November / December 2009

John Feehan has a lifetime experience of examining flowers and explaining how they work and why they are structured as they are. He is using this to write a unique book detailing every flowering plant in the county. This is the first time such a flora of a county in Ireland has ever been written. It will be large and fully illustrated – a book to read and learn more about the flowers after the day out exploring with a pocket guide. It is being published by Offaly County Council. John has a number of publications which are now out of print – so don’t miss your opportunity to get this book – email apedlow@offalycoco.ie or phone 057 -9346839 to be put on the mailing list.

Launch of Monasticon Hibernicum Database

Thursday 23 July saw the launch at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies of Early Christian Ecclesiastical Settlement in Ireland, 5th to 12th centuries – the database of the Monasticon Hibernicum Project’. Compiled by Aibhe MacShamhrain with Nora White and Aidan Breen, the database represents the output of a study carried out from 2003 to 2007 under the general direction of Professor Kim McCone, Scoil an Leinn Cheiltigh, NUI Maynooth, and funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Revised and updated 2007-2008, with introduction, help files and bibliography, and prepared for the WEB by Andrew McCarthy, the database was formally launched by Professor Fergus Kelly Director of the School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. It is available at http//monasticon.celt.dias.ie

New books for sale at 0HAS

The Landscape of the Slieve Bloom

by John Feehan

copies can be ordered from the Society at €30. This is a welcome reprint. The original of the late 1970s was scarce and making €150.

P.J. Goode’s history of the O’Dempseys is now available at the OHAS centre.

TULLABEG COLLEGE HISTORY vols 1 and 2 now available at the centre for €40 for the two vols.



Membership Renewal

If you would like to become a member or renew your membership, you can find the relevant form here.


Monday 19th October. Grand Hotel, Moate at 8.15pm

The second lecture of the winter season is an illustrated lecture entitled ” The Big Houses of East Galway & Their Association with Westmeath.” This lecture, containing a number of very interesting photographs of the Anglo-Irish “Big Houses” will be given by John Joe Conwell.

School teacher and local historian, John Joe Conwell has written a number of publications on the Portumna area. Including ‘Lickmolassy by the Shannon’, ‘A Galway Landlord during the Great Famine’ and his most recent one ‘Hearts of Oak – The Rise to Glory of Portumna GAA Club’.


Monday, Nov 16th . Grand Hotel, Moate at 8.15pm

The Third lecture of the winter season will be given by Donal J. O’Sullivan. This lecture entitled “The Life and Times of Dist. Inspector John A. Kearney . R.I.C. ” tells of the life of John Andrew Kearney, born in Moyvoughley, Co. Westmeath who was head of the RIC Barracks in Tralee from 1912-1920 and was there at the time of the arrest of Erskine Childers at Banna Strand on Good Friday 1916.

Donal J. O’Sullivan, of Tralee, Co. Kerry, retired from the Garda Síochána in 1996 with the rank of Chief Superintendent. For the past forty years he has studied and collected material on the Irish and Royal Irish Constabularies and An Garda Siochana. He has been a regular contributor to historical journals and has published books on “The Irish Constabularies – 1822 to 1922,” “The History of Corn Flour Milling in Ireland,” “The History of St. John’s Church, Tralee,” and “A History of Caheragh Parish.”


Images of Edenderry is a unique compilation of photographs that documents Edenderry and its people over the last century. It also records some of the significant events that have marked the town’s history over the years. This captivating collection was compiled by the Edenderry Historical Society who have combined their expert historical knowledge of the town with a large number of images gleaned from the community to create this engaging and nostalgic publication.

With an introduction by Ciarán J. Reilly, author of Edenderry 1820-1920: popular politics and Downshire rule, Images of Edenderry contains a number of articles relating to the town that appeared in national newspapers over the years. This book is a celebration of Edenderry which will delight and engage all those familiar with the town.

The Edenderry Historical Society is a well-established organisation, which has been running for over thirty years, archiving and charting the history of the town.

The book is available here at the Research Centre at €16.50

Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society Newsletter – March 2009


Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Web site: www.offalyhistory.com   Email: info@offalyhistory.com Telephone: 057-9321421


Brendan Ryan lecture on“Law Enforcement in West Offaly 1800-1922”

Lecture by Brendan Ryan in the Historical Centre, Bury Quay, on Monday 27th April at 8.15 p.m.

This lecture will be given at OHAS Bury Quay on Monday the 27th of April at 8p.m. and is open to the public.  Admission is free and refreshments will be served after the meeting.Our thanks to Brendan Ryan for his willingness to give this lecture which is based on a book which he has prepared and which will be published by the Society later this year. Between 1816 and 1922 more than 85,000 men joined the Irish police, later to be known as the Royal Irish Constabulary.  Folk memory has not, on the whole, been kind to them.  Down the years a picture has emerged depicting them as a traitorous native police force, ruthlessly enforcing English law on a sullen and hostile population.  Popular folklore remembers their conduct at evictions and of their ruthlessness in carrying out the wishes of heartless landlords.  Many stories can be recounted of their wholehearted support for an alien government.

The reality is more complex. For most of their existence they performed the duties of any national police force. Many led dull, mundane lives, almost as poor as those around them, on duty twenty four hours a day, 365 days a year.  Both sides of the coin must be examined.

“Tullamore Gaol and the Militant Suffragette Movement”.

Offaly Historical Society members are welcome to attend Tullamore BPW Club meeting on Wednesday next 22nd April 2009 at 8.30pm in Days Hotel. Our guest speaker will be William Murphy, Lecturer in History, Mater Dei Institute. The title of his lecture is: “Tullamore Gaol and the Militant Suffragette Movement”. Adm non BPW members €5. The lecture will commence at 8.30pm.

Reprint of John Feehan’s Slieve Bloom book  Slieve Bloom Rural Development Co-Operative Society

Chairman David Kinsella

cordially invites you and a guest to

the launch of the reprint by the

Slieve Bloom Rural Development Co-Operative of

The Landscape of the Slieve Bloom

by John FeehanKinnitty Castle, Kinnitty Co. Offaly

Monday, 20th April 2009 at 8.00 pm.

The book will be officially launched by

Dr Pat Wallace, Director of the National Museum of Ireland.

Refreshments will be served.

Christina Byrne PRO

Phone: 086 2789147

For those who cannot attend copies can be ordered from the Society.

Tracing your Roots programme

This programme was very successful with about 35 participants and our thanks to all who participated and to the lecturers involved who gave up their time free of charge. The lectures took place over four nights and are likely to be repeated in the Spring of 2010 with new subject headings for people interested in tracing their family history.

Monday 20th April 2009 Mount St. Anne’s Retreat and Conference Centre Killenard Portarlington.

Launch of P.J. Goode’s history of the Local O’Dempsey “The O’Dempsey Chronicles” to be undertaken by James Dempsey of Cheshire a direct descendant of the Lords of Clanmalier. James is the first O’Dempsey in modern times to return to the Clanmalier, the home of his ancestor, a relative of Sir Terence O’Dempsey of Ballybrittas Castle.

A display of artifacts, photos, map etc connected with the O’Dempsey Clan. A slide show presentation on some little known castle remains of Laois and Offaly. A short guided tour of Mount St. Anne’s. (formerly Mount Henry) including views of the exquisite plaster work on the ceilings.

A short presentation on the Skeffington Smyth Family who built the house, and who lived there for many years.


In 2007 Fr. Laheen published his first book on Tullabeg in which he told the history of the College as far as the year 1860.  In this sec

ond book, Tullabeg: a Century of Service (1814-1914), he traces the growth of the College until it became a most distinguished establishment both in academic and sporting successes. Vol 1 can now be purchased at the centre for €20 for vol 1 and €25 for vol 2.

New book by Damien Lawlor of Croghan Na Fianna Eireann and the Irish Revolution 1909 to 1923. Further details about the book can be had from the following email. Na Fianna Eireann and the Irish Revolution 1909 to 1923 .This new book analyses Na Fianna Eireann expansion into a truly national organization with over 30,000 members spread throughout Ireland‘s 32 counties. Telling its history and charting its growth and development from 1909 to 1923. Giving for the first time access to the stories of individual members.

Edenderry Historical Society

May Bank Holiday Weekend:

Society members will venture off to county Kerry on their annual trip under the guidance of Hugh Smyth. The trip is being named in the honour of the late secretary of the society, Tommy Wall. (Note: Trip is now fully booked)

Edenderry in Picture Launch Summer 2009

The society hopes to launch its collection of photographs in late May or June of 2009. To date over 600 images have been received and scanned by the society. Some 300 of these will feature in the book which will be published by Nonsuch Ireland

Famine Memorial

County Offaly Commemoration of Irish Famine Victims will hold their Memorial Day in Kilcormac, Cadamstown, Ralehin and Ballyboy on Saturday 16th May.Ceremonies commence with Mass in Kilcormac Church  at 11 am followed by ceremonies in Cadamstown at 12.15 pm; Ralehin at 1.30 pm and Ballyboy at 3 pm. All are welcome to attend PRO 057 9135328.

Membership Renewal

Membership Application/Renewal form can be found here.

Some  places may be available for a memorable trip with friends to the north of Germany – fully guided

Please fill in the following details for trip to Germany from 3rd to 7th May 2009:

Trip will cost € 750.00 p/p – full payment is needed by the 31st March ’09. At this point contact Dorothee Hermann Bibby.

Your contact address:





Phone number__________________

Your name as it appears on passport:


Would you like a single or double room:

Deposit of Euro 300.00 paid


Deposit cannot be refunded as I will use it to book flights and to pay deposit on bus, hotel and guided tours.

My contact details: Dorothee Bibby, Cappincur, Tullamore, Co. Offaly; M: 087-6255507

We will travel to the hanseatic cities in the north of Germany near the Baltic Sea close to the polish border from the 3rd to the 7th of May 2009. Price per Person is Euro 750. This includes bus trips in Ireland and Germany, flights, half-board accommodation in 3star hotel (town centre of Rostock), 3 day trips in the area, admission to attractions and steam train journey as well as guided tours. Weather would be similar to Irish weather. There are no more than 25 places and preference will be given to paid up members of the Society. Please book early.

You should contact Dorothée Hermann-Bibby at 087-6255507

Dorothée Hermann-Bibby

Hanse Haus Office Ireland



Co. Offaly

M: 00353-87-6255507 E: bibby@hanse-haus.de W: www.hanse-haus.com

For booking contact me (Dorothée Hermann-Bibby) under: 087-6255507


Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society Newsletter – December 2008



Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Web site: www.offalyhistory.comEmail: ohas@iol.ieTelephone: 057-93214

NEWSLETTER December 2008

Christmas party and get together at Quay Friday 5 December 2008 at 8.00 pm

As part of the Members’ Christmas Get together an illustrated talk will be given by Niall Sweeney on the Survey Drawings of the Grand Canal lines through County Offaly.These drawings were prepared in 1807 by John Killaly, Engineer with the Grand Canal Company.In 2007 a facsimile copy of these maps was acquired by Offaly County Council Library Service. The talk will be well illustrated with maps of the canal in the 1800s as it was constructed across the county from Edenderry to Shannon Harbour and will be of huge interest, especially to those living in close proximity to the canal.

After the talk tea/coffee wine and water, will be served with savouries and mince pies to which members and friends can make a nominal contribution on the evening. This event is being organized instead of the annual Christmas lunch.

Legal Offaly book launch

You are invited to the Legal Offaly book launch at 5pm on 5 December at the Courthouse, Tullamore and please see your invitation enclosed or sent to you by email. This makes for a busy 5 December but with refreshments at both venues stamina will not be problem. So make an evening of and come to both events. The book will be available from the Society members at the centre only at the special rate. Members must be paid up for 2008 to avail of the special offer. Enjoy the Christmas reading. At over 500 pages it will serve as a good read. Stocks are limited so don’t be disappointed.






Michael Byrne

Friday 5 December 2008 from 5 p.m. to 7.30p.m.

RSVP info@offalyhistory.com

Telephone: 05793 21421

Book Sale

Lately our history of Kilclonfert book published in 1983 was offered for sale by a Belfast bookseller for £60 stg. We can offer it to you for €10. Why not call and buy your Christmas local history gifts at the centre. We are giving a members discount on all items of 25 per cent purchased at the centre so hurry.

Journal 2007/2008 Hard back copies of the Journal are now available. The cost of the hardback edition of the Journal is €30 which approximates to the cost price.There are only fifty copies so if you would like a copy please contact the Research Centre immediately to order same. Articles for the next journal would be very welcome.

Recent publications

Calendar of the Rosse papers edited by A.P.W Malcomson in hardback consisting of 591 pp. This publication is available for members for €75.

Coolacrease 2 by Paddy Heaney and others. This book, of some 450 pages, is now available at the Centre for €20. The authors write:

 The ‘Hidden History’ programme alleged that two young Protestant farmers, brothers Richard and Abraham Pearson of Coolacrease near Cadamstown, were brutally murdered by the local IRA during the War of Independence in order to grab their 341-acre farm and that the Irish Land Commission was complicit in this. The programme led to much public controversy, in which allegations were made that a Mafia-style code of silence was in operation in Offaly to prevent the truth about the 1921 events from coming into the open.

Senator Eoghan Harris, who played a central role in the programme, declared that the only way to heal the wounds caused by the 1921 events was for the people of the Cadamstown area to own up to the heinous crimes of sectarian murder and attempted ethnic cleansing committed by their forefathers, and to seek atonement by confession and apology.

 The new book is co-authored by Paddy Heaney and includes contributions from eminent historian Dr Brian P. Murphy osb, Nick Folley – grandson of Offaly-man Herbert Mitchell who played a distinguished part in the independence struggle – and others.”

  • What is stressed in the new book includes the importance of the British Military Court of Inquiry which established:
      • The nature of the wounds suffered by the Pearson brothers at the execution (there was no deliberate shooting in the “sexual parts” as alleged by Senator Harris);
      • The RIC County Inspector’s and British Military Commander’s assessment of the execution as a direct retaliation for the armed attack on the roadblock (i.e. it was military event ordered at the highest level and not some sordid local revenge attack);
  • The fact that there was no land grab (sectraian or otherwise), in particular:
      • that the Pearson farm was purchased in an orderly manner by the Land Commission;
      • That the farm was never “squatted” or “boycotted”
      • That sub-division of the land took place in strict adherence with Land Commission procedure and, if any preference at all was shown, it was for men with WWI records, not republicans;
  • The Pearson’s later compensation claim to the British “Irish Grants Committee” was riddled with exageration and false testimony, and most of the individual claims they made to it were rejected even by this sympathetic body.


This month we are delighted to announce the release of a very special publication on the Irish Experience in World War One from our partners at Eneclann.

World War 1 Irish Soldiers: Their Final Testament Compiled & Edited by Kiara Gregory

Ref:ENEC016ISBN: 978-1-905118-07-4

Price: EURO 24.71 (ex VAT)

Description:This publication is a detailed catalogue of 9,000 surviving wills of Irish soldiers who died in World War 1. During the war soldiers sent to the front line were encouraged to write their last will and testament, if they did not survive these wills were registered, 9,000 of these wills are deposited with the National Archives of Ireland. These documents have never been published before, and this CD contains copious details, including an estimated 18,000+ names (soldiers, witnesses, beneficiaries and relatives) and is fully searchable. It is an essential resource for those interested in the Irish experience of WW1 as well as genealogists and family historians tracing Irish family members in the early 20th Century.

2009 OHAS Officers and Committee

Chairman – Steve McNeill.

Secretary -Michael Byrne

Treasure – Peter Burke

Committee members – Noel Guerin, John Kearney, Henry Edgill, Breda Hoey, Jim Mathews, Sean Wrafter, Rory Masterson, John Hume, Dorothee Bibby, Matt Mooney, Jim Kenny, Darrell Hooper, Ann Horan, Kitty O’Neill, Mary Jane Fox. Fred Geoghegan, Kathleen Geoghegan, Bernie Moran, Charley Finlay, Bernie Finlay, Philip McConway.

It was suggested that for a trial period of a couple of months that tea would be available at 7.30pm and lecture at 8pm with meetings finished at 9. 30pm. or earlier.

2009 Programme

The Historic Houses of Offaly lecture by

Ciarán Reilly on 19 Jan 2008 at 8pm. Refreshments from 7.30 with a view to having your home by 9.30 pm

The Irish ‘Big House’ and their owners has been a somewhat contentious subject in local Irish history. Yet few people in the nineteenth century would have been unaffected by the ‘big house’ and their owners. Today these houses that remain and those now in ruins act as a lasting reminder of the past, and the power and privilege that lay in the hands of the few.

Ciaran Reilly, an IRCHSS PhD student at NUI Maynooth will present an illustrated talk on some of county Offaly’s historic and big houses. Looking at the owners of these buildings and their vast estates, Ciarán aims to highlight these sometimes forgotten treasures of the heritage and history of Offaly. From the renowned Birr and Charleville Castles to the magnificent Gloster or Laughton House, or even the more ‘humble’ abodes like Monasteroris and Rathmoyle; the administrative and social history of the county may be chartered from these county homes. Families such as Norbury, Rosse, Minchin, Goodbody, Nesbitt, Armstrong and Atkinson were integral members of the King’s County community in the 19th century, or what Sir Charles Coote called ‘the guardians of everything that makes the country respectable’.

Ciarán will also point out the possible sources for further research on individual houses and estates in county Offaly.

The Spanish Civil War

European history film theatre and culture

Our next cultural excursion into European history starts in January with four films and discussion on the Spanish civil war and the rule of General Franco. A film and discussion will be held on each Thursday for four weeks starting 15 Jan, 22 Jan, 29 Jan and 5 Feb. All shows start at 8pm. The films will be shown as part of a study programme on the Spanish civil war. More details next month.

Tracing your Roots programme starts in February for four Thursday night evening sessions. Details in Jan. newsletter.

Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society Newsletter – October 2008

Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly
Web site: www.offalyhistory.com   Email: ohas@iol.ie     Telephone: 057-93214
NEWSLETTER October  2008

Monday 13th October Michael Byrne will give a lecture on the history of the legal profession and the courthouses in County Offaly. This will be of interest to all those who want to know more about the court buildings, the history of the local solicitors, barristers, the courts and the changes in court administration since the 1800s. The speaker has completed two years of research on the topic for a publication later this year.

Monday 15th September 2008 The lecture on recent archaeological and historical discoveries along the route of the N52 Tullamore Bye Pass had to be postponed and is now being rescheduled to a new date early next year.  

13th October 2008  AGM

The thirty-eight  annual general meeting of the Society will be held at 7.30 p.m. on Monday the 13th of October before the lecture. The agenda is as follows:-
(a)Receive the report of the chairman
(b) the Secretary
(c) the treasurer and to consider the expenditure and income.
(d) to appoint the auditors
(e) to transact any other business.

Set out below are the names of the committee and we would very much welcome the continuance of the membership in participating in the committee and taking on projects that they have an interest in and that advance the work of the society.  The Society will be celebrating its seventieth anniversary with its original founding back in 1938 and re establishment in 1969.  We look forward to a full attendance at the meeting.
The outgoing officers and committee are:

Chairman: Steve McNeill
Secretary: Michael Byrne
Treasurer: Peter Burke

Committee Members: Ms. Marie Neville, Dr. Mary Jane Fox, Mr. John Kearney, Mr. Henry Edgill, Ms. Dorothy Bibby, Mrs. Helen Bracken, Mr. Noel Guerin, Ms. B. Hoey, Mr. James Matthews, Ms. Kitty O’Neill, Mr. Brendan Clarke, Mr Shaun Wrafter, Dr. Rory Masterson,  Mr John Hume, Mr. Matt Mooney, Mr. & Mrs. Fred Geoghegan, Mrs. Ann Horan, Mr. James Kenny and Mr. Darrell Hooper.

As special incentive to members attending on time we are giving a copy of the ordnance survey letters for County Offaly at €30.  This is a 50% discount on the original price of €60.  The book has only recently been published and is a must for all those interested in Offaly history.

We look forward to having you at the meeting.

Saturday 1st November. Wintering birds walk at Turraun / Boora. Bird Atlas winter fieldwork starts on this date. Meet at Turraun Car Park, adjacent to Pullough, at 11:30. Event led by Alex Copland of Birdwatch Ireland.

10th November 2008

Noel E. French of the Meath Heritage Centre will give a lecture on Hugh de Lacy and his assassination at Durrow. Hugh de Lacy was beheaded at Durrow by a native back in 1186 and to tell us more of the story of his life, Noel will give an illustrated talk on 10th November to commence at 8.15 p.m.

December 5th Friday will see our Christmas meal take place in the Tullamore Dew Heritage Centre adjoining our own building at 7.30 p.m. on Friday the 5th of December with music to follow afterwards.  

Journal 2007/2008 Hard back copies of the Journal are now available. The cost of the hardback edition of the Journal is €30 which approximates to the cost price.  There are only fifty copies so if you would like a copy please contact the Research Centre immediately to order same.

Birr Seminar 11 October 2008
Seminar on the Faddenmore Psalter find

Saturday 11 October at Dooly’s Hotel, Birr
9.30 am to 4.15 pm

While cutting turf at Fadden More bog near Birr in July 2006, Eddie Fogarty found the remains of an illuminated manuscript copy of the Psalms of early medieval date along with an important leather binding and the remains of a leather bag. It was the first medieval manuscript ever found in a wetland environment and made international headlines.
The Psalter which looked ‘like a bowl of lasagne’ when found is now being conserved in the National Museum of Ireland where it presents many challenges to archaeologists, art historians and others.
A panel of experts was assembled by the National Museum of Ireland to examine the Psalter. At the seminar in Birr they will discuss the excitement of the find, the task of disentangling the wet pages to interpret them and the difficult decisions that had to be made – with no guiding precedents – to conserve the manuscript, the binding and the bag.

More details at www.birrhistsoc.com

News from Edenderry Historical Society

Lecture “Remembering Irish soldiers; Royal Dublin Fusiliers in the 1st World War” by Sean Connolly at the Quaker’s Meeting House, Fr Kearns St., Edenderry at 8 pm on 10th Oct.

“Remote sensing of monastic settlement in County Offaly” a lecture by Dr. Paul Gibson of NUI Maynooth at 8 pm on Nov 14th in O’Donoghue’s Function Room, Fr. Kearn’s St.

Fun walk From Ballycommon along the Canal Line to Kilbeggan Grand Canal Harbour, Sunday, 5th   Oct – Amanda Pedlow, Heritage Officer

Each year the Kilbeggan Grand Canal Harbour committee arrange a walk along the 8 miles of the now dry canal line from Ballycommon to
Kilbeggan.  It is a wonderful walk through different landscapes on a route that provides an interesting perspective.  The meeting point is at
the Harbour in Kilbeggan (past the church approx 1km into the countryside) at 1.30 pm.  A bus then brings walkers to Ballycommon where you walk back to the harbour. 

Light refreshments and tea at the harbour building after the walk.  Do bring your family and friends to this scenic walk and enjoy the day!

For further information contact:  Dan Scally 087-277-0141 or 057-933-2316 or Mary Fox 057-933-2213.

Recent publications

The Railway House tales from an Irish fireside  by Barry Kennerk available in hardback.  The 203 page publication is a recollection of stories told to the author by his grandmother about how the family lived at the level crossing at Ashfield near Clara. The book retails at €11.95

Calendar of the Rosse papers edited by A.P.W Malcomson in hardback consisting of 591 pp. This publication is available for members for €75.

The Roscrea conference see enclosed for details
Roscrea Conference leaflet

Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society Newsletter – September 2008


Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Web site: www.offalyhistory.com   Email: ohas@iol.ie     Telephone: 057-9321421

NEWSLETTER  September   2008

Monday 15th September 2008 Lecture at 8.15p.m. The subject is recent archaeological and historical discoveries along the route of the N52 Tullamore Bye Pass.  Our speaker will be Tom Janes, Field Operations and Consultancy Manager with Headland Archaeology (Ireland) Mr. Janes will present a brief overview of the project and give a detailed presentation on two of the more interesting sites – a Bonze age cremation at Screggan (from which an unique gold ornament was recovered) and post medieval cabin/cottage at Cloncollig.  These excavations and finds are associated with the Tullamore Relief Road and the lecture promises to be very interesting.

Our thanks Orlaith Egan for assistance in securing this lecture.

Friday 4th – Sunday 7th September. Geology Weekend based in Kinnitty Community Centre, two outings on the Saturday and Sunday. Booking essential. Please contact the Heritage Office on 05793 46839. Price €20.

Rocks in the making: the geology of Offaly over the last 10,000 years.

This year the geology weekend looks at how the events of the Ice Age and its aftermath shaped the world we live in – and may influence our future.

Celebration of the Psalter

On Friday 10 October 2008 at 7.30 pm psalms will be sung chanted and read  at St Brendan’s church, Wilmer Road, Birr in connection with the Fadden More Bog find. On Saturday 11th  October a seminar will be held in Birr. For more details see the local papers.

Edenderry Historical Society

Edenderry Historical Society has a very good programme for the remainder of the year.  Edenderry is under going a renaissance in terms of historical interest with the work of Ciaran Reilly and also Declan O’Connor.  Declan is also a member of our Society and has been very supportive over the years.  The Ciaran Reilly lecture on the historic houses of County Offaly we hope to have in Tullamore early next year. As part of National Heritage Week Ciarán Reilly will give a lecture about the Historic Houses of Offaly, their rise and decline. The lecture showing images of many of these hidden treasures will focus on the history behind these houses, their owners and how they impacted the history of the county. Houses such as Birr Castle, Durrow Abbey, Strawberry Hill, Cangort Park, Rathmoyle, Monasteroris, Ballymorane and many more will be featured. Admission is free and all are welcome to attend this lecture at 7.30pm in O’Donaghue’s Function room, Edenderry.

The Declan O’Connor is also of interest and might prompt some of our members here to do a similar talk on Tullamore with the benefit of the bill heads from the old shops.

The programme is as attached and we hope that some our members will be in a position to attend.

Monday 13th October Michael Byrne will give a lecture on the history of the legal profession and the courthouses in County Offaly.

Saturday 1st November. Wintering birds walk at Turraun / Boora. Bird Atlas winter fieldwork starts on this date. Meet at Turraun Car Park, adjacent to Pullough, at 11:30. Event led by Alex Copland of Birdwatch Ireland.


10th November 2008

Noel E. French of the Meath Heritage Centre will give a lecture on Hugh de Lacy and his assassination at Durrow. Hugh de Lacy was beheaded at Durrow by a native back in 1186 and to tell us more of the story of his life, Noel will give an illustrated talk on 10th November to commence at 8.15 p.m.

December 5th Friday will see our Christmas meal take place in the Tullamore Dew Heritage Centre adjoining our own building at 7.30 p.m. on Friday the 5th of December with music to follow afterwards. 

Journal 2007/2008 Hard  back copies of the Journal are now available. The cost of the hardback edition of the Journal is €30 which approximates to the cost price.  There are only fifty copies so if you would like a copy please contact the Heritage Centre immediately to order same

Hidden Landscapes: Searching for the Lost Kingdom of Mide

NRA archaeological exhibition at

Belvedere House, Co. Westmeath

April-September 2008

Discover life in the early Christian monastery of Clonfad and find out about its residents and their crafts. Find out about hundreds of skeletons that were uncovered at Ballykilmore and learn about who suffered from aching diseases and who died by treacherous means. Learn about ringforts and the people who may have lived there.

A series of archaeological excavations were carried out in advance of the N6 Kinnegad-Kilbeggan and N52 Mullingar-Belvedere Road Schemes between 2004 – 2006. Over sixty archaeological sites were excavated ranging in date from prehistoric to post medieval times. The results of these excavations have now come to fruition and have produced some very interesting and exciting evidence.

This exhibition, Hidden Landscapes: Searching for the Lost Kingdom of Mide, will focus on the results of three of the large-scale excavations at Clonfad, Ballykilmore and Rochfort Demesne in Co. Westmeath. It will provide a glimpse into the early medieval world of the ancient kingdom of Mide which extended into present day Westmeath.

A selection of both original and replica artefacts will be displayed which will provide a unique opportunity for the people of Westmeath to view firsthand these wonderful discoveries.

The exhibition will also introduce the public to the fascinating world of archaeology and the archaeologists and scientists who fit the pieces of our past together.

Dr. Aidan O’Sullivan of UCD will launch the exhibition at Belvedere House on Wednesday the 16th April. lt will be open to the general public from mid April to September 2008. It will also go on tour at various venues around the county after this period.

Admission is free

This exhibition was undertaken by Valerie J. Keeley Ltd. on behalf of the National Roads Authority.

For further information contact Orlaith Egan, NRA archaeologist at Westmeath National Road Design Office T. 044 9334250 or oegan@nra.ie

Sincere Sympathies

The Society in the last month suffered the loss of two longstanding members with the deaths of Anna Daly, Charleville View, Tullamore and Jim McCormack, Ballyteague, Ballycommon. 

Anna, a former National School teacher, never missed a lecture and was very supportive of the Society by purchasing all our publications.

Jim, the former postmaster in Tullamore for many years called into the Research Centre every Thursday night to do his research and that continued until his wife became ill.  After her death Jim resumed his research but unfortunately he fell ill not long after her death.  Jim’s last visit to the Society was in June when he was recorded by Maurice O’Keeffe in the Life and Lore series and his family were delighted when the cd of his recording was presented to them at Jim’s removal from the local mortuary.

May they rest in peace.

Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society Newsletter – August 2008


Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Web site: www.offalyhistory.com Email: ohas@iol.ie     Telephone: 057-9321421

NEWSLETTER August   2008

As part of the Heritage Week Celebrations during the month of August we have organised the following:-

Saturday 23 August 2008 A walkabout Tullamore for locals and visitors to commence at O’Connor Square, Tullamore at 3 p.m. on Saturday the 23rd of August and to finish at 5 p.m.  Admission free. The guide is Michael Byrne

Thurdsay 28th August 2008 An illustrated lecture from OHAS members on Top Tourist spots in Ireland in the early 1900s, its sites and scenery.  This will be an illustrated talk based on pictures of Ireland taken in or about 1900 and should be great interest. The lecture will be held at OHAS Research Centre (beside Tullamore Dew) at 8.15 pm. Admission is free.

30th August 2008 A visit to Dublin Exhibitions inclusive of the following:-

ESB Restored House in Fitzwilliam St, Dublin no. 29

The Exhibition, Strangers to Citizens at the National Library of Ireland: the Irish in Europe 1600-1800

The Photographic Exhibition in Temple Bar organised by the National Library

The Print Museum at Beggar’s Bush

We meet at Tullamore Railway Station at 8.30 am  on Saturday 30 August for train trip to Dublin via Luas or Taxi as preferred thereafter to the sites

Rahan Monastic Site

A beautiful new publication on Rahan Monastery was launched in June 2008 and copies are now available from the Society
for  â‚¬10. Details of the launch were carried in the local press. Full marks to Offaly County Council and the Heritage Office for an excellent production. This is the best history of the Rahan monastic site available and is beautifully illustrated. Those who attended the heritage seminar last year will remember the lecture by Caimin O’Brien.

Ordnance Survey Letters for County Offaly

This important publication, edited by Professor Michael Herity, has now been launched and is available in hardback at €60. There is a very small print run so do not delay if you would like a copy. A special price is available to members at €40.

Belmont mills 21 June 2008 Our thanks to Tom and Sandy Dolan for a most enjoyable trip. Great work being done – see our web site.

Friday 4th – Sunday 7th September. Geology Weekend based in Kinnitty Community Centre, two outings on the Saturday and Sunday. Booking essential. Please contact the Heritage Office on 05793 46839. Price €20.

Rocks in the making: the geology of Offaly over the last 10,000 years.

This year the geology weekend looks at how the events of the Ice Age and its aftermath shaped the world we live in – and may influence our future.

15th September 2008

We have fixed  a tentative  date with Orla Egan to give a lecture on recent developments in relation to the archaeological discoveries on the Tullamore By Pass and on the Kinnegad to Athlone By Passes. The talk will be preceded by our annual general meeting and on which separate details will follow in September.

Monday 13th October Michael Byrne will give a lecture on the history of the legal profession and the courthouses in County Offaly.

Saturday 1st November. Wintering birds walk at Turraun / Boora. Bird Atlas winter fieldwork starts on this date. Meet at Turraun Car Park, adjacent to Pullough, at 11:30. Event led by Alex Copland of Birdwatch Ireland.

10th November 2008

Noel E. French of the Meath Heritage Centre will give a lecture on Hugh de Lacy and his assassination at Durrow. Hugh de Lacy was beheaded at Durrow by a native back in 1186 and to tell us more of the story of his life, Noel will give an illustrated talk on 10th November to commence at 8.15 p.m.

December 5th Friday will see our Christmas meal take place in the Tullamore Dew Heritage Centre adjoining our own building at 7.30 p.m. on Friday the 5th of December with music to follow afterwards.  It will also include a short presentation from

Journal 2007/2008 Hard copies of the Journal are now available and we are hoping to have launch date shortly. The cost of the hardback edition of the Journal is €30 which approximates to the cost price.  There are only fifty copies so if you would like a copy please contact the Heritage Centre immediately to order same

Hidden Landscapes: Searching for the Lost Kingdom of Mide

NRA archaeological exhibition at

Belvedere House, Co. Westmeath

April-September 2008

Discover life in the early Christian monastery of Clonfad and find out about its residents and their crafts. Find out about hundreds of skeletons that were uncovered at Ballykilmore and learn about who suffered from aching diseases and who died by treacherous means. Learn about ringforts and the people who may have lived there.

A series of archaeological excavations were carried out in advance of the N6 Kinnegad-Kilbeggan and N52 Mullingar-Belvedere Road Schemes between 2004 – 2006. Over sixty archaeological sites were excavated ranging in date from prehistoric to post medieval times. The results of these excavations have now come to fruition and have produced some very interesting and exciting evidence.

This exhibition, Hidden Landscapes: Searching for the Lost Kingdom of Mide, will focus on the results of three of the large-scale excavations at Clonfad, Ballykilmore and Rochfort Demesne in Co. Westmeath. It will provide a glimpse into the early medieval world of the ancient kingdom of Mide which extended into present day Westmeath.

A selection of both original and replica artefacts will be displayed which will provide a unique opportunity for the people of Westmeath to view firsthand these wonderful discoveries.

The exhibition will also introduce the public to the fascinating world of archaeology and the archaeologists and scientists who fit the pieces of our past together.

Dr. Aidan O’Sullivan of UCD will launch the exhibition at Belvedere Hous

e on Wednesday the 16th April. lt will be open to the general public from mid April to September 2008. It will also go on tour at various venues around the county after this period.

Admission is free

This exhibition was undertaken by Valerie J. Keeley Ltd. on behalf of the National Roads Authority.

For further information contact Orlaith Egan, NRA archaeologist at Westmeath National Road Design Office T. 044 9334250 or oegan@nra.ie

Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society Newsletter – June 2008



Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Web site: www.offalyhistory.com   Email: info@offalyhistory.com    Telephone: 057-9321421

NEWSLETTER May June   2008

Belmont mills 21 June 2008

The Society propose to visit Belmont Mills on Saturday 21 June to depart at OHAS Bury Quay at 2p.m. and to arrive at Belmont Mills at 3p.m. on Saturday 14th June.Admission will be €3 and can be followed by a picnic tea on the banks of the River Brosna. The visit is courtesy of the owners, Tom and Mrs Dolan. Attached is an account of the mill in the 1880s.


Monday 30th June – Friday 4th July. Offaly Summer School. Daily field trips to proposed Eco-Nodes. Venue to be confirmed. Booking required with Heritage Office 05793 46839. Cost €100. Co-ordinated by John Feehan.


Friday 4th – Sunday 7th September. Geology Weekend based in Kinnitty Community Centre, two outings on the Saturday and Sunday. Booking essential. Please contact the Heritage Office on 05793 46839. Price €20.

Rocks in the making: the geology of Offaly over the last 10,000 years.

This year the geology weekend looks at how the events of the Ice Age and its aftermath shaped the world we live in – and may influence our future.

As part of the Heritage Week  Celebrations during the month of August we have organised the following:-

23 August 2008 A walkabout Tullamore for locals and visitors to commence at O’Connor Square at 3p.m. on Saturday the 23rd of August and to finish at 5p.m.Admission free

28th August 2008 An illustrated lecture on Top Tourist spots in Ireland in the early 1900s, its sites and scenery.This will be an illustrated talk based on pictures of Ireland taken in or about 1900 and should be great interest.

30th August 2008 A visit to Dublin Exhibitions inclusive of the following:-

ESB Restored House in Fitzwilliam

The Exhibition Strangers to Citizens

The Irish in Europe 1600-1800

The Photographic Exhibition in Templebar

The print Museum at Begger’s Bush < /p>

15th September 2008

We have fixed on a tentative  date with Orlaith Egan to give a lecture on recent developments in relation to the archaeological discoveries on the Tullamore By Pass and on the Kinnegad to Athlone By Passes. The talk will be preceded by our annual general meeting and on which separate details will follow in September.

Monday 13th October Michael Byrne will give a lecture on the history of the legal profession and the courthouses in County Offaly.

Saturday 1st November. Wintering birds walk at Turraun / Boora. Bird Atlas winter fieldwork starts on this date. Meet at Turraun Car Park, adjacent to Pullough, at 11:30. Event led by Alex Copland of Birdwatch Ireland.


November 10th to be finalised.

December 5th Friday will see our Christmas meal take place in the Tullamore Dew Heritage Centre adjoining our own building at 7.30p.m. on Friday the 5th of December with music to follow afterwards.

Journal 2007/2008 Hard copies of the Journal are now available and we are hoping to have launch date shortly. The cost of the hardback edition of the Journal is €30 which approximates to the cost price.There are only fifty copies so if you would like a copy please contact the Heritage Centre immediately to order same.

Hidden Landscapes: Searching for the Lost Kingdom of Mide

NRA archaeological exhibition at Belvedere House, Co. Westmeath

April-September 2008

Discover life in the early Christian monastery of Clonfad and find out about its residents and their crafts. Find out about hundreds of skeletons that were uncovered at Ballykilmore and learn about who suffered from aching diseases and who died by treacherous means. Learn about ringforts and the people who may have lived there.

A series of archaeological excavations were carried out in advance of the N6 Kinnegad-Kilbeggan and N52 Mullingar-Belvedere Road Schemes between 2004 – 2006. Over sixty archaeological sites were excavated ranging in date from prehistoric to post medieval times. The results of these excavations have now come to fruition and have produced some very interesting and exciting evidence.

This exhibition, Hidden Landscapes: Searching for the Lost Kingdom of Mide, will focus on the results of three of the large-scale excavations at Clonfad, Ballykilmore and Rochfort Demesne in Co. Westmeath. It will provide a glimpse into the early medieval world of the ancient kingdom of Mide which extended into present day Westmeath.

A selection of both original and replica artefacts will be displayed which will provide a unique opportunity for the people of Westmeath to view firsthand these wonderful discoveries.

The exhibition will also introduce the public to the fascinating world of archaeology and the archaeologists and scientists who fit the pieces of our past together.

Dr. Aidan O’Sullivan of UCD will launch the exhibition at Belvedere House on Wednesday the 16th April. lt will be open to the general public from mid April to September 2008. It will also go on tour at various venues around the county after this period.

Admission is free

This exhibition was undertaken by Valerie J. Keeley Ltd. on behalf of the National Roads Authority


For further information contact Orlaith Egan, NRA archaeologist at Westmeath National Road Design Office T. 044 9334250 or oegan@nra.ie

Declan McSweeney memoir

Declan’s account of his time as a journalist and his reflections on the changing Tullamore in the 1990s is now sold out.

Rahan Monastic Site

A beautiful new publication on Rahan Monastery will be launched shortly and copies will be available from the Society for c €10. Details of the launch should be in the local press

Conflicts in Birr during the Williamite War 1690.

If any of our members have details of the location of sites of skirmishes in Birr during the Williamite wars of 1690 would you get in touch with Headland Archaeology Limited at info@headlandarchaeology.ieFurther details can be had from the Society.

Irish Summer Archaeology Field School

This course is held in June and July 2008 and further information can be had from www.irisharchaeology.net

NLI News and old Irish newspapers

You can view this on the NLI site with the previous newsletters. Please send in your email to us and we will send you a copy. Members who have already supplied same will receive a copy now.

Contact us at info@offalyhistory.com or ohas@iol.ie

Edenderry Historical Society’s call for old photographs of the Edenderry area for book of photographs including old buildings, people, sports, drama, etc.Please contact Ciaran Reilly 0861751686 or email ciaranreilly32@hotmail.com


Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society Newletter – April 2008


Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Web site: www.offalyhistory.com   Email: ohas@iol.ie     Telephone: 057-9321421

NEWSLETTER April  2008

D E Williams Family and Workers Exhibition

The launch of this exhibition organised by Ita Galvin takes place at the Tullamore Dew Heritage Centre on Wednesday 30th April  and now continues.

Declan McSweeney memoir

Declan’s account of his time as a journalist and his reflections on the changing Tullamore in the 1990s can be purchased at the Society for €12.99. Only 100 copies were printed so hurryand buy one.

Clara Bog Article

An article has just appeared in Irish Geography volume 41 number 1 ( March 2008) on ‘The changing landscape of Clara Bog: the history of an Irish raised bog’.

The article is by Patrick Crushell and others and a copy is in the Society’s Library.

New Websites

Offalyhistory.com is still undergoing change and we would be glad to have your comments on the new website.

Irishmidlandancestry.com is another of our websites which has family history material and again we would be glad to have your comments.

For those of you are interested in Archibishop Rinuccini and his visit to Ireland.He spent some time in West Offaly before his departure in the late 1640s.You will be able to look at the six volume account of his work in Ireland now in English translation and indexed at www.ulster.ac.uk/commentarius. For further details of this site you could look at a recent publication in History Ireland which is available at our library.

Journal no 5, 2007-08

Journal 2007/8.The journal issued on St. Patrick’s Day and it runs to over 300 pages and it is available from the Society for €20 (postage in Ireland €4).From many accounts it is the best yet and we hope that you have purchased a copy.

Offaly Naturalists Field Club – Programme of Events for 2008

Saturday 26th April, Woodland Walk. Golden Grove Wood (behind Dromakeenan School). Meeting at the School at 14:00. Plant outing led by Fiona Devery.

Tuesday 13th May, Squirrels in Offaly. Tullamore Dew Heritage Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore at 8pm. Talk by Geoff Hamilton.

Sunday 18th May. Celebrating National Dawn Chorus Day. Meeting at 04:30am at Turraun Car Park, adjacent to Pullough. Event led by David Watson of Birdwatch Ireland.

Wed 28th May. Batlas introduction and Daubenton’s Bat Training event for volunteers, event led by Tina Aughney of the Bat Conservation Council. Meeting in Birr (venue to be confirmed) at 20:00 followed by site visit. For more information see www.batconservationireland.org To register your interest in being a volunteer email tinaaughney@eircom.net


urday 7th June. National Moth Night. Meet at Teach Lea, Boora Parkland Offices at 21:30. Talk followed by field trip, led by Alex Copland.

Saturday 14th June. Corncrake Evening. Birdwatch Ireland, Crank House in Banagher, walk in Callows in County Galway. Starting at 21:30. Event led by Anita Donaghy.

Saturday 21st June. Petrifying springs and horsetails. Walk up the Silver River led by Stephen Heery. Wellington boots advisable. Meeting at the car park at Cadamstown at 11:00a.m.

Monday 30th June – Friday 4th July. Offaly Summer School. Daily field trips to proposed Eco-Nodes. Venue to be confirmed. Booking required with Heritage Office 05793 46839. Cost €100. Co-ordinated by John Feehan.

Friday 4th – Sunday 7th September. Geology Weekend based in Kinnitty Community Centre, two outings on the Saturday and Sunday. Booking essential. Please contact the Heritage Office on 05793 46839. Price €20.

Rocks in the making: the geology of Offaly over the last 10,000 years.

This year the geology weekend looks at how the events of the Ice Age and its aftermath shaped the world we live in – and may influence our future.

Saturday 1st November. Wintering birds walk at Turraun / Boora. Bird Atlas winter fieldwork starts on this date. Meet at Turraun Car Park, adjacent to Pullough, at 11:30. Event led by Alex Copland of Birdwatch Ireland.

Individuals and families are welcome. No experience required. Please dress appropriately for outdoor activities and bring your own refreshments.

For further details please contact the Heritage Office of Offaly County Council on 05793 46839 or by email apedlow@offalycoco.ie Please email the Heritage Office if you would like reminders about events or if you would like to be notified of other heritage events.

See our website for more information and for updates to the programme:


The Offaly Naturalist Field Club Programme is an initiative of the Offaly Heritage Forum.

Hidden Landscapes: Searching for the Lost Kingdom of Mide

NRA archaeological exhibition at Belvedere House, Co. Westmeath

April-September 2008

Discover life in the early Christian monastery of Clonfad and find out about its residents and their crafts. Find out about hundreds of skeletons that were uncovered at Ballykilmore and learn about who suffered from aching diseases and who died by treacherous means. Learn about ringforts and the people who may have lived there.

A series of archaeological excavations were carried out in advance of the N6 Kinnegad-Kilbeggan and N52 Mullingar-Belvedere Road Schemes between 2004 – 2006. Over sixty archaeological sites were excavated ranging in date from prehistoric to post medieval times. The results of these excavations have now come to fruition and have produced some very interesting and exciting evidence.

This exhibition, Hidden Landscapes: Searching for the Lost Kingdom of Mide, will focus on the results of three of the large-scale excavations at Clonfad, Ballykilmore and Rochfort Demesne in Co. Westmeath. It will provide a glimpse into the early medieval world of the ancient kingdom of Mide which extended into present day Westmeath.

A selection of both original and replica artefacts will be displayed which will provide a unique opportunity for the people of Westmeath to view firsthand these wonderful discoveries.

The exhibition will also introduce the public to the fascinating world of archaeology and the archaeologists and scientists who fit the pieces of our past together.

Dr. Aidan O’Sullivan of UCD will launch the exhibition at Belvedere House on Wednesday the 16th April. lt will be open to the general public from mid April to September 2008. It will also go on tour at various venues around the county after this period.

Admission is free

This exhibition was undertaken by Valerie J. Keeley Ltd. on behalf of the National Roads Authority.

For further information contact Orlaith Egan, NRA archaeologist at Westmeath National Road Design Office T. 044 9334250 or oegan@nra.ie

Rahan Monastic Site

A beautiful new publication on Rahan Monastery will be launched it is expected on 9 June and copies will be available from the Society for c €10

Ordnance Survey Letters for Offaly

Dr Michael Herity is finalising this new edition which will soon be available at €60 in hardback. The book which will be handsomely illustrated will be available at a reduced price to members.

Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society Newletter – March 2008


Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Web site: www.offalyhistory.com   Email: ohas@iol.ie     Telephone: 057-9321421



The Land Agent in King’s County 1830-60: Targets of Agrarian Crime by Ciaran Reilly.

Monday 3March 2008

This lecture will commence at the OHAS centre at Bury Quay at 8.15pm and is open to the public with free admission.

The Irish land agent has been a much maligned and vilified figure in Irish history and social memory. In the wake of the Great Famine when culpability was needed, the agents amongst others were liable for much of the blame. In recent years much has been written about the ‘Big House’ and indeed individual landed estates. However a study of the Land Agent, his social background, mindset and psyche has yet to appear.

Ciarán Reilly, a PhD student and Department of Modern History scholar at NUI Maynooth is currently carrying out research on the role of the land agent and the management policies of the landed estates in King’s County (Offaly) 1830-60. He is the author of two recent studies of the Downshire Estate at Edenderry. In this lecture Ciarán will identify who the land agents were in King’s County at this time; what their social backgrounds were and discuss how many became targets of agrarian secret societies in the county. As many as nine land agents were assassinated in a fifteen year period by elements of a disconcerted tenantry. This statistic appears to have been unprecedented or rivalled in other parts of the country. Indeed in 1852 one land agent was refused life assurance because of the nature of his employment, highlighting the dangers that many faced. This lecture will deal with local figures such as George Heenan, George Garvey, Francis Berry, Thomas Murray, the Manifold brothers and many more.  


Representative view

Woodfield House, home to George Heenan agent for the earls of Rosse at Birr

Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society Newsletter – February 2008


Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Web site: www.offalyhistory.com   Email: ohas@iol.ie     Telephone: 057-9321421

NEWSLETTER February 2008


Pre-Christian Offaly

Creating Emotions since 6,500 B.C.

Monday 18 February 2008 at 8.15pm at OHAS Bury Quay, Tullamore

Darrell Hooper will give an illustrated talk on “Pre-Christian Offaly – Creating Emotions since 6,500 B.C.” in Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society, Bury Quay on Monday 18th February at 8. 15pm.Non-members welcome. Subjects covered will include Lough Boora site – one of the earliest evidence of humans in Ireland (6.500B.C.), Dowris hoard near Fivevally (200 bronze objects), Confinlough stone with rock art and lake edge dwelling site (1,000 B.C.), Tobar prehistoric settlement site, Balleek ringforts and hut site, Ballinderry lakeside site, Forelacka mound in Slieve Blooms, Banagher bronze hoard. Also discussed will be an awl made from antler and a gold button cover (possibly 1,000 B.C.) which is potentially of international importance, both excavated recently in Screggan together with the cremated remains of a woman and child. This talk on Offaly’s Pre-Christian history should complement the county’s well-known Monastic heritage, much of which has been collated by Darrell and is available as a free download at www.monasticway.com.

Enclosed photographs are to be attributed to Headland Archaeology Ltd.

The Land Agent in King’s County 1830-60: Targets of Agrarian Crime

Monday 3March 2008Ciaran Reilly.

This lecture will commence at the OHAS centre at Bury Quay at 8.15pm and is open to the publicwith free admission.

The Irish land agent has been a much maligned and vilified figure in Irish history and social memory. In the wake of the Great Famine when culpability was needed, the agents amongst others were liable for much of the blame. In recent years much has been written about the ‘Big House’ and indeed individual landed estates. However a study of the Land Agent, his social background, mindset and psyche has yet to appear.

Ciarán Reilly, a PhD student and Department of Modern History scholar at NUI Maynooth is currently carrying out research on the role of the land agent and the management policies of the landed estates in King’s County (Offaly) 1830-60. He is the author of two recent studies of the Downshire Estate at Edenderry. In this lecture Ciarán will identify who the land agents were in King’s County at this time; what their social backgrounds were and discuss how many became targets of agrarian secret societies in the county. As many as nine land agents were assassinated in a fifteen year period by elements of a disconcerted tenantry. This statistic appears to have been unprecedented or rivalled in other parts of the country. Indeed in 1852 one land agent was refused life assurance because of the nature of his employment, highlighting the dangers that many faced. This lecture will deal with local figures such as George Heenan, George Garvey, Francis Berry, Thomas Murray, the Manifold brothers and many more.  

Representative view

Woodfield House, home to George Heenan agent for the earls of Rosse at Birr Castle

February European History introduction through the film medium.

This will consist of 4 evenings – each Thursday at 8.15pm from the 7th of February to the 28th of February. European history especially the two

The Civil War in Offaly

This article is based on research related to Offaly and the Civil War executions published in the recently launched Offaly Historical and
Archaeological Society (OHAS) annual journal Offaly Heritage.

Civil War

In the second of a two part series local historian Philip Mc Conway looks at the execution of two Offaly IRA Volunteers and a Leix IRA Volunteer. This article is based on research related to Offaly and the Civil War executions
published in the recent Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society (OHAS) annual journal Offaly Heritage.

Civil War 2

Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society Newletter – January 2008


Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Web site: www.offalyhistory.com   Email: ohas@iol.ie     Telephone: 057-9321421                                                          

               NEWSLETTER January 2008


Digitally Recording Offaly History

An evening exploring how to record and store Offaly’s local history with your digital camera.

Making and keeping photographic records. The lecture on the 28th of January will commence at 8.15 p.m. and will consist of a display and discussion among the members and friends.The format will consist of the following:-

1.      Introduction by Noel Guerin

2.      Response from Members

3.      Showing of Extracts from the OHAS collection of some 30,000 pictures many of which are now captured digitally.

4.      Showing of a video of Tullamore in the 1940s or early 1950s of a sports events and other fun activities around the town at the time which has been transferred to computer storage.

5.      Talking about making a further and better record of the buildings of the county to be recorded in digital format.

6.      Working with photographers to ensure that we save pictures that are currently being taken and keep a record of them into the future.

February European History introduction through the film medium. 

This will consist of 4 evenings – each Thursday at 8.15 pm from the 7th of February to the 28th of February. European history especially the two world wars have impacted on Irish history. The four films have been selected to look at the wars and how they were viewed by the German soldier, a family in the interwar years in the town of Danzig now Gdansk in Poland. The third film is on the propaganda machine of the Nazi party and the fourth on the fall of Stalingrad marking the decisive turning point in the Second World War.

  • 7/2/08 “All Quiet On The Western Front” (1930) 127 minutes. Unlike most “message” films which date almost immediately, Lewis Milestone’s low-key, unpolished and deeply-felt screen adaptation of the Erich Maria Remarque anti-war novel has lost little of its original impact. Years after its release it was still banned in countries mobilising for the war. The plot follows a group of young German recruits in World War I through their passage from idealism to disillusionment, until the central character Paul Baumer (Lew Ayres) declares “We live in the trenches and we fight. We try not to be killed – that’s all”
  • 14/2/08 Gunter Gr

    ass’ epic novel “The Tin Drum” (1979) 142 minutes. The narrator of this film is little Oscar, as a precocious child of a permissive petty bourgeois couple. He decides to stop growing on his third birthday, as if refusing to enter the sordid sexuality of his surroundings and the unstoppable growth of Nazism, the same year that Hitler came to power. With his noisy tin drum always at his side, and a piercing scream that can shatter glass, Oscar makes his disturbing but often darkly comic way through Hitler’s Germany. The film’s setting is the free port of Danzig, now Gdansk in Poland.

  • 21/2/08 “Triumph of the Will” (1934) 107 minutes. The banned masterpiece of Nazi cinema. “Technically brilliant” – Time Out Film Guide. “A devastatingly brilliant piece of film-making” – Halliwell’s Film Guide. “Brilliant…” – The Movie. Leni Riefenstahl’s breathtaking film record of the 1934 Nazi Nuremburg rally is universally regarded as one of the most outstanding documentaries ever made, as well as a true milestone in World Cinema. Employing radically new ideas about montage and light, it is the ultimate fusion of film craftsmanship bordering on genius and propaganda bordering on sheer nightmare. Spectacular, awesome, powerful and chilling, “Triumph of the Will” captures all the sinister and illusory attractiveness of Nazism at the height of its power. This special DVD edition has been transferred from a new digital master for superior picture quality and features the original authentic soundtrack with English subtitles.  
  • 28/8/08 “Fall of Stalingrad a documentary in the World at War series, original footage with commentary from leading historians to conclude this introductory series to European history.

Christmas Draw

The results of the Christmas draw are as follows:

1.Drinks hamper – Oliver Dunne, Croghan

2 Food hamper – Evan O’Toole, Roscore, Blueball.

3 Whiskey – Margaret Bracken – Arden

4 Cake – Sinead Egan, Newtown, Kilbeggan.

Free membership OHAS for 2008 – Alison Dalzell, c/o Tullamore Tribune.

Book token – Padraig Mahon, Gorteenkeel, Geashill.

Thanks to all who sold tickets and supported the draw which realised in excess of €1,500.

The late Edmond Williams

Sympathy is extended to the family of the late Edmond Williams who passed to his eternal reward recently.Edmond was a life member of the Society and attended many of its events.He was very helpful when the Society purchased its premises in Bury Quay.

The Late Paddy Sheridan

The Society wishes to sympathise with the family of the late Paddy Sheridan of Kilcoursey, Clara who died at Christmas.  Paddy and his life long friend Jim Kinahan had spent many long hours at the Research Centre helping to identify parties in the Harris photograph collection.The collection is c. 20,000 negatives in total and the Society have to date scanned over 16,000.Paddy and Jim had looked at about 8,000 prints.

Renewing our membership 2008

Membership renewals for 2008 are due from 1st January.Thanks to those who have already paid.Standing order memberships are being processed.

New FAS Programme 2008

Our current FAS Community Employment scheme draws to a close on Friday next.  Unfortunately a number of people have completed the number of years with us that they are eligible for and we are sad to see them go.The Society sincerely thanks them for their service and immense contributions and also FAS for funding their employment and training.We now look forward to the new scheme which starts on Monday next 28th.

Good wishes

Good wishes for a speedy recovery are extended to our member Bill Jaffray who is in hospital at present.Bill delivered three lectures on houses, businesses and people of Tullamore of his youth in the last two years that were greatly appreciated and very well attended.

Offaly – The Faithful County – A pictorial history of the football years compiled by Paddy Fenning published in 1993.Paddy has found a bundle of these and kindly left them into the Cen

tre for sale retailing at €25.

Life and Lore Series

The Society has contracted with Maurice O’Keeffe to do 50 more hours of recordings in the Life and Lore series.This is phase 2 of the commitment.Midlands Radio 3 is broadcasting one recording each Tuesday evening at 7 pm.  The following is the schedule for the next three weeks:

Tuesday 29th Jan., John Wisely & Ml. Clear, Rosenallis.

5th Feb. Patricia Killeen, Shannonbridge.

12th Feb, Mabel Wallace, Shinrone.

Dick McRedmond

Historians tell us the origin of fist fighting belongs to Greek mythology. The champion pugilist, Jack Brotighton, formulated the earliest prize ring code of rules, in England, on the 10th August 1743. The longest recorded fight with gloves was between Andy Bowen and Jack Burke in New Orleans, U.S.A., on the 7th April 1893. The fight lasted one hundred and ten rounds, seven hours and nineteen minutes, but was declared a no contest when both men were unable to continue. The longest bare-knuckle fight was one of six hours and fifteen minutes between James Kelly and Jack Smith at Melbourne, Australia, on the 19th October 1856. The greatest recorded number of rounds is 278 in four hours thirty minutes when Jack Jones beat Patsy Tunney in Cheshire in 1825. The great Dan Donnelly fought George Cooper in Donnelly’s Hollow on the plains of Kildare. This contest was a bare-knuckle fight, which has been talked about for generations and various accounts of the contest have been documented. The ballad makers praised the Great Dan in their compositions. Donnelly won that famous contest and earned for himself a niche in the boxing annals. The first world heavyweight title fight with gloves, and three-minute rounds, was between John L. Sullivan and Gentleman James J. Corbett in New Orleans, U.S.A., on the 7th September 1892. Corbett won in twenty-one rounds. Many young Irishmen in America made a name for themselves in the ring and many more of Irish descent are on the Roll of Honour.

Dick McRedmond, or Dick the Boxer as he was known locally, was born at the Curragh, Cadamstown, in 1906 into a very old farming family, which had farmed the lands of the Curragh for generations. His father was James McRedmond and his mother was Brigid Mulvey from the Gap Glen in the foothills of the Slieve Bloom Mountains. He attended the local national school and was very fond of sport and hurling. From an early age he showed magnificent physique. At the age of nineteen, he was six feet three inches in height and was fourteen stone in weight. He hurled with the local school team. As one local said, “he was the makings of a good one”. After leaving, he attended the Albert Agricultural College, Glasnevin, Dublin. On finishing his term at college, he was presented with the following reference:

“This is to certify that Richard McRedmond of Cadamstown, Birr, Kings Co. was a pupil in the College during the session October 1923 to August 1924. In addition to taking part in all the operations of a large tillage and dairy farm, Richard McRedmond attended lectures and classes in the principles of agriculture and the cognate sciences. He proved himself earnest, industrious and thoroughly reliable. Altogether I can in full confidence recommend Richard McRedmond for any post which he deems within his powers, being sure that he will discharge his duties intelligently and conscientiously.”

He also attended the Vocational School, Tullamore. When leaving he was presented with the following certificate:

Scoil na gCeard, An Tulach Mhór, 27th. May 1925.

I know the bearer Richard McRedmond to be a high minded industrious and noble Irish boy, of lofty ideas, blameless character and possessing all the characteristics necessary for any position of trust. He is one of those we can badly spare from Ireland, magnificent physique and splendid moral character Gentle as a child, but with a super abundance of physical power. It is sad that our economic conditions are such that we must lose his type as the country is only slowly recovering from the disastrous effects of the Civil War. Only 19 years of age, though appearing from his splendid physique much more, he was too young fortunately to be connected with the Civil War which wrought so much harm.

I have every confidence in recommending him for expert work in agriculture. He only needs opportunity to make good. This certificate speaks for his practical and his skilled knowledge.

Offaly County Committee,
Technical Education

In the year 1925, Dick McRedmond left his native Cadamstown for Australia. There he worked in Melbourne for some time before deciding to go to Sydney where he met his Uncle Dick, who introduced him to a sheep farmer who worked a farm in the great outback. Dick spent six months on the great plains where seldom you would see a human being. He returned to Sydney where he obtained a job in a foundry. It was quite by accident that Dick entered the boxing arena. Fr. Lloyd had a boxing club called St. Joseph’s to which Dick was a frequent visitor. On a particular night, Fr. Lloyd invited Dick to spar with one of the club members and Dick agreed. He put up such a performance that he was invited to join the club. He fought his first bout for charity and so Dick McRedmond entered the world of boxing.

His first programmed fight was against Jim White of Queensland, a giant of a man, weighing seventeen stone. This Dick won easily and he was next matched against Jim R. Dwyer, a former heavyweight. The fight took place at Sydney Stadium and before the fight Dick was presented with a pair of green tights with gold harps. It was before this contest that Dick changed his name to Pat Redmond, by which name he was known during his boxing career. The fight with Dwyer was a tough contest but, after eight rounds, Pat Redmond knocked out his man.

His next fight was with James Pickering from New South Wales. Pickering stood six foot five and a half inches and eighteen stone in weight. He had fought all over America, Canada and Australia. He was a contender for the Australian heavyweight title. He was also a noted rugby player and was a favourite with the public. The Melbourne Star and Sydney Chronicle wrote before the fight, “Pickering is the best; he will show the Irishman how to fight”. Pat Redmond was given no chance. The fight took place at Rushcutters Bay, Sydney, before a capacity crowd. The crowd cheered Pickering as he stepped into the ring. The small contingent of Irish followers made their presence felt when Pat Redmond climbed through the ropes wearing his green tights with the gold harps.

From the first round, the Irishman followed Pickering round the ring. In the first and second rounds, Pickering went to pieces. In the third round, he hit the middle rope and then fell on his face from a perfect knockout. Pat Redmond’s next fight was with ex-heavyweight champion Jack Leahy. This was a fifteen rounder and the papers remarked that the eighteen stone Irish giant was in great shape. He certainly was, for he knocked out Leahy in the fourth round. Redmond did not get much time to relax. His next contest was with Harry Gill, whom he knocked out in the second round.

Pat Redmond’s next fight was with Wally Walker. The Sydney Sportsman, described the fight as follows: “In tile first round Walker hit the big Irishman flush in the eye, then Pat got slightly wild, he rushed at Walker with murder in his heart. He floored Walker to the canvas where he was counted out.” Redmonds next contest was with Blackie Payne, which was a fifteen round contest. This fight did not live up to expectations as Pat beat Payne inside three rounds. The only fight Pat Redmond lost in his bid for the Australian heavyweight title was against Dom McLeoid, the Melboune heavyweight. McLeoid knocked out the Irishman in the seventh round. This did not deter Pat. He was back again in the ring against Vic Simmons. This fight went on for seven rounds when a police inspector stopped the fight and so saved Simmons from a knockout. This fight was brought up in the House of Commons under the heading “Boxing Brutality. Questions in Parliament. When the assembly met yesterday, Mr. Fitzpatrick asked the Chief Secretary (Mr. Bruntkell) if he had seen the fight between Simmons and McRedmond; he was told it was disgraceful and brutal. He asked the Minister, “Would he prevent a repetition of such a thing happening again”. He also read a report from inspector Scott of the police department who observed the contest.”

Pat Redmond’s next fight was with Blackie Miller. Miller had just returned from America where he lost to Tom Heaney. Miller then beat Johnny Squires of England. He beat the German, Ludwig, in three rounds; he also outpointed Marcell Nilles of France; he beat Martin Bourke in Madison Square Gardens. He lost again to Tom Heaney. He then fought Krute Hansen, Harry Willis, Jack Delaney and Johnny Rusko. He then lost to Jack Skarkey. These fights were in preparation for the contest with Pat Redmond. The Miller-Redmond fight took place at Rushcutters Bay, Sydney, on Tuesday, September 21st 1929. The Sydney News reported as follows:

“Miller started as favourite as he stepped into the ring to face the giant Irishman Pat Redmond. In the first round, Miller scored all the points and received a great ovation from the large crowd at Rushcutters Bay Sydney. In the second round the Irishman began to warm up and he drove Miller against the ropes before the bell sounded. The third round Miller tried to hit Pat everwhere, from his instep to the top of his head. Being an Irish man, Pat did not like this so he decided to finish it. Brushing Millers attempts at his jaw aside, Pat pranced up and down, he then let fly with the left hook to Millers jaw, then a straight right to the body and Millers head hit the boards. After the count of ten he was carried from the ring and Pat Redmond was champion again. Now Pat was in line for the Australian heavyweight title against Bill Brogan the reigning champion.”

Hurrah for Ireland

The Saturday Evening Post Sydney May 29th.1929 reported the contest as follows:

“Pat Redmond weighing eighteen and a half stone and standing six feet five inches was the first to swing his huge frame through the ropes and Brogan wearing a New South Wales rugby sweater followed soon after amid the cheers of the crowd. The fans to a man were with Brogan and they gave him a great reception when he stripped for the fray. When the men squared up in the middle of the ring, Redmond in his usual orthodox fashion, Brogan rushed him but Redmond kept him at bay with an arm like a tree trunk. Brogan then rushed him to the ropes and pounded his body, crashed home a left to the body and swinging his right to the jaw, Redmond fell. He took several seconds before he rose to his feet. Brogan then dashed into the attack, Redmond held him off with his left hand and placed solid rights to the body. The round ended with both men trading punches in the centre of the ring. Redmond commenced the next round in style; he started off with rights to Brogan’s face and soon had the blood flowing from the nose. The men had the huge crowd roaring with excitement. When Brogan nailed Redmond to the ropes, Redmond took it all in good part and boxed on, stabbing his left and shooting his right into Brogan’s ribs. Halfway through the round Brogan began to slow down, he had to wait for Redmond to come to him. The giant Irish man gave him no rest, he attacked fiercely the whole time and when Brogan returned to his corner, his face covered with blood, he was a weary fighter. Redmond apparently took notice of the advice offered him in his corner, for he started the next round with a flurry of blows, lefts to Brogan’s damaged nose and rights to the body had the Australian on the canvas. He just beat the count and rose to his feet to meet another battering which spilled him again. Again he staggered to his feet, hardly able to raise his arms and after making one last dying effort by swinging a terrific right at Redmond’s jaw, Redmond then battered him to the canvas for the full count. The crowd did not take it well over Redmond’s victory. They saved their cheers for Brogan as he left the ring and so Pat Redmond, the giant Irishman, had won the Australian heavyweight championship.

After winning the title, various fighters were put up against him; he took them all in his stride. And so Redmond was matched against Primo Camera for the world heavyweight championship. The Irish fans all over the world waited for the contest. The New York Herald wrote;

And so the Irish giant Pat Redmond met Primo Camera for the world title. Camera won by a knockout in the first round. Many experts in boxing circles have stated, “Had Redmond weathered the first round he would undoubtedly have beaten Carnera. It was also stated that Pat needed a little more training; in this his manager was to blame. Beyond doubt, Pat proved himself a fighter.

It was recorded they were the biggest pair of fighters that ever graced the ring. Redmond had a special pair of gloves made for him, as the ordinary gloves would not fit his large hands. Pat also wore his favourite green trunks with the gold harps which were presented to him after his first fight by Fr. Lloyd of Melbourne.

Whenever lovers of boxing meet, Pat Redmond’s name is remembered. He stood alone in Australia and was admired by all nationalities. He carved a name for himself in the world of boxing, he settled on a farm in Co. Limerick where he died a young man. Whenever great men are talked about on the slopes of the Slieve Blooms, the name of Dick McRedmond will always be remembered as one of Cadamstown’s favourite sons.

I am most grateful for the information I received and permission to write the story of Dick McRedmond from the following; Tom and Mary McRedmond, Castleconnell, Co. Limerick, Jim McRedmond Curragh, Cadamstown, John McRedmond Kinnitty, Mary Spollen Daingean Rd. Tullamore and David McRedmond, Canberra.

Source: At the Foot of Slieve Bloom – History & Folklore of Cadamstown, Paddy Heaney

Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society Newsletter – November 2007



Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Web site: www.offalyhistory.com  Email: ohas@iol.ie     Telephone: 057-9321421                                                             

     NEWSLETTER November – December 2007

26 November T W Rolleston by Dr Maria O’BrienThe story of this literary life of a man born at Glasshouse, Shinrone by Dr O’Brien who is a native of Ferbane
Thomas William Rolleston (1857-1920): ‘An educated Englishman who thinks he is an Irishman’Thomas William Rolleston (1857-1920), a native of Shinrone, Co. Offaly, was an Irish Protestant who was active in different spheres of Irish life, namely politics, culture and economics. He has, as one observer has remarked, been strangely underestimated in Ireland since his death in 1920; he is primarily remembered as a poet and as one of the co-founders of the Irish Literary Society, London with W.B. Yeats.  Rolleston, like a small minority of southern Protestants, supported home rule within an Imperial context. Furthermore like Yeats and others, he was keen to avoid a singular vision of Irishness and instead was keen to embrace a more pluralistic and complicated construction of what it meant to be Irish. The talk will provide an overview of Rolleston’s life including his family origins in Offaly; his role and contribution to the literary and Gaelic revival, the co-operative movement and his political activities.

2/4th November 2007 Roscrea Autunn Conference on aspects of Irish Books and Irish Book People down the ages.  Details from Mount St. Joseph 0505 21711.

Current research in Offaly natural history14th November 2007 will see a lecture hosted at OHAS by the Offaly Naturalist Field Club and the subject will be current research to consist of three twenty minute papers and discussion and to commence at 8.30p.m. The talk will be chaired by John Feehan.

On Wednesday 14 November 2007 in the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society premises at Bury Quay, Tullamore – there will be an evening for the Offaly Naturalists Field Club at 8.30pm.Three research papers will be presented and this will be chaired by John Feehan of UCD and Birr.

*   Tufa Spring research in Offaly 2007 – Stephen Heery, Ecologist

*  Establishing a baseline for biodiversity on farms in Offaly –

Helen Sheridan, UCD

*  Grassland Survey of Offaly Mairead Gabbett, BEC Consultants

for NPWS

Christmas Draw 2007

A card of tickets for our Christmas draw is enclosed with local newsletters.  We would be grateful if everyone could contribute to the draw as generously as possible.  It has been a great success every year. 

2 December 2007  Annual Christmas lunch

Annual Christmas lunch at Bridge House Tullamore, Guest Speaker is Paul Gibson.  Mr. Gibson has lately published a very handsome book on the heritage landscape for County Offaly and other Midland counties and his talk which will be held after the lunch.  More details in November.

Prices and booking  The price of the lunch is €26.50 and booking with the Society in advance is recommended. Phone 057 9321421.

Book Launch

The Rahan Boys and the Killoughy Barracks Affray by Marie Smith is an account of the legendary police ambush at Killoughy RIC Barracks in an attempt to stop Rahan farmers from removing cattle and crops from land near Clonaslee on 14th October 1849.  The book will be launched in St. Carthage’s Hall, Rahan by Sr. Oliver on Friday 7th  Dec. @ 8.30 pm followed by refreshments.  You are very welcome along.  Marie is a member of staff at the OHAS Research Centre and is to be congratulated on her undertaking the publication.

Books as Christmas presents.  Why not support the Society and give an intelligent present without the tinsel this Christmas.  Attached is a list of material available and we have lots more too numerous to list here.  Call 05793 21421 or email your order.

New Local History Publications for sale at the Centre, some suggestions for Christmas presents

 The Jesuits of Tullabeg,  by Fr. Laheen S.J. This handsome book is now available for purchase at the Research Centre and is hard back book of circa 100 pages and is available for €20. 

Ciaran Reilly of Edenderry has published a book entitled  Edenderry, County Offaly and the Downshire estate, 1790-1800.  

Paul Gibson’s book entitled Heritage Landscape of the Irish Midlands is available for purchase at €20 at the centre. Other publications for sale can be viewed on our
internet site www.offalyhistory.com.

Shinrone History GroupAn interest in local heritage is taking place now in southwest Offaly, in the small village of Shinrone, where a heritage group has been formed, simply called Shinrone Heritage Group. Initiated by Steve O’Donohue through West Offaly Partnership in Banagher, the group has now met twice with County Heritage Officer Amanda Pedlow, and several locations of historic interest were discussed. Plans are now well underway for an information board to be placed at the site of the 7th century monastic site, Kilcumín (Kilcomin), just 2 km from Shinrone village. Different members of the group contributed to the research needed for the board, which should be erected in early 2008. The group members are Reid Armitage, Joe Cleary, Michael Egan, Billy Feighery, Mary-Jane Fox, Noel MacMahon, and Marguerite Walsh. Other interested parties are welcome to join!

Tullamore Workhouse publication Congratulations to Michael Murphy on the publication of his latest book Tullamore Workhouse the first decade 1842-1852.  Copies are available at the Centre at €20.

18th February 2008

Darrell Hooper  on Pre Christian Offaly 



To the Manager

Bank                       ———————————————————–       please print

Branch                   ———————————————————-         please print

Address                 ———————————————————-         please print

Please charge to my/our  ACCOUNT NUMBER ——————————-

                                               BANK SORT CODE ——————————-

Held in the name of : please print ———————————————————

and pay to the account of the  Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society 
Bank of
Ireland Tullamore Account:   60237536              sort code : 901909The sum of €25 (twenty five)On the 7th day of January 2008 and on the 7th day of January annually thereafter until countermanded.


My/our account will at all times contain sufficient funds to enable each payment to be effected on the due date.

Signed——————————————-   Date——————————————–



Email ————————————————————————————————

Booking form for Heritage Seminar being held on 10th Nov which should be completed and returned to the Heritage Officer, Aras an Chontae, Charleville Road, Tullamore immediately.  

Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society Newsletter – October 2007


Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Web site: www.offalyhistory.com   Email: ohas@iol.ie     Telephone: 057-9321421                                           

NEWSLETTER October 2007

11/13 October 2007, Slieve Bloom Story Telling. Details on Web site www.slievebloom.ie .  It commences at Roundwood House on the 11th of October. Kinnitty Castle on the 12th of October and with a tour on Saturday. Further details in the Local Press or from the Society. On the 8th of October the launch of the festival took place at Kinnitty Castle with Paddy Heaney acting as story teller.

22 October 2007 The story of Judge O’Connor of Gortnamona,Tullamore, 1824 – 1904

Illustrated talk from Michael Byrne regarding the life and writings of Judge O’Connor of Gortnamona, 1824 – 1904. Please note the title of this talk has been substituted from one on the legal profession in Offaly to one of its members, Judge O’Connor Morris, who is more remembered for his literary and historical  contribution then his pronouncements off the bench.

Birr Historical Society,

Lecture, 15 October, 8 pm Dooly’s Hotel, Birr.

The South Offaly No. 2 Brigade Irish Republican Army 1920-21

This will be an illustrated lecture by Trinity College postgraduate student Philip McConway and is based on research work carried out over the course of a year. His previous lecture last January in Tullamore, at the OHAS Research Centre, entitled ‘The Intelligence War in Offaly 1920-21: Spies, Informers and Militant Loyalists’ proved to be highly popular attracting a maximum audience. His article ‘Offaly and the Civil War Executions’ will shortly be published in the OHAS annual journal Offaly Heritage.

Maps, graphs, tables, photographs, and original primary source documents will be employed to reconstruct the activities of the South Offaly No. 2 Brigade IRA. Priority will be given to the experiences of individual Volunteers where their activities will be described, as often as possible, in their own words.

On 2 June 1920 the IRA attacked Clara RIC barracks signalling the start of the War of Independence in Offaly. Up to 200 Volunteers were involved in the elaborate operation which failed owing to defective explosives. Three Volunteers were seriously wounded, one of whom later died of his injuries.

In August 1920 the Offaly IRA was split into two separate brigades. The No. 2 Brigade was responsible for most of south Offaly comprising four battalions covering the areas of Clara, Cloghan, Kilcormac, and Birr. Insights will be provided into how the Brigade was organised, the senior leadership, and some of the major operations conducted. It was not until 21 September 1920 that the first RIC member was fatally wounded. Sergeant Denis P McGuire, 44, was shot through the right eye by an IRA sniper at Ferbane.

Low risk sabotage was the Offaly IRA’s main forte. While sensational ambushes and high enemy fatalities stole the limelight and enraptured public opinion in other areas, the less glamorous sabotage tactics of the Offaly IRA were often ignored. The IRA journal An tÓglách feted the sabotage tactics of the No. 2 Brigade in an effort to inspire other units throughout the country. Effective sabotage partly compensated for the deficiencies in launching successful ambushes. The latter activity required meticulous planning, military skill, and above all decisive leadership a trait badly lacking in the Offaly IRA. Chronic leadership shortcomings plagued the Offaly IRA for much of this period.

There will be a minute examination of the Kinnity ambush. On 17 May 1921 an IRA Active Service Unit (ASU) numbering five Volunteers ambushed an RIC patrol serving jury summonses on men at Cadamstown. On their return journey through Kinnity a section of the patrol was ambushed. Two constables were fatally wounded while another two received serious injuries.

The Offaly IRA submitted itself and followed the lead of GHQ. The GHQ tentacles in Offaly were strong and grew progressively more powerful as the war ensued. Attention will focus on the failings and deficiencies of the No. 2 Brigade as much as successes and achievements. The IRA Chief of Staff, Richard Mulcahy, directed severe criticism at the No. 2 Brigade after botching a key operation to ambush a troop train at Clara. Mulcahy berated the No. 2 Brigade O/C for incompetence and slovenliness. The Brigade O/C was reproached for ‘tinkering with the honour of the nation and playing with the lives of the men who are acting under you.’ Mulcahy was considering purging Brigade officers unless they started realizing their responsibilities. Between 1920-21 at least three GHQ organisers were sent to south Offaly to stimulate resistance, with mixed levels of success. One of these organisers was a native of Portumna and a medical student attached to the Dublin IRA. Sent by GHQ to escalate the war in south Offaly this man was later elevated to be the new Brigade O/C in May 1921. He was instrumental in reviving the fortunes of the much criticised Brigade by steering the IRA in a more clinical and ruthless direction.

Within Offaly, Rahan native Joseph Connolly emerged as a fearless and audacious leader. Connolly did much to change the Offaly IRA from being characterised as a timid, hesitant and lenient unit to one representing a far more lethal threat. Poorly armed and ill-trained the odds were heavily stacked against local IRA units. Connolly can arguably be considered the best, certainly the most effective, IRA

leader in Offaly. His vigour and determination to achieve military success never received the same public recognition bestowed on IRA leaders in other counties. The little known Connolly was the closest Offaly ever came to having the calibre of IRA leadership to compare with elsewhere such as Sean MacEoin in Longford, Tom Barry in Cork, and Dan Breen in Tipperary.

Aspects of the intelligence war will be explored. A spy was executed near Mountbolus in May 1921, while an informer at Cloghan and another near Belmont were shot the following month.

In what promises to be hard hitting lecture, challenging new evidence will be presented on the Pearson militant loyalists and informers of Coolacrease, Cadamstown. The family were Cooneyites, a secretive millenarian sect infamous for their uncompromising zeal.In late June 1921, shortly after midnight, the three eldest Pearson brothers, Richard, 24, Abraham, 19, and Sidney, 20, fired with shotguns on IRA Volunteers engaged in a road block operation near Coolacrease. Two Volunteers were wounded, one of whom received a serious stomach injury. On 30 June 1921 Richard and Abraham were executed by the IRA and their house burned down. The subterfuge of William Pearson will be exposed in his attempt to gain financial compensation for the execution of his two sons.

Mr McConway provided research assistance to a forthcoming RTÉ Hidden History documentary on the Pearsons. He will briefly highlight concerns that the documentary may be unfairly biased.

The O’Connor Faly Lordship of Co. Offaly in the medieval period. Dr. Cormac O’Cleirigh

Our thanks to Dr O Cleirigh for his lecture.   A copy of his thesis is in our library as is an article he published in the proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy.

2/4th November 2007 Roscrea Autunn Conference on aspects of Irish Books and Irish Book People down the ages.Details from Mount St. Joseph 05/05/21711.

Current research in Offaly natural history

14th November 2007 will see a lecture hosted at OHAS by the Offaly Naturalist Field Club and the subject will be current research to consist of three twenty minute papers and discussion and to commence at 8.30p.m. The talk will be chaired by John Feehan.

26 November T W Rolleston by Dr Maria O’Brien

The story of this literary life of a man born at Glasshouse, Shinrone by Dr O’Brien who is a native of Ferbane – details to follow.

2 December 2007  Annual Christmas lunch

Annual Christmas lunch at Bridge House Tullamore, Guest Speaker is Paul Gibson.  Mr. Gibson has lately published a very handsome book on the heritage landscape for County Offaly and other Midland counties and his talk which will be held after the lunch.  More details in November.

New Local History Publications for sale

 The Jesuits of Tullabeg,  by Fr. Laheen S.J. This handsome book is now available for purchase at the Research Centre and is hard back book of circa 100 pages and is available for €20.Only a very small number of copies were printed so if you want a copy you should call to the centre and collect it as soon as possible or email us and we can post it to you for a sum of €25 in total to an Irish address only otherwise you need to contact us by email to ascertain the full postage charge of overseas.

Ciaran Reilly of Edenderry has published a book entitledEdenderry, County Offaly and the Downshire estate, 1790-1800.   This is one of seventy five books in the Maynooth Studies in Local History series and the second on County Offaly.The first was published back 10 years ago on Ferbane. He has also lately published an historical survey of Edenderry which should be available from the Centre shortly.

Paul Gibson’s book entitled Heritage Landscape of the Irish Midlands is available for purchase at €20 at the centre. Other publications for sale can be viewed on our internet site www.offalyhistory.com.

Ballykane Bog Medieval Bog Crannogs

The most recent issue of Archaeology Ireland (autumn 2007) contains an article by Sinclair Turrell and Jane Whitaker on discoveries at Ballykane Bog, Co. Offaly.  A copy is available in the Society.

Military History Society Programme for 2007/2008 We have now received details of same with lectures being held on the Friday of each month for anybody who wants information it can be obtained at the Society.

Geashill Historical Papers One of our members has kindly emailed to us details of papers in the Dorset Record Office relating to Geashill Estate.If you would like a copy per email would you please email us and we can forward you same.

Phase Three of Offaly People and Lore Series

The Society has agreed to make a cash contribution to the cost of phase 3 being 50 CDs of people in Offaly  talking about their recollections.The project is being undertaken for us by Maurice O’Keeffe following his successful phase 1 and 2. If you have names of people you think would be agreeable to be recorded for a one hour CD would you please forward details by email or per letter/ phone to us at ohas@iol.ie or as above.

18th February 2008

Darrell Hooper  on Pre Christian Offaly

Offaly Industry and Commerce – Perry's Mills, Belmont

Written in 1883

It is my duty as well as pleasure to notice the many enterprises that place the King’s County in a respectable position amongst the few – far too few – energetic centres of Ireland. Ulster has the reputation of being the most prosperous of our four Provinces, and no doubt it is; but we are proud to be in a position to state that, in proportion to its advantages and making fair allowance for several drawbacks, there is no county more progressive than the King’s. It is true we have not here the same amount of manufacturing and commercial life that is to be seen in Ulster; but then it must not be forgotten that here the “sinews of war” are not so plentiful. Notwithstanding such an inconvenience however, there is hardly a town within our bounds that cannot boast of some manufactory such as a brewery, a distillery, a teetotaller’s drink generator, a flour mill, or even an oil cake mill, while the rural districts are not absolutely short of other industrial communities.

Although partially surrounded by a stretch of country the reverse of the romantic owing to the monotonous nature of the undiversifed scenery and the large admixture of bog, still by some freak of nature BELMONT is situated in a charming belt of land. It may be compared to an oasis in a desert; for while the landscape around possesses few attractions to a casual observer, the immediate locality itself furnishes a sight that might delight the heart of an Artist. Through the verdant valley flows the Great Brosna – the Great being a distinction from the Little Brosna which touches Parsonstown. This ‘great’ water flow is but a small sluggish stream recalling Goldsmith’s line anent, the “lazy Scheldt and wandering Po.” But though the Brosna at some points seems somewhat dilatory in its movements there is no river of similar size in these parts keeping so many fine wheels in motion. From the banks the ground rises at a gentle gradient until it forms a natural amphitheatre brilliant in its rich emerald colouring, relieved at intervals with clumps of trees clothed now in the gorgeous foliage of mid Summer.

In the centre of this stand the Mills and residents of the Messrs THOMAS and JAMES PERRY, who however carry on business under the old well-known title of “ROBERT PERRY & CO.” The entire structures are large enough to make a neat hamlet of respectable dimensions. In the centre is the Flour-Mill – an enormous pile of masonry, 100 feet long by 40 in width and 40 in height to the Eva. This building is quite modern in its style, having been erected in 1879-80 immediately after the destructive fire. The present firm have been in occupation since 1866 and the previous Proprietor, who also carried on the flour milling in it, was Captain Collins; but in his time it was not one fourth its present size. Within twenty yards stands an Oatmeal Mill nearly as large. This had formerly been a tuck mill worked by the late Mr Thomas L’Estrange. The external aspect of the two, although very fine indeed, is excelled by what is seen inside, as the machinery is all new and of the improved kind, worked by water power and remarkable for scrupulous cleanliness. An idea may be formed of what is done in the Flour Mill on being told that in the season nine pairs of stones and seven rollers are constantly in operation, while four pairs are hardly adequate to meet the demands on the Oatmeal Mill. The Stores attached are capable of containing 20,000 barrels of corn, and outside these stand some of the dwelling-houses of the managing and working staff of the concern others having been recently provided at the village and cross-roads of BELMONT. There are also smaller buildings in which carpenters, blacksmiths and millwrights are kept employed the year round. Fifty men are constantly employed by the Firm, and their Milling department is superintended by Mr George Robins, acting as foreman miller, in which capacity he has long experience and shown exceptional zeal and ability. In fact, such qualifications are an in dispensable condition at BELMONT.

The Mills grind large quantities of Irish as well as American wheat. A great deal of the former is bought on the spot which is of considerable importance to the farmers in the locality. In addition quantities, surprising in extent, are received from Dublin. The flour made here has the reputation of being excellent in point of colour and strength, and is therefore specially suited for baking. The Messrs PERRY have offices in Tullamore, Mullingar, Ballinsloe, and in Moate, and sell much of their deliveries in these and in the neighbouring towns. The principal portion of their traffic is carried on the Grand Canal, and they also keep a number of horses on the road to cart to towns unapproached by the water way. They have a special pier on the Canal at BELMONT for their own trade, and now a new railway station has been erected in proximity for the accommodation of their trade on the Clara and Banagher Railway, which is expected to be opened in September next. In 1879 the Flour mill was burned down, but the Oatmeal Mill escaped. The rebuilding cost over £7,000, but this was nearly all covered by insurance on the buildings and stock. Situated about three miles from Banagher, fifteen from Tullamore and ten from Parsonstown, BELMONT is well worthy of a visit from those who may be so fortunate as to have occasion to travel near that attractive locality – attractive in its natural beauty as well as from the exceptional circumstance that it is the site of not only one of the largest manufactures in the King’s County, but unquestionably the most extensive Flour and Corn Mills in all Ireland.

The Motor Car in the King's County

Midland Tribune July 9th 1898

On Monday morning no small sensation was created in Tullamore by the appearance of Mr. Daniel E. William’s new motorcar as it left his extensive wholesale spirit and grocery premises in Barrack Street on its way to Birr. Large numbers of people watched the progress of the interesting vehicle as it proceeded through the town with a large consignment of goods for the owner’s branch establishment in Birr, and an escort of cyclists accompanied it for several miles on its maiden trip. As the motor left the town the speed was increased from four to eight miles an hour, and it appeared to run at the greatest ease, carrying a freight of about three tons. The country people along the route gazed at the novel spectacle in silent wonder, and for the first time seemed to appreciate the fact that the horseless age is destined to be no idle chimera. The car reached Birr without any hitch or accident, with the exception of a slight delay caused by the sinking of the wheels in part of the bog road near Thomastown, and arrived at Tullamore on the return journey shortly after 10 p.m. The motive power is supplied by a small oil engine, and the mechanical arrangement is of the dimplest description, a speed of ten miles an hour even with the full load being easily attainable. The vehicle was built at Cowes, Isle of Wight, and cost something like £600. Mr. Williams is to be congratulated on the commendable enterprise which impels him to carry out such a new and startling departure, and the people of the various towns to which his business extends have reason to be proud of a citizen whose liberal employment and well-directed efforts in promoting the general advancement confer such substantial benefits on the community.

Gallen and Kilreehan – two ancient Ferbane cemeteries

Midland Tribune Article 23/3/1929

As one stumbled over the graves, for the most part unkempt and unregarded in a rural cemetery, the words of Gray’s immortal elegy vividly appear on the canvas of memory:-

“The boast of heraldry, the pomps of Pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave;
Await alike th’ inevitable hour,
The paths of glory lead but to the grave”

Anyone of our neglected Irish country Churchyards might have inspired that eleagic masterpiece. For there, prince and peasant, chieftain and retainer, all mingle in the common dust of Irish earth.

“Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands that the rod of empire might have sway’d,
Or wak’d to estacy the living lyre.”

Apart from their sad character, and the solemn purpose which they serve, there is scarcely one of these old Irish cemeteries unlinked with the nation’s history. No matter how obscure, unregarded, or inaccessible they may be in this Age of Progress they are not unworthy of at least “the passing tribute of a sigh.” Now that a commendable, if somewhat belated, effort, is being made to restore them to a condition of decency and order, a brief sketch of the two cemeteries near Ferbane, at present undergoing the process, may not be out of place.

Gallen Cemetery

The little cemetery of Gallen, about half an acre in extent, is picturesquely situated on the left bank of the Brosna, within the beautiful demesne of Gallen Priory, and about 300 yards south-east of the Priory itself. Unrivalled scenes of sylvan splendour surround it: not a sound disturbs’ its awesome stillness, except the distant murmur of the river, or the crooning of the wind through the trees. The venerable ivy-clad rums of the church, measuring 77 feet by 22 feet, occupy the centre, and within and around cluster the graves -the homes of the silent dead. The eastern gable of the church has well withstood the ravages of time; the massive tracery of its window is still intact. Through its stained glass once flowed the mellow sunshine that warmed the arch above, and made mosaics on the floor and altar below. If they could speak what a tale these sacred walls could tell! In the words of Father Burke, the Prince of Preachers, “they would tell of the glorious days when Ireland’s church and Ireland’s nationality joined hands; and when the preists and people rose up in a glorious combat for freedom. They would tell us how the wavering were encouraged and strengthened, and the brave and gallant fired with the highest and noblest purpose for God and Ireland; how the vile traitor was detected, and the falsehearted denounced; and how the nation’s lifeblood was kept warm, and the wounds were staunched by the wise counsels of the old Franciscan and Dominican Friars.” All this, and much more, might these sacred ruins relate, for within them assembled the nation’s best and bravest, to practise that faith, in defence of which the blood of our Irish martyrs reddened the moss of our valleys and hillsides. In the dark and evil days of persecution Gallen suffered the full fury of the ruin and devastation. After an illustrious existence of almost eleven centuries, having withstood many a vicissitude, the light of its sanctuary lamp was extinguished about 1650. For almost 300 years it was to remain in darkness and desolation. To-day, thank God, it glows as brightly as in the days gone by. In 1921 the ancient Priory and demesne passed into the possession of its present owners- the Nuns of St. Joseph of Cluny, and thus Gallen has reverted to its pristine use.
It had been thought that on account of its great age and historic associations, some relic of its former glory would be discovered amidst the ruins and debris; but the despoilers did their work well, and not a trace of Gallen’s former greatness has been found. A few very ancient stones, rather crudely carved, were dug up, and these have been reverently placed in the sanctuary of the old church. A wonderful improvement has been effected by the work in progress for the past few weeks, and when completed, a debt to the dead long overdue, will have been paid.

Kilreehan Cemetery

Although not as ancient as Gallen, yet the origin of Kilreehan is very remote. It is situate on the right bank of the Brosna, and almost opposite Gallen. About 400 yards away are ruins of the old church of Wheery, whence the parish of Ferbane takes its name. The ruins of Wheery are not as well preserved as those of Gallen; in extent they are also small. Some years ago, during cleaning operations on the Brosna , a small bell was found in the bed of the river, directly opposite the ruins of Wheery. It was in a perfect state of preservation, and the finder, the late Mr John Caheeran, of Endrim, handed it over to the then Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise. This ancient relic is still a treasure of the Diocesan Archives. A small round pan, or crucible, and presumably for the manufacture of Altar Bread, found about the same time, and in the same place, eventually came into the possession of the National Museum.
No ancient monuments have been unearthed at Kilreehan, but there are some notable modern graves. The oldest tomb is dated 25th March, 1760,and a rather quaint little stone marks the grave of a Dr Tobias Matthews, who died in 1780. The grave of Edmund Day, who was hanged for a trivial offence in 1820, is in the centre of the cemetery, and nearby is the grave of Michael Rigney, whose tragic death on St. Patrick’s Day, in 1875, was an outstanding Irish crime of the nineteenth century. Near the King vault is the grave of Mrs Beasley, mother of the great sporting family of that name. In an unregarded grave lie the remains of a once well-known public official, who was mainly responsible for the convi-ction of Charles Kickham, the Irish poet and patriot. A quaint, and yet appropriate leg-end, is inscribed on the tomb of one Patrick Fleming, who died in 1828. It reads as follows:-

“Life is a city, full of crooked streets;
Death is the market place, where all sinners meet.
Had life been merchandised, so that men could buy;
Then the rich would live, and the poor would die.”

It is a curious fact that in neither cemetery is there a surname beginning with the distinctly Irish prefix of Mac. In Gallen there is one O’Connor, and in Kilreehan one O’Neill.

“By Mac and O, you’ll always know true Irishmen they say,
But if the lack the O or Mac, no Irishmen are they.”

If these two lines bear any relation to the truth, then there are very few “true Irishmen” around Ferbane. And this pan-city of the Irish prefix is all the more strange when it is recalled that Ferbane district was once the stronghold of the great Mac Coghlan sept, the ruins of whose old baronial residence are still in a state of tolerably good preservation, and are known as Kilcolgan Court. They are situate about two miles from Ferbane, and it was here, in 1790, that the last of the Mac Coghlans passed away -P.F., Ferbane, March 1929.

Kinnitty – Notes on the emigration scheme from Kilconcouse, Kinnitty 1847-52

Source: Eilish Ellis in Analectica Hibernica, xxii, (1960), pp 329-394.

The crown estate of Kilconcouse was situated in the parish of Kinnitty, King’s Co., and comprised 871 acres. This estate differed from Ballykilcline, Irvilloughter and Boughill in that in this case, from 1829 onwards, leases had been granted to the tenants for a twenty-one year term. The rents appeared to have been paid fairly regularly until the year 1846 when the famine intervened. In a report from the secretary of Kinnitty District relief committee, it was started with twelve families of 68 person where without any provisions and ‘in most precarious state’. Forty individuals were unable to work. Subscriptions amounting to £35 were contributed by the commissioners of Woods.

In April, 1847, the Commissioners authorised the collector of excise, Parsonstown, ‘to give such indulgence in payment to each tenant as their circumstance may require’, when a number of tenants appealed for lenience.

The leases foe twenty-one years expire in 1850 when an arrear of rent of £1,531 14s. 9d. had accumulated. It was then decided to remove the ‘surplus population’; to redivide the land among those selected from the remaining tenants and to abandon the collection of arrears. The friction and unrest which arose from this redivision was the cause of an inquiry by a select committee of the House of Lords into the management of the estate. Fifty-six persons left Kilconcouse at a cost of £363 19s. 8d.

Itinerary Dublin – Liverpool – New York

Personal Details Date of Departure Liverpool Date of Arrival New York Ship


No relationship specified 11th June 18524
Dunn William
Fitzgerald: James
Fitzgerald: John
Horan: Patrick

Karney or

Kenehan: John
Kennedy: Peter
Lowry5: Patrick
Spain: Biddy
White: Mary


  1. Q.R.O., O.W. Land Revenue Series Letter Books, Report of H. Tyrrell on Distress, c. 21 May 1846.
  2. Ibid., Commissioners of Woods to Burke, 8 April 1847.
  3. Report from the select committee of the House of Lords . . . into the Management. . . of Kilconcouse, etc., 1854, xxi, 3.
  4. All the emigrants from Kilconcouse sailed from Liverpool on the 11 June 1852 with one exception, Patrick Lowry. It is therefore unnecessary to repeat dates of departure with each family group.
  5. Q.R.O., Files of Forfeiture Office and Miscellaneous Papers, File No. 5, Burke to Commissioners of Woods, 3 September 1852, states that as Patrick Lowry has only one eye he was judged ‘unfit for New York’ and was sent to Philadelphia instead.

Francis and Mark Foy

Retail tycoon’s publicity stuns astounded

(Daily Mirror, January 24, 1979)

The two brothers, Francis and Mark Foy, never looked back after that and soon built their business into one of the most successful department stores in Sydney. Its growth was due primarily to the commercial ability of the older brother Francis Foy who had already helped build up the well-known Melbourne store Foy and Gibson’s.

Selling out to his partner there because he wanted a free hand to run the business Francis Foy gambled on starting anew in Sydney. He succeeded because his mind bubbled with shrewd business ideas and stunts that soon had Sydney’s more conventional retailers worried.

In desperation they tried to thwart Mark Foy’s growth by circulating stories that the Foy brothers were Chinese. Francis Foy retaliated by dyeing his hair bright green and standing one St Patrick’s Day at the door of his shop with a huge placard. It proclaimed: “Foy is no Chinaman. He’s an Irishman – ask the ladies.” The younger brother Mark was somewhat overshadowed by the dominating and flamboyant Francis who was 10 years his senior.


He largely left the store that bore his name in Francis’s hands and eventually abandoned it to concentrate on other interests such as fathering 18-footer sailing on Sydney Harbour and founding the famous Hydro Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains.

The family that made such a mark on Sydney retailing was in fact French in origin. Flour miller Marc Foy migrated from the Somme Valley to Ireland at the time of the French Revolution. He started his own mill at Banagher in County Offaly married an Irish girl and raised and Irish family.

One of his sons, born in 1815, was christened Mark as an anglicised form of his father’s French name of Marc. Unlike his brothers young Mark Foy did not go to work in the family mill. Instead in his early teens he went off to Dublin and got a job in the drapers firm of Todd and Burns. With a flair for business he progressed rapidly and was soon promoted from counter-hand to buyer being known in the trade as the “boy buyer.”

Mark Foy married an Irish coileen named Mary Macken in 1848 and six children, three girls and three boys, began arriving. With his growing family Mark Foy found that even a buyer’s wage was inadequate. So in 1859 he decided to migrate to the golden Eldorado of Victoria.

(Daily Mirror, January 24, 1979)

On arriving in Melbourne he found a job with the Bourke Street drapers Buckley and Nunn but soon launched out with his won shop at Bendigo. His eldest son Francis born in Dublin in 1854 in working in his father’s growing store while still at school. At 10 the boy drove a team of bullocks and a dray nearly 160km over a bush track to Melbourne, loaded the dray with merchandise and got it back safely to Bendigo.

The business expanded rapidly and Mark Foy soon had branch stores at Castlemaine, Greytown and Spring Gully Creek. By 1868 he had made enough to close up on the goldfields and open a fine new drapery store in Collingwood Melbourne’s busiest suburb.

Francis Foy was then 14 and working full-time for his father. Industrious and with a clever business mind he was the mainstay of Mark Foy’s when at 18 he quarrelled with his father. Irish-born Francis always had a “bit o’ the divvil” in him as his compatriots would say. O! stocky built with a pugnacious jaw, he could use his fists and indeed it was a fight he had been in that sparked trouble with his father.

Hurt at his father’s attitude, young Francis Foy headed for the Melbourne docks and in a short time signed on as a cabin boy on a barque bound for Ireland. He went home to get some clothes bade farewell to his mother and sisters and returned to the ship. By the time his father heard what he was up to the barque was on the point of departure.

Mark Foy raced to the waterfront knowing how stubborn Francis could be he was not going to try to stop him but had put 100 sovereigns in a chamois bag.

The ship was casting off and seeing Francis on deck Mark Foy threw the bag to him. His son picked it up and threw it back. “I need no help,” he called “I’ll stand or fall on my own feet. Goodbye father.” Francis Foy left the ship in Dublin, where he had many relatives and in no time he had a job in the drapery firm of Arnott and Co.

Three years passed and young Foy, at 21, returned to Australia. He rejoined his father’s business and before long was virtually running it. When his wife died in 1880 Mark Foy decided he would retire and return to Ireland. Over the next two years he withdrew as much cash as he cold from the business.


Then in 1882 Mark Foy called he family together and announced he was turning over the business to them. Francis was to run it but his brothers and sisters were also to have shares. Mark Foy sailed for Ireland but never did get home for death claimed him in California not long after he came ashore.

Left with a business seriously short of working capital Francis Foy decided he would have to take in a partner and consulted James Bruce of the warehouse Paterson Laing and Bruce. As it happened, Bruce, a few days later, met a migrant draper from Glasgow, William Gibson, who was looking for a flourishing business in which to invest. Bruce told Gibson to see Francis Foy. “He’s one of the cleverest young businessmen in Victoria.” Said Bruce. ” If you get in with him your future is made.”
(Daily Mirror, January 24, 1979)

So Gibson, a much older man, became a partner in the firm. The name was changed to Foy and Gibson’s which in time became one of Melbourne’s best known stores. But Francis Foy had little part in that development. After three years he decided he could not work in a partnership and told Gibson one of them must buy the other out. They tossed a coin with the winner to continue the business and Foy won but then he noticed his partner’s look of anguish and put his hand on his shoulder. “You seem terribly disappointed, William.” He said “Do you wish you had won?” Dejectedly Gibson said “yes Francis, I do indeed.” Lavpetuously Foy told him to consider that he had won. He said that for $16,000 he would sell the complete Foy interest to Gibson. As the business was worth an estimated $120,000 Gibson wasted no time writing out a cheque for the amount stipulated and Foy walked out.

Francis Foy intended to use the money to start another business in Sydney. His brothers and sisters (whose interest he has sold along with his own) agreed to invest their share with him. So with $16,000 Francis Foy came to Sydney with is brother Mark who had been born in Bendigo in 1864. The youngest brother, Hugh, joined them later.

Francis Foy spent days searching Sydney for a suitable shop to lease before he decided on premises in Oxford Street. He named the shop Mark Foy’s after his father’s Melbourne business.

From the beginning the store was a moneymaker. Indeed on the opening day police had to be called to disperse the crowds in Oxford Street waiting to enter. Trouble was they were holding up the steam trams. The success of Mark Foy’s was mainly due to Francis Foy’s business ability and his flair for the unusual.

Instead of periodical sales like other stores he advertised all over Sydney: “Foy’s fair is now on.” He also invented the slogan: “Aim straight fore Mark Foy’s.” When balloon ascents were making headlines in Sydney making headlines in Sydney Francis Foy hired one of the balloonists to take off from Hyde Park near his shop. But the balloon got away and wrapped itself round a tower on top of his competitor. Anthony Hordern’s in the Haymarket. Old Samuel Hordern was furious, especially when he saw the slogan on the baloon’s side: “Aim straight for Mark Foy’s.”

Mark Foy’s developed into a department store and early in the 1900s it was obvious new and bigger premises were essential. Francis Foy had his eye on the island block bounded by Elizabeth , Liverpool, Castlereagh and Goulburn Streets, then a ramshackle warren of small shops, cheap cafes, Chin

ese herbalists and animal dealers.

There were 15 separate pieces of land in the block and Foy had 15 different people quietly buying them up on his behalf so he got the whole block at a remarkably cheap price ranging from $24 to $40 a foot. Once he had the land Foy took an architect overseas with him to inspect the world’s great department stores. Eventually they decided to built on similar lines to the famous Bon Marche in Paris.

The result was Mark Foy’s store known as the Plazza and opened in 1908 when Mark Foy retired from active participation in the business. Francis Foy remained in control. He installed the first escalator in Sydney at the Plazza and Mark Foy’s was the first Sydney tore to change from horse-drawn to motor delivery vans.

His hobby was racing and he ran a stud farm near Parkes. He named it the Monastery and called the first sire there His Reverence.

Francis prided himself on originality in naming his horses. He once tried to call a son of His Reverence Skin the Goat and when that was rejected substituted No Shenanagan.

Once Foy imported and unnamed English colt. When he was due to be entered for his first race the trainer, John Allsop suddenly remembered the colt had not be named or registered. Allsop raced round to Foy’s office but the owner was too busy to be bothered thinking of a name. He therefore waved Allsop out, telling him: “Call him anything you like but let it be something Irish.” As Something Irish the horse was duly register red and he subsequently performed well both on the track and as a sire.


Having spent his early life in Melbourne Francis Foy loved Melbourne Cup Day. He always invited friends to a picnic lunch on tables set up under trees at Flemington and champagne flowed freely.

At the Cup of 1913, although his health was failing, the 64-year-old Francis Foy staged a gayer and happier party than ever before. Just before the race a bookmaker approached and asked Foy if he wanted to have a bet on the Cup. “Not on the Cup said Francis Foy with a wistful smile. “But I’ll bet you 3.1 that I don’t get back to Sydney alive.” Two days later this unique character among Australia’s business magnates suffered a heart attack travelling home. He died on the train as it pulled into Goalburn.

The following extract is taken from the “Dictionary of Australian Biography.”


FOY, MARK (1810-1884), draper, was born at Moystown, King’s County, Ireland, son of Marc Foy, French emigré and flourmiller, and his wife Catherine, née Hennessy. He was educated at Banagher and was reputedly intended for the legal profession but because of family problems he was apprenticed to a drapery firm in Dublin. In 1858 he arrived at Melbourne in the Champion of the Seas. He probably worked first for Buckley & Nunn but in 1859 went to the goldfields. He had a butcher’s shop at Campbell’s Creek till 1861 when he moved into a produce store at Castlemaine. In 1873 he went to Bendigo where his brother Francis had a wholesale produce business. Early in 1867 Mark went into partnership with Robert Bentley, a storekeeper. In December 1868 he followed a new rush to Spring Creek, in Melvor Shire, where by January 1869 there was said to be ‘a business for every claim at work’. They raw settlement suffered great discomforts and at a public meeting in Foy’s premised on 24 February he moved that Spring Creek be constituted a borough. He was elected to a committee for planning separation of the town from nearby Heathcote, the new borough of Graytown was proclaimed on 9 August 1869 and named after Wilson Gray, a family friend. On 11 September Foy became magistrate for the Melvor General Sessions. He also helped to arrange the first borough election and on November was elected a councillor. However, the town’s decline continued and he soon dismantled his shop and went to Melbourne. On 11 February 1870 the partnership with Bentley was dissolved ‘by mutual consent’.

Foy set up a new drapery shop in Smith Street, Collingwood, where he prospered, occupying three shops by 1875 and six by 1880. At Carrum Swamp he selected 195 acres in November 1871 and later another 129 acres. In November 1882 he settled the Smith Street business on his eldest son Francis, withdrew his capital, brought in William Gibson as Francis’s partner and left with his wife for Europe. In San Francisco his health worsened and he died on 14 January 1884. Soon afterwards Francis sold on to Gibson and moved to Sydney to establish a new business under his father’s name.

Energetic and resourceful, Foy was described as a ‘Liberal Conservative’ and was later said to have donated money to Sir James McCulloch’s party. He was also sympathetic to the early closing movement. He was married twice: first in Ireland about 1848 to Mary Macken (d. 21 March 1879) by whom he had six surviving children: and second in Melbourne to Catherine Power (d.1930) by whom he had one son.

The following is an obituary of Mark Foy (1865-1950)


Mr. Mark Foy, who with two other brothers started the firm of Mark Foy’s Limited more than 70 years ago, died in St. Vincent’s Hospital last night, aged 85.

Mr. Foy, who lived at Victoria Road, Bellevue Hill, died following a fall in his garden at his Bayview cottage. He was admitted to hospital at noon yesterday and died about midnight.

Mr. Foy was in bed about 4 o’clock yesterday morning, when he thought he heard a burglar in the grounds. He got out of bed and was walking through a garden patch when he slipped.

Mr. Foy was one of Sydney’s leading business figures. He was known for his generosity and donated large amount to charity. He was also “prominent” in the sporting world. His main activity was sailing and he was the originator of 18ft sailing in Australia. He owned many championship boats and sailed them in England and Europe.

In his youth Mr. Foy was also a good rifle shot. In America when 16 he won several medals for shooting. Mr. Foy was born in Bendigo. His father, an Irishman started the Melbourne firm of “Foy and Gibson.”

The Foy family decided to branch out into Sydney, and Mr. Mark Foy and two other brothers came here and established the business. He was the only surviving brother. Mr. Foy built the Hydro Majestic at Medlow Bath.

Sydney Flying Squadron’s fleet will fly black mourning ribbons from masts in Saturday’s race in the Harbour. This will be the Squadron’s tribute to its founder and its patron, Mr. Foy.

Mr. Foy founded the Squadron in 1892 and retained the keenest interest in it until his death. SFS secretary (Mr. W.J. Anderson) said today that all skippers should see black ribbons were flown on Saturday. “Mr. Foy’s death has cast gloom over the Sport, his sportsmanship and generosity will long be remembered” added Mr. Anderson.

Mr. Foy is survived by two sons and two daughters. Mr. Mark F. Foy, Mr. F. J. Foy, Mrs. McGahey and Miss Sheila Foy. No arrangements have yet been made for the funeral.

The Sydney Morning Herald

Saturday, December 13, 1997

Glory days are coming
back to the Hydro

The hotel today, its terrace commanding
Breathtaking views across the Blue

Heritage Writer

The decline from glory of Medlow Bath’s famous Hydro Majestic probably began during World War II, when convalescing American servicemen billeted there played havoc with the historic hotel.

“Instead of getting out of bed to turn a light switch off, they’d shoot the bulb out with a revolver,” said Mrs Mary Shaw, grand-daughter of the hotel’s founder, Mark Foy. “They had mouse traps hidden on couches and chairs to catch the unwary and they rolled some statuary down the cliffs at the back… They disposed of a herd of wild goats that my grandfather had imported… the whole lot of them for target practice just for s

omething to do.”

It was a long way from the hotel’s more refined days, initially as a spa built by Foy from a collection of properties he had acquired along the ridge line in the village of Medlow (the “Bath” was added only after the health resort opened in July 1904).

There, all manner of bizarre and curious health treatments – for anything from nerves to migraine to liver complaints – were administered under the supervision of Dr. George Baur, late of Munich. But the “hydropathic sanatorium” was a short-lived fad. Foy cannily transformed it into a tourist destination that was, according to the Blue Mountains’ locals studied librarian, John Low, “sophisticated, expensive and very fashionable” and a mecca for Sydney people during the 1920s and 1930s.

Some rooms in the massive hotel (it stretches 300 metres along the cliff top overlooking the Megalong Valley) have been closed for up to 30 years, or used as storerooms. Now, however, it is undergoing a revival under the ownership of the Malaysian businessman Mr King Hock Mah and the management of the Peppers Hotel Group.

Under a conservation plan and development application lodged with the Blue Mountains City Council, an extensive two-year restoration/refurbishment is proposed to take the hotel back as far as possible to its earlier styles.

(The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday, December, 1997)

Mr Mike O’Connor, managing director of the Peppers Group, said the hotel’s 100-odd rooms will be reduced to 84 rooms and the public spaces restored to their individual styles, which range form high Victorian to Art Deco or Moderne. A conservation plan for the 89 hectares of garden, bush walks and surrounds is also being prepared.

When it opened (during a snowstorm), the Hydro boasted its own telephone system, electricity and refrigeration plant. The domed “casino”, imported from Chicago, and the guest wings were joined by a long gallery decorated with artworks.

It was a fitting resort for the likes of Nellie Melba (who donated a grand piano to the hotel), Bertha Krupp of the German armaments family, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, King Edward VII (who celebrated his birthday there in 1909) and Sir Edmund Barton (who died there in 1920).

The aim now is to restore the grandeur. They’re even likely to install a sauna and steam-room as a tribute to the hydrotherapy that made the hotel famous.

Road, Rail and Water: Transport in Offaly

One of the most intriguing aspects of Offaly’s past is the development of transport and travel within the county. Concrete information on the network of highways, tracks and bog roads which are certain to have existed in the area up to the late middle-ages is elusive, and will probably remain so. Archaeological excavations in such areas as the Slieve Blooms, Croghan Hill and Boora Bog have confirmed the existence of this network, yet the limited amount of research has ensured that the actual routes that these roads followed can only be speculated upon. Nevertheless, through use of ancient Irish texts and through the reports of visitors to the area, a rough outline of the network of roads can be provided. This will be returned to later in the chapter as will the building of famine roads in the nineteenth century and the eventual development of the modern road network in the county. However, while early routes of travel in the county remain largely a matter of conjecture, the coming of railways to Offaly is a much clearer matter. The advent of rail travel involved the laying of miles of tracks, as two rival companies sought to capture the custom on the people of the area. In later times it led to the disuse of many of these lines, until the development of modern-day rail connections in the county after the War of Independence in 1921.

Of all the transport developments in the country, it is arguable that none was quite so great an achievement as the construction of the Grand Canal. When completed, this man-made waterway was the longest in the British Isles, and by joining the River Shannon with the River Barrow, it provided an alternative mode of transport between sixteen counties and linked the cities of Dublin, Limerick and Waterford. In later times, after falling into a period of disuse having been surpassed by railways in terms of viability, the canal has been developed as a tourism and recreation outlet. Indeed, it is now one of the county’s most valuable assets.

From Bronze Age times, there were a series of tracks connecting the various inhabited areas of Offaly. These tracks were further developed by the Celts into an intricate network of roadways. Although it is impossible to prove, it is likely that present-day roadways largely follow the paths of these routes.

Legends from the era when Ireland was ruled by the High Kings, recall a series of Highways extending from Tara in the Kingdom of Meath into the outer reaches of the country. It is suggested that one of these highways which was supposed to have connected Leinster with Munster, ran through the old Gaelic area of Fearcall – possibly from Daingean down through Ballyboy and Kilcormac into Birr.

However, it would seem that the existence of these highways is little more than myth. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that there were roads of various standards throughout the county. Obviously, it would be mistaken to view these routes as roads in the modern sense; rather they were rough tracks which had been hewn from the dense woodlands of the area.

The most widely used of these roads would have been able to take two chariots abreast at certain given points and were maintained by the local tuatha (clans). More often than not, however, these routes would have been far more primitive than that. Indeed, the word “bothar” (Irish for road) is derived from the word “bo” which is the Irish for cow. This would indicate that many of these tracks were little more than cow-passes.

One of the more developed routes ran along the Eiscir Riada in West Offaly and is supposed to have connected the east of Ireland with west. This route passed down through Durrow and Clonmacnoise until it reached Shannonbridge where the Shannon was forded. The esker proved more suitable for land travel than the surrounding areas while it also conveniently connected the most important ecclesiastical sites in the county.

Names such as Ballaghmore (which in Irish is bealach mor – big passing) suggest that a similar route passed through the Slieve Blooms connecting Offaly and Laois; while a variety of smaller routes intertwined to connect the strongholds of the O’Carrolls and the O’Dunnes in the same area. A further network of roads also connected the monasteries at Durrow, Tihilly, Lynally, Drumcullen, Kinnitty, Seir Kieran, Birr and Roscrea.

Firm evidence of road development only emerges after the plantation of Laois-Offaly from the sixteenth century onwards. In his efforts to pacify the area, Captain Bellingham built a series of military roads into the east of the county. Eventually these roads were extended throughout the county and the cost of their maintenance was supported by settlers who came into the area. It was the building of these roads allowing greatly improved transportation that permitted the plantation of Munster in the seventeenth century.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries turnpike roads signalled a further improvement in standards. These roads were used by stage coaches with fees being paid at toll-gates along the route. By the eighteenth century, Grand Juries – which were the forerunners of modern County Councils – were charged with the maintenance of these roads; while for roads which ran acrosss a number of counties, special independent bodies consisting of members of the local gentry called Trustees of the Road were in charge.

A degree of notoriety surrounds the certain aspects of road-building policy in Ireland in the nineteenth century. Central to this were works instituted during the famine to increase the level of wealth in various areas by commissioning the building of roads. In several cases these roads appeared to go nowhere in particular – coming instead to an abrupt halt in deserted areas. One such “famine road” ran across the slopes of Stooagh in the Slieve Blooms near Ballinrally, before seemingly ending without reason.

In the same area in the years after the famine, a road was built which was of much greater significance. This road is reported to follow the ancient highway connecting Laois and Offaly and it involved blasting a pathway throughout the mountain at what became known as The Cut.

After independence the road network in Offaly was continually up-graded with the development of several primary routes in the county. The main road connecting the east and west coasts of Ireland runs along the west of the county, while other primary routes also connect the main towns and villages of Offaly with the main roads to the south and the north.

The construction of the Grand Canal revolutionised transport in Ireland as a whole, and in Offaly in particular. In the seventeenth century road transport was still at a very rudimentary stage of development, ensuring that on its finalisation the canal was in a position to dominate travel to and from the county. Most importantly, it allowed for the speedier transportation of goods, thereby facilitating the establishment of industry in the area.

As early as 1664, the acting Viceroy in Ireland, the Duke of Ormond, considered the question of inland navigation as a means towards improving communication within the country. However, it was not until 1751 that a Board of Inland Navigation was established. Work commenced on constructing a canal which would connect Dublin with the River Shannon and the River Barrow in 1756.

In the early years the building of the Grand Canal, which was to be financed by government bodies, was beset by difficulties. Bad planning and bad engineering ensured that the first twenty miles of the canal cost twice as much as had been forecast and had proceeded at a ridculously slow pace. Fifteen years after the commencement of construction, Dublin Corporation found that it had no funds remaining to finance the canal – to such an extent that they were even unable to extend the canal as far as the Bog of Allen.

With the proposed scheme floundering after huge expenditure for little return, a group of businessmen formed the Grand Canal Company in 1771 and with John Traill as their engineer and William Jessop as a consultant they raised suff

icient capital to proceed with the project. In 1779 the canal opened for 12 miles; by 1791 Athy had been reached; by 1797 it had progressed as far as Phillipstown (Daingean); and then in 1798 it finally reached Tullamore. Tullamore was to remain the canal’s terminus for six years during which time the foundations were laid for a huge growth in prosperity in the area and led eventually to Tullamore taking over the role of county town from Phillipstown.

At first travel from Dublin to Tullamore took almost 14 hours and amongst the first passengers to use the route were a dispatch of British soldiers on their way to fight French troops who had landed in Killala Bay, County Mayo in May 1798. By 1834 the introduction of Fly Boats had cut the length of the journey to less than 9 hours – which was considerably shorter than the time required to complete the trip over land.

In 1804 the canal reached the Shannon at Shannon Harbour and branch lines were later extended to Corbally in 1811; to Ballinsloe in 1827; to Mountmellick in 1830; and to Kilbeggan in 1834. In all, the construction of the waterway marked a considerable engineering achievement with many novel difficulties overcome, such as the traversement of a bog in Edenderry through the use of the high embankments.

The industrial advances brought by the canal will be dealt with in another chapter, but amongst the immediate developments at Tullamore were the establishment of a hotel, stores, a collector’s house and a dry-dock at Tullamore by Michael Hayes all of which opened in 1801.

With the county also bordered by the River Barrow and the River Shannon, the area is now idyllic for pleasure cruising and other water-based activities. Indeed, tourism along the canal could prove one of the most profitable routes forward for business in the area – a departure which would be a fitting memorial to the foresight of the earliest developers of the waterway.

If the construction of the Grand Canal is the story of triumph over adversity, the coming of railways to Offaly is no less interesting an event. As the railways offered a far speedier form of transport, their advent inevitably ensured the passing of the canal as the primary means of travel in the country and their initial arrival aroused a great deal of confrontation and bitterness between the canal companies and their new rivals.

The opening of the first ever railway in Ireland occurred on December 17, 1834 when the Dublin and Kingstown Railway carried its first passengers. The great success of this link signalled to rail entrepreneurs the opportunites for development throughout the country. Regionally based rail companies were quickly formed with two companies – the Great Southern and Western Railway and the Midland Great Western Railway having a direct impact on the county of Offaly.

These two companies were eventually to be locked in a bitter battle for supremacy in the area, but their first confrontation was with the Grand Canal Company. The Grand Canal Company realised that if it were to survive, let alone prosper, it would have to radically depart from its existing state. To that end, in 1844 it proposed a merger with the Great Southern and Western Railway which would have led to the building of a rail link between Dublin and Galway with the tracks following the route of the Grand Canal as far as the Shannon. Within a year the rail company rejected the offer as it was felt that the cost of laying the line along the banks of the canal would have been inordinately expensive. It decided instead to develop its own path across the country, thus ensuring the demise of the Grand Canal Company.

However, the Great Southern and Western Railway, whose principal line was the Dublin-Cork route, encountered bitter opposition when it announced its plans to build a rail link between Dublin and Galway which would have passed through Tullamore and Clara. A gentleman’s agreement existed between the regional rail companies that none would attempt to steal custom from another’s territory and, strictly, speaking, Offaly fell within the boundaries of the Midland Great Western Railway.

The Midland Great Western Railway proposed to build its Galway link through the towns of Kinnegad and Mullingar, with subsidiary lines serving the main areas of Offaly. A “Race to Galway” ensued and signalled a period of intense rivalry between the two rail companies. The Midland Great Western Railway were the first to receive legal sanction for their plans. The railway reached Kinnegad in 1847 and opened for business as far as Mullingar on 2nd October 1848. Further approval from the House of Commons allowed the Midland Great Western proceed to Athlone where they crossed the Shannon and triumphantly proclaimed the opening of a through route to Galway on 1st August 1851.

Meanwhile, the Great Southern and Western Railway had only reached Tullamore at this stage and it was not until 1858 that it received permission to extend its line from Tullamore to Athlone. Within a year and a half, this line was completed and its route dissected Offaly passing through Geashill, Tullamore and Clara.

Apart from this principal route to the west the county was also home to a number of other minor links. Amongst these was the branch of the Great Western Railway which ran into Edenberry. This line was known as the Nesbitt Junction Line on account of the £10,000 donated towards its construction by Ms. Downing Nesbitt. In 1884 the Great Southern and Western Railway opened a branch line between Clara and Banagher serving the towns of Ballycumber, Ferbane and Belmont. The final goods train on this route left Belmont station in September 1962.

Most interesting of all rail routes in Offaly was the development of the short-lived Parsonstown and Portuma Bridge Railway. This route has been described as one of the most heroic failures in railway legend. Known as the “stolen railway” it started in 1861 when the Earl of Clanrickarde was granted permission to build the 12 mile link. After financial difficulties it finally opened when the third contractor made it to Portumna in 1868. Two trains ran each day at about 6.00am and 9.30pm, while the train could only come within a mile of Portumna as Portumna Bridge was deemed unsafe for rail travel. After losing £2,000 a year for ten years the link was abandoned as a financial disaster. This abandonment was the signal for the commencement of a systematic campaign of looting. Rails, sleepers, signals, signposts and footbridges all disappeared, until finally Portumna Station Buildings themselves were removed one night.

Such was the regionalisation of Irish rail that in 1868 over 39 different rail companies operated in Ireland. This was only barely sustainable in the hey-day of rail transport, but on the coming of independence it was clear that it was not a situation which could be allowed to persist indefinitely. The fledgling Free State government established a Railway Commission in 1922 and this eventually resulted in the nationalisation of all railways in Ireland. The first steps towards the amalgamation of rail companies began with the Railways Act, 1924 which absorbed 22 companies.

This process continued in the following years and resulted in a more stream-lined service more in line with the number of customers carried and although it eventually ensured the demise of all the minor routes in the country it has ensured that the rail links to the county remain of the highest standard. Within the county itself, rail links have also served to benefit the development of Bord na Mona. Although most of the lines were operated by diesel traction, in 1949 three turf-burning locomotives were introduced to serve Portarlington Power Station from the bogs of Clonsast and Garryhinch.

The development of an efficient rail system has undoubtedly been of huge benefit to industry in the county. Just as the canals before it led to ecomomic development so too did the railways being their own forms of industry, providing a vital means of transport for such companies as D. E. Williams. The proposed upgrading and development of t

he system should ensure that rail links continue to play a central role in the future prosperity of the county.

Killyon and Thomastown

Extract from John Wright – Offaly one hundred years ago
– reprint of King’s County Directory, 1890

The abbeys and monasteries of Eglish included Drumcullen and Killyon, Rathlibthen (Ralyon) and others. Drumcullen is said to be from Druim, a hill, and Cullion, a holly, for which tree it seems to have been noted; but a more probable derivation is from the Cullen Sept, subordinate chiefs in the neighbourhood. At Killyon, St. Kyran, the elder, founded a nunnery, probably the first in Ireland, for his mother Laidana, and there are remains of a religious establishment on the road from Parsonstown to Kinnitty. Mr. Archdall calls it Killadhuin, which is derived from kill, a cell, and Laidana, St. Kyran’s mother’s name. Some years ago considerable remains of this nunnery were standing. The loopholes of a flanking tower commanded the outside of two walls of a quadrangle. The remains of the gatehouse shew it to have been capable of being firmly secured with chains. In 1847 there was opened an underground room, in which was found a curious iron key and a number of peculiar-made bottles, besides broken drinking glasses. There were also dug up iron keys of antique shape, knives, short horns, and a cooking hearth. This latter was in the middle of the quadrangle, and consisted of a circular basin about ten feet in diameter, and two and a-half deep. There were stones lying round exhibiting marks of having been subjected to intense heat, and these proved that the people adhered to the last to the primitive custom of their ancestors in their cooking. The only remains now standing of the interesting relic is the crumbling ruin of a gable-wall.

The “manor of Killyon, with the castles, towns and lands of Rathure,” were the property of MacCoghlans, in the time of James II., but they forfeited them in the following reign, and they were granted to John Argill, of Ross Castle. It is now the property of John V. Cassidy, J.P.

There is still signs of a large fort in the neighbourhood of Thomastown. These lands were in 1669 granted to Edward Smith, and they are now owned by P. V. Bennett, D.L., who improved the village.

As stated above, St Ciaran, of Saighur, now Seirkierans, established a nunnery. Another origin is given in an old legend, which is characteristic of the times, when facts and fictions were mixed up in grotesque confusion:- “A young lady came most opportunely to Ciaran, and he converted her, and built her a neat little cell close to the monastery, and he invited other holy virgins to visit her, and amongst them the ever-bashful virgin Bruinneach, the daughter of a noble lord of Munster, and Ciaran’s mother had been very much attached to her, being a foster-child of her’s, and was most amiable and accomplished in her manners. But as the chieftain of the dal Fiachra heard of her extraordinary beauty, he came with a large body of Kearnes and took her away by force of arms. His name was Dima, and he kept her in his castle for a considerable time. . . And Ciaran came to Dima and asked him to allow the lady to return home. But Dima would not allow her to leave him, and said ‘she should not go unless the screeching of the Heron awoke him in his bed the next morning. It was then winter, and the ground was thickly covered with snow, except the spot on which Ciaran and his disciples resided.'”

“The following morning, although contrary to the bird’s nature, a Heron was perched on the top of every house in the Dun, and when Dima heard it he became greatly alarmed, and came in all haste where Ciaran was and knelt down before him, and suffered the lady to return home. . . . And Ciaran brought her to her cell, which is called Cill Liadhain Kill Lyon or Kill Lean]. Still Dima was very much attached to her, and became sorry for parting with her so silly, and he came a second time to take her off by force; but God did not permit him, as it was the wish of Ciaran, his holy mother, and the lady herself; for at the moment that Dima reached the village Bruinneach swooned away and died, and Dima was sorry for that, and addressing Ciaran said to him, ‘Why bast thou killed my wedded wife . . . .and now you shall not dwell here.”

Ciaran then said to Dima that it was not in his power to do that of himself, but that God may permit him for a season to do evil, and therefore he would not depart, but would remain in spite of him.”

“Dima departed in great rage, and threatened to exterminate Ciaran, hut the vengeance of heaven overtook himself for his evil-doings, for on reaching his castle he found it on a blaze of fire, with all the out-offices; and he had a son of whom he was very fond, and in the confusion caused by the fire was forgotten asleep in Dima’s bed; but his mother seeing that there was no chance of saving him, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘My loving child, I bequeath thee to Ciaran, of Saighir, and I leave you entirely in his hands;’ and when the house fell in and the fire quenched, the infant was found unhurt and asleep; and as Dima saw this he went to where Ciaran and the Bishop Edus were, and he received absolution from Ciaran; and Dima presented him his two sons, viz., Donough, the infant whom Ciaran saved from the fire, and another son, and their posterity for ever after them; as also the monastery, rents, and emoluments arising from interments, And Dima returned to his own house in great joy; and he received many blessings from Ciaran.”

Ciaran, not wishing that his foster-sister should so soon depart this world, and knowing that Dima would not annoy her any further, proceeded to where her body had been interred and there prayed to the Lord for her recovery; and she immediately arose from death to life and lived for a long time after.”

Offaly Dispensary Registration Districts (Civil Records)

Edenderry District-Electoral Divisions of Ballaghassaan, Clonbullogue, Edenderry, Esker, Monasteroris.
Rathangan District, Offaly Part – Bracknagh Division.
Rhode District – Ballyburly, Ballymacwilliam, Clonmore, Croghan, Knockdrin.

Cloneygowan District, Offaly Part – Ballyshear, Cloneygowan, Hammerlane O’Dempsey, Portarlington North.

Banagher District – Banagher, Cloghan, Hunston, Lusmagh, Mounterin, Shannonbridge, Shannonbarbour
Ferbane District – Ballycumber, Clonmacnoise, Doone, Ferbane, Gallen, Hinds, Lea, Lumcloon, Moyclare, Srah.
Frankford District (Kilcormac) -Broughal, Derrinboy, Derryadd, Drurncullen, Frankford (Kilcormac).
Killyon District – Dromoyle, Kilcoltnan, Killyon, Total area, 17,111.
Kinnitty District – Kinnitty, Knockbarron, Letter, Roscomroe, Seirkieran, Tulla. Parsonstown (Birr) District-Eglish, Parsonstown.
Riverstown District – In Tipperary, 27,428 acres.

ROSCREA UNION, Co. Offaly Part,
Roscrea District, No. 1, Offaly Part-Gorteen.
Roscrea District, No 2 – Aghancon, Ettagh.
Shinrone District-Ballincor, Barna, Cangort, Cullenwaine, Dunkerrin, Mountheaton, Shinrone, Templeharry.

Clara District – Bawn, Clara, Gorteen, Kilcumreragh, Tinnamuck.
Kilbeggan District, Offaly Part, Durrow.
Killoughey District-Derrycooly, Killeigh, Kilooly, Killoughey, Rahan, Rathrobbin, Screggan.
Philipstown (Daingean) District – Geashill, Kilconfert, Mountbriscoe, Philipstown, Raheenakeeran, Rathfeston.
Tullamore District-Ballycommon, Cappincur, Silverbrook, Tinnycross, Tullamore.

Offaly Towns in 1824 – Pigot's Directory


Is a post, fair, and market town in the King’s County, and situated on the banks of the river Shannon; it is 66 miles to the south and west of Dublin, 14 south cast of Ballinasloe, 17 south of Athlone and 40 north by east of Limerick. About one mile south of Banagher are the ruins of Garry castle, near which stands Garry castle house The seat of Captain Thos. St. George Armstrong. At the north end of the town is a spacious stone bridge of 18 arches, built about the year 1049 by Roderick O’Connor, then King of Connaught. This bridge unites the two provinces of Leinster and Connaught, one half being in the county of Galway, and the other half in the King’s county. Near the bridge, on the Galway side, are two large towers, each planted with one 24lb.traversing gun; and at the south west of the bridge is a sod battery, mounting three 24 pound traversing guns for the purpose of protecting or destroying the bridge, in case of an attack being made by the people of Connaught. At the foot of the bridge is a good barrack for two companies of foot, and apartments for three officers, with a military battery mounting rare 12 pound guns, and a large magazine underneath, which is bomb and water proof. This barrack was formally a nunnery, and communicated with the church by a subterraneous passage of about 400 yards. Banagher has an extensive trade in corn, of which great quantities are sent to the Dublin and other markets. At Cuba house, distant about ¾ of a mile, is the royal school endowed by letters patent in the 4th year of the reign of King Charles the first on the plan of Erasmus Smyth. The church is in a very ruinous state, but it is expect that a new one will soon be built, which will accommodate about 500 persons: the site fixed on is a very pleasant situation at the end of the main street leading from Parsonstown, and opposite to Cuba house.

The Catholics also are building a chapel, which, when finished, it is computed will contain 1000 persons. The market day is Friday, and there are three fairs; the principal one commences on the 15th of September and continues for four days, the first for sheep, the second for horned cattle, the third for horses, and the last day is the country fair for linen, woollens and other merchandise. The other fairs are on May 1st. and November 8th.- Population is about 1500.

POST OFFICE – post master, Mr. Richard Shape. The mail is despatched for Dublin at three in the afternoon, and returns at ten in the morning. The Cork and Limerick Mails are sent at ten in the morning, and return at twenty minutes past two in the afternoon. The Eyrecount, and Portumna bags are despatched at ten in the morning, and return at forty-five minutes past three in the afternoon. Letters to and from England and Scotland are conveyed by the Dublin mail.

Birr, otherwise called Parsonstown

Is a good post and market town, and far the most considerable of any in the King’s County, 63 miles south west of Dublin, 6 south east of Banagher, 9 south west of Frankford, 10 north of Roscrea, 19 north cast of Nenagh, 19 south west of Tullamore and 40 north east of Limerick. It is situated on the river Birr, and adorned with a fine castle, build by the family of the Parsons, but now the residence of the Earl of Ross, the proprietor of the town. This castle was besieged by General Sarsfield, and relieved by Kirk; it has since been rebuilt by the present Earl. In the middle of the town is a stone column of the Doric order, with a shaft about 25 feet high, and surmounted with a pedestrian statue of the Duke of Cumberland in a Roman habit, cast in lead, and painted of a stone colour; it was erected in 1747. The church, which was built about 14 years ago at an expense exceeding 11,000 is a beautiful edifice of stone, built in the Gothic style, and possessing a square tower and one bell The Roman Catholic chapel may vie with the church, being also built of stone, and in the same style; it is adorned with a high spire, and with a statue of St. Peter, cut in stone, and holding the Keys of heaven. The noble and generous Earl of Ross gave the land and stone for this chapel, and 100 towards its erection; besides these there are two Methodist chapels and a Quaker’s meeting house. The charitable institutions of Birr, are a fever hospital and dispensary, supported by county grants and annual subscriptions; a Sunday school for children of all denominations; a free school for boys, and another for girls, both supported by subscription, the latter by that of ladies only. Here is a gaol with a sessions house, where the sessions are held four times a year; the prisoners after their trial are sent to Philpstown, which is the county town. A manorial count is also held here on the first Monday in every month, for the recovery of debts under 40 shillings. The ruins of the old church are still visible; it is supposed to have been built upwards of 500 years, and was formerly the monastery of St. Brendan. One mile from the town are the Barracks, a large and elegant building, capable of holding three regiments of soldiers. Birr has two large distilleries and two breweries, which give employment to most part of the poor of the town.

The population in 1821 was 5,400. The market day is Saturday. The fairs are four, viz. February the 11th, May the 5th, August the 25th and December the 10th.

POST OFFICE.-Duke-street. Post master, Mr. William Wilkinson. The Dublin Mail is despatched at five in the evening, and arrives at half-past eight in the morning. The Banagher, Ferbane, and Eyrecourt Mails are sent at half-past one in the afternoon. The Tullamore Mail is despatched at twelve at noon, and arrives at four in the afternoon. Letters for England an Scotland by the Dublin Mail.


Is a small fair and post town in the King’s County, 62 miles W. By .S. of Dublin 6 W. by S. of Frankford, 4 N.E. of Banagher, and 13 S. W. of Tullamore. It is governed by a seneschal, who holds a manorial court once a month, for the recovery of debts under 10 pounds. Here are a neat stone church, with a tower and one bell, and a Roman Catholic chapel, lately built by subscription. The town stands on the high road between Galway and Dublin; and possesses a very comfortable Inn, the Coghlan’s Arms, established in 1769; the present proprietor is Mr. Patrick Gorman. Near the town may be seen the ruins of many old castles, formerly inhabited by the ancestors of the Coghlan family. At Moystown, one mile from Cloghan, and on the banks of the river Brusna, is the beautiful seat of Colonel H. P. L. L’Estrange, of the King’s County militia; near to it there is a neat stone church, with a spire, built a few years ago, on the road leading to Ballinasloe. Population 550. Fairs are held on the 15th of May and the 29th of October.

POST OFFICE- Post Master, Mr. John Devery. The Dublin Mail is despatched at five in the evening, and arrives at nine in the morning. The Ferbane, Banagher, and Parsonstown bags arrive and depart with the Dublin Mail. Letters for England and Scotland by the Dublin Mail.


A MARKET and post town at the north eastern extremity of the King’s county, and near the river Boyne, is 28 miles west of Dublin and 9 north of Rathangan. The woollen trade was formerly carried on to a considerable extent, but within these few years unfavourable changes have taken place; at present its principal trade is in corn, of which great quantities are brought to this market, and purchased by the neighbouring dealers. The church is a neat stone building with a tower and one bell, is situated on a neat rising ground, and commands a view of the river and of the surrounding county. Within the church is a stone tablet to the memory of Sarah Lady Blundell, Who died in the year 1701; this stone was discovered in the ruins of the old church of Monasteroris, distant about a mile and a half, and was removed hither in 1814, by Mary, Marchioness of Downshire, and Baroness Sandy, the heiress and lineal descendant of Montague Lord Viscount Blundell. Besides the church, the Catholics possess a hand

some chapel, and the Methodists and Quakers have each a place of worship. The charitable institutions are, eight alms-houses for poor widows, the gift of the Marquis of Downshire, who is the Lord of the Manor; a dispensary supported by subscription; a free school for children of both sexes; and a Sunday school, established in August 1823, for children of all denominations. The town has been much improved within these few years, most of the thatched cabins having been taken down, and replaced with good stone-built and slated houses. A new road is also making from this town to Rathangan, which will cut off three miles, and bring the two towns within 6 miles of each other.

A seneschal court is held here on Thurdays and Saturdays for the recovery of small debts, at which John Brownrigg and Thomas Murray, Esqrs. preside. The population of the town and neighbourhood, in 1821, was 1439. Saturday is the marker-day, and fairs are held on Shrove Tuesday, Whiten-Thursday, and on the 4th of November.

POST OFFICE – post master, Mr. Robert Astles. The Mail for Dublin is despatched at three in the afternoon, and returns at nine in the morning. All by-Bags go by the Dublin Mail.


Is a respectable borough town, 35 miles west of Dublin, 5 from Mountmellick, and 9 from Mary-borough. The river Barrow divides the town into two unequal portions, the larger being situated in the Queen’s County and the smaller in the King’s County. Three estates of Portarlington were granted by Queen Elizabeth to Lord Clonmalire. His success, for his conduct in the rebellion of 1611, was attained of treason, and forfeited all his lands, which were bestowed on Sir Henry Bennett, one of the ministers of Charles 11. Who was created Lord Arlington, and obtained a charter for a corporation and manor. In 1666 a patent was granted him for the name of Portarlington, from which the town derives its name. The estates became forfeited again in the rebellion of 1688, and in 1696 King William granted the lands to his Dutch followers, and his favourite Lord Galway, who made leases of the town and estates for ever to a number of French Protestants, who came over with him. He also erected two churches, one for the French and the other for the English; and these are still continued, and endowed with sufficient lands. He assigned funds for an English and a French school, which were the means of establishing in Portarlington those eminent seminaries, which have produced some of the most shining characters in the kingdom; and the inhabitants feel an honourable pride in the circumstance of the present viceroy and his illustrious brother Wellington having been educated among them. The town is the resort of a great part of the rank and fashion of Leinster, is governed by a sovereign, and sends one member to the British parliament. The church is a neat edifice with a lofty spire. A celebrated spa was discovered here about 30 years ago. The markets are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and there are eight fairs in the year, viz. On the 5th of January, the 1st of March, the 8th of April, the 22nd of May, the 4th of July, the 1st of September, the 12th of October, and the 23nd of November. -The population amounts to near 3,000.

POST OFFICE – post Master, Mr. James Sheweraft. The mail is conveyed by horse to Monastereven every evening at eight, and returns at seven in the morning. Office hours from seven in the morning till seven at night.


In the King’s County, is a handsome market and fair town, divided into two nearly equal parts by a river of the same name, and situated forty-five miles nearly west of Dublin, eight west of Philipstown, five south of Kilbeggan, and ten north-cast of Ballyboy. It owes its present thriving condition to the magnificent liberality of its noble proprietor, Lord Charleville, who convert an ill formed group of thatched cabins into regular streets, composed of handsome dwellings, which administer to the comforts and conveniences of a wealthy and industrious population; such an example descries to be imitated by other wealthy proprietors, and the procedure would redound to their immortal honour. The linen manufacture has been introduced here, and under judicious encouragement, cannot fail to prosper. The barracks for horse and foot are spacious and handsome, and the marker house, built at his lordship’s expense, is very well adapted for its intended purpose.

The Grand Canal, from Dublin to Shannon Harbour, runs close by the town. About a quarter of a mile distant, on the banks of this canal, and near the old road leading from Dublin to Galway, are the ruins of Sragh castle, built in 1588, John Briscoe, esq., of Crofton Hall, in Cumberland, an officer of high rank and merit in Queen Elizabeth’s army, and by his wife Eleanor Kerney, and their son Andrew Briscoe, esq., as appears by a tablet commemorating the event. The church, which is also about a quarter of a mile from the town, is a neat edifice with a handsome tower and one bell, and stands upon a high sandy hill; it was formerly in part surrounded by a deep bog, where there is now fine meadow and rich pasture land. Here is a handsome Roman Catholic chapel, built in the modern style of architecture under the inspection of the Rev. Michael Karney, the parish priest; and besides this the are two Methodist meeting houses. The beneficent institutions of Tullamore are a charity school, built and endowed by the Earl and Countess of Charleville, for an unlimited number of boys and girls, who are taught reading, writing, and arithmetic; two Methodist Sunday scho ols, one founded in 1813, the other in 1822; and a county infirmary, supported by subscription and county grants. Tullamore has convenient shambles for butchers’ meat, and a good market for corn and other provisions; it also possesses a small silk manufactory, three extensive breweries, and a lately erected distillery. Within a short distance from the town is Lord Charleville’s beautiful demesne, delightfully wooded with full-grown timber,and judiciously studded with young and thriving plantations. The various cascades contrived at the different falls of the river Cladagh produce a charming effect. Grottos and rustic bridges are tastefully disposed, and his lordship has so naturally formed an artificial excavation of nearly eight acres, that it does not appear to be the work of man; ars est celare artem. The fairs are May the 10th, July the 10th, and October the 21st. The market days are Tuesday and Saturday. – The population in 1821, including the parish, was 5,444.

POST OFFICE, church-street – post Master, Mr. John McDonald. The Dublin mail arrives at fifty minutes past five in the morning, and is despatched at a quarter before seven in the evening. A by-mail is despatched at fifty-eight minutes past five in the morning to Ballyboy, Kinnitty, and Parsonstown. Letters for England and Scotland by the Dublin mail.

Sir Thomas Naghten Fitzgerald (1838-1908)

Extract from Dictionary of Australian Biography, Volume 3, (1851-1890)

Surgeon, Thomas Naghten Fitzgerald, was born on 1 August 1838 at Tullamore, Ireland, son of John FitzGerald and his wife Catherine Naghten, née Higgins. He was educated at St Mary’s College, Kingstown, and the Ledwich School of Medicine, Dublin, taking his clinical studies at Mercer’s Hospital (L.R.C.S.I., 1857); there he was dresser to Richard Butcher who was surgeon to the Queen and outstanding in pre-Listerian British surgery. In 1857 FitzGerald won a commission in the Army Medical Service but had to resign because of illness. As a ship’s surgeon he arrived at Melbourne in July 1858. Almost immediately he was appointed acting house surgeon at the Melbourne Hospital until E. M. James returned from England. FitzGerald then opened a private practice near the hospital in Lonsdale Street West. He had applied for the position of surgeon to the Bendigo Hospital but was beaten on the chairman’s casting vote. Elected an honorary surgeon to the Melbourne Hospital in 1860, he held that post until 1901 and in 1902-07 was consulting surgeon. He had similar consulting appointments at St Vincent’s, Queen Victoria and Austin Hospitals and in 1884 the first clinical lectureship in surgery created by the University of Melbourne at the Melbourne Hospital In his long service there he influenced large numbers of medical graduates whose memories of ‘Fitz’ were among their cherished hospital recollections. When he resigned as senior surgeon his colleagues placed a tablet in the Melbourne Hospital vestibule commemorating his long association with the institution; this tablet is now in the operating suite of the hospital at Parkville.

FitzGerald was extremely rapid, resourceful and successful in the operations possible at that time and he introduced original methods, described in the Australian Medical Journal in 1887, in the treatment of inguinal hernia, fractures, cleft palate and talipes. His technical skill was great: his mere tying of a knot in a cleft palate operation was said to be a work of art. Brilliant and dexterous as was his operating, his diagnostic skill was also noteworthy. He seemed to have an extra sense, so that he could describe the position of fragments in a fracture as accurately as if they were demonstrated by x-ray; his deductions from symptoms were equally unerring and his opinion was widely sought by patients.

FitzGerald, under average height with a large handsome head, sideboards, broad shoulders, deep chest and dignified carriage, was a distinguished figure in any assembly. To undaunted surgical courage he added instant resourcefulness; with unexpected developments one operation would change into another as if all had been prearranged and no emergency ever took him aback. He had little facility in the spoken or written word; his occasional lectures were more practical than theoretical, and in the wards students learnt more from what he did than from what he said. Always kind and considerate both with his patients and his colleagues he held high the honour of his calling and became the unquestioned leader of the profession in all the Australasian colonies.

During FitzGerald’s life the science and art of surgery and medicine were revolutionized. In a presidential address to the Medical Society of Victoria in January 1900, he reviewed some of the changes from 1860 to 1900: ‘Will such a difference ever reoccur… shall we ever again go through such a period of unlearning, such a period of relinquishing beliefs, of learning that most of the remedies in which at one time we had so much faith were in reality delusions, more harmful than beneficial’. In his own branch of surgery he said that it was ‘not until 1874, about ten years after Lister had commenced his experiments, that things began to wake up in operative surgery’. Before Lister’s researches were published, FitzGerald had been deeply impressed by the differences in the dangers of simple and of compound fractures, and in order to avoid the yet unexplained risks of surgical infection, he devised a whole system of subcutaneous surgery through small incisions. But he had neither the biological knowledge nor the speculative insight that led Lister to his epoch-making discoveries. Perhaps because of his success FitzGerald did not at first fully appreciate Lister’s contribution, although his own concern about surgical infection led him to condemn the Melbourne Hospital as a source of wound infection in 1886; he refused to operate for a time and with Richard Youl precipitated an inquiry by a select committee of the Legislative Council. Chaired by J.G. Beaney, with whom FitzGerald had been in legal conflict in 1863, the committee’s report favoured the hospital. In 1890 FitzGerald gave evidence to the royal commission on charities.

At his death two of his distinguished pupils. Harry Allen, professor of pathology in Melbourne, and George Syme, later president of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, wrote appreciations of FitzGerald and his work; both spoke of him as ‘a genius’. In 1884 he visited Ireland and became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland; the examiners were said to have been astounded by the rapidity of his amputations. In May 1897 he was knighted, the first Australian to be so honoured for eminence in the medical profession. In the Boer war he offered his services to the imperial government, and for three months in 1900 was a consulting surgeon in South Africa. For this work he was appointed C.B. in 1900 and thanked by the Victorian government. His South African experiences were published in the Intercolonial Medical Journal of Australia, December 1900. He was president of the Medical Society of Victoria in 1884 and 1900, the surgery section at the first Inter-colonial Medical Congress in 1887 and the Australasian Medical Congress at Sydney in 1889.

Before his wife died in 1890, beside his private hospital he had built an Italianate mansion, Rostella, a place of gracious hospitality; his tennis court was a miniature club and in his active years he always played before breakfast. With his lucrative practice he maintained a ‘handsome brougham complete with two magnificent horses and coachmen and footman in livery’ to take him daily to the hospital gates and to the races each week. A skilled four-in-hand driver he loved horses, breeding them at his Doncaster country home and racing under the name of T. Naghten; his most successful horse was Rhesus, winner of the Victorian

Grand National Hurdle Race in 1882. A familiar figure at Remington, he was surgeon to the Victoria Racing Club for many years. Among his collection of line pictures was Lefebvre’s ‘Chloe’, which has long adorned Young & Jackson’s Hotel, Melbourne. Soon after his return from South Africa FitzGerald relinquished his hospital position and most of his private practice because of ailing health. Little benefit was derived from a voyage to England and on a later trip to Cairns he died in the Wyreena on 8 July 1908 at sea off Townsville from the after-effects of pneumonia; he was buried with Roman Catholic rites in the Melbourne general cemetery.

On 17 December 1870 FitzGerald married Margaret, daughter of James Robertson, of Struan House, Launceston, Tasmania. Of their three daughters, Ethel married Captain (later Admiral) Lumsden, Eleanor married Edward Cairns Officer, and Kathleen married Colonel Archibald Douglas. On Kathleen’s death in 1951, her residuary estate was bequeathed to the University of Melbourne for founding a surgical scholarship in memory of her father.

Fr. Patrick Dunne

Extract from Dictionary of Australian Biography, Volume 3 (1851-1890)

Catholic priest, Patrick Dunne, was born at Philipstown [Daingean], King’s County (Offaly), Ireland, son of Patrick Dunne, farmer, and his wife Mary, née Rigney. He trained at Carlow Seminary and was ordained on 8 March 1846. After four years of service to his native diocese of Kildare, he volunteered to join the newly formed Melbourne diocese, ‘rising above the opposition of dearest relatives and priests’. He arrived in Melbourne in the Digby on 7 September 1850 and was appointed to Geelong. After a brief stay, the first of two in that mission, he was transferred to the new mission of Pentridge (Coburg), and acted as chaplain to the ‘infamous Stockade’. In October 1851 he journeyed to Ballarat on horseback, celebrated the first Mass on that goldfield and performed many baptisms in the lower Wimmera. In 1853-56 he established at Geelong twelve schools under the Denominational Schools Board, as well as the first Catholic secondary or grammar school.

At Port Fairy in 1856 his independence and turbulence led him into a dispute with Bishop J. A. Goold over trust money for a church building. He also became involved with P. Bermingham, M. McAlroy and other clerical and lay critics of the Polding and Goold administrations in Sydney and Melbourne. As a result Dunne was virtually banished and spent much time in Rome and Ireland, adding to the rising chorus of complaints leveled at Church management. In December 1858 he returned to Melbourne as a migration chaplain but was forbidden to exercise his priestly functions by Goold’s vicar-generals, J. Fitzpatrick and P. B. Geoghegan. After writing a long document in his own defence, addressed to Folding, Dunne returned to Ireland. Roman authorities were compelled finally to take note of many of his grievances, but Dunne himself, at Goold’s instigation, was forbidden to return to Australia. Far from being discouraged he persuaded Irish bishops to allow him to open a minor seminary at Tullamore, County Offaly, which was designed to give an initial training for missionary volunteers to Australia.

In the early 1860s Dunne co-operated with James Quinn in a migration scheme which contributed to the settling of the Darling Downs. The first migrants arrived at Brisbane in the Erin-go-bragh in August 1862. Financial difficulties in the new Brisbane diocese, linked with sectarian objections to the migration scheme, brought Dunne to the Goulburn diocese in April 1868 where his zeal was directed by Bishop William Lanigan into constructive work. After a term as first president of St Patrick’s College and cathedral administrator at Goulburn he transferred to the Gundagai-Jugiong mission. On the death of his friend Michael McAlroy in 1880 Dunne succeeded as vicar-general, retaining his title and the confidence of his bishop when he was transferred to Wagga Wagga in 1883 and to Albury in 1887. He helped to plan many churches, including St Michael’s in Wagga.

Dunne was one of the best-known priests of the last half of the nineteenth century, often injecting a tumultuous note into church affairs and quarrelling with bishops and public officials. He was a pioneer who responded to the demanding challenges to extend his religion in frontier conditions. At times impatient and adopting sledge-hammer methods in newspaper controversy, his total achievement was a tribute to his vision as much as to his methods. Even in retirement in the 1890s he was a respected national figure, still making his determined thrusts into affairs of church and state.

On 21 July 1900 he died at Albury and was buried in the grounds of Newtown Orphanage, now St John’s Orphanage, Wirlinga, Albury.

Killeigh Abbey

Killeigh Abbey ruins
Killeigh, celebrated as having been for many centuries a great centre of religious life, dates from a very early period. Its original name was Achaid Droma Foda, meaning “The field of the long ridge,” a name peculiarly descriptive of the locality – Killeigh being overhung by a long ridge standing out prominently from that extensive plain which stretches from Slieve Bloom to the hill of Allen.

In 6th century St. Sincheall, the elder, built a church which gave the place the name Cill-achaid-droma-foda; Cill being the Irish for church. “Droma-foda” was still retained to distinguish it from another Cill-achaidh, also situated in Co. Offaly in those times. The present name, Killeigh, is merely a modified form of Cill-achaidh.

He died in 548, at the great age of three hundred and thirty years, according to the annals of the Four Masters, though, as Colgan thinks, this is probably a misprint for one hundred and thirty. He is, therefore, the patron saint of the village; and the “Seven Blessed Wells,” celebrated for their supposed healing properties, are dedicated to him. Owing to constant feuds between the many clans among whom the country was divided, Killeigh, like most of the other ancient religious establishments, passed through very varying fortunes. In 800 it was burned, together with a new oratory just completed; again in 840, and also in 843 it was plundered. In 937 the King of Cashel attacked it, and took prisoner the abbot, who, the following year, while fleeing from the enemy, was drowned at Dalkey. In 1212 there was a great battle fought in the neighbourhood, between the English of Munster and Murtough, son of Brian O’Connor.

In 1393 that endless warrior, O’Connor Faly, added to the original buildings by founding a monastery for Franciscan Friars, which increased its importance, as it became the third largest in the kingdom. The ruins of this monastery may now be seen standing behind the present Church of Ireland church. They are of great interest, and afford a rare example of an early style of Irish architecture. The roof, in a good state of preservation, is formed of rough hewn stones, and the remains of some fine arches are still visible.

The present dwelling-house, supposed by Petrie to have been the chapel, is probably all that remains of the new building. During alterations, made at the latter end of the 19th century on his marriage by John W Tarleton, the then owner, several interesting things were found, which, if Petrie’s ideas be correct, were possibly those of high dignitaries of the abbey, as they would probably be buried in the vicinity of the High Altar, which would stand in this part of the building. There was also an arch found, supposed to have been the entrance to a subterranean passage. All the remains thus discovered were carefully removed to the churchyard, adjoining St. Sincheall’s church, a place of great interest, as being the burial place of many of the local families. Contemporary with the foundation of the monastery, or possibly a little earlier, there was a nunnery founded, as some say by the Warren family.

In 1447, Finola, daughter of Calvagh O’Connor Faly, took the veil here, about whom it is said that she was the most beautiful woman in Ireland. At the suppression of monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII, Killeigh was probably, as was the case with the other monasteries in Ireland and England, reduced almost to a ruin, and the lands fell to the Crown. In 1578, it was rented to Gerald, Earl of Kildare and his heirs, and afterwards by marriage with this family, it came into possession of the Digbys. Early in the sixteenth century the lands of Fenter, near Killeigh, were granted to Gilbert Tarleton, of Hazelwood, near Liverpool, who in about 1641, obtained a lease of the property from the Digbys, and turned the ruins of the abbey into a house, and restored the present Church of Ireland church.

What has happened to the vast amount of stones that must have been used up in this fine abbey is not known, but probably they were worked into the present residence, and also made free use of in the building of the houses in the village. Some beautifully carved stones are said to have been found in the garden, which give some idea of what it must have been in former times, before the hands of the spoliators reduced it to ruin.

Offaly and the 1834 Poverty Enquiry


The problem for the student of nineteenth century Irish local history is not that of finding material but rather that of making a good selection from the vast amount of material available. Some of the most important sources for the local historian are the Reports of the Royal Commissions that enquired into the state of Ireland. This article looks at one such source, The Reports of the Commissioners for Inquiring into the Condition of the Poorer classes in Ireland, 1835 – 36.

Recession and falling prices after the Napoleonic wars, together with an expanding population and increasing unemployment led to increasing poverty in Ireland. It was the labouring classes and small landholders who suffered most.

Increasing concern was voiced, both in England and Ireland, about the state of the County but there was no agreement on the kind of remedial measures which ought to be applied. In general it could be said the British favoured the adoption by Ireland of a Poor Law system (the system of workhouse relief) with the Irish landowners and others, including Dan O’Connell, opposing this with the argument that it would result in heavy taxes on the landowners and would do nothing to alleviate the problem. What was needed they argued were more jobs and better wages.

In 1833 the house of Commons ordered that a Royal Commission be appointed to investigate the problem of poverty in Ireland.

First report
The Commission, with Archbishop Whately as Chairman, undertook “the most thorough survey of the conditions of the Irish poor yet attempted”. Its first report became available in 1835 and the final report in 1836. The Commissioners reported in favour of public works and “assisted emigration”. They argued against the introduction of indoor or outdoor relief on the grounds that it would be impracticable except for the poor and infirm. The Commissioners were in fact proposing a scheme for economic development and not simply poor relief, but this went far beyond what the Government had envisaged or public opinion, especially in England, would tolerate and so, the report was shelved. Instead the government introduced the workhouse system to Ireland in 1838.

The Commission in gathering evidence on social conditions sent out questionnaires to respectable gentlemen in almost every part of Ireland. The returns from these gentlemen were published as appendices to the reports of the Commission. Most of the respondents, if you can judge from the Offaly returns were clergymen.

Social Conditions
The questionnaires dealt with social conditions in the parish: employment, wages, diet, housing, conditions of landholding, emigration and so forth. Naturally the thoroughness with which the respondents completed the questionnaires varied. As to reliability one would need to compare the returns with other sources before conclusions could be drawn.

In this article I want to look at the replies to the Poor Inquiry relative to “earnings of Labourers, cottier tenants, employment of women and children” etc. Twelve questions were put to respondents ranging from the number of labourers in the parish to the employment of women and children.

Employment of Labourers
For Ballyboy the respondents, Andrew Stoney and Rev. Charles Burtin suggested from 180 to 400 labourers in employment with some living in the houses of small farmers and others employed on a casual basis when suitable weather prevailed. In Durrow the Rev. Peter Toler reckoned on 800 while Dr. William Wallace felt that in Tullamore parish some 1100 labourers had employment in Summer and 300 in Winter. In Lynally parish Mr. Alexander Andrews reported

“I cannot inform you the number. The generality of farmers employ their own children to cultivate their land; several labourers are employed in summer, in brick-yards, in the next parish: the Earl of Charleville employs constantly above 50 labourers, and the resident gentry about the same number; during the harvest, I conceive, there is employment for every man: I beg to observe that this parish abounds in lime-stone, and there are several lime-kilns, which give employment to many people: there is great facility in procuring turf: many in Tullamore, weaving linen and frieze, gave employment to many families, but it has much declined within the last few years; there are, at present, about six looms at word.”

The question was posed to how labourers were maintained when out of employment and the answer in many cases was by begging. Evidence of this was already seen on the articles on Daingean in this series where Jonathan Bins reported on Daingean in he mid-1830s. Others in Offaly relied on their small holdings and potatoes grown on mostly rented ground. Joseph White of Edenderry parish said of the labourers: “Their mode of maintenance puzzles every one expending a thought on he subject” while George Atkinson of Shinrone was of the view that “The labourers of this country, having in almost every instance a spot of ground attached to their house, are not so destitute when unemployed for hire as is generally supposed; it is thought that a little time spent now and then in their own gardens would turn to more advantage than the wages earned in the same period; but it is found that the times when they are occasionally thrown out of work, instead of being taken advantage of for this purpose, are spent partly in total idleness, and partly in the unlicensed whisky house, a nuisance to a great extent in every part of this country.”

Diet was generally potatoes and milk with very little meat (Ballyboy) with occasionally oatmeal (Edenderry). In Lemonaghan Andrew Macken wrote: The ordinary diet of the labourer consists of potatoes and salt during winter and spring; in summer they may produce some buttermilk: they ate meat of a coarse kind at one or two of the yearly festivals: their clothing is made up of rags, and many cannot attend divine service unless accommodated with clothes by their neighbours.” Messrs. Mooney and Mullock of the same parish that labourers could be more comfortable were it not for their love of whisky, politics and cordplaying

Employment Precarious
Solow in his assessment of the barony of Ballybritt in Offaly in 1821 (based on the 1821 surviving manuscript returns) reckoned that 74 farmers held as much land as the remaining 1,008. The labourers depended in part on being hired out, on seasonal migration to Britain and in fishing and textile production. Conacre was well established at the time and was based on tillage with the labourer “a commercial speculator in potatoes” mortgaging his labour against manure and seed and paying the debt to the farmer by working for a certain number of days at an agreed rate. In the days when dole and welfare were not available (except through the workhouse) and employment was precarious conditions were ripe – if not anticipated – for the disaster following the failure of the potato crop.

Employment of Women and Children
In Ballyboy women and children were employed only in harvest time, hay time and potato picking. The children were paid from 2d to 3d per day and women 5d per day. (Men were paid from 10d in Summer to 8d in Winter.) The picture was the same in Killoughy and in Birr children of from 10 to 12 years were paid 3d and at 16 years 6d. Tullamore and Lynally were much the same. In Clonsast the Revd. George Newcome said that it was to be lamented that women and children of the parish were not more industrious “as might render their circumstances more comfortable”.

£10 per Year
The family budget for the labourer was tight. He was paid mainly in money and could earn up to £10 per year with additional revenue from the working wife and children. But the system encouraged exploitation for greed on the side of the rich and of necessity on the side of the poor. For Ballyburly, Francis L. Dames wrote of the dense population that it was in a state of pauperism for the want of employment, the minute division of the ground they hold and the extravagant rent they pay for it.

“The Irish peasant will promise any rent, however exorbitant, to get possession of a house and garden and will live in the most abject poverty to try and pay for it; they are thus greatly preyed on by the small farmers on these estates where a most careful attention is not exercised to prevent division of land”.

Housing Conditions
Many labourers lived and built cabins on marginal lands next to the bogs. This happened in Tullamore at Puttaughan, north of he canal and it happened in the Geashill estate of Lord Digby and led to evictions there in the 1850s. The rent of a cabin in Ballyboy with an acre of ground was about £2 per year or 40% of the income of a labourer in employment for half of the year. The further the cabin from the town the cheaper. In the towns, such as Kilcormac, a cabin with a small garden was £3 per year. For example, in Tullamore the houses in Tea Lane (near Quinnsworth) were let at 6d per week with “the lease determinable every Friday”.

The cabins in the country were generally mud-walled. In Ballyboy Rev. Charles Burton noted the “Cabins are most commonly constructed with mud, that is, the upper part of them; the foundation of them, to perhaps the height of three feet, is most commonly built with stone, though not always; as to their furniture, very indifferent and bad; latterly, during the prevalence of epidemic disease, lime was pretty generally furnished to them by charitable associations, which has a good effect in making their cabins look clean, and continuing health to their inmates: they have commonly a dresser, a table, and a few stools; sometimes a couple of chairs. Their beds and bedding, I think, in many instances, uncomfortable in the extreme; not often bedsteads; and straw to lie on, with no very adequate supply of blankets.”

In Tullamore the picture was the same. Most of the cabins had straw bedding and many without bedsteads”. The better class of labourer in Edenderry could boast a bed of chaff and rushes. While in Leamonaghan the rags worn during the day were used as bed clothes at night.

Who were the Landlords
The landlords of cabins (as with flats today) are often provident but relatively poor people. In the lanes of Tullamore in the 1900s the landlords were often publicans, auctioneers and grocers. Andrew Stoney, himself a landlord, wrote of Ballyboy c. 1834 “In the towns the immediate landlords of small houses or cabins are, comparatively speaking, provident but poor people, who take plots from the proprietor, and build cabins to enhance the value, and, by setting one or more, live free of rent themselves, and sometimes have profit. In the county the immediate landlords and small farmers, who set patches of land from one to three acres for the purpose of lightening their rent, and having labourers near them.”

Likewise in Leamonaghan the landlords of cottages were of every description from humble and industrious farmers to landlords in fee. Seldom did the principal landlord involve himself at this level. He usually let to middlemen or building speculators who in turn let to undertenants. These undertenant sub-let or took in lodgers. Duty labour was not common and the rent of cabins was generally paid in cash.

Population Jump
The population of Ireland probably reached 8.5 m. by 1845. It had risen by four fifths in the previous fifty years and over 100 years had quadrupled. The population increase in Ireland before 1845 was virtually unique in the whole of Europe. Why did population increase? There are no easy answers. Some historians emphasis the role of food supply both in preventing and reducing crises in subsistence and the avoidance of any disastrous famine (up to 1845) and in facilitating earlier marriages and high martial fertility. The work currently being done by centres at Tullamore and elsewhere on the indexing of the parish registers (events of baptism and marriage) may in due course help to flesh out the answers.

Unlike the European pattern population growth in Ireland was not accompanied by massive urbanisation. Based on the 1821 and 1841 census only about one-eight of the population lived in towns or cities of 1,500 or more – Ireland remained one of the least urbanised countries in Western Europe. Contrary perhaps to popular belief the emigration exodus had started well before the Famine. Cormac O Grada states (A new history of Ireland,v, p.120) that between 1815 and 1845 alone Ireland may have provided over one tenth of all those who had voluntarily crossed the Atlantic since Columbus. Well over half a million left Ireland between 1801 and 1845. The U.S. and Canada took about 0.9 million and Britain the remainder. After Waterloo and the ending of the French wars in 1815 the rate of emigration rose. By the 1840s emigration was removing one-half or more of the natural increase in population (i.e. the excess of births over deaths and before emigration).

In the Poor Law Inquiry respondents were asked to consider if the general condition of the poorer classes in your parish improved, deteriorated or remained stationary since the Peace of the year 1815. Is the population of the parish increasing or diminishing? The Offaly replies were as follows:

Ballyboy – Revd. Charles Burton
“The general condition of the poorer classes not improved; some years before the period mentioned in this query they had a manufacture in this town in wool, making stuffs, &c., combing the wool, and going through the whole process of its manufacture; but now nothing of the kind; industry a blank, and not much agricultural employment. I think the population of the parish the most thriving manufacture, and the consequence is poverty in equal ratio. The town of Frankford [Kilcormac] is in some measure improving, in consequence of a distillery being established there, which stirs up the resources of the country, and causes a vast deal of corn, turf, &c., to be brought in, and in other respects serves the labourer and the poor person.”

Birr – Revd. Marcus McCausland
“As far as I can collect, the condition of the poorer classes is stationary since 1815: the population has certainly increased since that time.”

Lynally – Alexander Andrews
“I have resided in this parish since the year 1824, and I consider the general condition of the poorer classes has improved, which I ascribe to a greater attention paid to them by the gentry: but I am of the opinion that the class above the poor is much deteriorated. The population is increasing to an alarming degree.”

Lemonaghan – Andrew Mackeon
“The condition of the poor has become wretched in the extreme these years back: the linen trade flourished in the parish, and the poor were then employed and comfortable; the decay of the trade has entailed consequent misery on its followers. The population is increasing.”

Banagher_parish – Rev. P. O’Farrell
“The state of the labouring poor, as well as of the farming classes, has lamentably fallen into wretchedness; the farmers, burdened with high rents and bad prices, &c., are unable to employ or pay the labourer, who is consequently dragging a weary existence, deprived of not merely the comforts, but sometimes suffering under the want of nourishing sustenance.

Ferbane_parish – Rev. John Kenny
“Their condition is deteriorated considerably, the linen trade, by which many were employed in these parishes, having failed; agriculture is their sole employment; this caused a competition for land, and raised it beyond value, and thus the farmers were unable to employ labourers, or reward sufficiently those employed. The population is increasing rapidly.

Most respondents took the view that conditions were deteriorating with population on the increase and employment opportunities especially in the linen trade (in West Offaly) greatly reduced.

Disturbance and Crime
The 1798 rebellion did not impinge to any significant extent on Offaly. Outbreaks of violence or rebellion occurred at Kilbeggan, Clonbullogue and Ballycumber but for the most part the county remained quiet. The Bishop of Meath, Dr. Plunkett, had preached against Defenderism and other agrarian secret societies in the mid-1790s, but such secret societies continued to exist and find support from time to time. In reply to a query on disturbances some of the Offaly replies are of interest.

Kilcormac – peaceable.

Killoughy – peaceable.

Seirkieran – Party business prevailed, but was stopped.

Tullamore – It has become very much disturbed of late, have partaken of the general effects of agitation.

Lynally – The generality of Roman Catholics of the parish have refused to pay tithes and church cess the last three years, also threatening notices have been frequently posted; in other respects the parish has been peaceable.

Shinrone – Very peaceable.

and another correspondent wrote:

– Peaceable, as between rich and poor, but party fueds, and outrages arising therefrom, among the lowest class; an increasing spirit of dislike to seek legal redress, preferring to take their own revenge.

Clonsast – These parishes were always remarkable peaceable, until the last two years or so, when the agitation of the Reform question, and the many violent speeches and publications uttered at that time, give rise to certain wild notions as to the right of interfering with vested rights, meddling with the setting of land, wages of labourers, and even domestic arrangements: crimes of the darker dye were not only unknown to the oldest inhabitant, but there was even no record of their having been perpetrated in this neighbourhood until last year, when one savage murder, besides some unsuccessful attempts at assassination, took place.

Lemonaghan – The minds of farmers and lower orders of the people of Lemonaghan parish have been frequently disturbed, yet they had the good sense not to be led into material crime from the year 1798 to the 7th of Febuary 1834: it is now our painful duty, and matter of regret, that we must make it known, that on the night of 7th Febuary 1834, the house of George Holmes, of Moorock, Esq., in our itherto peaceable parish, was broken open, when the family were at rest, about 4 o’clock in the morning, and plundered of money, jewels and firearms: this worthy, peaceable, charitable, and useful man to the poor people had been indisposed for some time; we sincerely hope and trust that such horrible act was not committed by any parishioner; and also the church was broken open, and robbed of £7, previous to the robbing of Mr. Holmes.

Tissaran – Up to the year 1831 this parish was very peaceable; since that period it has been, and is, much disturbed.

The Townlands of Offaly

Eamonn O Domhnaill in Ireland’s Own Special edition summer 1988

The County of Brosna, for such is Offaly often called, with its 771 sq. miles ranks in area as the 18th county in Ireland. Approximately 52 miles long and 27 wide, it contains within its approximate circumstances some 1128 townlands. And the fact that each townland averages out at 406 acres suggests a lesser tendency towards subdivision than obtains in other parts of the country, a point of interest to modern students of Ireland’s social history.

That the “soil of Offaly is of three kinds, limestone, bog and gravel” suggests that the Landed Gentry who arrived in with Ireland’s first (but non profitable) Plantation experiment in the 1570s, busied themselves with acquiring the better limestone soils while relegating the native Irish to ‘the bogs and gravels’.

But the Plantation of Laois and Offaly was nothing if not thorough. One hundred years later, Dr. William Petty, Chief Medical Officer to Cromwell’s soldiery and now turned land surveyor ordered the surveyors (or terriers as they were called) under his control to “change all (townland) names from those uncouth, unintelligible (Irish) names by which their localities are known into English, the more that we might create a new era”. It was thus that Offaly, like other counties also, has its goodly share of anglicised townland place names.

When viewed in general, Offaly represents a great plain. Indeed it has been said that “from Sliabh Bloom to The Hill of Allen (in neighbouring Kildare) and from Croghan Hill to An Fraoch Mor (meaning The Heath in Laois), the plain of Offaly is a tranquil as a lake”.
Being full of springs as Offaly is, it is easy to appreciate many marshy areas resulted, despite the best efforts of the Brosna River to carry all waters to the Shannon. Even the word Brosna itself meaning as it does “a bundle of sticks” refers, it is thought, to decayed bundles of sticks of former alder trees which particularly suit marshy land.

The aspect of marshy or swampy land, much of it now thankfully reclaimed, is further mirrored in the ninety-three townlands which begin with the prefix Clon or Cluain. In general, Clon or Cluain means marshy land, a swamp or a meadow although some authorities (including the great O’Donovan) suggests that it means more particularly ‘a raised area or field within a marsh’, an oasis in fact, while the late Dr. Deirdre O’Flanagan goes a step further and offers that because early Christian settlements tended to locate on these oasis, then the term Clon or Cluain has Christian connotations.

Apart from these ninety-three Clons there are also fourteen townlands beginning with Curra or Curragh which also means ‘a marsh or swamp’. The ninety-three Clons represent the largest single grouping of non anglicised Offaly townlands.

But such marshy land as the Clons and Curras naturally created small streams and rivers which needed to be crossed. These crossings we find in the sixteen townlands beginning with Atha which means ‘a ford or crossing place’.

Some eighty-eight townlands, and the second largest non-anglicised grouping, begin with the word Kil or Kill which means ‘a church settlement’ or a possible accompanying burial place. There may be a tenuous connection this second largest grouping and the fifty-three townlands beginning with Doire (the fourth largest) Derry, or Doire, means an oak tree grove, as indeed does Durrow which also being in Offaly, was Saint Columba’s favourite Irish monastery. Oak tree groves generally bespoke the pre-Christian druids who, having no symbol of their own worshipped the largest oak tree. The word ‘druid’ itself derives from the Irish word for oak, dair, meaning ‘one who is learned from the wise old oak tree.

The third largest grouping of original Irish townlands in County Offaly is that beginning with the word ‘baile’. There are fifty-five such townland prefixes. The term ‘baile’ originally meant “a small cluster of homesteads” since people, for one reason or another, often preferred to live as a group. And apart from a possible defensive aspect of the ancient ‘baile’, there are twenty four townlands containing the word ‘rath’ and thirteen with ‘lios’, both of which convey a defensive dimension.

There are nine townlands beginning with ‘tulach’ which means a hill, and of which An Tulach Mor (Tullamore) is a good example. Also meaning ‘hill’ is ‘cnoc’, and of these there are thirteen. Within its county boundaries, Offaly contains twenty islands on the River Shannon thirteen of which are named and seven unnamed.

The general pattern of Offaly’s townland name structure fits in well with a national perspective. The six largest groupings of townland prefixes emerging from Ireland’s 60,642 townlands (51,158 in the Republic) are Bailes 7,000; Kil or Cills 2,890; Clons or Cluains 1,680; Cnocs or Knocks 1,600; Lios 1,380, and Derrys 1,310.

Philipstown to Daingean – Down Through the Years

from Offaly Independent 10th August, 2001

Daingean was originally christened Philipstown in 1556 when it was established as the capital town in the land that was planted by Queen Mary Tudor in King’s County. It was so named after her husband, Philip The Second, of Spain.

The town was once the seat of the O’Connor clan, who were chieftains of the surrounding area of Offaly. Its current name ‘Daingean’ means fortress, a name which it derived from the mediaeval island fortress of O’Connor Faly.

In 1883 Tullamore replaced Daingean as the focal point of the county. As a result Philipstown was demoted from capital town to village and as a result lost most of its political status. It was in 1922, with the foundation of the Free State that the village was renamed Daingean, at the same time as County Offaly replaced the old King’s County.

Daingean has long boasted a strong status as a Midlands town and this was never more evident than at the start of the 20th Century when Daingean displayed at various points a number of important public buildings including the courthouse, the government reformatory, a military barracks, a Protestant Church and a Catholic Church. Of these buildings all can still be seen in various states but few are still used for their original functions within the village.

The Grand Canal, as with so many other Offaly towns, provides the backdrop for Daingean’s scenic walkways on the outskirts of the town.

The bridge at the end of the village separates the public institutions, that took the form of the barracks and later the reformatory, from the heartland of the village itself. The canal is a widely used amenity within Daingean village, with summer bringing many tourists to the area to enjoy the benefits of the local waterways and what the village has to offer in heritage.

Milestones in Offaly History: 1830-1980

Compiled by Michael Byrne


New county jail in Tullamore.


288 deaths from cholera in county.


Parsonstown mechanics institute completed at Birr (now John’s hall). Five men executed at Tullamore jail. Ten further deaths from cholera.


New county courthouse completed in Tullamore.


Sisters of Mercy came to Tullamore – convent and school became their first foundation outside Dublin.


Workhouses established at Birr, Edenderry and Tullamore.


Sisters of Mercy came to Birr.


Anthony Trollope, the novelist, sojourned at Banagher.
Population of county: 146,857.


Telescope constructed at Birr by third Earl of Rosse.


King’s County Chronicle (later Offaly Chronicle) established at Birr – first successful newspaper locally.


Over 4,000 employed in public-works in the county to counter the failure of the potato crop and resulting famine. Clonearl house, Daingean, residence of W.H. Magan, destroyed by fire; value – £50.000.


More cholera in county.


Number entitled to vote under new franchise bill increased from 470 to 2,600.


Festivities at Tullamore for coming of age of the third Earl of Charleville.
Population of county: 112,076 – a fall of 23.7% in previous decade.


Convict depot established in old jail at Daingean.
P. and H. Egan, brewers and merchants, established at Tullamore.
First meeting of Birr town commissioners.
Gas street lighting for Birr.


Rev. Mr. Nicholls visited Banagher with his bride, Charlotte Bronte.
Rail link with Dublin extended to Tullamore via Portarlington.


British association (for the advancement of scientific knowledge) visited Birr.


Birr model national school established.
First meeting Tullamore town commissioners.
Gas street lighting for Tullamore.


Population of county: 90,043 – a fall of 19.7% in previous decade.


Daingean convict prison mooted as lunatic asylum.


La Sainte Union Des Sacres Coeurs convent founded at Banagher.


Goodbody’s new jute works started at Clara.


Last public hanging in Ireland at Tullamore.


Tullamore Poor Law Guardians agreed that Sisters of Mercy be paid a salary for attendance on inmates of the workhouse.


Death of the astronomer, the third Earl of Rosse.


John Bright, President of the British Board of Trade and radical M.P., visited Clara.


Daingean reformatory school opened in former prison.


Population of county: 75,900, a fall of 15.7% in the previous decade.


Monument erected in the Mall, Birr to third Earl of Rosse – sculpted by Foley.


Presentation Brothers came to Birr.
Mount St. Joseph Abbey, Roscrea established.
First lawn tennis club in county formed at Banagher.


Bicycle club formed in Tullamore.


Land League branches formed in Birr and Tullamore.


Population of county 72,852.
Charles S. Parnell visited county for first time at Clara.
Midland Tribune newspaper established at Birr.
Birr Orange Lodge formed.


Banagher-Clara railway opened.
D.E. Williams Ltd commenced retail business at Tullamore.


New Presbyterian church in Birr.
New Mercy Convent in Kilcormac.
County divided into two single-seat constituencies – number of voters up from c.3,000 to c.10,000.


Tullabeg Jesuit College, Rahan, closed – boys sent to Clongowes. First civic fire brigade at Tullamore. Opening of Clara R.C. church (spire 1930).


William O Brien, M.P. and John Mandeville in Tullamore jail. G.A.A. hurling All – Ireland Final held at Birr. New bridge over the Shannon at Meelick.


New Methodist church in Tullamore.


Closure of Banagher Royal School.


Population of county: 65,563.


Electric light came to D.E. Williams’s, Tullamore.


A monument in memory of the Manchester Martyrs unveiled at Birr by O’Donovan Rossa.


Tullamore Golf Club formed. Piped water in Tullamore.


Order of St. Joseph established convent at Ferbane.


First car in Offaly – owned by D.E.Williams.


New local authorities formed. Offaly Council, Birr U.D.C., Tullamore U.D.C.


Population, of County: 60,187, a fall of 20.7% in previous thirty years.


Technical Education scheme began.


Mary Daly hanged at Tullamore – last woman in Ireland to be hanged.
Frankford reverted to its original name of Kilcormac.


Tullamore Industrial Exhibition.


Roscomroe cattle drive trials.


Piped water in Birr.
Turraun peatworks established by John Purser Griffith.


Population of county: 56,832.


Shannon Steam Cabinet Factory established at Banagher.
Reflector mirror of Birr telescope removed to South Kensington Museum.
Birr and Tullamore Volunteer Corps formed.


Tullamore U.D.C. resolution condemnatory of 1916 rebellion.


Burning of Goodbody’s flour mill at Clara.
Dr. Patrick MacCartan, the Sinn Fein candidate, returned to Westminster unopposed for North King’s County.


The name King’s County changed to Offaly. Electric light for Birr.


Offaly public bodies unanimously in favour of accepting the Anglo – Irish Treaty. Count Hamon commenced manufacture of peat briquettes at Ballycumber, Clara. Poor law system abolished in county on direction of Local Government Department of Dáil Éireann; Tullamore workhouse established as a central hospital; Birr and Edenderry workhouses and County Infirmary, Church Street, Tullamore, closed. Electric light for Tullamore.


Tullamore Courthouse, jail and barracks, and Crinkle barracks destroyed by Republican forces; Destruction of numerous ‘big houses’ throughout Offaly.


Gallen Priory, Ferbane sold to Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny.
Civic Guards took up duty in county.
Laois-Offaly five-seat Dáil constituency established.


Offaly County Council dissolved and Commissioner appointed.
First sitting of Circuit Court in county.
Machine turf produced at Turraun.


County Library scheme adopted.


Population of county: 52,592, a fall of 12.6% in the previous quarter century. New Tullamore Golf Club grounds at Brookfield opened.


Re-built County Courthouse opened at Tullamore.


Offaly County Council re-established.


Offaly Vocational Education Committee set up.


Closure of Aylesbury’s coach factory, Edenderry.
County Committee of Agriculture set up.


Lenten pastoral of Dr. McNamee on the dangers of dancing.


Efforts made to secure a sugar beet factory for county.


Birr Little Theatre opened.
New G.A.A. grounds at Tullamore.
Turf Development Board founded – Bord na Mona’s predecessor.


Opening of Edenderry Shoe Company.
Birr Shoes Ltd. established.


Foundation stone of Offaly County Hospital laid by Seán T. O’Kelly.
Official openings of Birr and Tullamore Vocational Schools.


Salts (Ireland) Ltd. (later Tullamore Yarns) opened on site of former County jail.
Outdoor swimming pool in Tullamore (one of the first civic swimming pools in the


Offaly County Hospital opened – now the General Hospital.


New cinemas opened in Banagher and Tullamore (Ritz).
Bord na Mona established – later employed c. 2,000 in the county.


Tullamore Distillery ceases production.
New Sacred Heart Secondary School opened at Tullamore, cost – £40,000.
Nurses’ Home added to County Hospital.


Opening of Edenderry Vocational School.
Lloyd home at Gloster sold to Salesian nuns.
Banagher Vocational School opened.
Ferbane Power Station completed – first power station outside U.S.S.R. to use milled peat in production of electricity.
Edward M. Murray took up duty as Laoise/Offaly County Manager on 1 June succeeding Michael A. Veale (1945 to 31 May 1957) and James McCall


Peat Briquette factory opened at Derrinlough, Birr at cost of £ 1.25m.
New R.C. church at Daingean.
New C.B.S. for Tullamore – a pre-fabricated structure by Bantile, Banagher.
Public Health Office transferred from old Library, Church St., to Courthouse, Tullamore.


Vegetable processing factory commenced at Banagher.
New St. Brigid’s Boys National School opened at Tullamore.
Croghan briquette factory commenced production – cost £1.25m.


Our Lady of Consolation private nursing home, Tullamore, opened with 12 beds.


New Convent of Mercy at Tullamore completed.


Midland Health Board formed and decided to locate administrative head offices at Tullamore.


Population of county: 51,829, a decrease of 1.4% over the previous 45 years.
Offaly win first All-Ireland senior football title.


Offaly win second All-Ireland senior football title.
‘Post Primary Education in Tullamore: the case for change’ published by the
Phoenix Society.


Tullamore ranks as 19th largest town in Republic of a group of c 100.
Irish Casings Ltd. established at Spollenstown Industrial Estate.
A geriatric unit of 100 beds completed at General Hospital.


New Tullamore Vocational School erected at Henry Street, Tullamore with the aid of World Bank funds.
Old Canal Hotel demolished and new parochial house built at a cost of £100,000.


Paul and Vincent Ltd. commences production.


Day Care Centre for senior citizens opened at Tullamore.
11th Century Crozier found at Leamonaghan.
Stone age artifacts found at Broughal, Co. Offaly, dating from 6,000 – 5,000 B.C.


Lowe Alpine International Ltd. commences production in Tullamore at Spollenstown. (Moves to new factory at Sragh, April 1983).
Bronze Age Ritual Burial Site found in Forelacka Glen, near Kinnitty.
First issue of Tullamore Tribune published


Burlington Industries (Ireland) Ltd. commences production at Sragh and rapidly increased workforce to c 330 persons.
Tullamore U.D.C. formally adopts a development plan.
Population in Tullamore Urban District reaches 7,824 or 14.9% up on the 1971 figure at 6,809.
Riada House and Health Centre opened at Arden Road.


Offaly wins first Leinster Senior Hurling title.
Tullamore’s Moore Hall in O’ Moore St., one of the towns oldest buildings was restored.

William Telford Webb 1842-1911

Extract from Dictionary of Australian Biography Volume 6, (1851-1890)

Farmer and politician, William Telford Webb, was born on 28 July 1842 at Tullamore, King’s County (Offaly), Ireland, son of Richard Webb, farmer, and his wife Maria, née Telford. His parents and their six children arrived in Melbourne in the Black Eagle on 28 January 1859 and settled at Tylden near Kyneton, but in 1863 William went to the Dunstan goldfields near Otago, New Zealand. He was moderately successful but returned after surviving a severe snowstorm in Gabriel’s Gully in which three hundred people died. In 1868 he selected land at Nanneella near Rochester. By 1878 he, his mother and his uncle William Telford owned 900 acres. He was an enthusiastic supporter of McColl’s northwest Victorian canal and irrigation scheme, first proposed in 1871, and became a commissioner of the United Echuca and Waranga Waterworks Trust from its inception in October 1882. He was chairman of the Campaspe Water Trust in 1889-1903. Elected in 1873 as the first farming representative to the Echuca (later Rochester) Shire Council, Webb was a councillor until 1892 and president in 1877-79. In May 1879 he was active in refounding the Rochester branch of the National Reform and Protection League, whose aims were to seek reform of the Legislative Council and to secure direct representation of farmers in parliament. He also represented the shire at meetings of the Decentralization League. In 1883 he unsuccessfully contested the seat of Rodney in the Legislative Assembly but was elected in April 1889 with James Shackell and soon became a powerful advocate of farming and irrigation interests. He held the seat until September 1897, he was commissioner of public works and minister for agriculture from January 1893 to September 1894 and vice-president of the Board of Lands and Works from February 1893 to September 1894 in the Patterson ministry.

By 1889 Webb had given up active farming and lived in Rochester, where he set up as an agent and grain-buyer for farmers, ran a milling and butchering business, and was a founder of the Yeomanry stores in Mackie Street. He was also a promoter in 1889 and chief shareholder of the Fresh Food and Frozen Storage Co. Ltd which operated creameries, butter factories and cool stores throughout Victoria until its voluntary liquidation in 1902. It was one of the companies investigated and censured by the 1905 royal commission on the butter industry. Webb’s belief in the worth and wealth of farming industries was the rock on which he stood in the gloom and instability of Victorian politics in the l890s. In December 1903 he won the seat of Mandurang in a by-election but lost in the general elections of 1904.

On 24 October 1883 at St Matthew’s Church, Prahran, he had married Elizabeth Alice Everitt, a 21-year-old milliner. In 1909 a stroke partially paralysed him, but he remained fairly active in Rochester until his sudden death from heart failure while on holiday at St Kilda on 17 January 1911. He was survived by his wife and three of their five daughters.

Mary Ward 1827-1869

Mary Ward takes her place alongside the Rosses, Jolys and Stoneys in the Offaly people of science gallery. Born Mary King, Ferbane, 27 April 1827. Died Birr, 31 August 1869. She married Henry William Crosbie Ward (of Castleward, Strangford, Co. Down ) and had three sons and five daughters. She was the youngest child of Henry and Harriett King. An aunt Mary Lloyd was married to the 2nd Earl of Rosse. Addresses:
1827-1857 ‘Ballylin’, Ferbane, King’s County;
Trimbleston, Booterstown, Nr Dublin;
1861-1864 ‘Bellair’, Moate, King’s County;
1864-1869 A number of addresses in or near Kingstown, Dublin.

Mary King did not attend school or university but was educated at home in Co. Offaly by a governess. William, the 3rd Earl of Rosse, was Mary’s cousin and she was a frequent visitor to Birr Castle (see earlier entries on William 3rd Earl of Rosse and his two sons). She observed and chronicled the building of the giant telescope in the castle grounds. Through her famous cousin she met many of the most eminent men of science of the day.

Mary became well known as an artist, naturalist, astronomer and microscopist yet she never received any formal marks of distinction. It should be borne in mind that women could not become members of societies or institutions nor obtain degrees or diplomas during their lifetime. It was very difficult for them to become established or recognised in scientific or literary fields until well into the last quarter of the 19th century. Nevertheless Mary was the first woman to write and have published a book on the microscope in spite of the fact that it was very difficult to find publishers who would accept book manuscripts from women. When her first book on the microscope was published in London in 1858 Mary did not use her full name but was referred to as The Hon. Mrs W. She was to write three books on scientific subjects and numerous scientific articles while performing the duties of wife and mother of a rapidly growing family. Her book on the microscope was reprinted at least eight times between 1858-1880.

An exceptionally fine artist and painter, she illustrated all her own books and papers and also those of others. Sir David Brewster F.R.S came to visit her father’s house and soon she was preparing microscopic specimens for him These specimens she drew and painted, and the coloured illustrations may be seen in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1864. She also made the original drawings of Newton’s and Lord Rosse’s telescopes which can be seen in Brewster’s Lifè of Newton. In 1864 Sir Richard Owen asked Mary to send him a copy of her painting of the natterjack toad for the collections of the British Museum. An article by Mary on ‘Natterjack Toads in Ireland’ had been published in a scientific journal and this paper was reprinted in full in The Irish Times in May 1864 with a very complimentary editorial comment. When eighteen years old her parents bought her a fine microscope which she continued to use and to demonstrate with enthusiasm until her death.



Her first microscope book was produced privately by Shields of Parsonstown in 1857. It was called Sketches with the Microscope and only 250 copies were printed. I have seen a copy of this fine example of local printing – a book which is extremely rare and was printed in Birr. It was published in 1858 by Groomsbridge of London as The World of Wonders Revealed by the Microscope Teachings in 1864. Telescope Teachings, a companion volume to Microscope was published in 1859.

On 31 August 1869, when she was 42, Mary, Henry and two of Lord Rosse’s sons were traveling on a steam carriage invented by their father when it jolted and threw Mary to the ground where she was crushed by one of its heavy wheels and died instantly.

The following article appeared in the King’s County Chronicle of 1st of September 1869 the day following the accident:


On yesterday the people of Parsonstown were much excited and grieved at a sad accident which occurred in the town. In the afternoon of yesterday the Hon. Captain Ward, his wife, the Hon. Mrs. Ward, The Hons. Clare and Charles Parsons, and Mr. Biggs the tutor to the young gentlemen, were on a steam carriage which has been built by Lord Rosse. The vehicle had steam up, and was going at an easy pace, when on turning the sharp corner at the church, unfortunately the Hon. Mrs. Ward was thrown from the seat and fearfully injured, causing her almost immediate death. The unfortunate lady was taken into the house of Dr. Woods which is nearly opposite the scene of the unhappy occurrence, and as that gentleman was on the spot everything that could be done was done, but it was impossible to save her life. The utmost gloom prevades the town, and on every hand sympathy is expressed with the husband and family of the accomplished and talented lady who has been so prematurely hurried into eternity. The deceased lady was the sister of J. G. King, Esq., Ballylin, and the untoward occurrence will plunge several noble families into grief. The body was last night taken to Birr Castle where it awaited the coroner’s inquest which was held today. The deceased lady and her husband had been for the past week on a visit with the Earl of Rosse. The Hon. Mrs. Ward was a lady of great talent, and accomplished in literary and scientific pursuits. A very interesting book of hers, “Sketches with the Microscope,” was published at this office [Shields of Parsonstown] some years ago. The work displays persevering research, and set forth in an attractive dress.


On this day at 10 o’clock John Corcoran, Esq., coroner, held an inquest at the Castle on the body of the Hon. Mrs. Ward. The Resident Magistrate, H. G. Curran, and James Rolleston, J.P., were in attendance. The following respectable and intelligent jury were sworn: – Messrs, B. W. Fayle, (foreman), James Connolly, Henry Davis, R. Goodbody, John O’Meara, John Murphy, George Dooly, Matthew Keane, Thomas Hornidge, Stephen Matthews, Wm. Paxton, Wm. Boyne, and Wm. Delany.

Mr. Richard Biggs was the first witness examined. I knew the deceased, the body now viewed is that of the Hon. Mary Ward; have known her for about a week. There were on yesterday five people on the steam carriage of whom Mrs. Ward was one; she was sitting on the corner of a raised seat; next to her was Captain Ward her husband; I was guiding the engine; at the corner of Cumberland-street and Oxmantown Mall on yesterday, at about half-past 8 O’clock; we had just turned into Cumberland – street when I felt a slight jolt and saw Mrs. Ward fall; I jumped off immediately; I cannot give any reason for the jolt. The Hon. Clare and Charles Parsons were also sitting; Hon. Charles was on the back of the engine; I jumped off at once when I saw the deceased fall, and found her already in the hands of two men; there was no sign of life in her then.

To a juror – The jolt could not have been by catching in the curb stone.

Mr. Rolleston said he was present and saw the engine turn the corner outside the curb stone. Mary Magrath deposed as follows – I was in my mother’s house in Cumberland street yesterday; at about 20 minutes past 8 I saw the engine coming and called a friend of mine who never saw the engine before; I saw the lady fall; saw the engine “rise” at one side; saw the lady fall off; the wheel was raised at the opposite side to Dr. Woods’; the engine was just turned at Mr. Goodbody’s side; the wheel hit the lady and pushed her on one side; I assisted her into Dr. Woods; she appeared to try to grasp something and had nothing to catch; a man was up to the lady at the same time, he is a man named Flannery; the lady was bleeding at the time; she bled from her mouth, nose, and ears; she afterwards worked like as if in convulsions as we were carrying her into Dr. Woods’; I

believe the affair to be an accident.

Mr Biggs (to a juror) – Under ordinary circumstances there was no danger in the machine.
Could have stopped the engine in a very short time.

Mr. James Rolleston, J. P. deposed as follows: – On yesterday I left the castle door at the same time that the engine left: the Hon. Randal Parsons walked along with me to the lodge where we overtook it; it went at a moderate pace; we kept near it till it got near the centre of the Mall; we had it in view till it turned the corner of Cumberland-street, near the church; it appeared to me to go slowly round the corner; the noise of the engine ceased shortly after it turned the corner; I saw people running. I do not think the engine was very dangerous; the front wheels from from the excellent management gave great stability to the engine; the engine was going about from 31/2 to 4 miles an hour. Dr. Woods deposed, I saw the deceased about two minutes after the accident occurred; she was then merely breathing, with a spasm of the tongue; she died in about one minute after I saw her her neck was broken and her jaw bone greatly fractured, she was bleeding a great deal from the ears which showed there was a fracture of the base of the skull: she was a good deal bruised about the face and her lips cut: these injuries were the cause of her death.

The jury without retiring the jury gave in a verdict , that the deceased came to her death by an accidental fall from a steam engine on which she had been riding in the town of Parsonstown on the preceding day. The jury begged to express their sympathy with the Hon. Capt. Ward in his sad bereavement and also that there was no blame attaching to any person in connection with the occurrence.”


Watercolour of the Avenue at Ballylin, Co Offaly by Mary Ward dated Sept. 24th 1858

Watercolour of the Avenue at Ballylin, Co Offaly by Mary Ward dated Sept. 24th 1858

Bartholomew Elliot George Warburton 1810-1852

Barrister and author, Bartholomew Warburton was born in Tullamore, Co. Offaly, Ireland, and educated at Cambridge. Having contributed travel articles to the Dublin University Magazine he was persuaded by the editor Charles Lever, to publish The Crescent and the Cross: Romance and Realities of Eastern Travel (2 vols., 1844), which ran to sixteen editions up to 1860. A novel Reginald Hastings (1849), is set in the “Rebellion of 1641, while another, Darien, or the Merchant Prince (1641), full of scenes of torture, ironically anticipated his own death by fire at sea. He also wrote on British historical subjects and planned a History of the poor in Dublin. (See Welch (ed), Oxford Companion).

Erection of a Canal Hotel in Tullamore: Letter of Captain Evans, 1798

An extremely valuable account of the hotel in the closing years of the eighteenth century have survived among the records of the Grand Canal Company now housed in the basement of Heuston station, Dublin .The material on the hotel is by way of a letter from Captain William Evans to the Court of Directors of the grand Canal Company and is dated the 4th of April 1798. Evans was himself a director of the Company until his resignation from the court in 1796. The letter sets out the progress in the making of the canal to date and argues the case for the erection of a canal hotel in Tullamore.

The bad weather has prevented us doing much these two days, but the banks have required the closest attention from the heavy rains which have detained us here. The passage boats are doing well already; on the 2nd inst. from Dublin four state and twelve common passengers, on the 3rd ten state and four common passengers but I am sorry to find there is by no means the accommodation I expected in this Inn, there are 13 beds only. Doherty also charges a shilling for carrying each passenger from his house to the boat; I have argued the point to no purpose. Upon the whole I conceive competition as well as accommodation necessary and without loss of time. I have taken the liberty to write to Mr Dowling for a large bell which is necessary for regularity. Mr Reynolds and I were obliged to call boatmen, passengers, and alarm the town by the horn this morning. However, the boat went off to the minute, as there is no clock at the inn and the watches here differing with Dublin materially, there is the utmost necessity for an eight-day clock immediately.

I have just received information that 16 women are coming in here and are to be accommodated in this house. They are bringing prisoners from Birr, if there are passengers I do not know how they will be accommodated. They shall have Mr Reynolds and my bed of course and I will make every exertion to prepare for them. I am sorry to say I have done little good. An inferior kind of Inn (Murphy’s) have all their beds, namely six, occupied by the common course of business. Another public house (Flanagan’s) say the will have six beds sometime hence. Beahan, a canal tasker promises to prepare six, but his rooms are occupied by lodgers. These are poor hopes for the accommodation of the canal people coming on from the country for the boat or otherwise, get possession and the people coming in by the boat are too late to be accommodated. Out of the thirteen beds in this house two are occupied by a gentleman receiving rents and may continue for weeks, two occupied by Mr Reynolds and me; these I do not reckon as we have both got lodgings after today and will give them this night to passengers if necessary. Officers frequently occupy a great part of the house. The private houses object to let beds from the trouble of the early and late hours. Upon the whole Mr Reynolds and I are quite at a loss what to do after every exertion. Part of the Lord Tullamore’s old house though in ruins might soon be fitted up as the walls are dry and lined with brick but this would be inconvenient to one of the proposed lines. However, at all events a branch to it and Harbour would soon be made and at a moderate expense.


It is difficult to estimate the extent of the competition resulting from the building of the canal hotel at Tullamore. The new Hotel was completed in late 1801 and George Forrest was given a three-year lease with an annual rent of £113.15s.0d. The canal company lent him £800 to furnish the hotel. The building had cost £4,399 and when this is contrasted with the £200 expended by Bury on the Charleville Arms, albeit fifteen years earlier, it is obvious enough that the scale of operations of the two hotels was quite different. If the demand for accommodation in Tullamore exceeded supply in 1790 the reverse was true by 1807. Forrest renewed his lease in 1804 but by 1807 was complaining that the changes in the passage timetable had deprived him of much business. In an attempt to meet the competition from coach owners the canal company had been forced to provide a through service to Shannon Harbour where a hotel was opened in 1806 and most of the passengers decided to continue the journey rather than stay the night at Tullamore or at Robertstown. When Forrest did not renew his lease the board appointed its own hotel-keeper, Robert Boucher, a passage boat master. Boucher was paid two guineas a week and employed for two years until dismissed because of ‘the misconduct of his wife’. Andrew Morgan, a hotel-keeper, leased the hotel for £52 per year in 1814. In the 1820s his lease-rent was halved when he reported that his business was declining, and finally in 1834 he terminated his lease. The building was leased to Bridget Purcell in 1834. In October 1838 the board was informed that the hotel is ‘generally empty’. She surrendered her lease in 1839 and the local canal collector was placed in charge of the building as a hotel for two years from June 1841 but the rent went into arrears and he had to surrender the lease. The building was leased for several purposes other than as a hotel and finally in April 1859 the property was leased to the Roman Catholic clergy. It served as a Parochial House until 1974 when it was demolished.

Clonbullogue Parish From Historic Records

An “Every Inch” article.

Pagans will come over the slow sea.
Of Erin’s sons great slaughter there will be;
Strange abbots over each church and school;
Great power will be theirs, and long their rule.

In every imperfect translation this is one of the 204 stanzas of a poem in the Irish language composed in the Parish of Clonbullogue. The poem, written in prophetic vein about the seventh century is said to have been doubly accurate, for it speaks first of the pagan Northmen, and then of a new denomination of Christians, represented by the English of the sixteenth and subsequent centuries. Experts concluded from internal evidence that the work was not a fabrication, with hind sight in more modern times after the events had happened.

The important thing from our point of view, is that here is a piece of authentic Gaelic literature belonging to the Midlands that has never been exploited and given publicity and recognition as it certainly would have been if it had emanated from ome more favoured source. The once prominent Clonbullogue sunk into obscurity, utterly despised by the ruling foreigners who knew nothing of its former greatness and neglected by native scholars who concentrated on the big centres of population or the great names already written-up and did little fresh research.

A Famous Wood

Within the Clonbullogue parish as at present constituted is a river that in Irish was called Gabhal, meaning a fork formed where tow streams joined. This river formerly flowed through a famous wood called Fidh Gaibhle the wood at the gabhal or fork. That word fidh meant wood before the word coill came into general use. For instance in Wexford we have Cnoc Fidh na gCaor the hill of the berry-covered wood – which in ignorant English translation, became Vinegar Hill! O’Heerin in his topographical poem, refers to Green Fidh Gaibhle. It had the tallest and straightest trees in the whole country.

Keating and other early writers tell of how when Brian Boru proposed the construction of a great fleet the surveyors sent out to pick the finest timber for masts chose Fidh Gaibhle trees. In fact the story tells that when the King of Leinster insisted that the men of Offaly should be given first place in hauling their own tree trunks to Kincora a dispute broke out which eventually led to the Battle of Clontarf. It should have been mentioned that this is the area north of Portarlington which includes Clonsast. Earlier this year we wrote of St. Brachan founder of a monastery there. He was friend of St. Abban to whom we referred quite recently as an employer of the famous mastercraftman, Goban-Soar. No doubt such an expert would appriciate the excellent timber grown in Fidh Gaibhle, in the present parish of Clonbullogue.

New Proprietors

The names of this district are frequent and prominent in our records, but unfortunately, many of the entries do not, of themselves, give much information. For instance, the Four Masters, under date A.D. 1141, tell of the death of Donach, Son of the Blind Man of Fidh Gaibhle at the hands of the people of Offaly. When it comes to English Inquisitions, relating to the seizure and plantation of lands we get a much clearer view of what was going on. In 1678 it was stated in evidence at Philipstown (now Daingean) that prior to 1641 Charles O’Connor had held 945 acres there; John and Martha Nelson had been granted 197 acres by Royal Letters; 638 acres had been granted to Rudolph Rochford which passed to Richard Warburton; 601 acres to Peter Purefoy; 86 acres to Robert Marshall. But by reason of his late rebellion the said Charles O’Connor lost his 945 acres which were sequestered into the hands of the King.

In a Return made in 1731, Rev. Boyle Travers, Protestant Rector of Rathangan and Clonmore (which includes part of this area) notes; “I bless God for the comforting assurance I have that there is no reputed friary, nunnery, friars, nuns or Popish schools”. Then in 1883, Father Comerford wrote: “The village of Clonbullogue which is situated on the Little Barrow presents a decayed and ruinous appearance, some of the larger houses having been burned during the rebellion of 1798. The village is sometimes referred to a Purefoy’s Place, from the family who got lands there and by whom it was largely built.

Research Needed

A great deal more research is needed, and hordes of educated young people are rising up to do the job. Cloncrane is half-a-mile from Clonbullogue and has a church in ruins. Was that the original parish church site? Killnantick had a church, but what do we know about it? Even about it’s name? Ballynakill was an ancient parish in its own right, but a smaller portion of it went with Edenderry, which townlands in the modern Clonbullogue unit formerly belonged to Ballynakill? When was the division made?

Father Comerford, the diocesan historian suggested over eighty-five years ago that instead of a village there being called Brackna, meaning a speckled place, it should really be Fearann Bhreachain the land of St. Brackan. And then we are warned by Joyce and others that we must not suppose the place named Clonbullogue to be meadow of bullocks, or meadow of loaves but meadow of sacks. Very well, but what kind of sacks were they, or what were they used for?

Tullamore Chronology 1920 – 1939

1900-1919 | 1940-1959 | 1960-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999

‘The successful revolutionary is a statesman, the unsuccessful one a criminal’. – Erich Fromm



Name of the county changed by county council from King’s Co. to County Offaly


Tullamore U.D.C vote in favour of recognising Dail Eireann


Black and Tans reprisals in Tullamore following the shooting dead of Sergeant Cronin of Henry St, aged 46 years.

The Foresters hall building Harbour Street, is burned by the Black and Tans. Award of £13,000 in Nov. 1922.

1,000 to 1,200 pigs sold in Tullamore every Tuesday.

120 Tullamore people on outdoor relief, 160 houses condemned by medical officer.

Tullamore Electric Light & Power Co Ltd. established (sold to E.S.B. in 1930). Electric light for Tullamore and Birr.



Matthew Kane a member of the I.R.A, shot by police at Riverside, Tullamore, from Ruddock’s Lane, aged 34


Raid on Ulster Bank, Tullamore by 25 armed men. Manager shot in the arm. No money taken


Death of Daniel E Williams who was largely responsible for development of the town’s distillery. Survived by his three sons, John, Daniel and Edmund.

Poor Law system abolished in county on direction of Local Government Department of Dail Eireann.

Tullamore workhouse established as a central hospital, Birr and Edenderry workhouses and County Infirmary, Church Street Tullamore closed.

Last of the Tullamore jail prisoners, Sean Mahon of Banagher returned to Mountjoy.




Tullamore Gaels take over former cricket grounds at Spollanstown by force having marched from O’Connor Sq



Anti-treaty rally at Tullamore addressed by Eamonn de Valera and Harry Boland.
Pro-treaty rally a week earlier was addressed by Fr.Callary, P.P., Kevin O’Higgins, Gavin Duffy and Desmond Fitzgerald


British military evacuate the jail and court house and hand over to the IRA. Tullamore U.D.C votes in favour of the Anglo Irish Treaty.

Tullamore court house, jail and barracks burned by Republican forces as they withdraw.

Destruction of numerous big houses throughout Offaly, including Brookfield, Gort na Mona, Screggan Manor, Leap Castle, Moorock, Clara court house, and Geashill Barracks



Enthusiastic reception in Tullamore for the national (pro-treaty) forces



National troops ambushed at Bunaterin Tullamore. One killed and another seriously wounded




First sitting of Tullamore District Court. Opened by Mr Meagher DJ in the gym


Tullamore Technical School library opened to the public.

Charleville Castle occupied by Free State troops.



Civic Guards to take up duty in Offaly. The former County Infirmary serves as a Garda station.

The Laois-Offaly five seat constituency established.




Grand Central Cinema opened at Market Square (now Characters public house).

First sitting of new Free State Circuit Court at Tullamore.

Offaly County Council dissolved and Commissioner appointed.

Machine turf produced at Turraun.



Tullamore distillery ceases production (until 1937) because of the fall in demand.

Death of Rev. Fr. Callary, parish priest of Tullamore.

County Library Scheme established in Offaly with headquarters in Tullamore.




War Memorial erected at O’ Connor Square.

New Tullamore Golf Club grounds at Brookfield opened.

Tullamore Harriers Club formed.

Tullamore ranks as an overcrowded town with 33 % of its inhabitants in over crowded dwellings. Ten per cent of the population lives in one-room tenements.

Population of Tullamore town is 4,930 or 16.9 percent down on the 1861 figure. Population of county: 52,592, a fall of 12.6% in previous quarter century



George N. Walshe has established a daily motor bus service between Tullamore and Dublin via Daingean



New county courthouse opened at Tullamore. Reconstruction had commenced in 1924 following on the fire of July 1922



Creamery established at Church Road.

Willy O’Shea of Arden Rd, Tullamore wins bronze medal for light-weight boxing at Amsterdam.

Offaly County Council reestablished.



First ‘talkies’ film in Tullamore is shown at the Grand Central Cinema



Upwards of 180 persons unemployed in Tullamore area and about 1,000 in County Offaly as a whole.

Offaly Vocational Education Committee established




St Philomena’s School, Harbour St, Tullamore, erected at a cost of £7,000 (now Tullamore Youth Club); 700 in the national school, of which 160 will go to St Philomenas when ready in September.

Death of Lady Emily Howard Bury.

County Committee of Agriculture established (now part of Teagasc).




609 registered as unemployed in Tullamore area



Efforts made to secure a sugar beet factory for the county, ultimately unsuccessful




Death of Lewis Goodbody at Clara, aged 66. One of the partners in A & L Goodbody, Solicitors



First dry cleaning store in Midlands opened at Patrick Street by Mr. Mc Gill



New Tullamore G.A.A. Club grounds opened at O’Connor Park, Tullamore. Ceremony performed by Mr. de Valera.

New footbridge erected over canal at Convent View to facilitate access to new play ground at Puttaghaun




National Ploughing Championship held at Durrow.



Centenary of Mercy nuns celebrated in Tullamore.



First meeting of Offaly Historical Society (1st May) reformed 1969.

202 houses erected by Tullamore U.D.C, since 1932 under de Valera’s ‘slum clearance’ programme

Bridge at Bridge Street widened with the removal of Dann’s tea-rooms.

Outdoor swimming pool opened at Cloncollig, Tullamore, one of the first civic swimming pools in the country.

Tullamore Laundry closes after twenty-two years.

Salts (Ireland) Ltd., later Tullamore Yarns Ltd. open a new worsted spinning mill at Tullamore

Re-opening of Tullamore Distillery



New road proposed to connect O’Molloy St. with Charleville road

1900-1919 | 1940-1959 | 1960-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999

Thomas Tyquin: Tithe Martyr

After the passing of Catholic Emancipation in 1829, it was reasonable to expect that there would be an improvement in the economic and social life of the country. However, this was not to happen quickly. Catholic tenant farmers and cottiers considered it most unjust that in addition to paying their rent, they should still be forced to pay an annual tax on the produce of their land, known as the Tithe, towards the upkeep of the Protestant Established Church. Moreover, they resented the manner in which the Tithe was assessed and collected. It was levied on tillage, on which the majority of people depended for food and rent, whereas the large “graziers”, invariably Protestant, were exempt from paying the tax. Another reason for discontent was that the valuing of crops for Tithe purposes was left to the despised Proctors, or tax collectors, who got a percentage of the money they collected and often valued unfairly in their own interests. The Tithe varied from district to district and from time to time and was paid in kind, in corn mostly and potatoes. (Ignatius Murphy, The Diocese of Killaloe 1800-1850, p 14)

In November 1835, Mr. Smith, agent for the Rev. William Brownlow Savage, Rector of the Union of Shinrone, Kilcommon and Kilmurry, filed two bills for tithes against Mr. Thomas Tiquin, a prominent businessman from Rusheen, Kilcommon. The foundations of the mill and house where Tiquin and his family carried on a successful milling business can still be seen at the Three Roads in the townland of Rusheen. The total sum claimed amounted to one pound, twelve shillings and eight pence. Tiquin refused to pay the tithes and a court case followed. Despite being defended by the eminent Q.C., Mr. Rolleston of Glasshouse, Tiquin lost his case, was arrested, and confined in the barracks at Shinrone, before being transferred to Newgate prison now known as Kilmainham. The details of the court case remain unclear, but it seems that Tiquin was convicted on a legal technicality, which was regarded as being most unjust at the time. Furthermore, the fact that legal costs were awarded against Tiquin aroused considerable anger amongst those demanding reform of the Tithes. The trial and imprisonment so affected Tiquin, that despite being ‘one of the finest young men in the King’s County, upward of six feet two inches in height, and the idol of his neighbourhood’, he died shortly after his imprisonment. (Valentine Trodd, Midlanders, pp 13-14)

Daniel 0′ Connell and the Catholic Association, realised that the indignation which the trial and death of Tiquin had aroused could be used to bring added pressure on the Government to abolish the Tithes. The coffin, borne in a plain hearse, drawn by four black-plumed horses, left Dublin on Thursday evening. Four placards were attached to the hearse bearing the inscription, “Funeral of Mr. Thomas Tiquin of Shinrone, in King’s County, who died on Thursday 30th May, 1837, while under imprisonment in the Four Courts, Marshalsea, Dublin. For The Tithes”. The funeral was followed by Mr. Rey, the Assistant Secretary of the Catholic Association, along with two other associates.

While on its way to Shinrone, stopping over in Kildare on the Thursday and Mountrath on the Friday, thousands of people, on foot, on horseback and in cars, carriages and gigs, accompanied the cortege. On the Saturday, Tiquin’s two brothers, together with his wife Maryanne and other relatives arrived in Roscrea to await the arrival of the funeral from Mountrath. The Catholic Association had arranged that the funeral should proceed through Shinrone and Dunkerrin, but the family decided that the remains should be taken directly from Roscrea to Birr and then on to the family burial grounds at “All Saints” in Banagher.

On the Saturday, while hundreds prayed in the chapels of Shinrone and Roscrea for the “victim who so nobly sacrificed himself for his country”, hundreds of friends and neighbours from Shinrone proceeded to Mountrath, Castletown and Borris-inOssory to accompany the remains to the church in Roscrea. Among the cortege were Fr. 0′ Meara and Fr. Kelly, Roscrea, Fr. Dore, C.C. Shinrone, Fr. Nolan, Dunkerrin, and Fr. Cleary, P.P. Kilcolman.

On the Saturday night, the funeral made its way to Bin where the Roman Catholic Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Kennedy, after addressing an estimated crowd of seventeen to eighteen thousand people, advised them to disperse quietly. It was Bishop Kennedy, then Fr. Kennedy, together with Thomas Lalor Cooke who had been responsible for stopping the Greenboys march on Shinrone in 1828.

It was three o’clock on Sunday when the funeral reached the “All Saints Well” burial ground, Banagher, where Tiquin was laid in his grave. On its way to the burial ground. the hearse had to stop for half an hour to allow the people from Shinrone, Cloghan, Banagher, Roscrea, Lockeen and Durrow to arrive. It is estimated that in all, 200,000 people took part in the funeral on that day. (Leinster Express, 10th June 1837)

In 1838, the following year, the Tithes were abolished. Tiquin became known as The Last Tithe Martyr’ and it seems certain that just as the march of the Greenboys was influential in hastening the passing of Catholic Emancipation, the imprisonment and subsequent death of Thomas Tiquin accelerated the abolition of the Tithes.

Source: Noel MacMahon, In the Shadow of the Fairy Hill, Shinrone and Ballingarry – A History, pp 108-111.

Report in the Leinster Express – 10th June 1837.


Has been the stock in trade of the O’Connell journals for the last week, and hence-with their wanted veracity- they have this discusting blasphemios exhibition protrayed in the most extravagant terms as a subject of” the great sympathy” and excitment through the country .” But the Martyrdom” of Tyquin, at the shrine of agitation, has not been sufficient to excite the people any further than to exhibit the folly and mischevious tendency of the advise of those unprincipled persons, which have never yet effected any substantial service for their duped fellow countrymen- who, in the various relations of life, are the most intolerable tyrants and self knaves, if we view them as magistrates, landlords, traders, or even patriots. We are convinced, that were it not for the influence of the Roman Catholic Clergy possesses over the people,and which they abused to such a ruinous extent, the funeral of Tyquin would have been even a greater failure, and the best proof we can offer in corroboration, is the following fact:- The Rev N. O’ Connor, P.P. of Maryborough-whose pious and exemplary conduct on all occasions, has been acknowledged by men of all creeds and parties- declined to countenance the up becoming and unchristian display: and the result was, that the remains of Tyquin passed through the town, without having attracted the smallest attention, or a single individual having joined the procession, which consisted of two suspicious and rather ill-looking persons, on an old jaunting car proceeding at a slow pace at the rere of the hearse, on which, and on the coffin on a placard conspicuously displayed-:

“Funeral of Mr Thomas Tyquin, of Shinrone in the King’s County, Tithe Victim, who died on Tuesday 30th May, 1837, while under imprisonment in the Four Courts’ Marshalses, Dublin, for Tithe. The funeral will leave Dublin on Thursday Morning at 7 o’clock and proceeding through Rathcoole and Naas will arrive at Kildare, where the body will remain all night, and thence be conveyed on Friday to Mountrath and on Saturday to Roscrea and Dunkerrin.


The General Association very properly determined to do honour to the brave men’s memory, a committee was appointed to make arragements for conducting his funeral to its destination at 9 o’clock on Thursday morning the funeral started from Michael’s Hill the residents of the undertaker, Mr. Martin and proceeded out the city on the road
to Kildare under the direction of the active and intelligent assistant secretary of the General Association. Mr. T. M. Ray. The body was borne by a hearse and four, and followed by several vehicles companied by gentlemen anxious to show a mark of respect to the memory of one, who had proved ready to suffer all things for conscience sake. As the procession proceeded to Rathcoole it was joined by considerable numbers of the country people amounting to several 1000’s, who accompanied it till within a mile of Naas, where it was met by the very excellent and zealous clergyman of that parish, the Rev. Gerald Doyle, his curate, the Rev. Mr. Hackett; Christopher Flood, of Yeomanstowns, Esq., and several of the parishioners of the reverend gentlemen. Nearer the town the Rev. Mr. Kearney, P.P. of Lelane, and the Rev. Mr Tierney, P.P. of Prosperous, joined the funeral procession.

“The procession moved off from Naas at such a rapid pace as soon forced most of the pedestrians to fall behind, though some of them continued to run along with the horses even to Kildare. At Newbridge,as at Nass and Rathcoole, the bell tolled the good mans knell, and warned the people of the arrival of the funeral, who crowded with a melancholy interest around the hearse that contained the remains of the last victim, as they called him with a sorrowful emphasis.

“When we passed the Curragh the greater part of the horsemen returned, and the funeral reached Kildare accompanied by several vehicles and a few equestrians shortly after 6 o’clock. Here the hearse and the gentlemen accompanying it remain all night, and will proceeded towards Mountrath at an early hour of the morning”.



THRID DAY – The two brothers of Tyquin arrived in Roscrea with the family of the deceased, and immediately returned, taking different directions through the country to apprise the people that the route had been changed and their earnest entreaty. It was originally intended by the association that the funeral should proceed through Shinrone and Dunkerrin. This was, however agreed on without consulting the wishes of the relatives-their burial ground being at “All Saints Well”, four miles beyond Birr. Under these circumstances it was at once decided that the body should be conveyed from Roscrea agreeable to their desire, the distance to either place been much the same. Thousands and thousands along the road are in preparations along the line. The manifestation of public opinion exhibited in the King’s County almost exceeds credibility.

Early in the morning the people from Roscrea and its vicinity came pouring in. Some of his own friends from Shinrone were almost momentarily joining the throng. In the chapel prayers are celebrated during the morning about 9 O’clock there was a high mass. At Castletown, three miles further on, we were joined by about three hundred, every now and then a few horsemen could be descried at a distant, and as we reach them, silently fell in.

When we reached Borris-in-Ossory, the procession consisted of cars, gigs, horseman, which proceeding at a rapid rate along the road, the crowds of pedrestians who at first taught to keep up were reluctantly compelled to return. Leaving Borris, we proceeded forward, followed by more than five hundred well-mounted horsemen, and about two hundred vehicles of various descriptions. The former comprised many respectable inhabitants of Mountrath, among them the Rev. Messrs Nolan. P.P. Conroy, C.C., Nowlan, C.C.,D, Egan, Esq., P. Lawlor, Esq., E. Cahill, Esq., Doctor Pim, and several others. As we continued along, the numbers rapidly increased, and again we were obliged to go slowly forward, as at every step made from the surrounding counties joined us – groups every moment were discernible crossing the fields- and others sitting by the wayside awaiting our approach. Now, indeed, the men of Shinrone (the victim’s native place) were easily distinguished. Where ever number were collected standing across the road, the fierce, irrepressible imprecations that burst from them told but too well the nature of there feelings. This ebullition never passed the first outbreak-it was promptly and invaribly subdued by the interference of the clergymen. A little further on, accompanied by two hundred men, John New, a man we believed familiar to our readers met us – himself a successful opposer of the system which his unfortunate friend (for they were neighbours) had been immolated by. He came to honour a fellow patriot – and has sincere a one as ever breathed. This man for nine months braved the horrors of a dungeon sooner than pay one pound and five shillings tithes. He came out of it wasted and worn, but his resolution firm and unaltered: and as he triumphantly produced to the thousands who flocked around the card presented to him by the General Association, on his liberation from the prison, gratuitously admitting him a member of that body, solemnly he swore he would meet the same fate of the man who was before him, rather than pay tithes. Could the wild huzza the responsive shout greeted their declaration be heared by the tithe hunters, and then indeed would the prison gates of Dublin Marshalsea be thrown open to the tithe marthrs.

From Borris – in – Ossory forward the crowds momentarly increased. The curates of Shinrone and Roscrea advanced several miles from the last pirce to meet the procession, and brought intelligence that the chapels in their respective districts had been unceasingly occupied by the inhabititants in prayers for the victim who had so nobly sacrificed himself for his country. Multuides were in the rere making their way to join the man of Mountrath-the perseverance of the people and their patient suffering under the influence of the oppressive heat of the day, well evinced what their feelings and sympahty were. It was intended that the funeral should move very slowly in advance from Roscrea to Birr halting for a hour at the former place; they were several times requested to walk, as they would certainly overtake it in Roscrea; nothing could induced them to comply; their coats and shoes were taken off, and they ran along side without a murmur, but to attempt to shake them off was useless. Towards three o’clock Roscrea appeared in the distance, the road communicating with its literally alive with countrymen walking out to meet us. In the County Tipperary appears such a spirit of persevring but quite and constitutional resistance to tithes that it would be utterly immpossible to oppose with the most distance propect of success. Amid the ringing of chapel bells we entered the town of Roscrea; countless masses of the populance proceeded in advance of the funeral, while a line of cars intervened between a strong body of horsemen who brought up the rere, among which were included the followly gentlemen – Stephan Egan, Esq., Roscrea; Reverand Meara. Kelly, C.C., Roscrea; Dore, C.C. Shinrone; Nolan, Dunkerrin, Blake, P.P., Bowma: Doyle C.C., ditto: Egan,C.C., ditto; Cleary, C.C., Longford; Cleary P.P., Kilcolman, with several others. As the procession proceeded it filled up several streets with a compressed body of peasantry, who were receiving every quarter of an hour fresh additions to there already overwhelming numbers; The earnestness an determination of a people in a cause must be calculated by the sacrifices they suffer and the privations they endure to carry out a principal for the attainment of which they have been assiduously labouring; and it is no small sacrifice indeed for the poor man who cheerfully devotes his time and presence to the cause of his country when neither one or the other is requisite or called for. To the class of the persons who were most zealous in paying the request to the man who’s exertions during his life for the welfare of his country were untiring and who’s premature death will be useful beyond his anticipation in fu

rtherence of the good cause, and the value of which in all probability is not appreciated at the present;, their time is their money and most disinterested did they spur every selfish consideration and to a man attend for the purpose of evincing there sympathy, and show how readily they would brave the same peril, although the fatal results of a disinterested patriotism unflinching consistence and hardihood were conspicuous to them in thid most appalling form. The sad spectacle of two cars following the hearse, containing the broken hearted remains of a once independant and happy family had to no effect saved to urge them on to a similar and daring and unyielding preseverance.

I have but time to say that this day (Sunday) we committed to the grave Mr. Tyquin in his family burial ground “All Saint Well”. There is no riot, no disorder or confusion of any description during the sad ceremony, although the multitudes presented no novel and imposing an appearance as to call forth the mark surprise of some gentlemen who could not conceive the possibility of collecting such numbers together.

FOURTH DAY – by the time the funeral reached its destination for the night (Birr) the concorse of people were really tremendous. The procession formed in the same manner as it proceeded through the towns-pedestrians in advance, cars, and & C., Succeeding, and horsemen in the rere; with few exceptions, the towns people closed their shops through respect for the memory of the man whom they knew so well, and who had so recently led them to election victory and triumph. There could not have been less than fifteen or eighteen thousand men blocking up the narrow streets of the town. While the funeral was on its route to the chapel, where every preparation for the reception of the afflicted family of Mr. Tyquin by the cooperation and active sympathy of the most Rev. Dr. Kennedy, the Roman Catholic Bishop, had been prepared, while the multitude was yet standing around the hearse gazing at the placard- the bishop addressed them briefly, but most effectually, as to the necessity of there immediately dispersing cause of apprehension to the inhabitants. This advice was immediately adopted by them, and in a few minutes there were to be seen no traces of the stiring scene which had been but just exhibited.

About three o’clock nest day (Sunday) we set out amid a heavy fall of rain to ‘All Saints Well.’ Although the weather was showery and unpropitious and numbers took refuge in every place likely to afford shelter during the continuance of the rain, still to compute the vast body who accompanied us out of the town would be perfectly impossible. Like the fiery cross of Scotland, the intelligents of the place and time of his burial had spread to an extent and with rapidity hardly credible. This appeared every moment more and more evident as we advanced, and the weather brighted, the haze rising from the hills exposed the crowds who were hastening to assist in the interment of their countryman. As we gained the cross roads, the hearse was compelled to stop for more than half a hour, to allow time for the people to come up, who were hastening on from Cloghan, Banager, Roscrea, Lockeen, and Durrow. Horsemen galloped up the different roads in advance, to beg that the requested of the travelers would be compiled with, which was granted. After a reasonable time had elapsed, the funeral moved on, at every step fresh arrivals joining us. The victim was laid in his grave. I need hardly say how deeply regretted”.- Freeman’s Journal.


Sir,- The Freeman of Wednesday having occupied a large portion of its columns with an account of the funeral procession of Tyquin, and the “intense interest”, the narrative in the Freemans is a issue of falsehoods. Friday evening last the hearse passed through this town and though the Market House and Chapel gates were posted with placards the day previous, announcing the arrangements of the funeral, and its remaining in Mountrath for the night, it passed through unnoticed, excepting an individual here and there, gazing at the unusual sight of a hearse covered with placards, but no gathering of the people.The funeral on Saturday morning,though market day, and delayed in the Chapel ’till near 11 o’clock, proved the most miserable failure; though the correspondent of the Freeman states the concourse of 1000 giving the fall latitude of Priests, Monks, national school children, women and the usual routine of urchins, who usually attended every stir that occurs in a town they did not number 200, not including the most respectable inhabitants of the town whom Freemans did not forget to name, in junction with the Priests amounting to a Brewer and a M.D. I merely mentioned this circumstance to show that the most glaring falsehoods are resorted to, in ordered to keep up agitation, and that the country people being by the time heartily sick of the slave driving of the agitating crew that infest this country; the Priests are yoked in, in order, to goad their infatuatd slaves into oppostion against their best friends.

I am, Sir, Your obenient servant.
Mountrath 8th June 1837

Offaly in the 19th Century

King’s County, an inland county in Leinster province. Boundaries: N. Westmeath; E. Meath and Kildare; S. Queen’s and Tipperary, Galway, and Roscommon. Greatest length, E. and W., 45 miles; greatest breadth, N. and S., 39 miles; comprising an area of 493,985 acres, of which are under tillage, 222,680 in pasture, 8,129 in plantation, 130,860 waste, bog, mountain, etc. and 1,733 under water. The southern part is hilly, comprising a small portion of the Slieve Bloom Mountains; the remainder is comparatively flat; Croghan Hill in the N.E. rises to 769 feet; the Bog of Allen covers a large portion of the centre, and extends from east to west the whole length of the county. The Shannon skirts it on the west, the Little Brosna in the south, and the river Brosna passes through the north. The Grand Canal traverses the county, from Edenderry in the extreme east, to Shannon Harbour in the west. The Athlone extension of the Great Southern and Western Railway traverses it from S.E. to N.W., passing through Portarlington, Tullamore and Clara; and in the south, there is a branch of the same railway from Roscrea to Parsonstown. The soil is of average quality, the greater part a light loam of medium depth, resting on limestone gravel. The occupations are agricultural; manufactures being only for home consumption.

The county is divided into 12 baronies, and contains 51 parishes, with 1,181 townlands, having a population in 1881, of 72,668 persons, or 14,454 families inhabiting 13,863 houses; also 615 uninhabited, and 10 building. The Parliamentary borough of Portarlington has a population in this county of 801, and the remaining inhabitants 1,625 are in the Queen’s County. It is in the dioceses of Kildare, Meath and Killaloe, with portions in Ossory and Clonfert. Tullamore, the county town, had a population of 5,179 in 1881; the other towns exceeding 500 in population in 1871 are:









The county returns 2 members to Parliament; constituency, 1881-82, 3,211 with 17 polling places. It is in the Home Circuit. The Assizes are held in Tullamore, and Quarter Sessions at Parsonstown, Philipstown, and Tullamore. There are 14 Petty Sessions Districts within the county, and portions of 5 others. The county contains portions of the 5 Poor Law Unions of Edenderry, Mountmellick, Parsonstown, Roscrea, and Tullamore. The Constabulary force of the county consists of 6 officers and 260 men. The county is within the Dublin military district; and, with the Queen’s County and the counties Longford, Meath, and Westmeath, forms No. 67 Subdistrict, the Brigade Depot which is at Birr. There are barrack stations at Parsonstown, Banagher, Philipstown, Shannonbridge, and Tullamore.

Marriages, Births and Deaths Registered (10 years), 1864-1873.

3,706 Marriages; 18, 754 Births; 13,990 Deaths.

Education-Schools, 1891

Number of persons in the county who could read and write, 13,360; who could read only, 13,157; the remainder, 28,383, being unable to read or write. Persons who speak Irish only, 1; Irish and English, 245. Number of Superior Schools, 13, attended by 415 pupils of whom, 245 were Roman Catholics, and 170 Protestants. Population under 7 years of age, 11,223; 5,787 Males, 5,446 Females.

Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of the County and Custos Rotulorum.

Colonel Thomas Bernard (1867), King’s County Rifles (late Major 12th Lancers), Castle Bernard, Kinnitty; Kildare-Street Club, Dublin; Carlton Club, London, S.W.

High Sheriff (1882-83)

Henry Vincent Jackson esq., (J.P. Co. Tipperary) Inane Roscrea; Mountjoy Square Dublin.

Members of Parliament for the County.

Sir Patrick O’ Brien, bart. (1852), J.P. (D.L. for the city of Dublin; called to the bar, 1844). 21, Bryanston square, London W.; University Club, Dublin; Reform Club, London, S.W.

Bernard Charles Molloy, esq. (1880), 12, Philbeach gardens, London, S.W. Nutfield, Weybridge Surrey, 3 Plowden Buildings, Temple, E.C.

Deputy Lieutenants.

Bennett, Francis Valentine, Thomaston House, Frankford, Kildare Street Club Dublin, Carlton Club, London.
Dames, Thomas Longworth (late Capt. Roy. Art.) Greenhill, Edenderry.
Drought, Thomas Armstrong, Lettybrook, Kinnity.
Fox, Captain Maxwell, (Retired List), Annaghmore, Tullamore, Sackville Street Club, Dublin.
Graves, William Grogan, (late Lieut. Col. Comm. 82nd Foot), Cloghan Castle Banagher, Hibernian United Service and Kildare street Clubs Dublin. Junior United Service Club London, S.W.
King, John Gilbert (was M.P. for King’s Co. 1865-68), Ballylin Ferbane, Sackville Street Club, Dublin, Carlton Club London, S.W.
Lloyd, John, Gloster, Roscrea, Sackville Street club, Dublin.

County Court Judge and Chairman of Quarter Sessions.

John Chute Neligan, esq. (1878), M.A. Q.C. J.P. The Spa, Tralee, 27, Lower Baggot Street, Stephen’s Green Club, Dublin.

Andrews, Maunsell, Silverhills, Cloughjordan.
Armstrong, Major Carteret Andrew, 5th Lancashire Militia (late Capt. 10th Ft.) Garrycastle, Banagher, Junior United Service Club, London, S.W.
Armstrong, John (J.P. Co. Galway), Rusheenacora, Clifden.
Armstrong, Rev. Sir Edmund Frederick, bart., Castle Flemyng, Errill, Templemore.
Armstrong, Major Thomas P. St. George, Claremount, Banagher.
Atkinson, Guy, N. Lieut. 85th Foot. Cangort, Shinrone
Ball, Benjamin, Manly, Mount Lucas, Philipstown.
Bennett, Francis, Valentine, D.L. Thomastown House, Frankford. Kildare Street Club Dublin, Carlton Club, London, S.W.
Bennett, John, Grange, Clareen, Parsonstown.
Berry, Marlborough Parsons, Clooneen , Parsonstown.
Biddulph, Lieut. Col. Francis Edward, (Retired list, late 9th Foot), John’s Place Parsonstown.
Bor, William, Loftus, Ballindolan, Edenderry.
Burdett, Arthur, Coolfin, Banagher, Sackville Street Club Dublin, Union and Wanderers’ Clubs London S.W.
Cassidy, John Valentine, (called to the bar 1854), Killyon, Parsonstown, Monasterevan Co. Kildare, 53 Upper Mount Street Dublin.
Chevenix, Henry, Tullamore.
Clark, John, Kilballyshea House, Shinrone, Roscrea.
Connolly, Andrew, Clunagh House, Tullamore
Cox, Colonel Ambrose Clement Wolseley, King’s Co. Rifles (late Lieut. 12th Lancers), Clara House, Clara, Kildare Street Club, Dublin, Army and Navy, Navy and Military Clubs, London S.W.
Cradock, Richard William, (J.P. Co. Tipperary), Greenhills, Roscrea.
Daly, Bernard, Tullamore.
Dames, Thomas Longworth (late Capt. Roy. Art.), D.L. Greenhill, Edenderry.
Darby, Jonathan Charles, Leap Castle, Roscrea.
Digby, Reginald, The Castle, Geashill.
Digby, William Fitzgerald, Brookfield, Tullamore.
Dooley, Samuel, Francis, Mount Briscoe, Philipstown.
Drought, Thomas Oaklawn Kinnitty.
Drought, Thomas A. Lettybrook, Kinnitty.
Drought, John W. Whigsborough, Five Alley, Parsonstown.
Dunalley, Rt. Hon. Lord (J.P. and D.L. Nenagh Co. Tipperary.
Dunne, Robert Hedges Plunkett (J.P. Queen’s County), Twickenham House, Ballycumber.
Enraght, James, Stream Lodge, Banagher.
Fox, Major Luke Loftus Bushe, Longford Militia (J.P. Co. Longford), Cordara, Lanesborough.
Fox, Capt. Maxwell, R.N. (Retired List)

, D.L. Annaghmore, Tullamore, Sackville Street Club, Dublin.
French, Dawson, Tullamore.
Gamble, Richard, Wilson, M.A. (T.C.D.), Q.C County Court Judge and Chairman of Quarter Sessions of counties Lough and Armagh, Killooly Hall, Frankford [Kilcormac], 51 Fitzwilliam Square west, Dublin.
Garvey, Toler Roberts, J.P. (Co. Tipperary), Parsonstown.
Gibson, George, Kill House, Rathangan.
Goodbody, James Perry, Beechmount, Clara.
Goodbody, Marcus, (J.P. Co. Westmeath), Inchmore House, Clara.
Graves, William Grogan, D.L. (late Lieut. Col. Comm. 82nd Foot), Cloghan Castle, Banagher, Hibernian United Service and Kildare Street Clubs, Dublin; Junior United Service Club, London S.W.
Hackett, Lieut. Col. Simpson, 35th Regiment (J.P. Co. Tipperary), Moor Park, Parsonstown; United Service and St. Stephen’s Clubs, London, S.W.
Hamilton, John Thomas, Monasteroris, Edenderry.
Handy, Samuel W. Springfield House, Philipstown.
Holmes, Bassett William, (J.P. and D.L. Co. Tipperary, late Capt. North Tipperary Militia), St. David’s Nenagh; Kildare Street Club, Dublin.
Huntingdown, Earl of Sharavogue, Roscrea.
Hutchinson, Joseph Fade, M.A. (T.C.D.), (J.P. Co. Tipperary; High Sheriff Co. Carlow, 1867), Dungar, Roscrea; 6 Richmond Place north Dublin, Kildare Street Club Dublin, Conservative Club S.W.
Irwin, Major Henry, M.C. 109 Upper Rathmines, Dublin.
Jackson, Henry Vincent, (J.P. Co. Tipperary), Inane, Roscrea.
Joly, Jasper Robert, I.L.D. (J.P. Co. Kildare); called to the bar 1841, Hollywood, Rathangan, 38 Rathmines Road, Dublin.
Kemmis, Arthur Henry Nicholas, (J.P. for Surrey, Croham Hurst Croydon, Boodle’s Club London S.W.
Kerr, Silvester R. Rathmoyle, Rhode, Edenderry.
King, John Gilbert, D.L. (was M.P. for King’s County 1865-68) Ballylin, Ferbane, Sackville Street Club Dublin, Carlton Club London S.W.
Kingscote, Major Fitzhardinge (J.P. Co. Mayo), Major South Mayo Rifles (late Capt. Rifle Brigade), Kilclare House, Clara; Junior United Service Club, S.W.
Lauder, John Drought, Moyclare, Ferbane.
Longworth, Francis T.L. Dames, A.M. Q.C. J.P. counties Donegal and Kildare (called to the bar 1855; Bencher of the King’s Inn, 1876), Glynwood, Athlone, 21 Herbert Street Dublin.
L’Estrange, Major-General Edmund, Kilcommin, Banagher.
Lloyd, John, D.L. Gloster Roscrea, Sackville Street Club, Dublin.
Marshall, Wm. Kennedy, Baronne Court, Parsonstown.
Maxwell, Captain Albert, B.A. (J.P. Co. Tipperary), Glen Albert, Roscrea, United Service Club, Dublin.
Minchin, George John, M.A. (T.C.D.), D.L. (J.P. Co. Tipperary), Busherstown, Dunkerrin, Roscrea; Kildare Street Club, Dublin.
Molloy, Laurence, Bomford, Clonbelamore, Parsonstown.
Mooney, Robert James Enraght, D.L. (J.P. Co. Westmeath), The Doon, Ballinahown, Athlone.
Morris, William O’Connor , B.A. (Oxon), County Court Judge and Chairman of Quarter Sessions Co. Kerry, Gartnamona or Mount Pleasant, Tullamore.
Mulock, Thomas, Kilnagarna, Ballynahowen, Athlone.
Murray, Thomas Richard, Blundell House, Edenderry.
North, Capt. Joseph Pim, Moyally, Moate.
O’Brien, Sir Patrick bart. M.A. (T.C.D.), M.P. for King’s County (D.L. city of Dublin; called to the bar 1844; 21 Bryanston square London W; Borris-in Ossory, Queen’s County; University Club, Dublin; Reform Club London S.W.
Parsons, Hon, Lawrence (late Lieut. Col. King’s County Militia), The Castle, Parsonstown, 102 Eaton Place London S.W.
Peirce, John, M.A. (T.C.D.), Charleville Pl, Tullamore.
Philips, William, (J.P. Queen’s County), Portarlington.
Ridgeway, John, B.A. (T.C.D.), Ballydermot House, Clonbullogue.
Ridley, George, Tullamore.
Rolleston-Spunner, Charles, Q.C. Glasshouse, Shinrone; University Club Dublin.
Rosse, Right Hon. the Earl of, D.L. D.C.L. (Oxon), (elected a Representative Peer for Ireland, 1869), The Castle, Parsonstown; Heaton Hall, Bradford Yorkshire, Carlton Club London S.W.
Smyth, Edward Skeffington Randal (V.L. Queen’s County. Late Lieut. 28th Foot), Mount Henry, Ballybrittas.
Stoney, Andrew Acres, Frankford.
Stoney, Johnstone Thomas, Emell Castle, Cloughjordan.
Thompson, Peter Hamlet, Cornamona, Banagher.
French, Henry, A.B. (T.C.D.), (J.P. Queen’s County), Glenmalyre, Ballybrittas, Queen’s County; Kilcooney, Geashill.
Tyrrell, William Jonathan Haughton, Grange Castle, Edenderry.
Urquhart, David Dunlop, (late Major King’s Co. Rifles), Strawberry Hill, Cloghan.
Vaughan, William Peisley Hutchinson Lloyd, D.L. (J.P. Co. Tipperary), Golden Grove, Roscrea; New University Club London S.W. Sackville Street Club Dublin.
Wakely, John, M.A. (T.C.D.), D.L., Ballyburley, Edenderry; Kildare Street Club Dublin.
Walker, Joseph James, Belfield, Shinrone.
Synge, Sir Edward bart. (D.L. Co. Cork; High Sheriff. 1844), Lislee Court, Bandon; Alexandra Hotel, Hyde Park Corner, London S.W.
Taaffe, John (J.P.Co. Louth), Smarmore Castle, Ardee.
Tarleton, John William, Killeigh, Tullamore.
Waller, Bolton John, (J.P. Co. Limerick), Moystown House, Shannon Harbour.

County Officers

Clerk of the Crown, William D’Alton, esq. (1869) 11, Stephen’s Green Dublin.
Clerk of the Peace, Charles O’ Keefe, esq. (1874) Parsonstown, and Peace Office, Tullamore.
Deputy Clerk of the Peace, W.J. Norris, esq. Tullamore.
Crown Solicitor, John Julian, esq. (1846) Drumbane, Parsonstown; and 48 Upper Sackville Street, Dublin.
Sessional Crown Solicitor, Adam Mitchell, esq. (1867), Parsonstown; and 25 Westland Row, Dublin.
Treasurer, William Bigoe Armstrong, esq. (1863), Balliver, Banagher.
Secretary to the Grand Jury, Thomas Mitchell, esq. A.B. (1880), Parsonstown.
Solicitor to the Grand Jury, Adam Mitchell, esq. Wallcot, Parsonstown.
County Surveyor, Richard Barnsley Sanders, esq. (1874), Parsonstown.
Assistant Surveyors, Messrs. William Browne, James H. Barr.
Sub-Sheriff, Robert Whelan, esq. Tullamore; and 3 Palace Street Dublin.
Sheriff’s Returning Officer, John Mallet Williamson, esq. 70 Middle Abbey Street, Dublin.
Coroners, William Arnett Going, esq. Kilclonfert, Philipstown, John Corcoran, esq. Thomastown

Barony Cess Collectors

Ballyboy, Ralph H. Ashton, Pigeonstown, Kinnitty
Ballybritt, John Alfred Ashton, Pigeonstown, Kinnitty
Ballocowen, William Richard Wade, Tullamore.
Clonlisk, William Ryves Poe, Shinrone.
Coolestown, George Gill
Eglish, James Davis jun., Curraghmore, Frankford.
Garrycastle, Thomas B. Launder, Gallen Priory, Ferbane.
Geashill, William Davis Pattison, Urney, Portarlington.
Kilcoursey, William Richard Wade, Tullamore.
Philipstown Lower, Francis Grogan, Croghan, Philipstown.
Philipstown Upper, W.D. Pattison, Portarlington.
Warrenstown, John Gill, jun., Stonehouse, Edenderry.

Inland Revenue

Supervisors, Hugh Morris, Parsonstown, Henry Stone, Tullamore.

Stamp Distributers

Head Distributor, M.F. Barnes, esq. Mullingar.
Banagher, Timothy Killeen.
Clara, Messrs. White and Co.
Edenderry, Patrick Kelly.
Parsonstown, Henry Davis and Son.
Tullamore, Richard Willis.

Resident Magistrates

M’ Sheehy, John Thomas esq. Parsonstown
L’Estrange, Captain C., Tullamore.

Magistrates (contd.)

Warburton, Henry, Bray Co. W

Warburton, Richard, D.L. (J.P. for Queen’s County; High Sheriff 1869), Garryhinch, Portarlington.
White, Henry (J.P. Queen’s County), Charleville, Roscrea.
Woods, William, Oxmantown Mall, Parsonstown.
Wrafter, John, (J.P. Queen’s County), Derry House, Rosenallis, Mountmellick, and Maryborough.

District Resistrar of the Probate Division of hte High Court of Justice

Humphrey Wilmot Lloyd, esq. B.A. T.C.D. and Oxon

Royal Irish Constabulary

County Inspector, Francis Nesbitt Cullen, esq. Tullamore.

Sub-Inspector’s Stations

Edenderry, John Caulfield, esq.
Ferbane, Charles James Lilly, esq.
Parsonstown, Richard Robert Fulton esq.
Shinrone, George Garrow Greene, esq.
Tullamore, Henry Augustine Allen esq.

Petty Sessions Courts and Polling Places

Courts, Areas in Acres, Population and Name of Clerk




(Polling Place only)




Thomas Champion




William J. Norris




Sid. W. Jennings
















J.H. Flynn




Thomas Molloy




Archd. Beauman




R. Boaz




J.H. Flynn




Henry Barlow




Z. Collins




David Baird




T. Molloy




W.J. Norris

Her Majesty’s Prison (Tullamore) Visiting Committee

Dawson French esq., J.P
Marcus Goodbody esq., J.P.
George Ridley esq., J.P.
Colonel T. Bernard Lieut. of County.
Capt. Maxwell Fox J.P.
Right Hon. the Earl of Rosse
Major Ambrose C.W. Cox J.P.
Reginald Digby esq., J.P.

Governor, Captain H. Fetherstonhaugh
Church of Ireland Chaplain, Rev. Graham Craig
R.C. Chaplain, Rev. M. McAlroy
Surgeon, James Ridley M.D.
Chief Warder, George Bartley

Bridewell Keeper

Parsonstown, Thomas Fleury.

County Infirmary Tullamore

Treasurer, Reginald Digby esq., J.P., The Castle, Geashill.
Surgeon, James Ridley L.R.C.S.A., D.K.Q.C.P.I.
Registrar, H.T. Love esq.

Board of Governors for King’s County

Joseph F. Hutchinson esq. J.P
John Lloyd esq. D.L.
Marcus Goodbody Esq. J.P.
John Cassidy esq. J.P.
Right Hon. The Earl of Rosse, D.L.
Col. A. C.W. Cox, J.P.
Richard Wilburton esq. D.L.
Reginald Digby esq. J.P.

Res. Medical Superintendent, Joseph H. Hatchell, F.K.Q.C.P.I., L.R.C.S.I.
Visiting Physician, David Jacob, M.D. F.R.C.S.I.,J.P.
Church of Ireland Chaplain, Rev. Edmund L. Eves, M.A.
R.C. Chaplain, Rev. Thomas Molony
Apothecary, Joseph B. Macnamara, L.A. DUB.
Matron, Miss Jane Farrell
Clerk, Mr. Richard Conroy
Storekeeper, James Barves

Inspector of National Schools

Parsonstown, Charles W. Dugan, esq. A.M.

Poor Law Unions

Edenderry Union (partly in the King’s County, Kildare and Meath), population in 1871, 20,166; 29 Electoral Divisions. Valuation, £95,638. The Board of Guardians meets on Saturdays.

Chairman, J. Wakely, esq., D.L. Ballyburly House, Rhode.
Vice Chairman, F.H. Langan, esq. J.P. Mount Heavey, Hill of Down.
Deputy Vice-Chairman, Edward Robinson, esq. Kilraney, Moyvally.
Treasurer, Ulster Bank.
Clerk and Returning Officer, T. Humphrey, F. Bor.
Master and Matron, Hugh Farrell and Maria Dillon.
Chaplains, Church of Ireland, Rev. John E. Murray
                  Roman Catholic, Rev. Michael Wall, P.P.
Medical Officer, John J. Duigenan, L.K.Q.C.P.I., L.R.C.S.I.
Relieving Officers, Patrick Gavan, Edenderry and Patrick Rogan, Rathangan.
Superintendent Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, T. Humphrey, F. Bor, Clerk of the Union.
Dispensary Districts, Population in 1871, Medical Officers and Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Ballyboggan, 3,220 H.D. Purdon, L.R.C.S.I.
Carbury, 2,904 William Waters, M.R.C.S.E., L.K.Q.C.J.P.
Edenderry, 5,154 Robert Saunderson, M.D.
Johnstown, 2,391 P.S. Duigenan, L.R.C.S.I.
Rathangan, 3,377 F. Thomas Bray
Rhode, 3,114 Robert Saunderson jun.

Officers under the Public Health Act 1874

Consulting Sanitary Officer, Medical Officer of Union.
Executive Sanitary Officer, Clerk of the Union.
Sanitary Officers, Dispensary Medical Officers
Sanitary Sub-Officers, Relieving Officers.

Local Government Board Officers

Inspector, Dr. Thomas Hamilton Burke.
Auditor, George William Finlay esq.

Parsonstown Union, (partly in the King’s County and Tipperary), population in 1871 32,261; 39 Electoral Divisions. Valuation, £102,878 The Board of Guardians meets on Saturdays.
Chairman, Right Hon, the Earl of Rosse, D.L. Birr Castle, Parsonstown.
Vice-Chairman, John D. Lauder, esq. J.P. Moyclare, Ferbane.
Deputy Vice-Chairman, John Corcoran esq. Mullinafawnia, Five Alley, Parsonstown.
Treasurer, Provincial Bank of Ireland, Parsonstown.
Clerk and Returning Officer, Henry Dooly.
Master and Matron, Thomas Dooly and Emma G. Dooly.
Chaplains, Church of Ireland, Archdeacon Chester.
                  Roman Catholic, Rev. Michael Bugler.
Medical Officer, Thomas Woods, M.D. M.R.C.S.E.
Relieving Officers, James L. Dooly, Elmgrove, Parsonstown, James Cloonan, Ferbane.
Superintendent Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Henry Dooly esq., Clerk of the Union.
Dispensary Districts, Population in 1871, Medical Officers and Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Banagher, 6,259 Robert Kerans L.R.C.S.I., L.K.Q.C.P.I.
Ferbane, 7,7,97 Hubert K. Costello L.K.Q.C.P.I., L.R.C.S.I.
Frankford, 3,122 Thomas H. Browne L.R.C.S.I., L.K.Q.C.P.I.
Killyon, 2,001 Charles B. Stoney M.B., M.S.
Kinnitty, Thomas O’ Smith M.B.
Parsonstown, 7,760 Thomas Woods M.D.
Riverstown, 2,801 Alexander W. Wallace M.D.

Officers under the Public Health Act 1878

Executive Sanitary Officer, Clerk of the Union.
Medical Officers of Health, Dispensary Medical Officers
Sanitary Sub-Officers, Relieving Officers

Local Govermnent Board Officers

Inspector, Dr. Burke
Auditor, Captain Gibson.

Tullamore Union (partly in the King’s County and Westmeath), population in 1871, 28,420; 28 Electoral Divisions. Valuation, £83,165 The Board of Guardians meets on Tuesdays.

Chairman, George Ridley esq. J.P. Tullamore.
Vice-Chairman, Michael Corcoran esq. Pallas Park, Blueball.
Deputy Vice-Chairman, William Adams esq. Tullamore.
Treasurer, Bank of Ireland, Tullamore.
Master and Matron, Patrick Kevany and Anne Duggan.
Chaplains, Church of Ireland, Rev. Graham Craig.
                  Roman Catholic, Rev. Matt McAlroy, P.P. V.G.
Medical Officer, Michael J. Moorhead, M.D.
Assistant Medical Officer, George A. Moorhead M.D.
Relieving Officers, Jas. Lynam, Ballybroder, Kilbeggan; Stephen Lynam, Tullamore; James Dunne, Curragh, Geashill.
Superintendent Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, James McKenna esq. Clerk of the Union.
Dispensary Districts, population in 1871, Medical Officers and Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
Clara, 5,412 Thomas Fitzpatrick, M.D. F.K.Q.C.P.I.
Kilbeggan, 3,826 James B. Barry, L.R.C.S.I., L.K.Q.C.P.I.
Killoughey, 5,681 Henry White, L.K.Q.C.P.I., L.F.P.S. GLASG.
Philipstown, 4,313 Henry M. Clarke, L.R.C.S.I., L.R.C.P. EDIN.
Tullamore, 9,188 James Ridley, L.K.Q.C.P.I., L.R.C.S.I.

Officers under the Public Health Act 1874

Consulting Sanitary Officer, Medical Officer of the Union.
Executive Sanitary Officer, Clerk of the Union.
Medical Officers of Health, Dispensary Medical Officers.
Sanitary Sub-Officers, Relieving Officers.

Local Govermnent Board Officers

Inspector, Dr. Thomas H. Burke.
Auditor, William Gibson, esq. M.A.

Anthony Trollope 1812-1882

Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope

Included here for his Banagher association. Anthony (1812-1882), English novelist. Living in Ireland as a Post Office surveyor and later inspector between 1841 and 1859, he worked out of Banagher, Co. Offaly, and Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. After an unhappy childhood and some years drudging in London, Ireland liberated Trollope from asthma, gave him the impetus to start writing, and introduced him to his lifelong passion for hunting, as he relates in his Autobiography (1883). He attuned himself to Irish life by reading Maria Edgeworth, as well as William Carleton, John and Michael Banim, and Gerald Griffin. In his first novel, The Macdermots of Ballycloran (1847), deals with the tragedy that overwhelms a reduced Catholic gentry family. In The Kellys and the Kellys (1848), departing from a powerful account of Daniel O’Connell’s state trial in Dublin, 1844, he sets an upper-class love-story in Dunmore, Co. Galway, among the landed families of ascendancy Ireland, depicting with remarkable precision the social gradations of contemporary Irish society. Neither of these novels was successful, and he did not take up an Irish subject again until his permanent return to England. Castle Richmond (1860), the next, concerns a rivalry between a widow and her daughter over Owen Fitzgerald, an Irish aristocrat who (innocently enough) goes off finally the son and brother. Set in Cork during the Famine, it illustrates that catastrophe with searing details, while assigning the cause to the ignorance and rapacity of the Irish middle class. Phineas Finn (1869) and Phineas Redux (1874), though the title-character is Irish and supposedly modelled on John Sadleir, focus on political life at Westminster. An Eye for an Eye (1879), set at the Cliffs of Moher, is another tale of seduction, in which the mother of the injured girl revenges herself upon the young officer who, on becoming an earl, has jilted her. The Landleaguers (1883) was the last of nearly fifty novels. Written on a visit to Ireland when he was already very ill, and published uncompleted, it deals with the persecution of an English family who buy an estate in Co. Galway. As an independent and non-sectarian observer, Trollope showed considerable insight into the thoughts and feelings of the Catholic majority, particularly with regard to the influence for good of priests such as Fr. McGrath in The Macdermots and Fr. Marty in An Eye for an Eye. Later, his conservatism reasserted itself under pressure of events surrounding the Land War of the 1870s and 1880s, and his final novel demonizes the Land League and immoderately disparages the clergy. Probably influenced by the Young Ireland Rising of 1848, he wrote a series of articles in The Times during 1849-50 supporting strict measures in Ireland and vindicating the policy of Lord John Russell. See among others John N. Hall (ed), Trollope (1992); and the full-length study by Victoria Glendenning, Trollope (1992). Welch (ed), Oxford Companion.

Tullamore Industry and Commerce – Tarleton's Maltings, Tullamore, in 1883

Probably one of the most flourishing enterprises in the King’s County is the malting business carried on by the Messrs John and Abraham Tarleton of Tullamore, an enterprise, too we are glad to note, which benefits labour as well as capital, in as much as employment to at least 50 men during the malting season, from October to May.

These are the sort of industries that do real substantial service to the country, because speculations in which employers grasp at the lion’s share of the profits and leave labour to eke out existence with a torn coat and a hungry stomach may benefit capitalists and enable them to realise rapid fortunes, but, as they breed discontent amongst the underpaid labouring population, they are more injurious than serviceable to the body-polite. It would be an advantage if we had in Ireland more employers like the Messrs Tarleton of Tullamore. They pay their people at a rate which enables the working man to live decently and incites him to perform his duties with zeal and energy as well as to make him contented with his lot, while we all know that in a great many instances the labourer is so harshly treated that it would be unreasonable to expected him to be reconciled to his condition. Hence the working man too frequently becomes the tool of the political agitator and an clement of mischief in the social system. And this train of reflection, taken in connection with what is now going on under the name of the labour league in England and America, forces us to the conclusion that not alone do we want in Ireland money and enterprise, but we also want just and generous employers, who will give labour a reasonable share of the profit it contributes to realise.

Were this view more generally acted on the demegogue would have fewer followers in this country. The malting houses of the Messrs. Tarleton are three in number. Sixteen on Tankard-road, one in Charleville Square, and one in Distillery Lane. So extensive are those buildings that were they all together they would present the proportions of a tidy little town. The houses are all in a splendid state of repair and are remarkable for scrupulous cleanliness. The stores are capable of containing 16,000 barrels of barley, and an idea may be formed of the quantity that is malted each season when we state that every fourth day 250 barrels are steeped in the cisterns. As most of our renders are aware, the object of stooping the barley is to cause the grain to absorb the necessary amount of moisture to start the germination requisite to convert its starchy matter into glucose. The time the barley is left in the steep varies according to the weather and temperature. In summer from 40 to 48 hours will be sufficient, and in winter from 65 to 70 hours. After the barley is taken out of the steep it is couched – that is, placed in a heap in a couch frame or on the floor of the malting house, where it soon begins to heat and germinate, the rootless shooting out and the corn giving forth a fruity odour. After four or five days in the couch, the barley is put through the third process, or that of flooring, which consists in spreading it out on the floor in thinner strain. As soon as it becomes perceptibly dry to the kilns are hardened with artificial boat to prevent all further growth and enable it to keep without fear of change. The Messrs. Tarleton sell all their malt to brewers and distillers in Ireland.

The small barley sifted from the grain intended to be malt is ground into barley meal, and this is used for stall feeding heifers and bullocks for 60 head of cattle. Every year they fatten and sell about 200 beasts. The reader may be able to realise the extent and condition of the entire premises, whom he has informed that the Messrs. Tarleton pay in taxes annually as much as £150. The malting business is managed by Mr. John Dargan, a skilful maltster and brewer of 20 years. The proprietors have recently expended a great deal of money in repairing, improving and extending the buildings, some of which were in a bad state of dilapidation on coming into their hands.

Rev. Francis Sadleir

Francis Sadleir was a native of Castletown, Co. Tipperary. Some time in the early years of the nineteenth century he came into possession of Mullagh House, Killurin, near Tullamore. The Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 50, London (1897) carries a brief account of his career. It states that he was born in 1774, the youngest son of Thomas Sadleir. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin he became a doctor of divinity in 1813. Here he later held professorships of mathematics and Greek.

Mr. Sadleir was an ardent supporter of Catholic Emancipation and was one of the first commissioners for administering funds for the education of the poor in Ireland in 1831. In 1837 he was made Provost of Trinity College and remained in that position for fourteen years. It is said that he refused an offer of a bishopric on a number of occasions.

He married Letitia Grave of Ballycommon in 1801. One source states that she was the daughter of Joseph Grave while another gives William. Both Joseph and William were sons of Rev. Joseph Grave and his wife Abigail Digby, daughter of Simon Digby, Bishop of Elphin. Joseph the younger was rector of Ballycommon parish.

Placenames and their meanings

George Cunningham looks at placenames and their meanings.

DERRY, Doire, meaning oakwood, begins some 1,300 of our townland names, indicating to some extent how wooded Ireland was in former times.

But surviving Derry placenames only hint at what area of Ireland was afforested. A survey of the townlands in the barony of Ballybritt (the area south of Birr and Kinnitty) Co. Offaly, revealed only three derry names out of a total of 123. We would have expected more in that region of good soil.

Contrary to popular belief, the medieval farmscape consisted of arable land, pasture, wood, heath and moor, and was essentially not unlike what we view today. Doire, comes from dair, oak tree, and gives us for example Adare, Ath Dara, the ford of the oak. Derry occurs both as a prefix at the beginning of names and as a suffix at the end, or simply on its own. Derreen signifies the diminutive, little oak wood. Derrynaflan, in mid-Tipperary, became a worldwide household name when the chalice was discovered there a few years ago. And Derry on the Foyle is famous for other reasons, not least its indomitable spirit. It offers two choices: you can take your pick between the old, Derry Columcilie, and the new, Londonderry. Seldom does the use of a placename tell so much!

Up the ladder in size, darrery, dairbhre, means oak forest. Valentla Island is in Irish, Oilean Dairbhre. Lough Derravaragh is Loch Dairbhreach, lake of the oaks, an allusion maybe to the manmade islands, the crannogs there. In north Cork, Kildorrery, the church of the oak forests is famous for the song: “Have You Ever Been To Kildorrery”.

Derry starts an almost unbelievable array of evocative placenames, places that conjure up all the romance and mysticism of Ireland. How about Derrylooscaunagh, meaning the tops of the trees shaking in the oakwood? Or, one that is apt for the orchard of Ireland, Derrylisnahil, oakwood of the apple fort? Or one from Leitrim that is particularly apt at a time when so many of our young people have gone and are going abroad: Derrynahimmire, Doire na h-imirce, the oakwood of migration.

Source: Ireland’s Own December 1988

Track by the Silver Water – a walk along the Grand Canal of Ireland

(Ireland of the Welcomes Vol. 28 No.2 March-April 1979)

John McNamara unrolled the long narrow scroll. The roll was coloured with the yellow hue that imparts to ancient documents an immediate identity with long past ages. In the upper right hand corner it was dated 1787 and stated that it was a General Map of the Grand Canal from the City of Dublin to Monasterevan’. At the bottom in flowing script was written ‘Lands of Tullamore’, and on the left ‘Lands of Shragh’.

No modern day map would have at its edge such proud inscriptions. The old maps reinforced my excitement for those very words ‘Land of’ proclaim adventure. Who among us can put from our minds those childhood stories about Oisin and Tir na nOg – the ‘Land of Ever Young’ or Dorothy in the ‘Land of Oz’? I was, along with my son Kevin and our friend George Person, at the very middle of one of the beautiful but modest adventures of my own life.

I say modest because hiking the tow path (called track in Ireland) of the Grand Canal is not the same as climbing the rocky face of the Cliff of Glencar or even hiking across the Syrian Desert where a missed water hole would leave one’s bones to bleach in those shimmering rays. I have done such things but I am older now and besides in these modern days there are not even highwaymen, or I should say ‘canalwaymen’, to relieve us of our travellers’ cheques.

I knew in my heart it would be a peaceful adventure – the kind of interlude that mellows with time like the Irish Mist distilled at Tullamore. It would not be the type of dangerous undertaking that one wonders why on earth one did it when it is all over. I would not be able to write a book proclaiming that I crossed the stormy Atlantic in a handcrafted currach or even alone in a fibreglass ketch. I can only write that I have passed along a track between giant beech trees and golden yellow whin bushes, past broken castle walls, round towers, ancient cemeteries, and quiet country pubs, but best of all I passed among the hardworking gentle people that live along the banks of the Grand Canal of Ireland.

John McNamara was one such person, and as my Irish luck would have it, for I met him in a pub, is the chief engineer for maintaining the canal.
John was unrolling those beautiful old maps so I could photograph them with my little camera. I noticed the road to Philipstown on the left (west) side of the Tullamore map. I had read that Philipstown, given that name during the reign of Philip and Mary, had reverted to its old Irish name of Daingean, meaning stronghold. Indeed the town had originally been the stronghold of the O’Connors.

Kevin, George and I had hiked into Daingean the previous evening and spotted McCann’s Pub in the centre of the long narrow street. I went in to inquire about a place to eat. John was there having a stout and talking ‘Canal’ with his friend Pat Carlyle the district engineer. I had a letter of introduction (to whom it may concern type) from James Larkin of Bord Failte – the Irish Tourist Board but I never used it – after all who needs a letter of introduction in Ireland? When I told John we were hiking the canal track and looking for supper in Daingean he insisted that we go in his car to the Bridge House Hotel in Tullamore where we could get Tullamore’s best dinner. He promised to bring us back to Daingean the next day to continue our hike. Philipstown on the left of the map bothered me.

‘But John,’ I said, ‘I thought we stumbled on you in Daingean east of Tullamore.’
‘You did,’ he smiled, ‘north is the bottom of these old canal maps.’

Suddenly I really was in the ‘Land of Ever Young.’ Like the poet Oisin, son of Finn, and the Fianna I had aged 200 years and was transported back by this strange ‘upside- down’ map to the Tullamore of 1787. Ancient maps can cause such magic feats.

Ruth Delany’s descriptions of the canal being built flowed like the water of the River Barrow through my mind. Work on the canal was begun in 1756. The many difficulties encountered with engineering mistakes, broken banks, and the original wooden bridges and locks arc described in detail in The Grand Canal of Ireland by Ruth Delany.

The Grand Canal Company was formed in 1772 when work commenced in earnest to link up Dublin with the Barrow and Shannon Rivers. The split in the canal comes just past the historical canal town of Robertstown. The River Barrow branch turns south to Carlow and on to Waterford on the southern coast of Ireland. The main branch goes due west to the canal village of Shannon Harbour on the River Shannon. This is the portion that we were hiking along.

We had already passed the old restored Canal Hotel at Robertstown and the Irish Falconry supervised by Noel Spain and his lovely wife Billy. The Falconry at Robertstown is world famous and was begun by Father Murphy of Robertstown as an educational project. Today school children from Ireland and tourists from all over the world learn about falconry and some of the basics of practical ecology from Noel’s lectures. During the summer season there is also an old time ‘canal days’ banquet and canal boat ride for a really fun time in old Ireland’s canal town. (Check with any tourist office).

Another picturesque canal town that is closer to Dublin is Sallins. The beautiful stone Leinster Aqueduct carries the Grand Canal over the River Liffey just west of Sallins – a river over a river so to speak. The contract advertisement for ‘Executing an Aqueduct’ is dated 1776, the year of American Independence. Building the aqueduct was a feat of considerable engineering skill when one considers that its age is the same as the United States.

Michael McGee of Bord na Mona met us at Sallins and took us to Barberstown Castle for the night. Barberstown is a restored Norman tower house with a 19th-century mansion hooked on to its side. It is about three miles north of the canal near Clane. Its furnishings are Victorian and it is now a hotel and a delightful place to stay. I made a sketch of the beautiful building in my notebook and later painted an oil of it that now hangs on our drawing room wall.

The next day on the way back to the canal to resume our hike, Michael took us to a cemetery near Clane where Wolfe Tone, the great Irish patriot of the 1798 Insurrection, is buried.

Wolfe Tone is one of the truly fascinating figures of Irish history. He was a lovable character, and had he survived the Insurrection he might have changed the course of Irish history. His biographer, Frank MacDermot (Tone and His Times) leaves little doubt that Tone was influenced by both the French and American Revolutions. One thing is for certain; his fate was tied directly to the Grand Canal, as is the history of America.

The silver waters of the canal lead directly to the shores of America. Ruth Delany points out that with the ‘rising tide of emigration’; more Shannon River fly boats (fast boats) were put on the canal. Much of the emigration was probably to the west of Ireland, but during the famine years most was by way of the Barrow branch to Waterford, or by way of the Shannon branch to America.

In Tullamore, John introduced us to Mr. William Jaffray, Director of the Irish Mist Liqueur Co. He is known as Mr. Irish Mist in Tullamore. We toured the distillery and William Jaffray kindly gave me a copy of a short history of Tullamore. From the little booklet I learned that during the 1798 Insurrection the canal was taken over by the military. The army command sent General Cornwallis’s troops by passage boats along the canal to Tullamore. From there they marched overland to Athlone and Roscommon where they met the French invaders who had landed at Killala Bay, Co. Mayo under the command of the French General Humbert.

I wondered if it was the same General Cornwallis that George Washington had defeated at Yorktown. He served as a Major General in Command of British troops in South Carolina. In 1781 he attacked into Virginia but was trapped by the American and French armies at Yorktown

and forced to surrender on 19th October, 1781. This Battle ended the Revolutionary War.

I looked him up in the encyclopedia to see if he was the same genera] but I really did not want to know in case I would be disappointed if he were not. Somehow it seemed poetic that a general that lost a revolution to the French and Americans in 1781 should win one against the French and Irish in 1798 and I would rather be a poet than a historian.

It is, of course, the sanic Cornwallis but his loss to the Americans apparently did not harm his career and he was made Viceroy of Ireland in June 1798. Cornwallis was a good tactician and had little use for the way his own government treated the Irish. Before he left Ireland he had gained the good will of Catholics and Orangemen alike.

One of the important factors in any war is the length of supply lines. The long supply lines to America probably had as much to do with the British defeat in America as any tactical manoeuvre. In the Irish revolt of 1798 the French force that landed at Killala Bay in Mayo were up against a major British force of 20,000 soldiers able to move swiftly to the west of Ireland along the smooth surface of the Grand Canal. The canal boat service had been extended to Tullamore in 1798. It was a distance of 56½ miles and cost a passenger 5 shillings ii pence on the same passage boats that carried Cornwallis’s troops. When one considered the muddy state of the roads in 1798 and the necessity of bringing a huge army plus heavy artillery across Ireland, then the swift transport of Cornwallis’s army along the canal was clearly a major factor in the defeat of the French and Irish and in the capture of Wolfe Tone. The canal points like an arrow straight at the heart of Connemara.

We hiked out of Tullamore past the ruins of Ballycowan Castle and over the beautiful Charleville Aqueduct that crosses the Clodiagh River. Between Plunkett Bridge and Belmont the canal cuts through miles of bogland. We camped our last night in the Bog. This was a portion of the great central Bog of Allen that Bord na Mona – the Turf Board – is grinding up to fuel fires of the electrical plants. I would be sorry to see the bog go for I loved its wild desolate openness. To Bord na Mona’s credit, however, they are converting the last few feet of the 30 foot deep layer of peat into excellent agricultural lands. There is still plenty of wild bog on either side of the canal banks. On the last evening of our walk I sat beside my little red tent and watched a graceful, curved-beak curlew make huge figure-eight circles over the canal and nearby River Brosna. I am sure the peculiar flight is the mating display of the male, but not many are privileged to witness such things, unless they sit out a long May evening in the middle of a lonely bog.

As the spooky ringing call of the great bird carried across the late evening sky my mind drifted back to Dublin and the question that Tim Magennis put to me in the office of Bord Failte.
‘Why do you want to hike the canal when you can rent a cruiser and do the canal in comfort?’

Tim is a waterways’ man and had given me an excellent Guide to the Grand Canal of Ireland to use on our hike. The guide is put out by the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (Kingston House, Ballinteer, Dublin 14) and gives the boater a series of sectional maps with accompanying descriptions of every lock, pub, store, and historical spot along each of the is sections. A Colonel Michael Gill walked the length of the canal in 1975 and indicated on the waterway guide the best side to walk, so it is an excellent guide for walkers as well as boaters.

I had to agree with Tim that boating the canal, especially for a family, would be a pleasure indeed. I could envision stops at castles and pubs and, best of all, the children hopping ashore to help father and the gatekeeper open the lock – what fun for the young!

For this dreamer, however, the path along the silver waters represents the means of transport back into time as well as a transport across Ireland. A dreamer must move very slowly and pause with drifting time. Only walking allows for such quiet interludes.

The canal is a ‘time machine’ for understanding the rural ecology and the history of Ireland. The shape of land helps to determine the shape of its culture and for over three centuries the Grand Canal helped shape the culture of Ireland and America.

As we walked into Shannon Harbour the next day I gazed backwards towards the last bridge across the canal at Clononey. What I saw in my mind’s eye, besides the pretty bridge, were black, shiny canal gates, swans drifting on the water, great Tudor mansions, pubs and, yes, even red-coated soldiers and lean tough bargemen urging their horses along the tow path.

My heart told me that the Irish would never destroy their beautiful watery pathway into history. My heart is usually a better judge of such things than is my mind and that is why I walked the track by the silver water across the countryside of Ireland.

Tullamore Industry and Commerce P & H Egan's


Under the guidance of one of the managing directors, Mr. Wm. R. Power, we recently made a tour through the various departments of the business establishments owned by Messrs. P. H. Egan, Ltd., Bridge-street, Church-street, and Market-square, Tullamore. We confess that we were surprised at the extent and variety of the business, and at the very modern manner in which it was worked.

Retail Grocery, Ironmongery and Furniture.

Our first visit was to the retail grocery and ironmongery departments, which front Bridge-street, and which is called the “Bridge House.” At the left side as you enter is situated the grocery department, one of the best-stocked we ever saw, and equal to any of our large city houses. All goods displayed are of the very best brands procurable, and an efficient and courteous staff attend to the orders of the numerous customers. Directly opposite is the ironmongery department, stocked with every article likely to be required; and here some five or six energetic young men were busily employed. In spite of all these signs of a very large retail business, we were informed by Mr. Power that the firm does not devote their attention so much to their retail business, preferring to work wholesale. In the centre of the shop is situated a cash desk, which is connected by the Lanson system of wires with all the several departments of the house, for the immediate despatch of all cash receipts.

Leaving this shop we proceeded to the furniture store rooms. These are two very extensive warerooms, each of about 100 feet in length. They were filled to the utmost with furniture of every description, both useful and ornamental, and we succeeded in making our passage through only by proceeding very carefully. Here were mirrors (some very fine ones), chairs of every class; tables, massive and otherwise; sideboards, cabinets and beds. We next proceeded to the lofts in which were stored ranges, fire-irons; etc; pipes and farm implements, such as ploughs, harrows, grubbers, etc., and noted the system of pulleys by which all the goods for storage on these lofts are raised from the ground. These several lofts for furniture and ironmongery are built out over the extensive yard which runs at the back of the premises; the exigencies of Messrs. Egan’s business having compelled them to erect these lofts recently.

Sugar and Bacon

Descending from the lofts we passed by the Sugar Stores. These stores were filled to the utmost with that useful article, sugar, and two men were busily engaged filling and weighing that commodity.
We then enter the Yard, which is very extensive, and was filled with every article that would not suffer from the effects of the weather, as Messrs. Egan are utterly unable to find house-room for all their stock of goods. Passing down the yard, which is lined at both sides with store-houses, we first saw the American Bacon Store. This department is a very important one, and accounts for an amount, by no means small, in the yearly returns of the firm. The trade done in this bacon is entirely wholesale. Messrs. Egan buy the meat themselves in America, ship it over in very large quantities, and are thus enabled to offer it the retailer at prices as favourable as could be obtained from the largest merchants in Ireland or England. Their bill for bacon runs up to £15,000 per and is ever increasing.

The Saw Mills, Barley Grinding and Cake Crushing.

Proceeding down the yard we came to the Saw Mills. These mills are fitted with machinery of the most modern type for cutting wood into every requisite form. Piles of timber were lying around or being prepared to be cut. Connected with this saw mill, and worked by the mill engine, are the barley-grinding and oil-cake crushing machines. These machines are of the most approved pattern, and were working away on the day of our visit. Leaving this part of the premises we visited the timber lofts which stretch along the better part of one side of the yard and were filled to the utmost when we saw them. They are capable, we are sure, of holding over £2,000 worth of timber. Connected with these lofts is the Artifical Manure Store, which was filled with that useful, though somewhat strong-smelling, article. We noticed there a very large quantity of the substance called Basic Slag. This is a by-product of iron mines and is a great fertiliser, being specially recommended for marshy, cold land.

Flour and Meal Department, Bacon Smoking, Tea, Tobacco, &c.

We next proceeded to the Four and Meal Lofts, situated at some distance from the former department. Here were was piled up a large quantity of flour, meal, &c; and here two men were busily employed in making up the numerous orders. Our next visit was to the small bacon smoking loft, where Messrs. Egan smoke a quantity of Irish bacon; numerous sides of meat were, when we looked in there, obtaining that taste which renders them so palatable. We next passed through the department used for the storing of all articles of hardware. On all sides were piles of brushes of every description, ropes chains, etc., all of best manufacture.
We also visited the Tobacco Store, another very important division of the business of Messrs. P. and H. Egan. Here was a large stock of tobacco of every brand. The yearly bill for tobacco alone paid by Messrs. Egan amounts to over £10,000. Close by this department are stored all the miscellaneous articles required by grocers, such as starch, soap, candles, etc., etc., and off this place is situated the store in which the wholesale orders are made out, at which work a number of hands are constantly employed. We next saw the Tea Store, through which the very large quantity of tea sold by Messrs. P. H. Egan passes. It was well stocked with a choice selection of teas. This concluded our visit to the “Bridge House” portion of the business.

Church Street Premises, and History of the Firm.

Our readers will take an interest in hearing a few facts about the firm of Messrs. P. & H. Egan. This business, established in 1852, and carried on the Bridge House under the name of P. and H. Egan, was converted into a Limited Liability Company on 1st January. 1896, with a nominal capital of £80,000. They purchased the old established business of Stirling and Co., in March. 1896, and now trade under the title of Power and Co., in those premises. The capital of the new company was subscribed privately, and since that time the business has increased by leaps and bounds, additions having continually to be made to the premises and plant to cope with the extension of the trade. The requirements of their business compel the firm to keep between forty and fifty horses on the road constantly. These horses travel over a radius of thirty miles, taking frequently two-days’ journeys, and a staff of between 200 and 250 hands are constantly employed, this staff being considerably increased during the busy seasons of the year. In making our tour through the Church-street premises, we first entered the

Wine Bottling Store

On all sides were casks of wine of every description and age. Here were several men working busily at the various duties of a bottling department. Off this was the Bottled Wine Store, in which were wines of all ages, some of the port being fifteen years in bottle. The next place visited was the Mineral Water Manufactory, perfect in design and of the most modern form, in which are produced all the different minerals. The machines were worked by a gas engine, which also sets to work a corn-crusher, situated on one of the lofts over head. We next entered the

Beer Bottling Stores

In these stores are bottled ale, porter, lager beer, hops, etc. Here are bottled yearly over 600 hogsheads of Bass and an immense quantity of Guinness, lager beer, etc. Messrs. P. and H. Egan also bottle Bass’s light dinner ale, and they are, we bel

ieve, almost the only people in the province of Leinster that bottle that particular ale. The label is similar to the ordinary Bass label in outline, but differs by having a blue instead of a red diamond in the centre. Off these stores are situated the Bottled Drink Storerooms. These rooms are divided off into sections, each section being capable of holding a hogshead. These several sections were either filled or being filled on the day of our visit, the supply being constantly renewed. The bins are dated as they are filled, and thus the length any bin is filled can be seen at a glance. Next these rooms is the Mineral Water Store. Here is a large supply of minerals of every description, in syphons and every shaped bottle. The output of mineral waters amounts to almost ten thousand dozen a month. Our next visit was to

The Whiskey Store

This store was filled on all sides with casks of whiskey. Of these casks there were more than a dozen, of capacity varying from two hundred and fifty to one hundred and twenty gallons. Whiskey of every make and age was to be found in this store, for Messrs. P. & H. Egan bottle an immense quantity of the native spirit. The firm do a very large case-whiskey trade, both in Ireland and across the Channel, and customers of theirs are to be found in every city and town in Ireland, from Dublin to Galway and from Belfast to Cork. Several men were employed on the day of our visit bottling, capsuling and casing the whiskey in this store. A large quantity of wines, brandy, &c., is also bottled by this firm and exported under their name. We next visited the offices belonging to the Church-street premises, which are fully adequate for the carrying out of the large business, and manned with an efficient body of clerks. Leaving these premises, we crossed the market square (out of which Messrs. Egan collect a toll), and proceeded to the splendid newly-erected
Maltings, which are situated at that side of the square farthest from Church-street and close to the bank of the Grand Canal. These maltings, in point of size, excellence and convenience, equal any buildings of the kind we have ever seen. The growing demand for Egan’s malt, which is one of the best-finished malts to be found in the market, compelled the firm to build these new premises, and accordingly they were commenced some three or four years ago. First, one-half of the place was finished off to enable Messrs. Egan to work as soon as possible; the other half was then started and finished last year. These, now completed, form a very extensive range of building, measuring three hundred feet in length and about eighty in breadth. They are very solidly built of hammered limestone, and slated. On several parts of the walls are erected systems of pulleys, used for raising the corn to the lofts. Entering these premises. we first meet with a very extensive growing floor, occupying the whole length and breadth of the place, which was covered with barley to the depth of about eight inches, and must have contained about 500 barrels. Over this floor are two more floors of the same area, and used for the same purpose. The top floor, the fourth from the ground, is the one on which the barley is first stored, and is capable of holding 10,000 barrels. The corn, after being thoroughly cleaned and separated by machinery, is sent from this loft to the two immense cast iron tanks, which are situated at the farther end of the third floor, and there steeped. These tanks were erected by Ceres Iron Works, Kingston-on-Thames, and Messrs. Tonge and Taggart, Dublin, and are capable of holding 500 barrels of barley. When the barley is steeping for a sufficient length of time, it is taken from these tanks and put on to the germinating floor, where it is worked, and then put on the kilns by means of elevators, worked by the engines, until sufficiently dried, and then it passes to the cooling rooms, which are wainscotted to prevent the possibility of injury from moisture. It is then carefully screened by the most modern machinery, worked also by the engines. The rootlets, which are called combings, are sold to farmers in the neighbourhood for feeding purposes, thus forming a source of income to the firm. There are four very extensive kilns in the Market-square maltings. The amount of barley dealt with amounts in the year to between 20,000 and 25,000 barrels. Besides these extensive maltings the firm have some half-dozen smaller ones in connection with their brewery. We were informed that the malt turned out was purchased by the largest of our city brewers and distillers, among whom are the firms of Messrs. Guinness, Son & Co., Ltd., Messrs. John Power and Son, Mountjoy Brewery, etc; and we believe that it is equal to any produced in Ireland. We next noticed the extensive store-houses in which Messrs. P. & H. Egan stow away their heavy goods, such as artificial manners, timber, slate, etc., etc.,

We then crossed Market-square, proceeded along Church-street and High-street, until we came to

The Brewery,
in which this famous and old-established firm brew their several makes of porter and ale. Here we were handed over by Mr. Power to Mr. Patrick J. Egan, son of Mr. H. Egan. Entering the brewery yard we noticed the row of stables which extends down along one side, and which provides stable-room for over twenty horses. There is also a large amount of stable-room in connection with the retail premises first described. Passing the stables, we entered the brewery, and proceeded through that establishment, following the articles that go to the manufacture of porter and ale through the various stages. On the top is situated the tank which contains the liquor which goes to the manufacture of the beer. This tank is filled with water from the town supply, which comes a distance of about nine miles, from a place called Clonaslee, and which is of the purest kind possible. Close at hand is situated the boiling tank in which is stored the boiling water used in the manufacture of the grist. We next saw the Mash Tun. In this immense tun are mixed the malt (which had previously been ground on the loft below and brought up by a system of Jacob’s ladders) and boiling water. Here this mixture is allowed to remain for some time, and then the wort is passed onto the Coppers. Leaving the liquor in the process of manufacture, we entered the office of Mr. Patrick J. Egan, the brewer and our guide. This office commands a full view of the yard beneath, so that everything enters and leaves the brewery under his personal supervision. Emerging from this office, we again took up the thread of our journey and proceeded to the copper room. In this room are situated the various coppers, in which the worts coming from the tun overhead are mixed with the hops and then boiled. These coppers are of a very large capacity, and are used – some for the brewing of ale, and others for the brewing of porter. The liquor, after being boiled in these coppers, is passed off into the hop back; here it is allowed to rest a short time, and is then sent on to the cooler, where it is allowed to stand for some time. It is then passed over refrigerators and into the fermenting tuns. There are five of these fermenting tuns in Egan’s brewery, each of them of very large capacity, and all contained liquor in various stages of manufacture on the day of our visit. All of these vessels are furnished with attemperating apparatuses and skimming parachutes. The liquor is allowed to ferment for four or five days. During that time it gives off the yeast. When the process of fermentation is over, the liquor is sent on to the racking squares, and from this filled into casks and made ready for use. Both porter and ale are brewed at this brewery; but we understand that Messrs. P. and H. Egan intend to devote their entire attention henceforth to the brewing of ale. With this end in view, and to place their ales in a proper manner before the public, they are increasing their facilities for the manufacture of ale, and are appointing agents in every district in Ireland. They have already appointed Messrs. Slattery and Wa

ters, 63 Middle Abbey-street, as their Dublin agent, and have also appointed a regular agent in the West of Ireland. We congratulate the firm upon their determination to secure for themselves a share of the ale trade for the city and provinces, and assure them that there is plenty of room for business with such a high-class article as theirs on the market. We saw samples of the several qualities of ale brewed by Messrs. Egan, and all were as sparkling in appearance and as palatable as any ale we have ever seen or tasted. The four qualities of ale, with their prices are strong-bitter ale, 48s. per barrel ; family bitter ale, 36s. per barrel ; strong mild xx ale, 48s.per barrel; single mild ale, 28s. per barrel, less usual trade discount. All these ales are the best of their several kinds, and equal any other make already on the market.
We visited next the Ale Store, where the barrelled porter and ale are stored preparatory to being sent out to the firm’s customers. Here was a good supply of each of the several brands, and here completed our survey of the brewery proper. We then saw the Hop Lofts, two extensive stores, well filled with the best Worchester and Kent hops, as the ingredients used by Messrs. Egan in the manufacture of their liquors are the best procurable.

Leaving the brewery and its store-rooms, we crossed the yard and entered the

Bottling Departments,
which are worked in connection with the brewery. We first entered the Bottle-Washing Department. This consists of two rooms, in which the bottles are ranged on shelves, and a third room, in which stand the two machines by which the bottles are washed. These machines are of the best possible kind, and cleanse the bottles both inside and out in a manner that cannot be surpassed. Several men were working at the washing on the day of our visit; one man employed in bringing the bottles on a truck to be washed, and another carrying them away, when washed, on another truck. These rooms are capable of holding an immense quantity of vessels, and this capability is taxed to the utmost, as there is a constant draw on the store for all the departments of this large firm. We next visited the Ale and Porter Bottling Department, filled with hogsheads of bass, Guinness, lager beer, hop bitters, etc., all being filled from. The weekly bottling of porter here, amount to about twenty hogsheads per week, while the other liquors are bottled in proportionally large quantities. The liquors, when bottled, are sent from this place into the bottled ale stores, and there placed in bins (sections into which the store is divided) until ready to be taken to the retailer. Each of these bins are capable of holding a hogshead, so the department always contains on an average about forty hogshead, of bottled beers. Messrs. Egan also bottled their own ale here, and it commands a very large sale in the district and neighbouring counties. Twelve vans are continually kept on the road delivering these bottled stuffs to the trade in the surrounding districts.

We next proceeded the Wine and Whiskey Bottling Department. This department contained between twenty and twenty-five vats, from which the different brands of wines and whiskeys were being bottled under the name and label of the firm. Wines and whiskeys of every age were being filled here, both for export and home trade. We left this department, and, entering the yard, we saw the casks for the brewery being cleansed by hot water and steam after the most approved fashion; and also the large barley-lofts, which occupy one entire side of the yard, and which were filled to the utmost with corn.

Lastly, we saw the Offices attached to the brewery, a fine range of offices, two storeys high, and manned by a large number of clerks; and thus we concluded our visit to the premises of Messrs. P. and H. Egan, Tullamore.

Of all the firms described from time to time in this journal, we doubt if there was any description more interesting or instructive. This house shows conclusively that the business spirit still lives and thrives, not in one but in every branch of trade in Ireland; and in no part of the country does it flourish to a greater degree than in Tullamore, the centre of the Midlands. Our visit was totally unexpected by the firm.

Local government in Offaly – A Survey of Structures

The development of local government institutions in County Offaly can be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century when poor law unions under boards of guardians were established at Roscrea, Birr, Edenderry and Tullamore. Each union had its workhouse financed by the striking of a poor law rate. The board of guardians, most of whom were elected by the rate payers, were entrusted with the management of the workhouse, but subject to detailed control from a central authority, the poor law commissioners.

The Towns

This tightly regulated system of local government was in sharp contrast to the loose system of government that prevailed in the countries and towns. Birr elected its first body of town commissioners in 1852, albeit on a narrow franchise. Tullamore followed in 1860 while Roscrea failed to agree on the need for such a local authority, and has been discussing its merits for almost 100 years. Neither Birr nor Tullamore would have adopted local government institutions so quickly (and with it increased rates) were it not that the permission of a local authority was necessary for the laying of gas pipes for town lighting.

Birr provided itself with gas pipes in 1852 and Tullamore in 1860, as soon as the new commissioners were elected and granted the necessary permission in accordance with statutory requirements. Some years prior to the establishment of town commissioners at Birr and Tullamore both towns had been loosely administered by landlord-dominated manor courts. The boroughs of Philipstown (Daingean) and Banagher had vague oligarchic style government until the abolition of these boroughs with the passing of the

Act of Union in 1800.

Such was the extent of local government in the towns. Vague, uncertain and definitely oligarchic prior to the 1840’s, thereafter it was reformed to fit the Victorian conception of a property owning democracy prepared to interfere on an increasing scale in what was hitherto the private domain, in the interest of public hygiene.

The Grand Jury

The system of government at County level was based on the archaic Grand Jury until the passing of the Local Government (Ireland) Act in 1898. The history of the King’s County Grand Jury is difficult to document before the 1820’s, but probably some kind of grand jury existed right back to the setting up of King’s County as an administrative unit in the latter half of the sixteenth century. The Grand Jury was comprised of the County’s leading landowners. Every year some two dozen gentlemen were selected by the high sheriff who was in turn appointed by the lord lieutenant.

The grand jury met twice a year at the assizes (now the High Court on circuit) for the purpose of passing presentments (voting money) for local government functions. The Grand Jury records in the form of presentment or ‘Jobs’ books survive in the County Library for the 1830s to the 1860s and in private collections. Offaly 100 Years Ago first published in 1890 has extracts from earlier minute books. It had responsibility for roads, the court-house and jail. The road-works described provide much local and family detail and deserve study.

The County Councils

The time for obituary writing for the Grand Jury came in 1898, when the new local government act established county councils and swept away the last ‘stranglehold of landlordism’. Following the 1898 Act counties such as Offaly and Tipperary had no less than four organs of local government. The county councils were responsible for administrative and financial affairs, rural and urban district councils for housing and public health, and boards of guardians for poor relief and medical charities. The act was an important modernising measure that laid the basis for a structure of local government that has survived more or less intact down to the present day. More importantly, it provided administrative experience for nationalists and helped prepare them for the responsibilities of self government. The 1898 act has rightly been described as the ‘legislative father of the Irish Free State’. It gave the vote to all male householders or occupiers. The democratic net had been considerably widened, but women were still excluded from the supposed benefits of the franchise. By 1935 all restrictions on adult voting had been removed.

First Meeting

The Offaly County Council first met in April 1899 under the chairmanship of Henry Egan, a prominent Tullamore business man and moderate nationalist. The vice-chairman was John Powell of the Midland Tribune. The council was predominantly nationalist in tone, but the unionist and Protestant minority were well represented. In 1900 the council elected its first secretary, Charles P. Kingston, a Birr man, and formerly editor of the short-lived Sligo Star. Kingston was appointed after a tight vote and with a salary of £250 per year. He later showed his skill as a property developer, building 4 houses at Clonminch and in 1911 published The book of the administration of King’s County – a handbook for members of the council. Kingston worked well under the moneyed parliamentary nationalist council which survived until the Sinn Fein victory after 1917. When the first ‘republican’ County Council was elected in June 1920 Kingston was, apparently, unable to work with the new radical members and resigned a year later.

Eamon Bulfin

The original members of the county council, though nationalists, were basically conservative. Many did not move with public opinion and the swing to Sinn Fein, and as a result lost their seats to poorer, but more republican elements. When the first republican council met in mid-1920 it elected Eamon Bulfin of Derrinlough as Chairman. Bulfin was elected in his absence as he had been deported to Argentina. The Tricolour draped the Chairman’s seat and the members answered the roll call in Irish. Resolutions were passed acknowledging Dail Eireann and changing the name of King’s County to Offaly and Philipstown to Daingean. The council went on to repudiate the authority of the Local Government Board, thus helping to undermine British Rule in Ireland. To protect the Council’s funds the Hibernian Bank (now Bank of Ireland) was dismissed as the council’s bankers and trustees appointed. This highly irregular move combined with the departure of the secretary in 1921 created difficulties for the council in the management of county affairs and led to the dissolution of the council in 1924 (under a Free State Government) and its replacement by a commissioner.

The Management Act 1940

In the conflict between democracy and efficiency the new Free State Government found itself obliged to opt for efficiency. It has been said that the workings of Irish Local government after the 1898 act was almost as corrupt as the old system. Not until 1926 was a Local Appointments Commission established and prior to that appointments were very much a question of wire pulling. The failure of the Free State government to clean up the mess and the obvious dissatisfaction of the rate payers with cost and inefficiencies led to the passing of the County Management Act in 1940. This replaced rule by committee in favour of the conduct of services under an appointed official.

The first taste of this style of local government in County Offaly came with the appointment of Commissioner David O’Keefe in September 1924 and the dissolution of the Offaly County Council. O’Keefe was appointed to sort out administrative problems that had their origins in the troubled years of 1919-1923.

An abnormal state of affairs had existed since June 1920 when the Council voted to recognise Dail Eireann and repudiate the authority of the Local Government Board. The dismissal of the Hibernian Bank as council treasurer and the appointment of trustees completely upset the collection of the rates.

In November 1920 official books and accounts were seized both by the IRA and the RIC and retained for over fourteen months. The situation was further exacerbated in January 1921 when the British Army decided to occupy the Courthouse and
evicted the officials.

Courthouse Burned

The officials returned in March 1922 following the Treaty, but the courthouse was burned in July 1922 during the Civil War. Many of the Council’s documents were in fact saved, to and now, seventy years later, many have been catalogued by Offaly County Library and are housed in the Local History Section. After the burning of the courthouse the council offices were housed in Cormac Street and later at Kenny’s in High Street. In 1925 the offices were again moved this time to the old Workhouse at Arden Road and back to the new Courthouse in 1927.

Such movement was possible in the early 1920’s as the staff consisted of only the secretary/accountant, County surveyor, clerks and a typist. The accountant, Mr. Sean Mahon, had taken over the secretary’s functions in addition to his own on the departure of C.P. Kingston in 1921. This was certainly a mistake as it was too heavy a work load for one man. Mahon resigned on the grounds of ill health in 1925. However, the principal difficulty of the council was the failure to collect the rates. In 1923 rates had not been collected for a time to restore solvency to the county finances and see that public funds were used more efficiently.

Offaly Roads Improvement Association

Considerable pressure for the removal of the council and the appointment of a commissioner had come from a group of Offaly business and professional people – the Offaly Roads Improvement Association. In 1925 its Chairman, J. A. Lumley of Tullamore, claimed that the association had done something towards bringing about an inquiry which led to the dissolution of the council “a body that ignored every representation made to it”. The association criticised the Council’s direct labour scheme stating that it was costing Offaly £10,000 to £15,000 more than the contract system. At about the same time the association changed its name to the Offaly Civic Reform Association, presumably with the intention of broadening its base. In February 1926 it congratulated the Commissioner on reducing the rates and turning debit balances into credit balances, but the association was still critical of the was on which the money on the roads was spent.

A County Manager

Offaly’s experiment with a commissioner lasted almost four years until a new county council was elected in mid-1928. He had been popular in Offaly with the farming and business community. On his departure the press praised his ability as an administrator, remarking that a high standard was expected of the new council. His success was a harbinger of things to come. When a County Manager was appointed in the early 1940’s his appointment was naturally unpopular with the elected members, but when his role came up for review with the amendment of the County Management Act in 1954 his position was secure. At the time North Tipperary County Council did not consider that the act needed much amendment. It was an honest endeavour to strike a balance between two conflicting tendencies, democracy on the one side and efficiency on the other.

The power and duties of the County Council have been considerably expanded since the passing of the 1898 Act. Acting in accordance with Dail Eireann policy Offaly was one of the first counties in Ireland to abolish the poor law system. The three boards of guardians in the county were dissolved in 1921 and their functions taken over by a committee of the County Council. The Council continued to have health functions until the establishment of regional health boards in 1970. One of the four tiers of local government, the rural district council, was abolished in 1925 and its functions transferred to the County Council. It is interesting to see that the current discussions on local government reform will again embrace the rural areas and may lead to the abolition of Urban Councils as we know them.

Rising Expenditure

The cost of local government and the sourcing of funds has altered dramatically since the 1900’s. In the early 1920’s the County Council was spending just over £100,000 on all its services, including health. Two-thirds of this amount was raised in the county and the balance came in government grants. Expenditure was about £150,000 by 1930 and £280,000 after Second World War. The rate struck in 1946 was 17s. in the £. In 1977 expenditure was almost £4m. and by 1981 had doubled to almost £8m. The county rate in 1981 was £12 in the £, but this now provided less than 25 per cent of the council’s funds. The balance being obtained through receipts and government grants.

Wellesley, Whiteboys and the Brampton Men

On 26 December 1821 at Ballybritton on the Grand Canal in King’s County, Ireland, John Daly and James Fyans stole arms from the house of Mr J. Cooper. The two men were sentenced to death under the Whiteboy or Insurrection Act at Philipstown Assizes on Wednesday 20 March 18221. Seven and a half months later on 8 November 1822, Daly was among 172 men, most of whom had been convicted under the same Act, on board the convict ship Brampton which arrived at Port Jackson on 22 April 18232. As many of the passengers had received sentences of death, and all had originated in the Irish southern and midland counties, what circumstances existed in the early 1820s to determine this result?

In February 1822 on the proposal of Lord Londonderry, the House of Commons assented to the 1815 Act of Insurrection immediately being revived in Ireland and the suspension there of habeas corpus for at least six months at a time when the number of British troops stationed locally exceeded 16,0003. Drastic steps? Moreover, with over 300 persons awaiting trial for crimes associated with the ‘Munster war’, why was the government pre-arranging for the transportation of a large proportion4. As it was anticipated that the number of death sentences imposed would reach a level ‘neither humanity nor policy could sanction’5, the newly appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Marquess Wellesley was seeking Home Office cooperation to substitute transportation for the gallows whenever possible6. In an extract of justification to Rt. Hon. Robert Peel in May 1822, the new incumbent of Dublin Castle wrote:

If the Insurrection Act derives its forces from the principles of coercion and terror, it has suspended a tyranny which carried both to the utmost extremity of barbarous and relentless cruelty; which had become irresistible by the ordinary powers of law and which unresisted, must have reduced Ireland to incapacity.

John Daly was one who benefited from this indulgence with his death sentence reduced to transportation for seven years, a dramatic amendment for a man condemned to the ultimate penalty8. The prosecutor’s house from where Daly and Fyans stole arms was described as being on the ‘line of the Canal9‘. After giving their testimony, Cooper and his daughter, had been pursued and harassed by a mob. Furthermore, they were denied accommodation at lodging houses because a woman ran ahead urging hosts to refuse them as they had sworn away two lives before the crowd stoned them until the yeomanry averted certain murder10. Why was there public sympathy for two burglars?

At a special assize held in Limerick mid-February 1822, thirty-six capital sentences were ordered, or more than one in ten of those on trial. Several ringleaders were hanged but during the next eighteen months, hundreds of these insurrectionists were sent to Port Jackson. In this decade of the second centenary commemoration of the 1798 Rebellion, perhaps it is appropriate to look at this mid-term chapter of political activity which resulted in more Irish agitators being sent to Australia at one time since the transportation of United Irish supporters in the early years of the nineteenth century. All the better identified Irish rebels including the 1815 Ballagh arsonists11, the 1848 Young Irelanders12 and the 1867 Hougoumont Western Australian exiles added together (around 80) equal only a small fraction of the number who came between 1822-4.


The term, Whiteboy, was first used to describe political agitators in October 176113. Disorganised small groups of rebels sought to redress various grievances that usually involved the amount of exaction and the manner of collecting tithes especially in Cork, Limerick, Kerry, Kilkenny, Tipperary and Queen’s counties14. In these districts the farmers granted labourers allotments of bog, mountain and other waste land for specific terms, usually free of rent, to grow potatoes. At the end of each June overseers would view the crop, value it and no part could be removed until an agreement had been reached to pay one-tenth of the assessment value. The impost traditionally was levied on corn but its extension to the subsistence crop met with resistance. Bands of men, wearing the shirts uppermost to avoid identification, met by night. On occasions, in some districts, when aggravated by community issues, these divergent strands became loosely unified under local heroes such as Captain Fearnought and Captain Rock who encouraged the use of uniforms, secrecy oaths, intimidation and punishment rituals. The agitators attacked properties creating so many public disturbances that the legislators enacted regulations known as the Whiteboy Act in 1796, 1799, then in 1815, the Insurrection Act to cope with Whiteboys, Oak Boys, Peep of Day Boys, Thrashers, Defenders, Shanavats, Caravats, Lady Clares and later Terry Alts and Rockites.15

Over the following years, as economic circumstances rose and fell in accordance with weather conditions, local employment levels, war time inflation and peace time depression, changes in farming and pasturing methods, relocation of industry and religious intoleration, organised protest groups and rebellious individuals reacted with varying degrees of violence from time to time and place to place.

In addition, a study of the gaol books for both the counties of Cork and Limerick which have survived for these years, support the extent of insurrectionist disorder.16 As a contrast, the musters taken when convict ships arrived in Sydney before 1826 do not give details of the crimes, merely mentioning the place and date of trial, the sentence and the number of previous convictions. However the musters taken on board the vessels at the time of sailing do offer this information but only a limited number survive.17

Irish discontent, 1818-23

Discontent for Irish farm labourers came from several causes between 1818 and 1823. Firstly, the ending of the Napoleonic wars had a twofold effect on employment levels. Initially, there was significant reduction in the number of soldiers required for the ranks to which the Irish traditionally had contributed a constant and steady input. A large proportion of these in the period following the withdrawal of the army of occupation from France in November 1818 returned home looking for jobs. Employment opportunities did not exist for the locals let alone the veterans. Additionally, the associated slackening in demand for food, such as butter and meat which had been issuing out of the eastern ports for the sustenance of troops, necessitated a realignment of markets. Due to the introduction of rents on previously unfarmed areas and then to dramatic increases in these levies during prosperous years, former pasturage areas which had been converted to more labour-intensive tillage were abandoned again to flocks. This occurred particularly in many southern and midwestern districts leaving out-of-work cottiers deprived of their patch of potato producing, life supporting ground as well as their jobs. “In the tillage rotations of farmers, the potato had become the universally accepted restorative crop rather than turnips or mangels18.” Furthermore, to compound these problems, during the years of plenty, the population between 1791 and 1821 increased by 50%, from 4.4 million to 6.8 million people, with the greatest boom occurring in the poorer districts least able to sustain a burgeoning population in times of dearth. And famine did come in 1818 and 1821. The final ingredient in this hotpot was that of rebellion which since the 1760s had been absorbing spicy flavours such as republicanism, religious toleration and millenarianism. In this paper, several of these components will be examined, taking as examples some of the 172 men on the Brampton which arrived at Port Jackson on 22 April 1823 and concentrating on King’s County,19 an area on the periphery of districts more usually associated with rural collective action.20

Control in Ireland

Official organisations used to counter agitation in King’s County and surrounding districts included the diminishing army, an unpopular factional yeomanry, an almost non-existent militia, and an embryonic police force. One of the regiments transferred into Ireland in 1818 was the 57th which served there for six years before being posted to New South Wales. A comment in the regimental history noted: “Their duties included suppressing Whiteboy outrages… It was the kind of police work that soldiers dislike.”21 In all, thirty-six regiments were on posting to Ireland in 1821, most of them being rotated through the counties each year.22 At this critical time, the 93rd was based at Birr in King’s County, while several others were closeby with the 57th in Galway, the 3rd at Mullingar, the 40th at Ennis, 44th at Naas, 63rd at Athlone and the 2nd Rifle Company located in Tuam.23

When Henry Goulburn replaced Charles Grant as chief secretary in Ireland in December 1821, constructive changes took place. “Within the next year and a half, Ireland received new police force, a reform of the magistracy was instituted, an attempt was made to alleviate the burden of the tithe and the practice of holding petty sessions of the magistracy was introduced”.24 It was these developments which coped with the large numbers of agitators.

King’s County

During 1820, incidences in King’s County attributed to Whiteboys increased markedly with over 83 reports of trouble. The records described robbery of arms from houses, the surrender of useless arms and the retention of effective ones by the public, numbers of armed men crossing the Shannon River from Galway who broke into houses, robbed arms and gave illegal oaths, several requests for troops to be stationed in particular districts, attacks on boats in the Grand Canal, private distillation and collections to pay for and to bribe prosecutors. More than one-third of the complaints were made between October and late December, normally recognised as ‘outrage season’. By the end of 1820, clearly the situation in King’s County, on the periphery of established arenas of action, was deteriorating. One regular correspondent from Tullamore on 6 December 1820 reported:

I fear that the County is every hour getting worse. It has been mentioned to me from an authority that I do not doubt that the people called Carders have changed their title and are now called Ribbonmen. I last night had a man with me … who knows a good deal of what is going forward… From what he hears the town [Dublin] is Irish and the Count[ies] of Dublin, Kildare, King’s County and part of the Queen’s County have been sworn to the Ribband Man’s oath, that he hears that they have meeting houses in Dublin… in the neighbourhood of the Grand Canal. As I am a partner in a large establishment on that Canal it would be destruction to me if this information was divulged to any one as already have they done me injury & total ruin would follow…25

The central situation of the county within the country and its location on the Grand Canal assumed strategic importance as direct access to Dublin was quick, easy and cheap.26 The reporter continued: “I do believe the boat men employed in the lumber or trade boats are deeply concerned and I also believe they are the link between the disaffected in the City and the Country.”27

Not many records have survived for these districts in 1821 but King’s County was reported to be ‘in a dangerous state’ while Limerick was worst of all. Once again the authorities had let the situation develop until it was beyond their control. During the year the crops failed and by the end, the familiar pattern of disease accompanying the hunger was established. By late December 1821, the London Times reported:

“The Dublin papers of Saturday evening arrived yesterday. They give a melancholy picture of the state of Ireland. Natural, seem now to conspire with political, causes to desolate that ill-fated country. The late heavy rains have produced the most ruinous consequences upon the potato crops; and typhus, the usual result of any extraordinary scarcity in an impoverished country, has made its appearance.”28

The Annual Register confirmed that any goodwill engendered by the recent visit of George IV completely disappeared. “The gaudy and hollow bubble of conciliation soon burst and a system of outrage, robbery, murder and assassination commenced scarcely to be paralleled in the annals of any civilised country.”29 A map of King’s County has been marked with all places reporting disturbances and outrages during 1821 and early 1822.30 Although not usually identified with insurrection, nearly every district and almost every settlement reported outbreaks of disorder in the two year period under discussion.

By 1822, little had changed with a similar number of complaints despite the presence of the yeomanry. In February, Major Powell in Shanavogue submitted a sample of a notice objecting to tithes in the parish of Shinrone but by the middle of March he commented on the tranquillity of the district attributing peace to the recently enforced Insurrection Act. Also in March, the petition of the local justice of the peace in Edenderry, Mr. J. Brownrigg, was successful in obtaining a military station for the eastern part of the county. He stressed that a permanent force was needed indicating the uselessness of bringing military into the county only to take them out again. In late June 1822 a report verified that hunger and disease were stretching available resources while violence became more common as men became more desperate. Major Powell had written on three aspects which drew attention to the problems worrying county officials: firstly, that violent outrages were increasing although a man indicted for a local murder had been apprehended, next that a fever hospital to cope with typhoid had been established and thirdly, that he strongly was of the opinion that local distress was attributable to the lack of employment rather than a shortage of food.

The Brampton

On 8 November 1822, the Brampton sailed from the Cove of Cork to New South Wales under Captain Samuel Moore and surgeon superintendent, Doctor Morgan Price. The passengers on this sailing were men who had been sentenced during the summer of 1821 and the Lent, Spring and Summer assizes of 1822, having been tried in sixteen of the thirty-two Irish counties mainly from the western and midland districts. While not every single Brampton passenger was an agrarian agitator, the majority were drawn from traditional Whiteboy territories with 35 from Tipperary, 32 from Limerick, 25 from Kerry, 15 from Queen’s County, 12 from both Waterford and Mayo and 10 each from Cork and Kilkenny.31 On the muster taken in Queenstown just prior to sailing,32 most of the Tipperary lads were listed as having been ‘tried under the Insurrection Act’ whereas at least ten from Kerry including Edmund Elliott, a 51 year old dancing master, had been sentenced for administering oaths. All the Cork men were identified as Whiteboys with both John Sullivan and Timothy Dawley both guilty of heiress abduction and administering oaths with the former obtaining respite from execution.

Nine prisoners, aged between 17 and 27, had been sentenced in King’s County even though Patrick Mulleady was a native of Westmeath, young errand-boy John Prince had been born in Kilkenny and Thomas McGomery (or Montgomery) hailed from Meath, providing another indication of widespread mobility among the unskilled workforce.33 Their trades were varied with four ploughmen, a coachman, a stockman and a baker. Five were convicted for robbery offences and two had stolen heifers and cows. By the time the ship departed some of th

e harsh sentences had been modified as five had originally received the death penalty; now seven were transported for seven years while only two, Patrick Mulleady and Patrick Brittle/Buttle, a murderer, were outcasts for life. All had faced trial between the Summer Assizes of 1821 and 1822 so authorities allowed little lingering in county gaols. The northern and midland county officials customarily sent their prisoners to Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin with many proceeding directly to the Essex hulk until passages were secured on convict transports when they were transhipped to Cove, in Cork harbour. Those from the southern regions went directly to Cork, usually to the Surprize hulk until assigned to their ships.


These convicts had varying careers in New South Wales.34 Two of the ploughmen adapted their skills with Patrick Mulleady/Mulladay becoming a watchman while Patrick Houlahan/Holaghan, assigned to the Rev. T. Hassall, was employed as a bullockdriver. Edward Claffey was assigned to F.E. Forbes of Sydney whereas Thomas McGomery was a labourer at Camden and Matthew Murray, another labourer, was assigned to James Walker of Bathurst. He married Catherine Carthy in 1827 and following her death in 1829 in childbirth, wed Maria Hackett in 1831. He was before the magistrate again in Campbelltown in November 1833. John Prince, the young messenger from Kilkenny, was accidentally shot and died in 1824 near Newcastle whereas John Daly, the baker, married Hannah Lee, a nursemaid to the George Acres’ family, who arrived in the colony of New South Wales on the same vessel bringing Governor Thomas Brisbane to Sydney. John Daly also appeared before the Sydney Quarter Sessions in 1835 but avoided conviction. Thomas Claven did not marry until 1839 when he wed Mary Thomas; one reason for the delay probably being his sentence at Bringelly on 21 October 1826 to the Moreton Bay penal settlement for two years for robbery.35 Lifer Patrick Buttle worked for H. Coulson in Sydney in 1837 having obtained a ticket of leave in 1830.36 On the records held on these men in NSW no allusion is made to their original crime until Insurrection is mentioned on one Certificate of Freedom issued on 15 October 1840.37 The musters on arrival, exemptions from government labour, tickets of leave, any trial records, all neglect to mention that any of these men may have been connected with rebellion in their homeland.

This is work in progress. The primary investigation demonstrates that in 1821-2 throughout Ireland Whiteboy activity permeated extensively but that wholesale rebellion was avoided and the problem defused by the transportation of the rabble-rousers to the other side of the world. These people often were guilty of crimes much more violent than petty stealing but New South Wales authorities appear to have received little warning of the difference in the degree of criminality and further that some attempts were made to confound certain officials. As all incidences of sheep stealing, coining, forgery, housebreaking, arson or highway robbery, cannot be attributed to political rebels, it is difficult to enumerate those involved with organised rural resistance. A.G.L. Shaw has asserted that about one-fifth of male Irish convicts were political agitators and it is certain that total numbers were quite significant and deserve investigation in their Australian context as rebels continued to arrive throughout the tithe battles well into the 1830s. Whether a study of all the insurrectionists sent to New South Wales between 1822 and 1824 will show a high percentage of recidivism, remains to be seen.

Agitation in King’s County between 1820 and 1823 does not appear very organised so incorrectly ascribing ideas of unified or collective action to individual acts of aggression achieves little especially when an uneasy and incompetent magistracy simply invoked the all-encompassing Act. In some cases local grievances provoked local destruction but several troublemakers were, without doubt, just village bullies, burglars and poachers. Disruptions in this county were based on unemployment rather than a lack of food, resentment of tithes or other taxes, or evictions or changes in tenure although geographic influences such as limited tillage land and the prevalence of bog were important factors.

On the other hand, the mere nine King’s County men on the Brampton were forerunners of a greater number from this region on later convict ships confirming that complaints increased and vigilance and apprehensions improved. Furthermore, while little cohesion can be perceived in the outbreaks, the concept that the overall direction for insurrection might have its origins in urban centres should be pursued. Rebel leaders operating from townships such as Dublin, Cork and Limerick, well may have furthered their aims by using sore points festering in adjacent counties through improved communication networks. Perhaps too, the emphasis by several historians that most political agitation was confined to southern rural areas in easily recognisable ‘disturbed’ counties, now requires reassessment. Evidence mounts that outrages took place with alarming frequency throughout other counties and that ‘ordinary’ crimes such as housebreaking and larceny well could be Whiteboy actions, further distorting lines of positive association with either common thieves or political rebels.38 The combination of source material in both Ireland and Australia will be required to offer solutions, or pose further questions, about 1820s Whiteboy activities.

  1. Saunder’s Newsletter, 23 Mar 1822, p.1.
  2. AONSW, 4/4008.
  3. Annual Register, 1822, p. 26.
  4. Galen Broeker, Rural Disorder and Police Reform in Ireland, 1812-36. London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970, p. 135.
  5. PRO, HO 100/203, Wellesley to R. Peel, 21 Jan 1822.
  6. “The Marquess Wellesley is said to be the first Irishman who has been placed at the head of the Government of Ireland for a century and a half; the last Irish Lord Lieutenant being the Duke of Ormond.” Dublin Morning Post, 21 Dec 1821. Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington’s eldest brother, when govenor general of India triumphed over Sultan Tippoo and was twice Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
  7. House of Commons papers, XIV, p. 737.
  8. James Fyans who had been caught and sentenced with Daly must have either been executed, received a total reprieve, been imprest into the army or navy, or have died as he did not travel to New South Wales. Despite a thorough search, no more is known about him.
  9. Saunder’s Newsletter, 23 Mar 1822, p. 1.
  10. National Archives Dublin (hereon NAD), State of the Country papers, 2370/28, 20 & 26 Mar 1822.
  11. Max Barrett, Because of these, Toowoomba, Church Archivists’ Press, 1992.
  12. ed. Richard Davis, ‘To solitude consigned’: The Tasmanian Journal of William Smith O’Brien, Sydney, Crossing Press, 1994. Also T.J. Kiernan, The Irish exiles in Australia, Dublin, Clonmore & Reynolds, 1954, pp. 43-134.
  13. G.C. Lewis, Local Disturbances in Ireland, Cork, Tower Books, 1836/1977. Maureen Wall, The Whiteboys in Secret Societies in Ireland, ed. T.D. Williams, Dublin, Gill and MacMillan, 1973, 13-25. J.S. Donnelly, The Whiteboy Movement, 1761-5, in Irish Historical Studies, Vol. 21, No. 81 (Mar 1978), pp. 20-54.
  14. The State of the Country papers at the National Archives Dublin have been consulted in order to obtain an impression of the extent of Whiteboy activities. Whilst not every report has survived, those that do, indicated that in 1822 most disturbances were in Cork (especially the Baronies of Condon and Clangibbon) with 406 complaints, Limerick 290, Tipperary 175, and Kerry 147.
  15. A.G.L. Shaw, Convicts & the Colonies, Melbourne, Melbourne University Press, 1981, p. 176 noted how rarely extreme powers were invoked despite all this provocation.
  16. NAD. Prisons 1/8/1. V16-1-30 Cork County Gaol, General Register, 1

    Jan 1819-31 Dec 1824; 1/24/1 V16-10-28 Limerick General Register of Criminals, 1830-7.

  17. AONSW. X40, Irish Indent for Brampton.
  18. James S. Donnelly, Jr. The Land and the People of Nineteenth Century Cork: the rural economy and the land question, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975/1987, p. 29.
  19. Since 1922, known as Co. Offaly.
  20. Annual Register, 1822, p. 13. After detailing areas of disturbance in Munster, it was reported: “There were four other counties of Leinster, to which the illegal associations had extended their influence; namely, Kildare, West-Meath, King’s County and Meath.” The purpose here is to highlight the extent of activity in a district other than those traditionally linked with secret societies and outrages.
  21. ed. Wolmer Whyte, The roll of the drum: Histories of the regiments of the British army. The Die-Hards: the story of the Middlesex regiments, London, Hutchison, [n.d. c. 1944].
  22. Seven of the twelve regiments which received overseas postings in April 1821 embarked from Ireland where they had been serving. The Times, 23 Apr 1821.
  23. The Times, 4 Jan 1821.
  24. Broeker, Rural Disorder, p. 130.
  25. NAD, State of the Country papers, 2179/81.
  26. The Grand Canal had been constructed to Philipstown (Daingean) in 1797 and to Tullamore in 1798 and in April 1804, the first trade boat arrived in Shannon Harbour from Dublin. See Ruth Delany, Ireland’s Inland Waterways, Belfast, Appletree Press, 1988. pp. 85 & 87.
  27. The Times for 19 Jan 1821 reported murder and plundering on cargo boat on the Grand Canal near Edenderry. “Several gentlemen residing near to the spot have subscribed a very liberal reward to any persons who shall cause the delinquents to be apprehended; and the directors of the Grand Canal Company have in a manner highly commendable, offer 100 pounds to the same purpose.”
  28. The Times, 26 Dec 1821.
  29. Annual Register, 1821, p. 128.
  30. This information has been extracted from the NAD, State of the Country files, King’s County, 1822, 2370 Nos.1, 11, 18, 21, 41, 48.
  31. Ruan O’Donnell’s paper at this conference also confirmed that the sailings appeared to be divided into ‘crime’ ships and ‘rebel’ ships during the mid-1790s, a division which can be seen in post-1821 transportation from Ireland.
  32. AONSW. X40, Irish indent.
  33. AONSW. 4/4008. Fiche 649, p.299-312.
  34. This information has been gathered from among convict records at AONSW including shipping indents; assignment registers; birth, death & marriage entries; banns records; quarter session and supreme court records.
  35. State Library of Queensland, Chronological Register [of convicts arriving at Moreton Bay], Film 81, Prisoner No. 950. Thomas Claven returned to Sydney on 8 Dec 1828.
  36. AONSW. 4/4074. Ticket of Leave, 1830/36.
  37. AONSW. 4/4361, Certificate of Freedom, 1840/1694.
  38. Shaw, Convicts and Colonies, pp. 180-2. George Rude, Protest and Punishment, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, c. 1978, pp. 104-106; all quoted examples are from the ‘traditional’ Whiteboy counties.

Cloghan Castle, Lusmagh

The property of Colonel Graves, was originally a stronghold of O’Madden. It is thought to be one of the oldest inhabitable castles in Ireland, and was erected in the time of King John. Some military importance was attached to this castle in 1595, when Sir William Russell, Lord Deputy, captured it, throwing the defenders over the walls, and thus executing them. When excavations were being made in front of the castle, which now displays a nice tennis court, bones and cannon shot were discovered.

The castle and its lands were granted in the reign of Charles II. to Garrett Moore, descended from Rory Oge O’Moore, the chief of ancient Leix. One of his descendants married Margaret, daughter of the sixth Earl of Clanricarde. At Meelick, in the Moore family burial place, there is a slab stating:

“Here lies Sir John More my grandfather who died in the month of May, 1631. Also here lies Dame Margaret More otherwise De Burgo, my wife, who died in the month of February 1671, daughter of Richard, Earl of Clanricarde, in whose memory I Garrett More, Colonel in the King’s Army and faithful to the last, have caused to be constructed the tomb in which others of my family are also interred.”

West Offaly in the 1800's

West Offaly is today leading the way in the development of tourism facilities from boats at Banagher to the Bog Railway and Clonmacnois. More recent developments include the Dun Transport museum and the proposals for Kinnitty Castle (hotel development) and village.

West Offaly was prominent in the linen and brick manufacturing industries in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Communities at the time were poor and continued so until early this century. In this article I want to look at the Coote survey of the 1800s, the Lewis survey of the mid-1830s and later the Parliamentary Gazetteer of the mid-1840s. The latter is particularly good because it incorporates the census returns of 1841 and parochial returns of the mid-1830s.

West Offaly is largely comprised in what was known as the barony of Garrycastle, more correctly North West Offaly an area of some 103,000 acres or a little over a fifth of the total area of the county of Offaly. The Shannon river provides the boundary on the western side while the Brosna and Grand Canal provide waterways through the barony. The Little Brosna flowing from Riverstown outside Birr provides the boundary on the Lusmagh side. Much of the land is bog. The barony takes its name from the once magnificent tower house on the Birr-Banagher road, a mile outside Banagher. The parishes are Clonmacnoise, Gallen, Leamanaghan, Lusmagh, Rynagh, Wheery and Tessauran and the towns Banagher, Ferbane, Shannonbridge, Cloghan, Shannon-Harbour and Clonony. The baronial divisions were decided upon in the mid-sixteeenth century and largely reflected the tribal divisions – The MacCoghalans were the ruling gaelic family and continued to influence local development into the eighteenth century.

Scene in 1800

Turning to Sir Charles Coote’s survey of Offaly in 1801 (a report the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society would like to reprint, finances permitting, as the original is exceedingly scarce) he recorded as follows:
“The barony is by far the most extensive in the county, but yet in value the most inconsiderable: a great proportion is but a barren rock, with scarcely a stratum of earth. Their wretched mode of tillage is with a two horse plough, and this district more generally in possession of small farmers; indeed, agriculture is not the favourite pursuit. The country abounds with linen manufacturers, in which they are almost individually somehow concerned, though few amongst them extensively so. The number of horses are but few, and the demand for them is considerable; the hire of a two horse plough is 8s 1½d. per day, or 3s. 3d. for a man and horse. In parts where the soil is deeper, on the eastern boundary, they cultivate much wheat, for which they always fallow, and have a good produce. They generally sow the lay with potatoes, but have no drills yet; next succeeds bere, then fallow for wheat, and afterwards they sow oats; much flax is cultivated, and oats is always the last crop. They never yoke with oxen, and have none but the most common implements of husbandry. Clara, Moate, and Banagher are their market towns, for all their commodities. They cultivate no green food in winter; their wheat acre averages five barrels; oats, ten; bere and barley, twelve; potato ground rates at five to seven guineas per acre; meadowland three to six pounds; and their acre of potatoes yields thirty barrels, at forty stone to the barrel [almost certainly he is referring to Irish acres, ratio 1.6 to 1 approx]. Independent of the great tract of bog in this county, a very considerable part may be termed waste ground, which could only be reclaimed by covering rock with soil.”

Coote’s description confirms the importance of the linen manufacture and the weakness of the farming infrastructure. As to crop rotation Coote recommended it should be first and second crop potatoes well manured with third flax and fourth oats. Commenting on pasture he noted that it “Is but light, and in general shews much limestone gravel, which, if burnt with turf, makes an excellent manure, the Rev. Dr. Mullock, of Bellair near Ballycumber, has used this compost several years with great success. The breed of sheep, or black cattle, is scarcely attended to, and there is but a small proportion of flock, this country being still engaged more under pasture than tillage; it affords no shelter for cattle, and is quite unqualified for them. Natural grass is light and spiry, small quantities of white clover are interspersed, which is certainly a native to the soil, as no artificial grasses have yet been introduced; meadows are very light and easily saved, without any luxuriant herbage; tramp cocks lie on the ground till the harvest is got up. They have no trade in hides and tallow, and any little wool they have to spare is sent to Banagher and Ballinasloe.

Flax Soils and the Linen Manufacture

It should not be despaired to see the wilds of this extensive barony, yet reclaimed, and divided into small farms; every thing here favours the linen manufacture; indeed, to reap a profit from husbandry, is almost out of the question; the inhabitants are sensible that their country is better adapted for manufacture, and are wisely pursuing it, however, it is but yet in its infancy, and ought to meet every encouragement.

Though the land here is light, in the high grounds, yet they have a soil towards the moors, of a deep and cold clay, very favourable to the rearing of flax; there is a kind of peculiar moisture, without any thing of inundation, which every crop so weighty as flax, and sown so late in the spring, would require. Their clays, though they are favourable to the growth of flax, yet require to be brought into a tilth, before they become very productive, for which reason, by incorporating sand, gravel, or bog-stuff, and taking a vegetable crop previously, it will be found to answer best; potatoes or cabbage will only be expected to be raised here, and after either of these, flax will thrive very well.

Clay soils are natural to the rearing of all plants, but they must first be separated and mad friable, by a mechanical or a chemical process; mixing sand or gravel will have the same effect as lime, each will separtate the clay, and break up that stubborn cohesion, with which it is bound together.

Sand in itself is good for nothing as a soil, for rearing plants, but of the greatest utility in mixing with clays; with what care and expense must it be carried to some clay soils, before any advantage can be reaped? but here, are layers of it through the clays, placed by nature, and only require to be well tilled to be fitted for their proper use.

Their clayey soils being so naturally inclined to grass, it is very necessary to weed the crop frequently, or it becomes so luxuriant and strong, as to deprive the flax of much of its nutriment, and will quickly overtop and smother it.

Bog stuff, mixed with clay, makes an excellent compost for potatoes, and this land, after two such crops, is made capable of yielding as good flax as can be desired, and has the weighiest return. [Coote would have been pleased with the development of the peat moss business by Bord na Mona and Erin Peat].


Are in size from twenty to forty acres; two cows and two horses are proportioned to a farm of forty acres, farm houses very poor, which the tenants must repair. Leases generally twenty-one and some are thirty-one years, no particular clauses, but burning is rigorously opposed; indeed they have no soil to spare. Tenants pay all taxes and cesses. The fields are of small size, from four to six or eight acres, divided by bald ditches, or loose stone walls, few, very few thorn fences; I have seen little improvements, or reclaimed moor; however, Thomas Lowe, Esq. near Bellair, has within these four years, reclaimed above thirty acres of bog, and intends to bring in a considerable tract. This gentleman has also built a bleach mill, and established a bleach yard in the midst of the moor; he is extending his manufacture very considerably, and has planted a gre

at deal of young timber. The moors, when well drained and gravelled, give good meadow, but burning does not answer, as the ashes are but light and white, the turf being soft and fuzzy. The bog stuff is very good manure for the uplands, when mixed with lime, but the bogs in this country lie very low, and the draught to the uplands is severe, consequently this is not much practiced. [The taxes were county cess (later rates) and tithes with rent also to the landlord, but no income tax at that time].


The culture of this plant we are little acquainted with, and not having experience, that, which is collected from books of husbandry, which relate where its propagation is pursued, can only be recommended.

We are told the mode of culture differs very little from that of flax, but that in the nature of these plants and in the soil proper for it, there is a material difference, as from the same seed of hemp are raised two kinds, the male and the female stalk, the latter only feeds, and the former flowers.

The uplands of this country ought to be very favourable to its cultivation, as it thrives on a high, dry, sandy loam, and ever fails in a cold wet clay.

The ground must previously be very well ploughed, and brought to a fine tilth; the seed may be sowed in April, with about four bushels to our Irish acre. It must be carefully and frequently weeded, but the principal care is in the pulling , as half the crop only ripens at one time, which is about the beginning of August, at which time the male plant must be pulled, and the female left to stand, to ripen, which must not be trampled; great care must be taken to keep off the birds, when the seed is sown.

The female stalk is the most valuable, as containing the seed, and pains must be taken to dry it well in the sun, stacking, turning and rowing it occasionally; if the seed gets wet, it injures it materially, which must be avoided.

The seed being saved, the stalk is steeped, dried, scutched, hackled, &c. in like manner as flax, and is a much more valuable crop. One great advantage from hemp, that no other crop can be sowed, which leaves the land so perfectly clean.

Hemp differs from flax, in as much as the distinction of its sex is in different plants, in flax they are both in the one flower.

The female plant will not ripen till several weeks after the male, it comes in about the middle of September. The value of this plant may be judged, from the very liberal premiums offered by the Linen Board for its culture, which will, doubtless, be continued the succeeding year. I hope to prepare a short series of articles on the linen industry in Offaly for the Autumn.


This country is thickly inhabited on the eastern side, but towards the Shannon it is wild and barren, and not populous. Very few gentry reside here, and their numbers have been diminished since the rebellion [1798]. The Rev. Doctor Mullock has improved a large tract at Bellair, where he resides; he has, literally speaking, planted with his own hands every tree in his demense, which consists of forest-trees of all kinds. They had long to combat with a very bleak and exposed situation, but they are now naturalized, and in good vigour, lying very high; they give a great appearance of wood to this part of the country [and still serve that purpose today]. Thomas Mullock, Esq. son to this gentleman, is now building a very neat village adjoining Bellair: this word is only a modern modification of Ballyard, its true name, which signifies the high town; it consists of about fifty houses, built with stone and mortar, and all slated roofs, which will be only inhabited by linen manufacturers, to whom this gentleman gives employment. The plan of this little village is very correct, and, in its intended police, neatness, and cleanliness must be strictly observed. The whole model is not inferior to the small manufacturing English villages. The linen manufacture is rapidly and steadily encreasing, and this village is likely to be of consequence, from the industrious exertions of its proprietor. In this neighbourhood are mill-sites, and every advantage for any branch of manufacture; but that of the linen is most eagerly pursued; the people seem better disposed to engage in this than agriculture, which accounts for the number of small farms, as each family tills little more than supplies their provisions. If the Linen Board should be pleased to furnish wheels to this little colony, ’tis presumed it would have the happiest effect, as the poor would be better employed and idleness is not their characteristic. Since discontinuance of wheels, many have wanted employment; and here is a considerable quantity of flax spun, which they rear at home, and manufacture into dowlass and coarse linen. The few demenses of the gentry are highly planted and improved, but the remainder of this country is almost in a state of nature. Mr. Holmes has a very extensive bleach-yard, and a large capital in the trade, which was very spiritedly carried on till the late rebellion, but it is intended to be again pursued.

Ferbane is a town in this barony, situate on the river Brosna, fifty-four miles from Dublin, near to which are the ruins of Kilcolgan and Coole Castles, Kilcolgan is gone, but Coole is still standing: it has a patent for a weekly market, but no market is held; it is on the estate of John Henry, Esq. The country immediately around it abounds with the richest landscapes and finest prospects, and near to it is the beautiful demense of Galen (Gallen), the seat of J. Armstrong, Esq.; the Brosna winds under this demense, through the most charming and fertile banks, and, with the fine plantations here, presents a fence of picturesque and splendid beauty. The old castle of Garrycastle still standing, from whence the barony is named, has very rich feeding-ground in its neighbourhood, and at Cuba, a seat of Denis Bowes Daly, Esq., the parks are rich and luxuriant later the Royal School and demolished in recent times. But this engaging scene is soon lost; when you pass Banagher, all is a wild, barren, and uncultivated waste; under this description, Kor Hill is very conspicuous.

Banagher is a good town, and well inhabited; it is situate on the banks of the Shannon, and is the western extremity of this country, and also of the province of Leinster; as here, beyond the river, is that of Connaught. At this side of the bridge are the barracks for two companies of foot, and, at the other side, is a castle, which commands the town, with the adjacent country towards Connaught, and was well situated to defend this important pass: it is distant sixty-six miles from Dublin, and formerly sent two members to parliament; the Holmes family had a patronage of the borough. The banks of the Shannon, just adjoining, are richly clothed with meadow, but all insulated, and of a wet season, in a very precarious state. In Banagher are a distillery, brewery, malt-house, and tan-yards. The country shops are well supplied, and an inconsiderable branch of the linen manufactory is carried out here. There is also a school, with an excellent endowment; some hundred acres are annexed to it, said to be well worth £200 annually, and those lands are now become a sinecure set, during the interest of the proprietor; but no school business at all attended to, as I am informed. Cloghan is a village of midling appearance, four miles to the east of Banagher, and sixty-two miles from Dublin; it is on the estate of Denis Bowes Daly, Esq. [Bowes Daly inherited the MacCloghlan estate] and is remarkable for an excellent inn. At some distance are the ruins of a church, and near Moystown, the seat of Colonel Lestrange, are those of Streamstown Castle. This country abounds with ruins of castles, which were in possession of the O’Coghlan clan, almost all of which have Latin inscriptions over the entrance, which shew they were erected in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

Living Standards

All the fuel of this district is turf, which is very cheap and plenty: the country is interesected with very extensive bogs. The

constant food is potatoes, and oatmeal used generally in spring. Coarse friezes rate at about 2s.6d. per yard, and stuffs at 8d. Price of wages, from 7d. to 10d. per day through the year. Cottier’s house, garden, and cow’s grass at no regular price, but generally regulated by the benevolence of their employers. Doctor Mullock’s cottiers pay but 20s. for a cow’s grass; the like for house and garden, and have turbary free. Beer increasing in demand, as spirits are declining, and is had tolerably good from Moat, in the county of Westmeath. Roads but in very midling repair. Soil every where light, and of limestone gravel. There have been no mines yet discovered, but they have many chalybeate springs, nor is there any marle found, or clays or calcareous quality.


There are some valuable eel weirs on the river Brosna, and some near Banagher, which are the property of the inhabitants of this side of the river. These weirs are evidently very injurious to the bottom meadows, and throw up considerable quantity of back water. No other fishery here of individual property, but all kinds of the finest fresh-water fish are in this part of the Shannon, in the greatest abundance. This river is here navigable, and boats of burthen pass from Killaloe to the county of Leitrim, generally laden with slates, from the quarries in the district; and sometimes they are also freighted with corn. Farmers complain of want of encouragement; their leases being generally set but for twenty-one years. All Dublin bankers paper, and little specie, are in circulation. At Ferbane are the bolting-mills of Wm. Hone, Esq. [probably a misprint for Horne whose descendents I met some years ago]; at Lumpcloon, now called Mill-brook, are those of Dennis Cassin, Esq.; and at Moystown are those of Edward Lestrange, Esq.; they are all well supplied with corn, and of considerable powers. No nursery for sale in the barony; trees are had from Galway and the Queen’s County nurseries. No timber of any account for sale; building timber had from Limerick by the Shannon navigation. The village of Shannon Bridge is small, and noted for having the best stone bridge over the river Shannon: it has a patent for four fairs, and a weekly market; it is on the estate of Colonel Lestrange, and here is a very conspicuous pass into Connaught.


On the banks of the river, and on the confines of this county and that of Westmeath, in a very wild country, stand the ruins of the seven churches, called Clonmacnoise, or Cluainmacnois, which signifies, the retreat or resting-place of the sons of the chiefs, or the cemetery of the nobles or kings. This place was famous for having entombed the ancient Christian monarchs of this country; ’tis situate on a gentle ascent, and it also was called Druim Tiprarc, which was expressive of its central situation, as, the church in the centre. In the year 548,549, an abbey was founded here, by St.Keiran, or Ciaran the younger; and Dermot, the son of Ceronill, king of Ireland, granted the site, on which the church was built, and which was afterwards converted into a cathedral and bishop’s see. Around this were erected seven, or, as some say, nine churches, built by chiefs or kings of the country, as their mausoleums; they were inclosed in a space of about three statute acres. ‘Tis said there was also an episcopal palace here, and several smaller sepultures, which are now entirely in ruins, entombing the chiefs and bishops. Many stones are found with characters of various workmanship, and bear inscriptions of the Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Irish tongues. In the year 1552 this abbey was plundered by soldiers from the garrison of Athlone; they despoiled everything in their way, and carried off whatever was of value, not sparing even the books that belonged to the cathedral. Here are also two of these round towers so peculiar to Ireland, and, from their near situation to churches, are considered to have been erected for religious purposes. It has been argued, that they were appropriated for penance in the early days of Christianity, which Doctor Mullock of Bellair, who is a good antiquarian, seems to think; and, in support of his opinion, he states, that there was a penance, which still exists in name, and styled the Thurris Penance: what the nature of this atonement was, I have not learnt, but the words come near in found to Turris, which in latin signfies a tower; and as in the Romish church, particularly in this country, both the Latin and Irish tongues were often in old times intermixed and confounded, it is not very improbable, this may be a sort of confirmation in the opinion of those, who believe that those towers were erected for penitentiary purposes. [Coote was not familiar with Irish and hence the error here]. But in those elaborate and uncontradicted historical accounts of dates of many places of antiquity, contiguous to those towers, we have not a single authority of the use of them, or at what time they were erected; which rather argues, that their origin was in far earlier days, before the era of Christianity; and as they were built for some particular purpose, possibly a religious one, the districts around them certainly became remarkable places, and well known; for which, and perhaps, other good reasons, the founders of churches were induced to build in their vicinity; and it may have been the cause, that these towers were then appropriated by them to religious purposes: but all conjectures on this head only tend to confirm their uncertainity, and place their date before the period of the introduction of Christianity into this island. The deanery is at present the only part of the chapter which exists, as the see was united to Meath: to this deanery the prebend of Cloghran was united, and he hath a seal of office, which, perhaps, was the ancient episcopal seal of the see. A topographical account of Clonmacnoise is to be seen in the introduction, as copied from Sir James Ware’s Antiquities of Ireland; the plates annexed to Ware’s Antiquities give a very clear view of this venerable place. About six miles from hence, and in this barony, is the small village of Ballicumber; and near a mile beyond which, is the parish church, situate on a hill. This village is fifty-two miles from Dublin. Raghera is a very inconsi

How Offaly County Council Began

The first Offaly County Council was elected in 1899, following the passing of the Local Government Act 1898. A similar Act had gone through in the rest of the United Kingdom ten years before. The 1898 Act has been described as “the Legislation Father of the Irish Free State”. For one thing it gave the vote to all male householders or occupiers. The democratic net had been considerably widened, but women were still excluded from the supposed benefits of the franchise. By 1935 all restrictions on adult voting had been removed.

Grand Jury

The new County Councils took over the administrative functions of the Grand Juries. The Grand Jury had been comprised of the County’s leading landowners. Every year some two dozen gentlemen were selected by the High Sheriff, who was in turn appointed by the Lord Lieutenant. The Grand Jurors met twice a year at the Assizes for the purpose of passing presentments, i.e., voting expenditure for local government functions. Unlike England, police and education were province of central government. Public health was in the care of the boards of Guardians up to 1898 and thereafter with Rural District Councils. This letter tier of local government was abolished about 1925 and its health functions were transferred to the County Councils.

What did the County Council have? They were responsible for the County’s roads, for the County Infirmary, they appointed members to an asylum committee; public lighting; and of course they passed resolutions on the great political questions of the day. The new County Councils provided a convenient point of focus for national issues such as the abolition of Landlordism and Home Rule.

All Home Rulers

The first Councils, about 29 in number, were almost all home rulers. The unionist minded Grand Jury members polled badly. In Eglish, Edward Dooly was elected with 191 votes whereas Lord Rosse polled only 29. In Birr, John Powell, the editor of the Midland Tribune obtained 366 votes as against 116 of William Edwards Woods. In Geashill, Joseph Ryan got 280, Reginald Digby 87. The story was the same throughout the country.

Adams – v – Daly

The contest for the Tullamore seat on the County Council was fought between Williams Adams and Bernard Daly. Adams had served on the Board of Guardians for 35 years and also as a Tullamore Town commissioner, and was well known as the man who had championed the building of rural cottages. Daly was a partner in the Tullamore distillery and spoke of the need for more employment. The farmers, he felt, should be busy improving output instead of getting involved in political issues. Daly’s Pragmatic approach has a modem ring about it, but was unsuited to a time when great national questions remained to be settled.

He polled 206 as against 385 for Adams. It showed he remembered that aside from the southern unionists, very much a minority, all others were members of the Nationalist party or persuasion. A convention to select as candidate for Tullamore was held in St. Mary’s Hall, with the Parish Priest, Father Behan, in the chair. The meeting was a noisy one and at one stage the Reverend gentleman had to leave his chair and go down the hall to quieten boisterous elements.

Policy Making

The policy statement of William Adams is representative of the stand taken in this county and elsewhere. Adams read the following resolutions to the meeting; “That this meeting is of opinion that no person should be selected as candidate for the office of County Councillor or District Councillor for the Tullamore division who is not prepared to support the demands of the Irish people on the following important questions – Home Rule; the providing of proper sanitary dwellings for the labourers and artisans; the establishment of a Catholic University in accordance with the demand of the Irish bishops, priests and people; the compulsory sale of land on equitable terms; the release of the remaining political prisoners. The resolutions were passed without dissent.

Board of Directors

The first Council met in April 1899, under the chairmanship of Tullamore’s prominent businessman and nationalists, Henry Egan.

The first memory was taken up with the formation of committees. An interesting feature of this and later Councils was the relationships between elected member and official. The Committee directed; the officials carried out. Rule by committee in favour of the conduct of services under a single appointed individual came about following the passing of the County Management Act in 1940. The early councils were very much boards of directors with the officials acting in an executive capacity. In terms of socio-economic status, the members of the early councils ranked high up the scale. While no detailed study has been made, there is evidence that this group, basically a conservation one, did not move with public opinion and by 1920 many had lost their seats to poorer but more republican elements.

Republican Council

The first republican Council met in June 1920. Eamon Bulfin, who had been deported to Argentina, was elected Chairman in his absence. The Tricolour draped the chairman’s seat and the members answered to roll call in Irish. There is no time here to look at the issues discussed. However, on resolution was of some significance – a motion by James O’Connor to change the name of the county from King’s County to Offaly. This was carried, although the County Secretary showed some reluctance to accept the idea. It was decided that the name of the old country capital, Philipstown, should be dropped in favour of its earlier name Daingean.

What’s in a name?

From the point of view of historical accuracy, we started off badly. The name Offaly applies only to the eastern side of the county. Also our pronunciation is wrong, the accent should be on the second syllable. As far as I can establish, the name had been used by the county football team. It was also used on the new street name for Wheelwright Lane, Tullamore, in 1907. The spelling of it at the time and still on the Ordinance maps – Offaly Street – shows just how shaky we were on the county’s history. Nothing much can now be done unless this name was to go out of use should the County Councils be abolished in favour of a regional structure.

The history of the administration of Offaly – King’s County – is certainly deserving of more serious study. However, a first step would be established just what record material survives.

Victorian Architecture in Offaly

As yet, there is no Pevnser-like guide to Co. Offaly or the south Midlands. The north Midlands has benefited from the publication of North Leinster as the second volume in the Buildings of Ireland series of Penguin Books, which was published in 1993. Little has been done on Offaly architecture with the exception of the following items:

William Garner, Tullamore Architectural Heritage, Dublin 1980.
William Garner, Churches and houses of architectural interest in Co. Offaly.
Mark Girouard, Charleville Forest, Co. Offaly, Eire. In Country Life, (27th September 1962), pp 710-14.
Mark Girourard, Birr Castle, Co. Offaly. In Country Life, (25th February 1965), pp 410-14, (4th March 1965), pp 468-471 (11th March 1965), pp 526-529.

It was entirely appropriate that the doyne of architectural historians, Mark Girouard should make the preface to Jeremy Williams’ Architecture in Ireland, 1837-1921 (Dublin, 1994). Girouard did much to promote an appreciation of the great Irish houses in his articles in Country Life over the period 1959 to the mid-1970s. As can be seen above, local houses surveyed included Charleville (1962), Birr Castle (1965). Other Midland houses to be reviewed included Belvedere (1961) and Tullynally (1971). Edward McParland later wrote up Ballyfin (1973) and Emo (1974). But what of the smaller houses? William Garner’s Tullamore: architectural heritage (Dublin, 1980) is now out of print while his unpublished survey of Offaly churches and country houses deserves to be better known. Jeremy Williams, himself a descendent of the D.E. Williams of Dew Park (1898), Tullamore, in his Architecture in Ireland, 1837-21, devotes a chaper to Offaly’s victorian architecture. I reproduce below here his comments. I have inserted at the end, in square brackets, my own comments.

Ballycumber: Bellair House
Neo-Classical villa by Sir Richard Morrison, extended in 1889 by Sir Reginald Bloomfield with a single-storied pilastered diningroom, a rare appearance in Ireland of the Queen Anne Revival. Commissioned by W.G. Mulock, whose unpublished memoirs survive. Inherited by the poetess Sheelagh Wingfield, Viscountess Powerscourt, who later sold it.

Banagher: Church of Ireland
This over-restored Board of First Fruits church contains memorials of the Bell family-a marble tomb to a doctor who died in India, meticulously detailing his surgical equipment; and a brilliantly coloured pre-Raphelite stained-glass window above the altar, inserted a generation later, made by Revd A.L. Moore of London, whose best work can be seen in Ely Cathedral.

Banagher: Waller’s Maltings
Large distilling complex sited dramatically on the edge of the river Shannon. Part demolished, the remainder derelict. [Most of this is now demolished and is in fact part of Midland Maltings at Garrycastle. The buildings were erected as a distillery concern in 1873. The guager’s cottages at the entrance are of interest and compare with the Goodbody warehouse in O’Connor Square of 1870 and some work at Geashill village of the same period.]

Birr: Birr Castle
No other Irish castle can compete with the Birr in the architectural evolution, from medieval gatehouse of a Celtic prince to a Plantation fortress repeatedly besieged and stormed in the Cromwellian and Williamite wars, and then into its ultimate transformation, a Regency Gothick fantasy as perceived by an improving earl. At he dawn of the Victorian era, the castle was so complete, and so attuned to the historical sensibility of the time, that there was no need for major work, only decorative embellishments. Most of these appear to have been designed by the astronomer 3rd earl, who succeeded in 1841, or else by his immediate family. His wife’s uncle, Col. Richard Wharton Myddleton, designed the star-shaped ramparts that separate the castle from its park, looking as if they were dug in order to repel the armies of the Jacobites, rather than to give employment during the Famine. Access is through a gateway designed by the wife of the 3rd earl, with elaborate cast-iron Gothic gates here, and another pair before the front door, both cast on the estate; their design matches the plasterwork of the bedroom. Lady Rosse is also credited with the design of the stables, which today house her pioneering photographic experiments, and the incredible Gothic Revival furniture of her bedroom.

The most important architectural achievement of the 3rd earl himself was the Gothick folly in the park (1842-5), the most functional folly ever built, since its purpose was to support his telescope, the largest telescope in the world for three quarters of a century, which made Birr a pilgrimage centre not only for scientists, but also for the ordinary public, who were allowed view with their own eyes the outer confines of the Universe. The 3rd earl used his telescope to discover spiral nebulae and record them. He trained his two sons to assist him. The elder, who inherited, improved the workings of the telescope; the younger, Sir Charles Parsons, invented the turbine. During the Troubles the six-foot diameter reflector was deposited in the Kensington Science Museum, where it is now purely an exhibit. The tube was dismantled to its present state like a crashed leviathan. It is the ambition of the 7th earl to retrieve the reflector and resurrect the telescope to view again the stars. Stableyard due to be converted into Irish science museum by the OPW.

Birr: Church of Ireland
Regency Gothick galleried church by John Johnston, extended in 1876 by Thomas Drew with a new chancel. He designed a reredos including the emblems of the four Evangelists which caused such uproar that they were deleted along with a few cherubs result being anonymously vandalised in the middle of the night. The original design, by Heaton, Bulter and Bayne, commissioned from Charles Kempe by the 4th earl of Rosse for the great east window above the altar was also rejected and was finally accepted in 1891, provided that the Crucifixion was excluded. This condition seems to have been forgotten by the glassmakers. Marble memorials to the 3rd and 4th earls, the latter by Burke and Co. of London.

Birr: Convent of Mercy
The Catholic church by Mullins of 1837 pre-dates our period, but on the adjoining site A.W.N Pugin designed in 1845 one of his least-known commissions for an English nun called Sister Beckett, a personal friend. Only two sides of the cloister were completed on Pugin’s death, the north entry facade and the range to the west. The south range with its circular staircase tower, and the eastern range terminating in a projecting chapel were completed seven years later not in the original design.

The orphanage and chancel were added (by George Ashlin himself). However, from the garden front the controlled freedom of E.W. Pugin can be savoured in stark contrast to grim monotony of Ashlin’s adjoining orphanage- the long restful roofs counterbalanced by the corner tower and a single powerful buttress, against which nestles a lean-to porch. Unassuming interiors with Gothic fireplaces. Small museum displaying a few architectural drawings. The chapel still contains a repositioned eastern window by Hardman of 1858, but its elaborate decoration on the walls and roofs have been painted over. Inevitably the road screen has also vanished. [The convent is now closed and the buildings are the property of the Offaly County Council and the Midland Health Board.]

Birr: Model Schools
Charming round-arched composition, not quite symmetrical due to the incorporation of the schoolmaster’s residence. Designed by Jacob Owen and dating from 1860.

Birr: Model Cottages
Designed as a partly double-storied with their gables facing the road linking informally by single-storied ranges. Drawings in Birr Castle collection, signed R.E.B. (probably R.E. Buchanan). 1874.

Birr: Rosse Memorial
The memorial statue of the 3rd Earl of Rosse, the ast

ronomer, who died in 1867. Carved by John Henry Foley. [Unveiled in 1878.]

Birr: The Mall: Church Hall
Designed in neo-Tudor by J.F. Fuller in 1890. Gable end facing the road with entrance beneath a richly carved corbelled balcony. Sold off in the 1930’s by the Church of Ireland and now disused. [Oxmantown Hall completed c. 1889.]

Clara: Ballycumber Road Experimental Housing
Most of the housing in Clara was built over a period of a hundred years ago by the Goodbody’s, a Quaker family who built up the largest jute-spinning business in Ireland. The housing they built for their workforce tends to be traditional, with pitched roofs, except for this terrace which has shallow segmental roofs covered with an experimental felt.

Clara: Charlestown House
One of the several houses designed by J.S. Mulvany for the Goodbody family. Almost symmetrical with curved bows at each end of the facade. Interlaced parapet concealing the roof.

Clara: Franciscan Monastery
The most domestic religious institution in Ireland, built like a small country house and adjoining farmyard. Its construction represented official recognition for its founder, Matthew Delahunty, who had set up a small community of Franciscan brothers to make their living off the land and teach the children of their neighbours in 1820. The symmetrical facade of five bays flanked by double-height Gothic windows lighting chapel and refectory, would appear to date from that time, but in reality was not built until 1854. Elegant ribbed vault in the chapel and early painted glass.

Clara: Inchmore
One of the houses built by J.S. Mulvany for the Goodbody family. Two-storied front with columned porch and bay windows characteristic of Mulvany’s abbreviated Classicism. Built out of grey limestone set off against white rendered walls. Despite a three-storied tower, the house rambles off at the rear. Now owned by a religious institution; a startling version of the grotto of Lourdes, sliced off in the shape of a human heart, has just been dismantled. [Now the residence of Mr. Derry Kilroy. The grotto has been moved.]

Clara: Catholic Church
J.J. O’ Callaghan was the youngest pupil of Benjamin Woodward, and throughout his long life, he never abandoned his faith in Gothic, whether for churches or for pubs. Here the predominant influence is Augustus Pugin, and the church stylistically dates from the 1840’s. It was designed in 1876, and completed in 1881, a miniature version of Killarney Cathedral, cruciform with central tower and spire. The facade is made boldly asymmetrical by the staircase tower to the organ gallery. Interior of equal assurance with the timber roof underplayed to stress the stone-ribbed vaulting beneath the tower. The comparative narrowness of the nave, choir and transepts are emphasised by their end walls two windows wide. This duality is resolved in the nave and transepts by rose windows at a higher level. In the chancel the duality was once resolved by the high altar, but this was destroyed after the Second Vatican Council, when parts of it were relegated to a side chapel. Remarkably consistent stained glass by Mayer taking up the windows of both transepts, an admirable foil to the robustness of the architecture.
The early Gothic Revival predecessor has been preserved nearby as the parochial hall. [The spire is much later and c. 1910.]

Clara: Meeting House
Quaker meeting house treated as Italianate garden pavilion surrounded by yews. Attributable to J.S. Mulvany. [Now owned by Clara Musical Society.]

Edenderry: Catholic Church
Started in 1913, and completed three years later by Anthony and William Scott, this is a competent essay in Hiberno-Romanesque. But it should have been much more than that. Judged as successor to Spiddal, the interior is profoundly disappointing. The facade has a certain bombastic formality, contemporary with St.Mary’s College in Galway, and there is the occasional detail like the staircases to the organ gallery, where William Scott reveals his finesse as the leading Irish Arts and Crafts designer of his day. Otherwise, no risks are taken with the traditional- continuos nave and chancel, screened transepts, terminating apse. Good mosaic floor in the sanctuary. Lavish altars, communion rails and pulpit that would appear to predate William Scott but are dated 1929, eight years after his death.

Edenderry: Rahan Church of Ireland
J.F. Fuller at his most unassuming. A simple cell neo-Hiberno-Romanesque with projecting porch, vestry and organ chamber. Sited above the remnants of an entrance into the vanished demesne of the Dudley Palmers, who are buried alongside of the chancel. Stylised carving on the arch of the porch, repeated on the arch of the chancel. Date: 1914

Geashill: The Schoolhouse
Picturesque, cut-stone, Gothic Revival schoolhouse with gabled porch, dormer and return, the latter topped by a dormant bellcote. Designed in 1864 by the architect of Glenveagh Castle, John Townshend (Townie) Trench. [Trench no doubt was connected with Lord Digby’s agent, Wm. Stewart Trench.]

Kilcormac: Rathrobin
The seat of the Biddulph family, rebuilt for them c.1880 by Sir Thomas Drew as an irregular and neo-Elizabethan pile with mullioned windows; gables and dormers topped by finials. Now an ivy-clad ruin but revealing unexpected experiments by Drew in ferro-concrete. Its destruction during the Troubles was recalled by Arthur Magan in The Magans of Umma More, as it was his mother’s home. [The improvements made here may be later, 1903.]

Kinnitty: Castle Bernard
Gothic Revival castle by brothers Pain, incorporating remnants of an earlier fortress set below the wooded foothills of the Slieve Bloom; dating from 1833. Three-storied facade with borrowings from Mitchelstown Castle (which they designed fourteen years before)- an oriel inserted over a projecting porch to light an inner hall, and a corner octagonal tower crowned with crockets, all in limestone ashlar. Acquired by the department of forestry for use as a school. A recent bid to turn it into an open prison led to widespread opposition from the locals; now for sale. [This is now the well known hotel.]

Kinnitty: The Schoolhouse
Delightful triple-gabled facade. c. 1840 survives but in a state of dereliction. [Happily, now restored as Kinnitty Community Centre.]

Shinrone: Mount St. Joseph’s
The earliest building is a country house called Mount Heaton, bought by Count Arthur Moore and donated to the Cistercians on condition that his posterity had the right to be married there. His donation was certainly a more effective means of reviving Irish Catholicism than his other dream- to rebuild a replica of Cormac’s chapel for his private worship.

Mount Heaton was one of those delightfully unpredictable stylistic hybrids, here Gothic to the front (now much mutilated) and Classical to the rear (reasonably intact). The first abbot was Dom Camillus Beardwood, a brother of W.H. Beardwood, an architect who spent his entire life building in Dublin churches designed by others. Here in the Irish midlands it would appear that he was merely implementing the ideas of his formidable brother, who had trained his monks to be builders, as they would have been in the middle ages. The abbot left the Gothic front of Mount Heaton intact (a policy not followed by his successors) and built an adjoining cloister with the nearest range taken up by the abbey church which is imbued with the Cistercian tradition but also influenced by W.D. Butler’s Roscrea church nearby.

The church took only three years (1878-81) to build, apart from the later tower and spire, built unaccountably in smooth ashlar, compared to the bush-hammered masonry of the remainder. The interior has a long nave and aisles, austere columless arcades, generously proportioned clerestory and open roof leading to a tower-like crossing. Unfortunately the stained glass, banned by the early Cistercians, here trivialises its setti


On the other side of the church, the abbot built his most remarkable range, its fenestration indensifies the different functions of the rooms- the refectory, the dormitory and the sacristy treated as an outer chapel of the church. The austere internal cloister reflects the values of a life devoted to silence. Since the death of Abbot Camillus, the building programme has continued, but with lessening motivation. The principal school complex from 1905 is crude if jolly. Finally, Mount Heaton itself was transformed into a guesthouse, with the loss of its Gothicory; it is ironic at the same time that the Gothic Revival should be deployed in 1941 to build the school chapel, to prove how long the movement lasted in rural Ireland.

Tullamore: Catholic Church
Designed by William Hague in a tired conventional Gothic-unbroken nave and chancel, polygonal apse, off-centre western steeple. Hague died a year after the foundations were laid in 1898. Work was restarted in 1902, under T.F. McNamara, who was responsible for fitting up the interior. Accidentally burnt out by intruders in 1983. Church rebuilt, retaining only the tower walls, the steeple, and the west facade, now the end wall of the reorientated chancel. Clarke Studios windows brought from Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin.

Tullamore: Charleville Forest
Francis Johnston’s most impressive castle was unexpectedly inherited by the younger aunt of the 5th and last earl of Charleville after he had a row with her elder sister. Her husband was a Howard of Castle Howard, patrons at that time of Phillip Webb and the later pre-Raphaelites. Hence the only commission of William Morris in Ireland-to redecorate the interiors, in 1875. By then he was so affected by Socialism, that he was far more absorbed by the living conditions of the poor in rural Ireland, and he never referred to his redecoration in his correspondence. Hence his contribution slipped into oblivion. His furnishings were dispersed in the great sale, c.1950. His wallpapers were removed during its recent restoration. Some painted decoration and a frieze survive in the diningroom. Open to the public.

Tullamore: Courthouse and Gaol
An impressive neo-Classical design by J.B. Keane (built in 1833-35) which has survived its destruction by fire in 1922. In the rebuilding, unfortunate changes were made to the internal planning; extra windows were inserted at the expense of its monumentality; and the statue of Justice seated with her scales above the six-columned portico was removed. Keane’s drawings survive, with his horizontally channelled masonry carefully foiled by superimposed corner pilasters-an idea he was to reuse to throughout his career. (Longford Cathedral, Waterford Courthouse). Two D-shaped courtrooms approached by columned halls.

Next to the serene courthouse, is sited a formidable neo-Medieval gaol, entered by a massive machiolated gatehouse, now converted into a factory. Attributed to John Killay.
[The well-known civil engineer.]

Tullamore: Charleville Road: The Bungalow
Red-Brick and tiled Anglo-Dutch cottage ornee set in matching garden designed by F.G. Hicks in 1906 for the author’s great-grandfather. [Hicks did other work in Tullamore, including two small schemes – Emmet and Convent View terraces.]

Tullamore: Columcille Street: Gleeson’s
Formerly Scally’s, grandiose provincial emporium of three floors, the two lower devoted to shopping; designed by T.F. Mc Namara, the architect of the Catholic Church. It dates from 1911. The fenestration that had revealed the magic of the Art Nouveau to the Irish midlands, has long since been conventionalised, and its curvilinear oriel has been replaced-as has the telegraph system connecting each assistant to the central cash desk.

Tullamore: Durrow Abbey
Designs survive in the collection of William Murray dated 1837 for Lord Glandine, later 2nd earl of Norbury, transforming his Georgian house into a large, dull, Itialiante palazzo. No drawings survive of the incomplete Tudor Revival scheme, that was actually built, and where the 2nd earl was murdered just after he had moved in. His descendants, the Otway-Tolers, were burnt out in 1922, but decided to rebuild in 1924, choosing Ralph Byrne, who improved Murray’s proportions by lowering the front range to two floors. Within the shell, he constructed a simplified Arts and Crafts interior, full of space and light around a galleried tunnel-vaulted living hall. A rare example of a house improved as a result of its destruction in the Troubles.

Tullamore: Durrow Church of Ireland
Built by the Otway-Tolers to replace the still-extant Georgian church on the historic site, but embarrassingly close to their own house. Designed by J.F. Fuller in his characteristic Gothic. Corbelled spirelet on the western gable. [Now a private house.]

Tullamore: Lynally Church of Ireland
Neo-Romanesque church built alongside the demesne wall of Charleville by Lady Emily Howard-Bury in 1887 to the designs of J.F. Fuller. A single cell ending with an apse. Open roof with arched trusses resting on corbelled brackets. Arcaded organ recess. Celtic Revival altar, pulpit and lectern. Painted decoration in vault of the apse. Now sold off to be a private house.

Tullamore: O’Connor Square : Goodbody’s
Three-storied warehouse in Ruskinian Gothic, built by an unknown architect, c.1870. Gabled roofs with decorative bargeboarding. Taken over and restored by adjoining Bank of Ireland. [‘Restored’ c. 1977. Its restoration marked a turning point in architectural conservation in Offaly.]

Clara parish

Cogan — Diocese of Meath, ancient and modern

This union comprises the parishes of Killbride, situated in the barony of Kilcoursey, King’s County, and Ardnorcher, or Horsleap, located partly in the barony of Kilcoursey, but chiefly in that of Moycashel, County Westmeath.


A church and convent were founded here by St. Bridget, and there is a tradition amongst the people that this was the first church erected by her after her religious profession, on the hill of Usny. There are still some remains of an old monastery and chapel; and the fragments of a church in the cemetery, quite contiguous, measure fifty-two in length by twenty-four. Some years back, with the permission of the church-warden of that day, many of the stones of convent and church were carried away to build a house, and, by the providence of God, this house has been converted into a convent-the Sisters of Mercy are living there to-day. Thus, the mission of St. Bridget is still perpetuated amongst the people of Kilbride, or Clara, and the youth, as of old, are trained up in habits of virtue and industry.

Ardnurcher, or Ath-an-urchair, has been called also Horseleap, and the tradition of the place is, that it derives this name from the fact of Sir Hugh de Lacy having leaped on horseback over the drawbridge, making his escape from pursuit. The Four Masters record the erection of a castle here in the year 1192. The old church of Ardnurcher was levelled in the seventeenth century, and a Protestant house of worship was erected on the site. In the graveyard rest Rev. Mr. Sheeran, formerly pastor of Tubber, Rev. Kedagh Dempsey, Rev. Patrick Fallon, and many other ecelesiastics whose names are not now remembered. Over Rev. Mr. Dempsey is a stone, with the following:

“Pray for the soul of the
Rev. Kedaugh Dempsey,
who departed this life December
the 25th, 1753, aged 50 years.
Erected by his sister, Bridget Dempsey.”

A monument to Rev. Mr. Fallon has the following inscription:

“0 Lord, have mercy on the soul of the Rev. Patrick Fallon, who departed this life on Sunday, the 13th day of July, 1823, aged 35 years. This stone was erected as a testimony of regard to his pious, learned, and charitable memory, by his affectionate father, Michael Fallon.”

There are several other remarkable places in the union of Clara, besides those already mentioned-viz., Temple Macateer, Tigh-Bhrigdhe, Syonan, Lismoyny, and Gageborough.

Temple-Macateer –There was a church founded here, in the present parish of Ardnurcher, by the celebrated St. Kieran, of Clonmacnoise, which was called, after him, “Teampul mhic a’t saoir”, or “the church of the son of the artificer.” The ruin stands still on a townland, to which it gives name, and hence St. Kieran is supposed to have been the ancient patron-saint of Ardnurcher. St David has been the patron-saint for several centuries, and there is a holy well dedicated to him at Ballinlaban, which is still much frequented.

Tigh-Bhrigdhe, or “Bridget’s House.”-A small chapel stood here, on the townland of Ardnurcher, dedicated to St. Bridget, which in latter years has been pulled down and uprooted. St. Bridget’s well is still here, and is occasionally frequented.

Syonan -St. Adamnan, Abbot of Iona, the biographer of St. Columba, preached on a hill here to his relatives, the race of Fiacha, son of Niall, on the occasion of his visit to Ireland. In commemoration of this event the place has been called Suide-Adamnain., or the seat of St. Adainian. – (See Dr. Reeve’s Adamnan; Appendix to Preface, lxv; Four Masters, at A.D. 703.)

Lismoyne, or Lismoyny, is remarkable as having been the residence of Conell Mac Geoghegan, translator of the Annals of Clonmacnoise.

Gageborough-A convent was founded here by Matilda de Lacy, in the thirteenth century.

The Franciscan Monastery

This religious house, called the Monastery of Lehinch, in the parish of Kilbride, was commenced on the feast of St. Lewis, 25th of August, 1821, by Brother Lewis M. Delahunt, who was admitted by Dr. Plunket, and placed under the guardianship of Very Rev. Luke Doyle, then pastor of the parish. The founder had about twenty acres of land, which farm has been since augmented, and some of this is fee-simple property. Brother Benedict Farmer, and Brother Patrick Ryan, members of the Mount-Bellew Monastery, arrived in May, 1848, and received from Brother Lewis Delahunt the proprietorship of the place. Brother Patrick Ryan collected several thousand pounds in America for the monastery, and may be said to have sacrificed his life in the cause. The first stone of the new monastery was laid on the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin, by the Rev. Patrick Barry, in the twenty-second year of the episcopacy of Dr. Cantwell. This beautiful building cost about £4,000, and is a model in its way of symmetry and architecture. The community consists of lay brothers, who take the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience-who till the land, teach school, dispense charity in proportion to their means, edify by the holiness of their lives, and stimulate to industry, morality, and discipline, by their praiseworthy example. Brother Patrick Ryan and Brother Felix Mairs died on the festival of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, 1854.

Brother Bonaventure Strahan died on the 24th of May, 1862; Brother Paul M’Cormack, in March, 1889; Brother Patrick Delahunt, in April, 1841; Brother Jerome Roch-fort, in March, 1840; and Brother Michael Egan, on the 4th of June, 1842.

In the cemetery of the monastery are several tombs commemorating the deceased members of the brotherhood, the simple inscriptions on which cannot fail to touch the heart:

“Deus meus et omnia.
0 Jesus, Son of the living God,
have mercy on the soul of Brother
Patrick Ryan, who departed this
life on the feast of the Assumption
of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
A.D. 1854, in the 33rd year of his age,
and 16th from his entrance into religion.”

“Dens meus et omnia.
O Jesus, son of the living God,
have mercy on the soul of Brother
Felix Mairs, who departed this life
On the feast of the Assumption of the B. V. M.,
Anno Domini, 1854.”

Several priests have been interred likewise in this graveyard-viz. Rev. Mr. Molloy, formerly pastor of Rahin; Rev. Mr. Barry, late pastor of Clara; also Rev. Messrs. Egan, Kelly, and Ryan. A monument commemorates Father Egan, with the following inscription:

“Sacred to the memory of the
Rev. Michael Egan, who departed
this life on the 2nd day of May,
1849, in the 45th year of his age,
and 19th of his ministry.
Kind, benevolent, and warm-hearted
in private life attentive, laborious, and truly exemplary
in the faithful discharge of each duty of his sacred calling,
he died equally revered and lamented
by all who ever knew him. Requiescat in pace.

The Rev. Mr. Egan was born in the neighbourhood, studied in Spain, officiated as curate in Eglish, Ballimore, and Milltown. He was a Franciscan friar.

The Rev. Roger Kelly was born in this parish, and completed his studies in St. Jarlath’s, Tuam. He officiated as curate in Rochfort-bridge, Dunboyne, &c., and died of decline in 1848.

The Rev. Peter Ryan was born in the parish of Clara, studied in Navan and Maynooth, and was ordained in 1851. He officiated as curate in Frankford and Tullamore, caught fever in the discharge of his sacred duties, and departed this life, universally regretted, in 1864. His remains were interred in his father’s tomb, in the grave-yard of the monastery, and over both is a monument, with the following inscription:

“Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem. Amen.
Erected by his sons in memory of
William Ryan, of the Parks,
who died March 10th, 1858, aged 69 years.
Beneath are also deposited
the mortal remains of his
beloved son, the Rev. Peter Ryan,
who died on the 1st of September, 1863,
in the 11th year of his ministry, and the 36th of his age.
May they rest in peace. Amen.”


In the dread penal times, the pastors of Clara suffered innumerable persecutions from the priest-hunters with which this neighbourhood abounded. Mass, in those days: was celebrated on the Erry hills, and continued so until sites for humble mud-wall chapels were tolerated at Aughamore and Horseleap. Since then religion has sensibly progressed. Chalices – There are two venerable heirlooms still used in. the parish. The first has the following inscription on the pedestal:

“Orate pro Cornelio Fallono, S. T. Doctore, 1651.”

What a depth of reflection this expressive inscription suggests! Surely, during the persecuting reign of Cromwell, the Rev. Cornelius Fallon, Doctor of Theology, required fervent prayers. The second has the following inscription:

“R. D. Eugenius Geoghegan me fieri fecit, anno 1770, ad usum Parochiae de Horseleap ea conditione ut utentes annua-tim offerant Duo Sacrificia pro ejus anima.”


In 1704, Rev. James Dillon was registered at Mullingar as “Popish priest of Ardnorcher and Kilbride.” He was ordained at Ballyleoge, County Galway, in 1688, by Dr. Keogh, Bishop of Clonfert, lived at Moycashel the year of the Registration, was then forty-five years of age, and had for “sureties,” in accordance with the penal law, John Herald of Kilbeggan, and Aghery Shell of Ballykilroe.

According to the traditions of the people, this Father Dillon was a confessor who suffered much for the faith. He lived in. times when the priest was at the mercy of the common informer, and when betraying his whereabouts and leading to his arrest were deemed by Parliament an. honourable service. The law guaranteed protection to the registering priests of 1704, but the law had no scruple in breaking faith, when it found that all its machinations to entrap these men into the oath of abjuration proved a signal failure. Of the Fathers and Guardians of the Irish Church of that day very few met with more unrelenting persecution than Father Dillon of Ardnorcher. This was owing, amongst other causes, to the persevering activity of a priest-hunter, named Lowe of Newtown, who pursued him with the scent of the blood-hound. There are very dark stories handed down respecting the low devices which this vile informer and priest-hound adopted to find out the haunts and hiding places of the Catholic clergy, and the lonely places where, at day-break, they ventured to perform the sacred ceremonies. On one occasion he bribed a woman to induce her husband to feign sickness, had himself concealed in the house in order to see the priest administer the Sacrament, and thus have evidence against him. The unfortunate man consented, took to his bed, sent for the priest, but, by a terrible retribution, when the priest arrived the man was dead. On another occasion he arrested Father James Dillon as he was celebrating Mass, had him tied with ropes, and in this plight marched him into the gaol of Mullingar. Father Dillon took ill, and for some time his life was despaired of; and to this circumstance he was chiefly indebted for his subsequent liberation.

The year of Father Dillon’s death is unknown to me, but I was told he was buried in the church-yard of Kilbride.

The Rev. Nicholas Travers, O.P., succeeded. This pastor was related to Father Dillon, joined the Dominican order, and officiated as curate under his predecessor. He died on the 29th March, 1798, aged ninety, and was buried in. the grave-yard of Kilbride. His headstone has the following inscription:

“Here lie the remains of the Rev. Father and Brother in Christ Nicholas Travers, of the Order of Preachers, Professed for the Convent of Longford in 1720, and afterwards promoted to the care of Kilbride and Horseleap, wherein about 40 years he with zeal and piety advanced the honour and glory of God, and died on the 29th of March, 1793, regretted by all, who will, it is hoped, pray for his eternal rest.”

Rev. James Daly succeeded. He died on the 29th of March, 1805, and was buried in the church-yard of Kilbride. Over his remains a monument has been placed with the following:

“This monument was erected by
Joseph Daly, in memory of his
brother, Rev. James Daly,
late Pastor of Kilbride and Horseleap,
who departed this life March 29th, 1805,
Aged 60 years.
Requiescat in pace. Amen.”

Rev. Thomas Walsh was appointed on the 30th of March, same year. He died on the 1st of May, 1810, and was buried in the church-yard of Killare. Over his remains is a monument with the following inscription:

“0 Lord have mercy on the soul of
The Rev. Thomas Walsh, P.P. of
Kilbride and Horseleap, who departed
this life May 1st, 1810, aged 46 years.
This monument was erected to his memory
by the Rev. James Egan.
May he rest in peace.”

Rev. James Wyer succeeded. In 1820 Rev. James Sheerran was administrator. Early in 1822 Father Wyer was translated to the union of Tubber, died in 1823, and was buried in Castletown-Geoghegan. Very Rev. Luke Doyle succeeded. This distinguished pastor was born in Ballimore, studied in Navan and Maynooth, officiated for a time as curate in Milltown and Navan, and professed in the Diocesan Seminary. He administered in the parish of Moyvour in 1816 and ’17 and was appointed administrator of Kilbeggan in September, 1818. On the 1st of June, 1820, he was appointed Pastor of Tubber, and early in 1822 he was translated to Clara, where he became Master of Conference and Vicar-General. At the election of 1824 for a Coadjutor Bishop, he was third (dignus) on the list. He died in. November, 1824, and was buried in. the church-yard of Ballimore. Over his remains a monument has been raised with the following inscription:

“Beneath this tomb lies the body
of the late
Very Rev. Luke Doyle, P.P. of
and Vicar-General of Meath.
As if his many virtues and enlightened
zeal had already fitted him for heaven,
he was called to an early reward
in the next life on the 7th of November, 1824,
aged 38 years.
May his soul rest in peace. Amen.”

Rev. Patrick Barry succeeded. This worthy pastor was born in. the parish of Dunboyne, studied in Navan and Maynooth, and was ordained in 1815. After having officiated as curate in Navan, with zeal and efficacy, he was appointed pastor of Clara, on the 9th of November, 1824. He died on the 11th of January, 1861, universally regretted, and was buried in the cemetery of the Franciscan Monastery of Clara. Over his remains a monument has been erected, which appropriately expresses his many excellent qualities in. the following words:

“The Rev. Patrick Barry, P.P.,
Kilbride and Horseleap.
This faithful Pastor laboured incessantly
for the salvation of the people of these united
parishes the last 37 years of his saintly life,
truly venerable and dignified in the functions
of his sacred ministry.
The erection and decoration of the parish
chapels, the establishment of a Monastery
and Schools, the founding of a Convent
of the Sisters of Mercy, are monuments
of his zeal and piety.
He was generous and hospitable,
mild and amiable, of refined taste,
polished manners, gentle and conciliating
He was loved and admired by all.
Many of a different religion have united
with his own flock in paying this last tribute
of respect to his memory.
He died the 11th of January, 1861, in the 73rd year of his age.
Requiescat in pace. Amen.”

The Rev. James Corcoran, present pastor, was born in the parish of Rahin, studied in Navan and Maynooth, and was ordained in 1841. He officiated as curate in Frankford, Athboy, and Clara, and was appointed pastor of this union immediately after the death of Father Barry.

Offaly, Sport in

Sporting tradition in Offaly is both long and varied. Myth and legend from times long past, as well as unprecedented successes in more recent years, are testimony to a county where sport plays a vital role in community life. As in virtually every other county in Ireland, the recent sporting past has been dominated by the G.A.A. Every parish has at least one club within its boundaries and the G.A.A. is easily the most prominent organisation in the county.

Yet, the sporting past of Offaly is far more diverse than a mere record of G.A.A. activities. Boxing and athletics, tennis and golf, rugby and soccer, and a host of other sports, have all been long-established in the area and draw a steady and loyal following.

Almost every parish has made its own unique contribution to the sporting life of the county. Sportsmen and women in a wide range of different disciplines have completed nationally, as well as internationally, and their various sports have ensured that enthusiasts in the county can involve themselves in a great variety of activities. Invariably, these sports have played a supporting role to the G.A.A. whose establishment in 1884 regularised games that had been played in the county for many centuries.

Most areas in the county hold their own legends of battles in football and hurling against neighbouring townlands or villages. These legends tell of the entire male population of two areas playing a game with few set rules and an even less well-defined playing area. As a central county, Offaly also played host to famous inter-county matches. One such match in 1773 saw Tipperary play Galway in Banagher before a crowd of 10,000 with the victorious Tipperary team claiming 1000 guineas in prize-money and the two teams then proceeded to share two barrels of porter between them.

On a more local level, a record survives of a hurling match between the men from the Stoney Estate in Kilcormac and the Manifold Estate in Cadamstown dating from pre-G.A.A. days with the game being played across country, the sliothar being made of wood and the hurls similar to the shape of hockey sticks. One such stick, dating from as far back as 1826 was found in Doon.

Given that the county had such a long tradition in native games it was inevitable that Offaly should be intimately involved in the setting up of the G.A.A. by Michael Cusack in 1884. Clara-man P. J. White was one of the leading figures in the G.A.A. and his Clara club was the second ever to be affiliated to the G.A.A. (after Cusack’s own Metropolitan Club in Dublin).

Offaly’s prominent role in G.A.A. history was further secured when the first ever All-Ireland Hurling Final, between Meelick from Galway and Thurles from Tipperary was played at Birr during Easter 1888. Included on the Meelick team was Lusmagh-man John Coolahan.

From the mid-1890’s club football and hurling produced many memorable teams and matches, and the number of clubs grew yearly. However, it was not until the 1920s that the county began to enjoy any measure of success on a national level. Despite having competed in the Leinster Championships from the mid-1890’s (with the exception of 1921 when Offaly was unable to field a team due to the involvement of players in the War of Independence) the only successes were in the junior hurling championships in 1915 and 1922. The junior hurlers also went on to enjoy All-Ireland success in 1923 and 1929.

In 1934 Eamonn De Valera officially opened O’Connor Park in Tullamore and then in 1935 the county won the Leinster Junior Football Title. Steady progression in football over the next two decades saw the capture of the county’s first Leinster minor title in 1947, with the O’Byrne Cup following in 1954.

It was only in the 1960s that the county began to enjoy a run of victories which erased the bitter memories of painful defeat. 1960 saw the winning of the first Leinster Senior football championship with a one point defeat of Louth; and the following year saw the county reach its first All-Ireland Final only to lose by a similar one point margin to Down. In 1964 the county took its first ever All-Ireland minor title, yet the senior title again proved elusive with defeat by Kerry in 1969.

Then after being the nearly-men of the sixties, the long-awaited first senior successes came with back-to-back wins over Galway and Kerry in 1971 and 1972, respectively. Offaly was now being accepted as a major force on a national scale, yet even these first successes were somewhat overshadowed by the glory days of the early eighties.

It was this decade which saw Offaly confirmed as one of the premier G.A.A. counties, enjoying unprecedented success in both football and hurling. Dismissed for almost a decade as one of the hurling’s permanent “weaker” counties. Offaly shocked hurling pundits everywhere to defeat Kilkenny by one point in the 1980 Leinster Final, before being defeated by Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final. Then the following year, the counties’ hurlers retained the Leinster title before defeating Galway to record an historic and almost unimaginable victory and in doing so they became the first county to break the traditionalists stranglehold on the game in over 6 decades.

These victories were paralleled by the senior footballers who returned from 7 years out of the honours to win three Leinster titles in a row between 1980 and 1982. Their re-emergence coincided with the famous Kerry five-in-a-row team playing at their peak, and after narrow defeats in 1980 and 1981, they recorded another upset by defeating Kerry in 1982 with a late Seamus Dary goal in what was arguably the best All-Ireland Final of the decade.

Subsequently, the footballers slipped from the limelight, yet the hurlers remained centre-stage. They contested every Leinster final of the ‘eighties and won six of them. They appeared in the centenary All-Ireland Final only to be defeated by Cork and then in 1985 captured the county’s second hurling title on defeating Galway by 2 points. Further honours were won with a Leinster title in 1990, and the county’s only league success in 1991.

The future of hurling and football in the county was cemented with minor hurling All-Irelands being won in 1987 and 1989; with the capture of three Under 21 Leinster hurling titles between 1989 and 1992; with All-Irland Under 21 football honours in 1988; and with Leinster minor football success in 1989.

On the whole the prospects for further success looks decidedly bright, while recent victories have been a just reward for persistence through years of failure. In the process has set a wonderful example to other counties with little tradition of success.

Although Offaly had to wait decades for its first successes in senior football and hurling, the county’s Ladies football team enjoyed instant success. The Offaly Ladies Football Association was established in 1973 and when the first ever Ladies Football All-Ireland Championship was held in 1974, Offaly reached the final only to be defeated by Tipperary. The county went on to win 9 Leinster titles in a row between 1974 and 1982. In 1979 they exacted revenge on Tipperary by defeating them in a replay by 3-6 to 1-6 to win Offaly’s first ever Ladies All-Ireland title – a feat which was repeated in 1981.

The earliest records of camogie in Offaly are from the 1930s when there were clubs in Mucklagh, Ballycommon, Ballycumber, Tullamore, Killoughey, Rahan, Lusmagh, Drumcullen and Kinnitty. In the mid-1930s Offaly reached the Leinster Final only to be defeated by Wexford by one point. After World War II, the game declined in the county and it was largely through the efforts of Clare-born Mary O’Brien that camogie was re-established in Offaly in the 1970’s. From 1973-79 Tullamore was the only club in the county and as a result was allowed to play in the Laois Championship which it won in the first year of entering. By 1879 clubs had been formed in Birr, Drumcullen, Clara and Kilcormac so the Offaly Camogie County Board was reformed and in 1980 senior, junior and minor cham

pionships were played. Although the county has enjoyed little success in provincial championships the emergence of clubs in Coolderry, Shinrone, Lusmagh, Kinnitty, Killeigh, Banagher and Ballycommon has ensured that the game remains on a sure footing in Offaly.

Although the G.A.A. definitely enjoys the highest profile of all the sporting organisations in the county, many other sports also retain a rich tradition in the area – and none more so than athletics. Legends tell of foot-races held in the Slieve Bloom Mountains for members of the Fianna, while more contemporary records exist of sports meetings in such areas as Charleville Estate from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

By the early years of the last century these meetings had evolved into annual events, run in conjunction with the Harvest Home Festival. Amongst the events, which were organised by the Earls of Charleville were footraces for men and women, sack races, donkey races and an account from 1838 recalled a shaved pig race during which “the pig from previous training being in excellent wind had a long run and was eventually captured by Laurence Hanlon”.

In the 1840s these meetings lapsed and were not revived until the 1880s when they were held in Spollanstown. Throughout this decade the country was immersed in political and agrarian strife, and it was inevitable that sport should be drawn into the conflict. A campaign in Tullamore to prevent the Earl of Charleville from patrionising the annual sportsday eventually resulted in the establishment of the Tullamor Amateur Athletic Club who commenced their annual sports in 1884. At this stage Killeigh Sports had been inaugurated on August Monday 1879, and throughout the county events were organised by the G.A.A. which in its earliest years was primarily an athletics concern.

It was not until the 1950s, however, that athletics in Offaly began to develop on an unprecedented scale. In 1950, a Kilcormac-man Jack Cox, became the first local man to win the National Marathon Championships, while progressive clubs developed across the county from Ferbane and Belmont to Edenderry. And then the most significant move in local athletics circles came on November 13th 1953 when 9 men met in Tullamore and formed the Tullamore Harriers.

The history of Tullamore Harriers is the classic rags-to-riches story as the club had its initial home in a dilapidated building, before slowing acquiring land so that by 1972 they owned over 17 acres of land and had developed a modern social centre. Within 10 years they had added a new sorts complex, a floodlit tarmacadam training track, a 700 capacity car-park and an international standard running track. At this stage over £800,000 had been spent developing facilities, with the only outside assistance coming from government and local authorities which totalled little more than 5%.

These facilities have enabled the club to produce outstanding athletes who have won scholorships to American Universities, won National Championships and represented Ireland in international meetings. The club has also hosted international, national and provincial championships as well as organising the Blue Riband event of the Road Racing season – The Quinlan Cup.

All of which has ensured that not only does Offaly have athletics facilities on a part with any county in Ireland, but it also produces athletes of the highest standard.
Although it took rugby and soccer quite a time to become firmly established in Offaly, the two sports have become increasingly popular in recent years, with both their playing members and their profile on the increase.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (I.R.F.U.) was founded in 1879, with the first Offaly club to join being Birr in 1887. Edenderry were to join shortly afterwards and although the game was played in Tullamore in the 1860’s and 1870’s by local families with sons at boarding school in Portarlington and Rahan, it was not until 1937 that a club affiliated to the I.R.F.U.

By the end of World War II all clubs in county – Birr, Tullamore and Edenderry – were experiencing difficulties, but immediately after the war Tullamore had progressed to such an extent that it was able to capture the Towns Cup for the first time. Birr club also reformed after the war and Edenderry followed suit in 1952, yet it was not until Tullamore had progressed to such an extent that it was able to capture the Towns Cup for the first time. Birr club also reformed after the war and Edenderry followed suit in 1952, yet it was not until Tullamore recaptured the Towns Cup in 1960 that the county had any further success. Edenderry enjoyed its first success in the sixties in capturing the Towns Cup twice, while a County Offaly selection reached the final of the Provincial Cup in 1969 and 1970, only to be defeated on both occasions.

From the 1970’s, Offaly rugby underwent a remarkable transformation with an unprecedented increase in playing numbers and a continual up-grading of facilities. By the mid-1970’s, Tullamore were regularly fielding five adult and five juvenile teams. The club also won the Midland League 6 years in succession and added the Towns Cup in 1976. Edenderry repeated this success in 1983. Throughout the 1980’s, rugby continued to grow in the county and this growth has continued into the 1990’s.

Organised soccer first came to the county after World War I. Matches were played in Arden, Church Street and Spollanstown and the team was known as Tullamore Rangers and later as Tullamore Hotspurs. Then in 1941 the foundations for the present club were laid with the formation of a committee who set about generating finance and took out a lease on Spollanstown Grounds (which was shared with the local rugby club until 1970).

In 1948 Tullamore gained entrance into the Dublin Sunday Alliance League; in 1952 – 3 they won The Subsidiarity Cup; and then in 1965 they became the first club from outside Dublin to win the Bradmola Cup. Also in 1965, Tullamore gained entry into the League of Ireland “B” Division and in their first season they finished joint runners-up with Shamrock Rovers. The Tullamore club now plays in the Leinster Senior League and throughout the county an expanding number of clubs compete weekly in local and regional leagues.

The popular perception of Cricket in Ireland is of a game played solely by the English or by the upper-classes. Yet in the 1870s and 1880s in Offaly, (and throughout Ireland), cricket was by no means an elitist sport. Instead it was organised at various venues around the county and it is recalled that it was local working people, and not the local gentry who made up the bulk of the players.

By the early 1900s the game had gained such strength the cricket club in Tullamore could afford to erect a pavilion. Other areas which held cricket clubs at various times this century were Ferbane, Birr, Kilcormac, Portarlington, Killeigh and Durrow.

It is widely accepted that tennis was introduced into Ireland in 1878 and within months of the game’s arrival the Banagher Kings County West Tennis Club was formed with members of the garrison, church leaders and locals all prominent. By 1879, Kings County and Ormond Tennis Club had been formed in Birr and a year later the game was organised in Tullamore.

Successive waves of expansion and regression saw the game reach Shinrone, Ferbane, Edenderry and other areas – sometimes taking root, other times dying away. Facilities in the clubs of Offaly now rival those of any town in Ireland and the game is increasing in popularity once more.

Now home to 5 golf clubs, situation at Tullamore, Birr, Portarlington, Daingean and Edenderry, Offaly boasts an enviable collection of courses. Golf was first introduced to Offaly in 1866 when Colonel R. A. Craig, on a visit to the local rectory helped “lay out a few holes in a field on the Geashill Road in Tullamore”. A 9-hole course and pavilion were erected in Ballykilmurray in 1896 and the club later moved to Screggan before finally settling at its present site at Brookfield in 1925.

By 1893

the Kings County and Ormond Golf Club had a course laid out at Baronne Court, about two miles from Birr. By 1914 it had moved to the Glens and was known as Birr Gold Club. In 1894 a golf club was formed in Banagher, but it disbanded in 1910, the same year that the Edenderry club opened. Another area to provide a temporary home to a golf club was Clara which houses a course from 1918 to 1928. Portarlington Golf Course, in contrast, continues to prosper. Instituted in 1908 on the Warburton Estate in Garryhinch the club latterly expanded from 9 to 18 holes. The most recent of the golf clubs in the area is the course at Daingean which opened in 1991.

Offaly also enjoys a long tradition in boxing. As in many other counties, bare-fisted contents with less than uniform laws were features of fairs, festivals and other gatherings. Similarly, towns and villages had their own traditional meeting-points for boxing matches. One such place was Killeigh where bare-fisted and bare-footed boxers faced each other in “The Boxing Gap”.

On a more organised level, Offaly has enjoyed a number of notable triumphs in international boxing. Tullamore-man Willie O’Shea holds pride of place having won an Olympic bronze medal in Light-weight Boxing at Amsterdam in 1928, but it is the Edenderry Club which enjoys the greatest reputation of all the counties clubs.

Founded in 1933 and still going strong, the club’s best known boxers were the Brereton brothers, both of whom fought in the Irish jersey throughout the world. Sean Brereton won a silver medal in the European championships, while his brother Martin fought for Ireland in the Olympic Games.

References to Horse Racing in Offaly can be found as early as 1770, while records from the last century tell of race meetings held in Ballykilmurray at least from the 1860s until the 1900s. Known as the Tullamore Steeplechases, they were for many years the highlight of the Tullamore Sporting year. The last recorded race meeting in the area was held in Tinnycross in 1921. Around this time and before, meetings were held in many areas of the county, but all fell into decline as Kilbeggan Racecourse in County Westmeath became the focal point for racing enthusiasts in the midlands after its institution in 1879.

Killeigh proved the breeding ground for one of the most famous greyhounds in that form of racing. Mick The Miller was reared by Martin Brophy and owned by Michael Greene and was trained in a special enclosure in Millbrook. In the late 1920s and early 1930s he was the foremost greyhound in these islands winning every race from the Cesarewitch to the English Derby. So successful was he that he played a part in a film called “Wild Boy” and on his death he was stuffed and presented to The South Kensington Museum in London, where he still stands inside the main entrance.

Despite being a land-locked county, Offaly is fortunate to have access to an excellent variety of waterways which allow large numbers of enthusiasts to participate in a variety of water-sports. Fishing and angling clubs are located from Edenderry to Birr, and are progressively up-grading the facilities available to members and visitors alike.

A variety of other clubs in the area such as the Silver River Kayak Club based in Kilcormac and the Ark Divers which was founded in Tullamore in 1990 offer water sports enthusiasts a further range of activities. In competitive sporting terms, however, none can compare with the Offaly Rowing Club. With limited resources, and a small pool of members, the club has produced competitors who have won National Championships and represented Ireland abroad – to such an extent that its name is now recognised in rowing circles throughout Europe.

Sports History in Offaly has not always been a tale of success. The G.A.A. was over 70 years old before the county began to enjoy any measure of success, while in other sports clubs have been formed only to disband after varied lengths of time. Yet recent years have seen the county finally emerge at the forefront of football and hurling, while the area can also boast a wider range of facilities and opportunities than ever before – facilities while are on a par with most other counties. It is this more than anything else which should ensure that Offaly not only preserves its long sporting tradition but also enriches it.

Birr – Macregol's Gospels

In Ireland’s Own Summer Annual 1988
– with special focus on Offaly

If you remember the old Irish £5 note, you will maybe also remember the illumination from the “Book of Kells” which appeared on its back and is similar to Macregol’s in the “Book of Birr”

Macregol is one of the few artists of the Early Christian Period whose name we know because he signed his book at the end: “Macregol illuminated these gospels. Whoever reads and understands this narration, pray for Macreguil the scribe.” His illuminated manuscript copy of the Four Gospels is now in the, Bodleian Library in Oxford, one of the greatest treasures there. It was only in 1814 that Fr. Charles O’Conor of the O’Conor Don family, saw the connection between the Macregol of this book and the entries in the Irish Annals about the year 821:
“Macriagoil Ua Magleni, Scribe, Abbot, Bishop of Birr, died”. So the manuscript got another name: “The Book of Birr” in addition to “Macregol’s Gospels”, and it is also called “The Rushworth Gospels” after the man who presented it to the Bodleian library in the seventeenth century.

Macregol’s book must have been one of the treasures of the Early Christian Monastery of Birr, founded by St. Brendan of Birr in the sixth century. Indeed this book is all that remains materially of that foundation. Whether it was brought by monks, or stolen by Vikings we do not know,. but within a hundred and fifty years of Macregol’s death his gospels were in Harewood, Yorkshire, in the possession of two men called Farmen and Owun. In the ordinary handwriting of the time they wrote their own translation of the gospels between the lines. This was a defacement of the beautiful Latin version produced in illuminated Insular script by Macregol. However, written material has survived. Their “Interlinear gloss” is still being studied by scholars of linguistics and was one of the reference books for the Oxford Dictionary.

An example of the English spoken by Farman in the North of England in the Late tenth century might be selected from the first few sentences of the “Our Father” in his translation of the Gospel of St. Matthew: “Faeder ure, thu the in hoefunum earth, beo gehalgud thin noma. Cume to thine rice.

Nothing is known about the manuscript for the next seven hundred years until the late seventeenth century when John Rushworth, a native of Northumberland and Deputy Clerk of the Long Parliament gave it to the Bodleian Library in Oxford. It has since featured in many articles and books about the history of the English language, of handwriting and of Early Christian Art.

Even though the name Macregol sounds Irish, and that he had used the Irish genitive case in the second version of his name in the epigraph, “Macreguil”, no one seems to have noticed it and the manuscript was believed to have been produced in a monastery in the north of England until Rev. Charles O’Conor proudly reclaimed it for Ireland and for Birr.

Macregol was illuminating his gospels at about the same time as the anonymous scribes of the Book of Kells. His script is similar to their scripts, one of which is featured on the back of the (old) Irish five pound note but his illumination is not as elaborate. The cover and some pages are missing but the book is otherwise in good condition.

After twelve centuries and all those adventures, what a historic occasion it would be, and what a tribute to the great craftsman and churchman, Macregol, if his manuscript came full circle, perhaps for a visit, to Birr, where he served as “Scribe, Bishop and Abbot”.

Birr, Bernard Shaw visited

The following paragraph from the Midland Tribune of April 17th 1915 completely rebuts the common belief that the statue of the Duke of Cumberland was removed from the monument in Emmet Square some time during 1919 or 1920.

As will be seen from this paragraph the statue had evidently been removed in February or March 1915.

On Monday evening Mr. George Bernard Shaw the famous dramatist and critic, arrived in Birr on his way from Dublin to Galway. He was accompanied by Mrs. Shaw, and stayed for the night at Dooly’s Hotel. On Tuesday morning he proceeded to take a photo of the Cumberland Column, from which the figure was removed some weeks ago. While thus engaged he was accosted by Constable Walsh, who asked his name and address. The reply was “George Bernard Shaw, care of Sir Horace Plunkett, Dublin”. This satisfied Constable Walsh, who said that the police had to be very particular those times, as there might be foreigners about. “Oh, yes,” replied Mr. Shaw, “and not friendly ones, perhaps, at that.” Mr. Shaw then told the constable some of the things he had noticed during his short stay. He particularly referred to the fanlight over the hotel, saying that few like it are to be found in England. The “Duke” was also discussed but Mr. Shaw declined to go to see the “head” in the Urban Council rooms. Mrs. Shaw arriving on the scene, Mr. Shaw introduced her to the constable. Afterwards Mr. Shaw went to see the Birr Castle, stating that he was some connection through his wife with the Ross family. Afterwards he left per motor for Galway.

Kilcormac's Hidden Treasure

In Ireland’s Own Summer Annual 1988

Kilcormac is a village situated between Tullamore and Birr, so small most people pass through it with hardly a glance. However, there’s a treasure here well worth breaking a journey to stop off and see, it’s the 16th century Pieta which is kept in the parish church, just off Main Street.

The Pieta is a statue of Our Lady holding the body of Jesus after he had been taken from the Cross. The scene was a very popular subject for sculptors in the Middle Ages in Europe and the most famous one that exists to this day is by Michelangelo in St. Peter’s.

But the Kilcormac “Pieta” is different, being carved from a block of solid oak and measuring five feet by three. It is a very beautiful carving and is thought to be the only one of its kind and era in Ireland. It is a subject of great devotion in the area and the wonderful story of its survival, which was passed on by word of mouth for generations, was finally written down by the former parish priest of Kilcormac, the late Father Andrew Shaw.

It is thought that the Pieta is of Spanish origin and according to tradition it was donated to the parish by a rich lady in the 16th century. It was placed in the parish church, which at that time was in Ballyboy, about 1 mile from Kilcormac. There it remained until 1650 when Oliver Cromwell’s army was reported approaching from the direction of Cadamstown.

Everyone gathered up their possessions and prepared to flee to the woods when two women thought of the Pieta. They rushed to the church, took the Pieta outside and buried it in a heap of rubbish. Later, under the cover of darkness, a number of men brought it out and re-buried it in a bog, where it was to lie for over sixty years.

Had the Pieta not remained safely preserved in the bog for those years, it is unlikely that it would have survived to this day. During the years of persecution, the churches in Kilcormac and Ballyboy were reduced to ruins.

To return to the Pieta, it is thought that sometime between 1700 and 1720, only one man remained alive who knew where it was buried, and, according to tradition, he was carried on his deathbed to point it out. The carving was carefully recovered and when it was examined it was found to be in perfect condition. It was then placed in the church that had recently been built in Kilcormac, the whole parish was overjoyed to have their valued Pieta among them again. It almost left the parish some years after that when a priest, who was moving to Borrisokane, took it with him! However the parishioners brought it back and it has remained in the parish church of Kilcormac to this day.

So, if you travel through Kilcormac some day, call into the church and see for yourself this wonderful sculpture. You may think of the words of Keats:

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness;…”

Kilcormac Missal

Birr’s Century of Progress

When the Midland Tribune was founded in 1881, Birr in common with most other south midland towns had been in a state of gradual decline for almost forty years. That decline had intensified in the late 1870’s following three bad harvests and a fall in prices that in turn resulted in a fall in consumer spending. The agricultural depression was matched by an industrial crisis and zero or negative urban growth rates. The Irish craft-based industries were being over-run by English large scale producers whose goods could now find a convenient route to every port of Ireland via the railways.

Decline Exacerbated

All the south midland towns declined during the fifty-year period after the Famine with the exception of Clara where the Goodbody jute factory provided employment for 700 workers in the 1880’s. The towns of Birr and Banagher were most severely hit. The decline of Birr was exacerbated by the final closure of the large military barrack at Crinkill, outside Birr, in 1921. In the same year Birr workhouse was closed and amalgamated with Tullamore. At a time of depression and scarce employment opportunities it was not surprising that the County Capital, Tullamore, should draw to itself whatever job opportunities existed in the public service sector.

Many people in Birr felt that the town was being victimised by the Free State administrators for not giving its unanimous and wholehearted support to Sinn Fein. Birr had the most vociferous unionist minority of any town in the south midlands, but it appears to have been underlying economic rather than political factors that led to its continued decline until the 1960’s.

The overall change between 1861 and 1926 as shown in the accompanying panel hides the stark contrast between Roscrea and Birr in the period 1911-26. During that fifteen year period Birr lost two service “industries”, the workhouse and the military barracks, while in Roscrea Fr. Cunningham’s bacon factory project was increasing in importance and employing about sixty persons by the mid-1920’s. Roscrea was one of the few towns in the Free State, outside the Dublin area, to show an increase in population of 19 per cent between 1911 and 1926. In contrast Birr suffered a decrease in population of 16 per cent during the same period.

Urban Hierarchy

It was during the latter half of the nineteenth century that the present urban hierarchy in Offaly took definite shape. In 1871 the population of Tullamore exceeded that of Birr for the first time, but only because the rate of decline at Tullamore was 8.5 per cent for the previous decade as compared with 19.5 per cent at Birr. Banagher also suffered severely andin 1881 moved from fourth to fifth place in the County’s urban hierarchy. Banagher gave way to Clara where a remarkable turnabout in population occurred between 1861 and 1926. With an increase of 69 per cent Clara could lay claim to being the only industrial town in Offaly prior to the 1930’s. However, a close second was Edenderry where Alesbury’s coach and furniture factory gave substantial employment until its closure in 1931. Evidence as to the industrial situation in Birr and Roscrea in the latter half of the century was given before a house of commons select committee on Irish industries in 1885. It was noted that:-” In Birr, King’s County, there were forty years ago extensive factories of tobacco, snuff, candles, combs and brushes. It had also two extensive distilleries, two breweries, and an extensive production of woollen and stuff goods both for general and local use. There is now only one distillery working in Birr and one factory. At Roscrea there were forty years ago a thousand men employed at wool combing, weaving, and spinning. There are now only two men.”

The Roscrea woollen industry was almost extinct by the mid-1850’s, but a good retail trade in wool survived a little longer as also did a large factory for coarse cloths. This and several flour mills contributed to the prosperity of the town in the 1850’s and 1860’s, whereas at Birr one of its two distilleries survived until a disastrous fire in 1889.

Birr Distilleries

The destruction of Birr’s last distillery was seen as a death blow to the town. Birr had strong associations with whiskey distilling from at least the 1800’s. Probably, the large military barracks at Crinkill acted as a stimulus to production. In1818 only two distilleries were operated in County Offaly and both were located in Birr. In competition with Birr was the Birch distillery at Roscrea. One of the Birr Distilleries, that of Robert Robinson, was located at Castle Street and formed part of what is now Williams-Waller Ltd. (formerly Birr Maltings Ltd.). The second distillery, established in 1805 by the Hackett family, was located Elmgrove on the eastern side of the town. The third distillery, described as the ‘old distillery’ in 1838 was located near what is now the Mill Island Park. Ample remains of all three distilleries still survive. The Castle Street distillery of Robert Robinson and later Arthur Robinson remained in production until the late 1840’s when the latter was declared bankrupt. At the time the whiskey business was in a depressed state due to the success of Father Mathew’s temperance campaign. Hackett’s distillery continued in business until the fire in 1889. In the 1860’s or 1870’s it had been leased to the Wallace brothers and was generally known as Wallace’s distillery at the time of the fire. The output of the distillery was about 200,000 proof gallons per annum in the mid-1880’s and as such was similar to distilleries at Kilbeggan and Tullamore, but much smaller than distilleries in Dublin and Dundalk.

The Fire

Despite several major fires at Springfield mills near Birr in 1851, and at Boyne’s coach factory in 1888 the Birr town commissioners were reluctant to equip a fire brigade, presumably on the grounds of economy. In 1889 the town was dependent on an old fire engine purchased some forty years earlier and the army fire engines which had to travel from Crinkle.

When the distillery fire started (March 1889 ) the hose of the town commissioner’s engine was placed in the river, but quickly became useless as the sand in the river bed forced its way into the hose. Despite the work of 100 soldiers, the Scottish Fusiliers, very little of the distillery was saved. The Tribune commented: “The destruction of the distillery will prove a great loss to all classes in the community. Town and county will suffer by it. A number of workmen have been knocked out of employment, a market for the sale of corn and the purchase of grains, and wash has been closed to the farmers, and the outlay of money consequent upon the influx of country people into town has been lost to the traders of Birr.

Over the next two years efforts were made to re-establish the distillery but without success. Mrs. Hackett, the owner of the property, was prepared to set up a company with local shareholders, but the invitation to subscribe fell on deaf ears. It was just as well for the prospective shareholders as the distilling industry was in a depressed state in the 1890’s and again after 1910 until the 1960’s. Over that long period the only prosperous years were those of the two World Wars.

Older Industries

The Midland Tribune supported the setting up of a new distillery company and in doing so reviewed the fortunes of Birr since the Famine years. The older inhabitants could remember the Manor, Springfield and Derrinsalla flour mills. The rape mills at Springfield had been destroyed by fire in 1851 but may have been rebuilt. Eventually the milling business here was superseded by a new industry, that of mineral water manufacture. Under the ownership of Messrs. Dillon and Dagg this industry began in1882 and closed in1885 when the owners were declared bankrupt. The machinery at Springfield could handle 40 dozen bottles per hour. The Dillon and Dagg enterprise was followed in 1890’s when St. Brendan’s mineral wat

er works was established. The mineral water and whoesale bottling business of Clark and Co., Birr was purchased by the Midland Mineral Water Co., Street in 1924.

No Investment

The Tribune writer of 1891 could also recall “the busy hum of Wallace’s saw mill and” the hundreds of sturdy toilers who enlivened the town with their presence are no longer to be seen marching in their groups from the old brewery “.
This may be a reference to Newbridge Brewery witch carried a “To be let” tag in 1846 and may have closed soon afterwards. The decay of Birr in 1891 the Tribune writer blamed on the “general disinclination on the part of many to invest in ordinary speculations.” The effect of this lack of entrepreneurial flair was everywhere to be seen: “The streets of Birr daily present a shocking appearance of inactivity; the shops are seserted and the artisan and the labourer grow sick of enforced idleness during nine out of every twelve months.”

However this pessimistic view of Birr enterprise was perhaps coloured by the distillery fire and the destruction a year earlier of Boyne’s coach factory. During the 1860’s the Wilmer Road Iron works had been established and in 1873 a steam saw mill was added. However, the proprietors of this business were declared bankrupt in 1878. Lord Rosse (the fourth earl) established a saw mill in 1887 at the old manor mills situated on the river near Moorpark Street.

Building Activity

Despite the low level of industrial activity in Birr in the latter half of the nineteenth century building contractors did well with a surprising amount of progress made in this area. This was in contrast to Tullamore where few new structures were erected until after the 1900’s. The extent of the building activity tends to confirm the Tribune writer’s view that Birr owed its lack of industrial activity to want of entrepreneurs rather than want of capital. Among the public buildings and monuments to be erected or improved upon was St. Brendan’s Catholic Church which was completed in 1824. It was now remodelled and enlarged. Improvements were carried out at St. Brendan’s Church of Ireland church in 1879 under the supervision of Mr. Drew, architect. The church was enlarged by extending the eastern gable. The organ was removed as also were the horse-box pews. In 1885 the stone was laid for a new Presbyterian church at John’s place, beside the house of the parish priest, Dr. Bugler. The new church here was part of the southern side of John’s Place. The old Crotty meeting house in Castle Street was sold for secular use.

John’s Place

John's Mall, Birr 1The completion of the building of John’s Place in the 1880’s was perhaps the grandest of the building developments of the period, but to it should be added the opening of St. Brendan’s Street in 1887, (opposite Castle Street) and the erection of labourers dwellings at Cappaneal by Lord Rosse in the 1870’s and 1880’s at a cost of c. £120 each. The John’s place development began in the late 1820’s and 1830’s with the construction of the present houses on the Northern side and the mechanic’s institute (John’s Place).

Apparently, no further building development took place here until the 1870’s when it was decided to place the Foley sculpted monument of the third earl of Rosse in John’s Place rather than Oxmantown Mall where the sculpor would have preferred to see it. Over the period 1866-78 about £1,900 was subscribed towards a monument to commemorate the dead astronomer earl. After paying £1,600 for the monument, a balance of £300 was in hand for improvement to John’s Place. It was decided to construct two oval plots at either side of the statue to be enclosed by a handsome chain supported on ornamental metal pillars, and at intervals, four three-light gas lamps. The fourth earl, for his part, promised to replace the “unsightly cabins” that run from Dr. Bugler’s house (the present parish priest’s house) by an uniform row of houses and at the same time to widen the road to give perfect uniformity to John’s Place. The substitution of neat houses for the unsightly wall opposite the Provincial Bank was also to be part of the improvement programme. Many of these improvements went ahead in the 1880’s as planned.

Lord Rosse had improvements in mind of for the Market Square / Castle Street area from the late 1870’s, but seems to have been thwarted in his efforts by property owners likely to be affected. It was his intention to demolish semi-ruined houses in the Castle Street area extending round to Market Place so as to extend the Market Place, thus facilitating the sale of agricultural produce. This scheme was later abandoned and in its place came a suggestion to open a new street from the Market square to the Catholic church. The Birr painter and decorator, Mark Quigley, applied to Lord Rosse for a lease of the area with the intention of widening the street and building about a dozen tenements at a cost of £1,000. It appears that no more than five tenement houses were built along with several larger houses.

A Review

Reviewing the progress of Birr buldings the Tribune’s rival thr King’s County Chronicle reported in May 1885. “Parsonstown can look back in time when its status in the industrial world was higher, but neither is it sinking so rapidly as some inland towns. Many of the mean looking tenements which disfigured the streets are giving way to better houses. In Bridge Street, William O’Meara is erecting a fine block on the site of the old buildings which formerly occupied this locale, and belonged in the last century to a Mr. James, the official assignee, who was a celebrated goldsmith in Birr…….
Close to where the Main Street debouches into Bridge Street the Earl of Rosse is rebuilding the house which was formerly used by Mr. O’Carroll as a pawn office. After this is done the two houses next door will be removed to allow the opening of the new street……this is the oldest part of the town……The Presbyterian Church is finishing in John’s Mall. In Newbridge Street Mr. William Woods, J.P., has worked a change for the better among the cottages. And along the Eden Road the dwellings erected by Lord Rosse are models of what habitations of the workers ought to be. In Cumberland (Emmet) Square the National Bank has spent a large sum adopting it to banking purposes…..

Oxmantown Hall

Birr’s premier residential area, Oxmantown Mall, did not escape improvement. On the recommendation of the architect Mr. Fuller, it was decided to place a proposed new hall in the Mall. The idea of a new large room for meetings in Birr was first mooted in 1885. Following bazaars and other fund raising exercises work began in 1888 under the Birr contractor, Mr. William Sweeney, and was completed a year later at a cost of almost £2,000. The hall is in the Elizabethan style of architecture with grey limestone and Bridgewater brick. The ornamental timber beams at the front form a kind of lattice work and are supported by superbly carved corbels. Further improvements to Oxmantown Mall was made in 1889 when it was regrassed and a wall erected on the rising green.

Martyrs Memorial

So far as building activity is concerned the 1890’s appears to have been quiet in Birr. The only significant addition to the town in the 1890’s was the Manchester Martyrs memorial in the Market Square. After four years of fund raising under the chairmanship of John Powell, the Tribune editor, the monument was unveiled by O’Donoval Rossa in July 1894. The monument was sculptured by the Birr “monumental artist” Mr. Daniel Carroll and is similar to one erected in Ennis – John Powell’s home town.

The first decade of the present century was almost as active as the 1880’s. Mr. William Hickey, a Birr Contractor, erected the new Birr Post Office in 1903-04 at a cost of £5,000. Soon after he rebuilt the Chronicle office following its destruction by fire. The Hibernian Bank built a new bank house and Mr. Hoctor, a Birr merchant, erected two business houses in the Main Street. Mr. G.A. Lee
of Castle Street, the cycle specialist, reconstructed his premises. Also in the middle of that first decade of the century Mr. William Egan of Green Street purchased the old Mathew’s Hotel and erected a new frontage at a cost of £600 to £700. Compliments were paid to D.E. Williams on the modern frontage to his Castle Street shop erected in 1905. This included a “magnificant sign board and plated glass window” . Williams had purchased the premises from the O’Meara family in 1898.

“Whither Birr”

After the First World War expansion and improvement in Birr came to a halt as the effect of the decline in population began to make itself felt. In the years 1861 to 1926 the population of Birr town declined by almost 45 per cent. During the period 1926 to1971 it increased by 13.3 per cent. Although an improvement, it was possibly the smallest increase in the south midlands and was half that of Tullamore at 26.6 per cent. The emigration rate was high because of the scarcity of job opportunities in Birr and the continuing decline in agriculture. An editorial in the Tribune on ‘Whither Birr’ in 1935 had led to the formation of Birr Industrial Development Association. This body was instrumental in attracting the promoters of a shoe factory to Birr.

However neither Birr Shoes Ltd. nor the later Birr Fabrics Ltd. were sufficiently large employers to stem the tide of emigration. Further improvements came in 1960 with the establishment of Erin Peat Ltd. and more recently IDA grant aided industries such as Ko-Rec Type Ltd. Birr is expected to benefit from the more intensive promotion of the town by the Shannon Free Airport Development Company since the transfer of responsibility for the development of small industry in South West Offaly to SFADCO in July 1980.


Because of the decline population the demand for new housing and slum clearance was not so severely felt as elsewhere and in the period up to 1932 the rate of house building by the council was poor. From 1902 to 1930 Tullamore U.D.C. built 198 houses by contrast to Birr U.D.C. where only 46 houses were erected. After 1932 when government subsidies for slum clearance were much increased the pace quickened and a further 177 houses were built in Birr by 1940. By the mid-1970’s the Birr U.D.C. had completed 350 houses or about one-third of the present housing stock.

The slow rate of economic growth in Birr had undoubtedly helped to preserve much of its historic character. Birr is now well geared to benefit from Ireland’s second largest industry, tourism, and were it not for the general depression in tourism in Ireland because of political troubles this industry it is thought would show a significant return for the town.

Kilcormac Missal

The adoption of the old place name “Kilcormac”, instead of the foreign absurdity “Frankford”, which had been introduced in 1760, renders it of interest to give some extracts from a rare manuscript known as “The Kilcormac Missal”. This Missal is one of the six now known to exist that can claim to belong to Ireland between the years 1,200 and 1,500, the other five being known as the Drummond, the Rosslyn, the Corpus, the Enniscorthy, and the St. Thomas. As its name implies it formally enriched the Carmelite Friary of Kilcormac, King’s County, a foundation due to the piety and munificence of Aedh O’Molloy, or Ua Maelmhuaidh.

Under date of the “12th of the Kallends of February, in the year of our Lord 1401, ” the Annals of Clonmacnois and the Annals of Ulster gave the obit of Aedh O’Molloy, king of Fircell, the territory of which comprised the present baronies of Ballycowan, Ballyboy and Eglish or Fircell. In 1429, his grandson and namesake submitted to O’Neill, Prince of Tirowen, who then resided at his palace of Aaileach. After this there was peace in Fircell for some years, and in1430, the Irish chiefs invited the Carmelite Friars to make a foundation at Kilcormac.

Thus in 1430 the Friary of Kilcormac was founded, and was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. The founder, Aedh O’Molloy, died in 1454, and was buried in the friary church before the high altar, “on the feast of St. Remigus”. In the Kilcormac Missal is name is latinised, “Odo Ymolmoy qui erat capitaneus suae nationis” , that is, chief of his sept.

But, before going further, it may be well to briefly describe the Missal. The original manuscript consists of 155 folios in double column, and is much mutilated. It is rubricated, and is musically noted, having the fourlined stave ruled, the notes being subsequently filled in. The scribe was a worthy Irish Carmelite, Brother Dermot O’Flanagan, of the Loughrea Abbey, and he finished his task of transcription the third of the Kalends of March 1458. From the colophon we learn that the then Prior of Kilcormac was also an Irish Friar, Edward O’ Higgins, and the good scribe, as was usual, asks a blessing on the souls of the Prior and himself. The manuscript is now in Trinity College, Dublin.

Whilst the majority of the Carmerlite houses in Ireland – all of which were subject to the English Provincial – were English or Anglo-Irish, the Kilcormac Priory was Irish. In the Missal we find special Masses for the feast of St. Patrick, St. Brigid, St. Cuthbert, St. Chad, and St. Brendan, whilst in the Kalendar Irish saints predominate.

The entries are not given in any chronological order, but are written according to the Feasts of the Kalendar. The earliest is a record of the death of Rory O’Molloy, son of Niall O’Molloy, “Captain of his nation” on Holy Thursday of the year 1431. Brother Edward Bracken (O’Bragan), who succeeded Brother O’Higgins and thus was second Prior of Kilcormac, died in August 1468.

Charles O’Molloy, described as “vir strenuus ac omni humans gratia preditus” died on May 5th, 1476, and was buried in the monastery of Kilcormac near the choir.

In June 1468, Brother Oliver O’Doyle died at the Abbey of Kilcormac. On Jan 13th, 1536, two sons of Aedh O’Molloy, namely Aedh and Con, “were slain near the gate of the monastery of Kilcormac “but their remains were taken by force from the Abbey by Charles O’Molloy and his followers. In the same year there is a record of the murder of two other sons of O’Molloy, namely John and Brian in Magheracuircne, Co. Westmeath. Brother Nicholas O’Bracken (O’Bragan) prior of Kilcormac, died of the plague on Sept. 8th 1536.

It is thus evident that the Kilcormac Carmelites were a distinctly Irish Community . Almost immediately one of the O’Molloy family was elected Prior, whose rule synchronised with the so called “Reformation”. From the Irish annals we learn that the O’Molloy submitted to Lord Gray, Viceroy of Ireland in June, 1537 – Gray having captured the castles of Eglish, Birr and Modreeny. The Viceroy compelled O’Molloy and MacGeoghegan to join his army, and the castles of Brackland and Dangan, belonging to O’Connor of Offaly, submitted at Dublin, on March 6th, following. The suppression of the monasteries in the years 1539-1541, did not affect Kilcormac, and the White Friars continued as before, under the protection of the Lord of Fercall.

The longest entry in the Missal refers to the murder of Fergananim O’Carroll (who’s latinised “vir nomine O’Cerruayll”), Prince of Ely O’Carroll, in 1541, he was slain in his own castle of Clonlost (cluomex) and he is eulogised as a “paragon of wisdom and prudence and fortitude”. Under the date of Jan. 13th 1542 was chronicled the death of Charles O’Molloy, “Captain of his nation” who was buried in the monastery of Kilcormac.

From the Calendar of fiants of King Edward VI, it appears that Con O’Molloy was given a lease for 21 years of the “site of the Priory of White Friars, of Kilcormac”, at an annual rent of £3 6s 8d. The fiant is dated Feb 10th 1550-1. This Con O’Molloy was the Prior of Durrow, King’s County, who had weakly surrendered his own priory to the Crown. He did not enjoy his temporal possessions for very long, as under date of the Vigi; of St. Matthew “that is Sept. 19th 1563, the Kilcormac Missal asks a prayer of him – he having been slain. His name is given as “Contanus Mylmoy filius Karali” or Con, the son of Charles O’Molloy.

Although O’Molloy had submitted in 1537, his son Art was fully recognised as “Captain of his nation”, and is styled as such in the State Papers.

In 1556 he formally surrendered his lands to Queen Mary and was regranted them. His death is entered in the Kilcormac Missal, under dated Nov. 1567.

Con O’ Neill, ex-Prior of Durrow married, as other schismatics did, and had two children, a boy and a girl. Those children were owners of Kilcormac, and in April, 1561, John Parker, Master of the Rolls, wrote to Cecil desiring the reversion of said property.

On Nov. 24th, 1568, died one of the last of the White Friars of Kilcormac, whose name sufficiently indicates his nationality. This was Brother Rory O’More.

Kilcormac Pieta

Tullabeg (Rahan), 1818-1968

In Jesuit Year Book, 1969, pp. 5-24

Just a hundred and fifty years ago, the Jesuits settled at Rahan. It was the second foundation in Ireland of the Society since the opening of Clongowes Wood College in 1814. And throughout the century and a half that have just ended the Rahan foundation was adapted at different times to different purposes: it was a school (and a very famous one) from 1818 to 1930, next, a house of ecclesiastical studies, 1930-’62 and latterly a house for enclosed retreats. Here we offer a brief historical outline for this venerable foundation which, since the beginning, has been known to the Jesuits themselves as Tullabeg, a name however, that seems never to have become generally accepted in the surrounding district.

Tullabeg: 1818

Father Peter Kenny was the first superior of the Irish Mission of the Society, which was restored in 1814. And almost as soon as he had purchased Clongowes Wood his thoughts turned to the establishment of a novitiate. His project was encouraged by the Bishop of Meath, Dr. Patrick Joseph Plunkett who in his early days had studied at Father John Austen’s school in Dublin before the suppression of the Society in 1773. Indeed before the opening of Clongowes, Father Kenney had been assured by Bishop Plunkett that a Jesuit foundation in Meath diocese would be heartily welcome. It only remained to secure a suitable site and such a one was offered by Miss Maria O’Brien, heiress of the Rahan estate. This was in the winter of 1814-’15. A lease on very favourable terms of part of the lands of Rahan, described by Miss O’Brien herself as ”Tullybeg”, was granted to Father Kenney and in early winter of 1815 work on the building site was undertaken under the direction of a Mr. John Molloy who lived at Red Gate, Tullamore. The new building was ready for use in June 1818. But an early date the project of using Tullabeg as a novitiate (at least for future priests) was abandoned. It was decided, instead, that the new foundation should serve as a preparatory school for Clongowes. For some years to come, however, Tullabeg served also as a novitiate for the coadjutor-brothers.

Here perhaps it should be remarked that the remoteness of Tullabeg from any important town – Tullamore did not become the principal town of then King’s County until 1835 – suited admirably the restored Society’ desire to shun publicity. For by the law of the land the Jesuits were presumed not to exist in the country then, nor for that matter for the next half-century! Accordingly, a plain, domestic style was deliberately chosen for the new house of Tullabeg as it was felt that even had the very modest resources of the Jesuits allowed it, a collegiate style of architecture might invite undesirable comment from the country gentry most of whom were thorough-going partisans of Orangeism. Over the first decade or so, the short wings and Church flanking the principal façade were constructed. Until the opening of the public church, one or more of the priests of the new community helped out the parish priest of Killina in serving a widely flung parish.

First Rector

Fr. Robert St. Leger, S.J., first Rector of TullabegThe first Rector of Tullabeg was Father Robert St Leger, a native of Waterford, who held office until 1831. Almost at the same time that he entered on his period of superiorship, his widowed mother and sister entered the religious life in the recently established Presentation Convent at nearby Killina. A couple of years later the rector received into his community his younger brother, Father John St Leger, so that for a time, four members of this Waterford family found themselves united within the parish of Killina – a good distance from their original home. It should be recalled that Maria O’Brien, the benefactress both of the Presentation Sisters and the Tullabeg community, herself entered the religious life at Killina and for the short span she was destined to live was known as Sister Mary Clare.

Until the 1850’s, the school of Tullabeg rarely counted more than thirty or forty pupils, all of them below or just in their early teens. The pace of life was unhurried and vacations (in the sense of holidays at home) were unknown. Still, events that spelled Ireland’s shaking off the shackles of the penal laws could not have failed to quicken the hopes, sometimes the fears, of the Jesuit masters and their young charges: Catholic Emancipation, the affair of Shinrone, the Tithe War, O’Connell’s Repeal movement, The Great Starvation of 1847. But otherwise over these opening decades at Tullabeg there was not even a train’s whistle from the direction of Tullamore or Clara to disturb the Jesuits’ work in class-room or church. Some of the priests, scholastics and devoted brothers who laboured at Tullabeg died there and were laid to rest in the old cemetery of St Cathage. Others, after a time at Rahan were transferred to new scenes of work in the steadily growing Irish vice-province of the Society. And some few of the Tullabeg community in the early decades were destined to see new and strange horizons.

Notable Jesuits

Father Robert St Leger, his brother John, who succeeded him as a rector at Tullabeg and Brother Edward Sinnot sailed to India in 1834. Robert had been appointed by the Holy See as Vicar Apostolic of Bengal but, at the insistence of the General of the Society, was not consecrated as bishop. Four years later, however, the Vicar Apostolic was recalled by the Holy See over a disagreement with his policy for Catholic education in the vicariate. It is almost needless to add that Father Robert St Leger was accompanied back to Ireland by his brother- these brothers never lived apart. Brother Sinnot, however, remained abroad. Father John Ffrench, master at Tullabeg, 1833-’34 and rector 1850-’55, later became vice-provincial and finally assistant to the general at Rome where he died in 1873. Father Patrick Duffy, also a master at Tullabeg in the 1830’s was later a military chaplain in the Crimea and after nearly thirty years work at Gardiner Street Church, Dublin courageously volunteered in his seventy fifth year for the Australian mission. Under the Southern Cross he got a new lease of life and died still in harness at the age of eighty-eight. Father Joseph Dalton, also a teacher at Tullabeg (1839-’40) and rector (1861-’65) likewise exchanged Tullabeg for Australia where even today his memory is green for his stupendous success as a church and college builder. His most notable achievement was the building of Riverview college, one of Australia’s most famous schools. The Stately collegiate chapel of Riverview was later erected to his memory and is known as the Dalton Memorial Chapel.

Father Alexander Kyan, a member of the Tullabeg community in the 1840’s, was born in Calcutta, the son of an army officer, and spent his boyhood in the east. But one wonders whether his pupils at Tullabeg recognised that his family name had already passed into history. For he was the nephew of Esmonde Kyan, one of the gallant men of ’98, who gave his life for Ireland on the scaffold for his part in the rising in Wexford. Later, Father Kyan went back to India where he laboured for a time. He returned, however, to the land of his ancestors and became one of the best-known of the Jesuit missioners in the last century.

Famous Pupils

On the present occasion only a very few of the distinguished pupils of Tullabeg up to the 1850s can be mentioned. These names have long since entered the history books and are chosen at random. Richard Dalton Williams, poet and contributor to the Nation, was at Tullabeg, 1832-’39. He joined the young Irelanders and died in America in 1862. His contemporary at Tullabeg, Patrick Joseph Smyth also joined the Young Ireland movement and his part in assisting John Mitchel’s escape from Tasmania is recorded in the Jail Journal. In more
peaceful times, Smyth returned to Ireland, became a defender of tenant right and served as a nationalist member of parliament. Alfred Aylward, a pupil at Tullabeg from 1855 to 1858, joined the Fenian Brotherhood and spent his life fighting British rule throughout the world. He was at the Manchester rescue on 1867 which resulted in the execution of the ‘noble-hearted three’, Allen, Larkin and O’Brien. Aylward was afterwards mentioned in dispatches as causing harm to British interests in South Africa. From the Transvaal he set out for India where for many years he acted as a secret service agent for the Russian government. The last field of his anti-British activities was Canada where he fought in arms in Riel’s rebellion. Two years later, 1887, he died in a railway accident in the State if New York. Aylward must have known in Tullabeg the young William Francis Butler whose future career was destined to be so different from his own. Butler chose service in the British army where he attained the rank of General. Other honours conferred on him were a knighthood and membership of the Privy Council. He was a chivalrous soldier, an exemplary Catholic and a good Irishman. At the apogee of his career he was appointed to the chief command in the war against the Boers but for conscientious reasons declined the appointment- Butler rightly considered Britain’s action in South Africa as undertaken for purely mercenary motives. As well as being a distinguished soldier, Butler was also a poet and a man of letters. He died at Cahir in 1910.

The College

For the first thirty years of its existence Tullabeg school only catered for classes up to and including Grammar but from 1851 onwards for the next twelve years the school had so developed as to bring the curriculum for al classes or to the level of that of Clongowes. This meant incidentally that by 1863 boys were remaining for all classes up to the level of that of Clongowes. This meant incidentally that by 1863 boys were remaining for all their secondary education at Tullabeg instead if leaving to complete their studies at Clongowes. New buildings had to be erected in order to implement the change in the school’s status. During the rectorship of Father Matthew Seaver, 1855-’61, the fine large east wing, known ever since as the Seaver wing, was undertaken and completed and now provided extra dormitories, class-rooms and refectory. During the rectorship of Father Alfred Muphy, 1865-’70, the north wing was built parallel to the original house to provide the College with a commodious college chapel and study hall. By 1870 the school buildings at Tullabeg were in every way superior to those at Clongowes.

In the first phase of the school’s expansion, it was Father John Cunningham (1817-’58) who introduced science into the curriculum. It is unlikely that the poor in the surrounding districts ever heard much if Father Cunnigham’s scholastic ability but certain it is they noticed his zeal and helpfulness as a confessor. In every kind of trial and distress his help was sought and that never in vain. Even in his lifetime he seems to have acquired the reputation of a thaumaturgus so it is hardly surprising that when he died at the early age of forty-one, his grave in the College grounds became a place of popular pilgrimage. Father Alfred Murphy, who was a former pupil of his, on becoming rector of the College had Father Cunningham’s coffin exhumed and deposited in a vault outside the altar rails on the gospel side of the people’s church. This was done, probably not so much to honour the memory of the good Father as to make sure that the poor that the poor and the sick who wished to pray by the resting place of their understanding friend should not be exposed to the inclemency of the weather. It was the same Father Murphy who added the modest but adequate campanile to the public church. By the end of his term of office Tullabeg had developed into one of Ireland’s greatest colleges, yet as a college it was destined to endure only another sixteen years!

Last Years of Tullabeg College

Fr. William Delaney became rector in 1870 and guided the destinies of Tullabeg for the next decade. He had already served as a master at Tullabeg from 1860 to 1865, the years which saw the school draw level in scholastic standards with Clongowes. Needless to say with his fine abilities as an educationalist he saw to it that scholastic standards were excellently maintained but he was also aware that such standards for many of the pupils could only end in frustration when they had finished their schooling. For the Catholic University could not legally confer degrees while Trinity College, Dublin and the Queen’s Colleges were distrusted by Irish Catholics, laity, clergy and hierarchy alike. Delaney was aware that his own alma mater, Carlow College, had for some time past availed itself of the facilities afforded by London University for conferring extern degrees. And by 1876 he had his first batch of Tullabeg boys entered for the London matriculation. The results were highly gratifying from the start and later results attained much favourable comment when it was noticed that young men from Tullabeg were high up on the list of the successful candidates for Arts and this against the competition of many thousands of English students. In 1881 a First Place and First Exhibition were secured by Tullabeg. Even today the small wing at the north east of the Seaver building is known as the ‘B.A.’s’. It was here of course the candidates for the London University degrees lived and studied. The government, it is said, had these Tullabeg successes in mind, when it introduced the Intermediate Education Act in 1878 and set up the Royal University of Ireland (purely an examining body) in 1882. Henceforth, Tullabeg boys after their school days could prepare for the degrees of the Royal University under the guidance of the Jesuits at University College Dublin.

From the start, Tullabeg eagerly embraced the new Intermediate system and immediately took its place in the van of Irish Schools competing for the medals and exhibitions. Not so Clongowes which gallantly tried to combine the glories of Academy Day- public oral examinations invariably attended by distinguished scholars and professional men- with the new system. Tullabeg had immediately dropped Academy Day for the simple reason that few outsiders ever turned up for these academic feats in so out of the way a place! It is then scarcely matter for surprise that the younger college was now outshining her elder sister.

The end of Tullabeg’s glory was sudden. The great school closed forever in the summer of 1886 to the consternation of boys and masters. The hard facts were these: both Clongowes and Tullabeg were in debt. But the real reason for closing Tullabeg as a school should be sought perhaps in the fact that the Irish province was suffering acutely from lack of man-power. Not only had the province opened three other schools over the preceding quarter-century but it had also taken on a large slice of the Australian mission. So the Tullabeg boys, regretfully leaving the college with its wonderful playing fields (laid out by a German refugee, the famous Father Wisthoff ), were transferred to Clongowes.

In the year of the ‘amalgamation’, 1886, the Tullabeg boys who were a smaller school than Clongowes, secured seventeen exhibitions in the intermediate examinations; Clongowes secured thirteen.

Later Famous Names

The list of distinguished Tullabeg men during the last quarter century of the College’s existence can bear comparison with that of any of our great Irish schools. Again we have place only for a few names and again they are chosen at random. Joe Dolan of Ardee, later graduated with distinction in ancient classics but chose to return to work in his family’s business. An ardent nationalist, he was an early supporter of the Gaelic League and of Sinn Fein. He died as he lived, an exemplary Catholic gentleman. Timothy Corcoran became a Jesuit and was many years Professor of Education at University College, Dublin. In this branch
of knowledge he enjoyed a high repute throughout Europe. Throughout his long and distinguished career he supported every worthy movement for his country’s uplift. Joseph McGrath, who studied for his B.A. (London) at Tullabeg, became (Catholic) secretary of the Royal University – the secretaryship was held jointly by a Catholic and Protestant. On the replacement of the Royal by the National University of Ireland, Sir Joseph became the new university’s first registrar. Mathias Bodkin, at Tullabeg, 1866-70, courageously declined the chance of studying for a degree in any of the then existing Irish universities for the good reason that he set high store on his Catholic heritage.

Instead, he studied for the Irish Bar and having secured his B.L. took on journalism as well, -and wrote novels. He was appointed County Court Judge for Clare in 1907. He as a man of courage who, during the war of Irish Independence, denounced the atrocities of the Black and Tans. His indictment of English military misrule in the country was cited by Asquith in the British House of Commons.

Novitiate of the Irish Province

For two years, 1886-88, Tullabeg was maintained by only a few Fathers and Brothers to look after the church. Soon however the College buildings were assigned to a use for which they never had been intended. From the summer of 1888 down to 1930 Tullabeg was the novitiate of the Irish province when it was transferred to Emo. Portarlington where it still is.

Much or little can be recorded of a novitate where the young men are initiated into religious life. It is enough to say here that up to the early 1940s every Irish Jesuit priest then living- many happily still survive- had spent his first two years in Tullabeg. For many who entered there since 1888, their journey through the religious life led to new strange horizons: China, Canada, India, Australia, and South Africa. It is almost a truism that the old and sick are not always the first to die. So at Tullamore a few novices rest in the community cemetery. One of them should be remembered here for the good reason that he was a schoolboy at Tullabeg before the amalgamation. He was Alexander Kickham, nephew of Charles Kickham the Fenian and celebrated author of Knocknagow. After the closing of Tullabeg College, Alexander went to Clongowes where after a career of outstanding brilliance- he was a gold medallist and exhibitioner- he returned in 1890 to what had been his old school but now the novitiate. In every way he was a novice of outstanding promise but he died shortly before his first religious profession in July 1892.

Of the masters of novices who sojourned at Tullabeg successively to initiate their young charges into religious life, it is almost superfluous to say they were one and all specially picked men. One of them can be remembered here, Father Michael Brown, not simply because he was the master of novices of Father John Sullivan but for his own sake also. In his time he was a widely sought spiritual director and for the consolation of many whom he guided during his priestly life his biography was published as was also that of his well-known spirtual son, John Sullivan but for his own sake also. In his time he was widely sought spiritual director and for the consolation of many whom he guided during his priestly life his biography was published as was also that of his well-known spiritual son, John Sullivan.

In 1911 the College opened its doors to the Jesuit tertians the young priests who made a third year’s novice ship before their final profession. Many of them came to Tullabeg from England, America and different countries on the continent. Today there are Jesuits working working in English or American cities or on a wide variety of foreign missions that cherish unfailing, grateful memories of their year in Tullabeg.

It would be ungrateful to pass over the names of those Jesuits English and Irish, who acted as Instructors of testians during this period, Frs Gartland, Welsby, Nolan and Bridges.

House of Studies

The novices were transferred to Emo in the summer of 1930 and a few weeks later another kind of Jesuit community took possession of the old Tullabeg College buildings: the young men of the Irish province fresh from their University studies and now taking up philosophy, the first part of their ecclesiastical training proper. For the next thirty-two years Tullabeg was faculty of philosophy. In 1962 it was decided that with drastically changing conditions the students of philosophy should be brought within reach of more extended research facilities than was now possible at Tullabeg. But in those decades of its existence as a philosophical faculty, Tullabeg served the Irish province well.

Once more we may pause to recall the names of a few of the distinguished professors who lectured there and have since passed to their reward: Father Joseph Canavan, a very learned man with a flair for poetry and a active interest in so down-to-earth a subject as sociology; father Arthur little, philosopher, humorist, poet and a very accomplished violinist; Father Eddie Coyne, philosopher and economist who could make his abstruse subjects intelligible to the layman. All three gave the best of their high talents for the benefit of the young men who studied under them at Tullabeg. Their passing was long mourned by the Irish province and many friends of the Society.

House of Retreats

Tullabeg it seemed had exhausted all its possibilities of a school, a novitiate, a house of ecclastical studies. Still this old Jesuit foundation could be adapted to a new need of the later decades of the twentieth century; a house of retreats. Even its hey-day as one of Ireland’s foremost Catholic schools back in the 1870s the Tullabeg community counted amongst its members some Fathers whose business it was to conduct missions and retreats for religious communities. And in the days when the train was the only known form of speedy travel, Tullabeg with the nearby railway centre of Tullamore was a convenient starting point for any direction of the country. A few missioners were ever afterwards stationed at Tullabeg when it served as a novitiate and later a philosophate.

Notable names amongst the mission band at Tullabeg in the last century were those of Father Charles Young, Christopher Carton and Philip O’Connell. The last mentioned had been a distinguished priest in Kilmore diocese before he became a Jesuit and was in fact rector St. Patrick’s College, Cavan when he applied for admission to the novitiate. Father Young, born in 1798 was thirty-four years of age when he entered the Society. He was the son of wealthy parents and after his school days lived in the south of Spain where probably he was engaged in the wine trade. A long sojourn in this agreeable climate may well have helped him to live so long as he did. He was fine missioner still, even in his late seventies, and for many years after he had retired from that exacting labour he was still on the active list. He was almost ninety-eight when he died at Tullabeg in 1896. He had the longest life ever recorded of any Irish Jesuit priest before or since.

Other well-known Jesuit missioners who lived for a time at Tullabeg about the turn of the century were Fathers Andrew Macardle, Patrick Mac Williams, Tom Murphy and William Gleeson. Father Tom Murphy is said to have been one of Ireland’s most distinguished pulpit orators since the days of the great Dominican Father Tom Burke. Father Murphy carried his remarkable talent modestly. He was proud of one thing only: he was a collateral descendent of Father John Murphy, the patriot Wexford priest of 1798. Father Patrick Barrett, another of the missioners once stationed at Tullabeg is still remembered, particularly in Dublin, for his zeal in organizing enclosed retreats for men at Rathfarnham Castle.

Fathers Micheal Garahy, Richard Devane, Timothy Halpin and Frank Browne, all of whom were known and respected. Nearer our own times, the Tullabeg missioners included included throughout the length and breath of the coun

try. Father Garahy, a native of Cloughan, was no stranger in the Tullamore district. He entered on his career as a missioner as a young priest and it was commonly thought that he was prepared by his superiors for no other work. In fact he was a distinguished scholar and had been groomed to be a professor of theology. But after one year in his professorial chair at Miltown Park was asked to be relived of his teaching duties in order to have an outlet for his desire to impart theology to the people. As a missioner he never spared himself until failing health forced him to retire from his long journeyings. Father Devane was recalled to Dublin for work at the retreat house of Rathfarnham Castle. He was also a distinguished writer and pioneer in sociological studies.

Missions and retreat work therefore have a long tradition amongst members of the Tullabeg community. Today the Fathers at Tullabeg receive into their house men who wish to avail themselves of the peaceful surroundings of the old College to think of the great truths of the faith and in so doing, find peace of soul. It is a wholesome experience to retire from a short space from the feverishness of modern life. Even in earlier centuries when life was not feverish, it was characteristic of Irishmen to seek out the holy places – Lough Derg for instance – and then to come back to the work – a-day world the better for the experience.

And so ends this necessarily brief account of the activities of Tullabeg over the past 150 years. Well does the foundation fulfil the motto if her sister college Mungret, “Your youth shall be renewed as the eagle’s“.

Offaly in 1825, Brewer's description of

James Norris Brewer published his two volume work, The Beauties of Ireland in 1825. About 25 pages of text are devoted to Offaly in the second volume. Having described the county generally and thereafter then the capital town (until 1833) Daingean or Philipstown, Brewer proceeded to add a few words on the Magan estate of Clonearl, close to Daingean. He wrote:
At the distance of two miles from Philipstown is Clonearl, the seat of William Magan, Esq., of an ancient Westmeath family, who lately served the office of high sheriff of that county. The surrounding country presents, with a solitary but grand exception, that of Croghan hill, one dreary expanse of bog. Chiefly by the efforts of the father to the present proprietor (made at a very considerable expense), Clonearl, however repulsive in natural circumstances, has been gradually formed into one of the finest demesnes to be seen in this county. A triumph of art entitled to extensive emulation! Great improvements to the mansion are now in progress, under the auspices of the present possessor of the estate. [Clonearl House (destroyed by fire in 1846 and demolished in the 1920’s) was built by William Henry Magan the elder in the 1820’s. The house was in the Grecian style and may have been by the architect, William Farrell. In the 19th century Clonearl was a favourite resort for the summer picnics and so forth. Today only the semblance of Clonearl’s former beauty remains in the old farm buildings and some mature ornamental trees. Brewer continued:]

Croghan Hill, which rises in lonely majesty amid this flat and dispiriting, but thickly-populated, tract of country, is of great height and circumference, and is, even to its summit, beautifully clothed with verdure. This fine eminence is celebrated by Spenser in his ‘Fairie Queen’ At the base of the hill are the ruins of a church; and near the summit, are some traces of antiquity, described by Sir Charles Coote as “an ancient burial-place.” [Croghan Hill has survived the ravages of the early 20th century and in particular a planning application in the 1970’s to quarry the hill. The hill is itself the stump of an extinct volcano of c. 250 million years old. It is about 700 feet above sea level and about 400 feet above the surrounding plain. It is the only prominent height in east Offaly. I have never been able to locate the supposed reference to the Hill in Spenser’s well known poem. The church at the base of the Hill is probably that where the graveyard still survives and known as Bishop McCaille’s, McCaille’s Church. Today the cemetery is in an uncared for condition and closed for burials. Looking east to Edenderry Brewer wrote:]

At Edenderry, a small and mean town in this part of the county, are the remains of a castle. This building is situated on a considerable eminence, and was, in the sixteenth century, the residence of a branch of the Colley, or Cowley, family, of Castle-Carbery. Sir George Colley defended this fortress, in 1599, against the abettors of Tyrone’s rebellion. The property afterwards passed, by the marriage of a female, into the family of Blundell, Viscount Blundell, which title is now extinct. One the Castle-hill is a neat church, erected within the last thirty years [the Church of Ireland church]. Near this town a religious house, termed Monasteroras, of which remains still exist, was founded, in the year 1325, by the family of de Bermingham of

Carberry, locally styled Mac Feoris. Charles Vallancey writing in 1771, described Edenderry as “a few years ago remarkable for its corn markets” and at that time it grew little more than what the inhabitants and whiskey distillers consumed. The poor he reported were employed in carding and spinning of wool with the price of labour remaining at it was fifty years earlier. The carders earned 6 pence and the spinners 3 pence per day. The wool was brought from Dublin at 2 shillings and 6 pence per cwt. Kilkenny Coal was selling at 18 pence per cwt and lime is 13 pence per hogs head, turf at 9 pence per kish. The lead mines, Vallancey reported, were neglected for some years and were were never worked with spirit or judgement. Brewer wrote at a time when Edenderry had experienced considerable development in the post 1800 period but had not yet obtained its market house which apparently dates from circa 1833. The Canal was constructed through Edenderry about the year 1796 with the Marquess of Downshire the landlord of the town, contributing £1,000 towards the expense. As is well-known the town consists of one wide street from which diverts several smaller streets and contains, according to Lewis, (1837), c. 214 houses well-built of stone and slate “It is well paved and supplied with water, and is rapidly improving”…. a coarse kind of worsted stuff is made here affording employment to thirty and there are a tanyard and a brewery. .. The town hall a handsome building of stone has been recently erected at the expense of £5,000 by the Marquis of Downshire, proprietor of two thirds of the town and affords in the lower part accommodation for the corn market with the upper part containing a large handsome room for assemblies and public meetings close to where the remains of the old Castle and also the Franciscan Abbey at Monasteroris. The Abbey, latterly a fort of the O’Connors of Offaly, was destroyed by Lord Deputy Surrey in 1521.
The population of Edenderry town in 1841 was 1,850 and the number of houses 255.

Brewer wrote of a castle in east Offaly not now well known:
Ballybrittain, otherwise Warrenstown, Castle, near the eastern extremity of the King’s County, was the ancient seat of the family of Warren, formerly very powerful in this part of Ireland. Sir Henry Warren garrisoned this fortress, anno 1600, for Queen Elizabeth. On the 13th of February, 1691, a party of the adherents of James II, headed by Lieutenant-Colonel O’Conor, took the castle of Balybrittain, which they sacked and burnt, extending their ravages, on the same day, to the neighbouring town of Edenderry. On the decease of Sir Peter Warren, K. B. who died in the command of the naval station off Dublin, in the year 1752, leaving no male issue, the estate passed to the heirs female. A branch, however, of this family still exists, as we believe, in Ireland. [Ballybrittain Castle still stands and now incorporating in a private residence. The Warren family probably settled in the area at the time of the Elizabethan plantation. A note of the family appears in Reverend Thomas Warren, A History and Genealogy of the Warren Family published in London in 1902 and reprinted in 1982. Captain H. Warren an Elizabethan soldier who died in 1561 had two sons Sir Henry and Sir William Warren. Sir Henry held at Ballybrittan circa 620 acres as part of the Laois/Offaly plantation and by inheritance from his father. Henry Warren played a prominent part in the military affairs of Ireland the name survived in the town of Tullamore for many years and could be seen over a drapery shop in Church Street, formerly now the Manor Lounge and also the shop beside it, recently Colm McCabe’s shop.]

As if moving in a clockwise direction Brewer’s text now moves to describe the villages of Geashill and Killeigh.

Geashill is a small village, composed chiefly of thatched cabins, but noted for having one of the largest fairs in Ireland for the sale of swine. Here is a Charity-school, open to children of all persuasions, to which Earl Digby (whose ancestor was elevated to the peerage, under the title of Baron Digby of Geashill, A.D. 1620) is a liberal contributor. The principal interest of this place proceeds from the ruins of its Castle, and the story connected with that structure. Geashill formerly belonged to the Irish chief O’Dempsey (not to O’Molloy, as is asserted by Seward); and was afterwards possessed by the house of Kildare. About the year 1620, this estate passed to the noble family of Digby, in consequence of the marriage of Lady Laetitia, only daughter of Gerald Lord Offaly, with Sir Robert Digby, of Coles-hill

in the county of Warwick. Her Ladyship surviving her husband, experienced a memorable siege in her castle of Geashill, in the civil wars of the seventeenth century. An account, at a considerable length, of this siege, is given in Mr. Archdall’s edition of the peerage of Ireland [1789]; and a more concise notice is also presented in the third volume of Leland’s History of Ireland. This transaction took place in the year 1642. The siege lasted for several months, and the garrison, assisted by a supply received from Sir Charles Coote, persisted in a gallant defence until the Lady Laetitia (who, on the decease of her father, was created Baroness Offaley for life) was safely conducted from the castle by Sir Richard Grenville.

Several letters which passed between Lady Offaley and the leaders of the besieging party, are printed by Archdall, in the place noticed above. The whole of those written by her ladyship are highly honourable to her spirit and good sense. The following answer to the first summons of the assailants, has been deemed worthy of insertion in the pages of regular history:
“I received your letter, wherein you threaten to sack this my castle, by his majesty’s authority. I am, and ever have been, a loyal subject, and a good neighbour among you, and, therefore, cannot but wonder at such an assault. I thank you for your offer of a convoy, wherein I hold little safety. And, therefore, my resolution is, that being free from offending his majesty, or doing wrong to any of you, I will live and die innocently; and will do my best to defend my own, leaving the issue to God. Though I have been, and still am, desirous to avoid the shedding of Christian blood, yet, being provoked, your threats shall no wit dismay me.
“Lettice Offalia.”

James Norris Brewer (died 1829) topographer and novelist produced his Beauties of Ireland in 1825 in two volumes. The second volume of the work is a description of most of the counties of Ireland and includes Kings County otherwise County Offaly. I have added comment to Brewer’s description by looking at other sources for the history of the county from the 1770s to the 1840s, in particular Lewis (1837) and Parliamentary Gazetteer of 1845.

Brewer went about correcting the work of William Seward who had published his Topographia Hibernica in 1795. This was in its own way a pioneering work at the time but the notes on each place were short and often inaccurate. For “Geshil”, Seward had noted that it is also spelt Geashill (the current spelling) and that it had been a place of some antiquity and that it exhibited the lofty ruins of the castle. He described it as the residence of the chiefs of Hyfalgia in the district of the O’Molloys. This was incorrect as of course it is in the district of the O’Connors. Perhaps the most useful article on Geashill to do with the Rebellion of 1641 was that published by Lord Walter Fitzgerald in the Journal of the Archaeological Society for Co. Kildare (vol. 9, no. 1) January, 1918. Walter Fitzgerald reproduced the account of the siege of the castle which was governed by Lattice, Lady Offaly who was then aged about 62. He describes how the castle was besieged by Captain Brian O’Dempsey for over a fortnight, in October 1641 and was besieged for a second time in January 1642. The Lewis survey was published in 1837, it was noted that Geashill had 467 residents in the village. It repeated that the castle was an O’Dempsey castle and again referred to the siege. The town, it was noted, had 87 houses arranged in a triangular form and that most of them were thatched The big houses in the area were that of the rector near Geashill and that of Judge Baron Smith of Newtown. The parochial church dates from 1814. The Parliamentary Gaztteer of 1845 made the salient point that Lord Digby was the sole owner of the barony, c. 30,000 acres. Much of the area was bog and that the huts and social economy of the peasantry on the borders of the bog was deplorable.
In passing it should be noted that the ruins of the old O’Connor castle still stand on the summit of a long ridge close to the Church of Ireland church. The relatively modern mansion house of the Digby family was destroyed in 1922, and part of it has now been restored as a dwelling. Attendances at the Church of Ireland church in Geashill was of the order of 200, with attendances at Gurteen and Kilmanogue Methodist Meeting Houses were 40 and 100 respectively. The Killeigh and Ballinagar Roman Catholic chapels each had attendances of 1,250. The proportion of Protestants to Catholics in the parish of Geashill was perhaps one of the highest in the county in 1834 with 1,708 Church of Ireland, 13 dissenters and 12,094 Roman Catholics.

When Trench was appointed agent, he recounted in his memoir Realities of Irish Life (London, 1868) the story of Geashill Manor and how he had been appointed land agent to Lord Digby in 1857. He lived at Cardtown near Mountrath and was an agent to a number of well-known Irish landowners. Part of the reason for the deplorable condition of those living on the edge of the bog and the fact that the thatched houses had survived in the triangular green at Geashill was that the former Lord Digby had rarely visited his Irish estates which he had been in possession of for upwards of 60 years. On his death, about the year 1854, the legal heir to the Irish property set about reorganising it and many of the landless tenants on the Geashill estate were evicted. After 1857 the old thatched houses were demolished and new stone and mortar houses were roofed with slates and timber replaced them, giving to Geashill village that estate character that it still has. According to Trench, upwards of £14,000 had been spent on buildings and repairs of tenants houses over the ten years from 1857 to 1867.

Brewer notes that “at Killeigh distant about four miles from Geashill, an abbey was founded, as is believed, in the sixth century, by St. Sincheal McCenenain. A nunnery was also founded here, for nuns of the order of St. Augustin, by the family of Warren, soon after the arrival of the English. A house of grey friars was likewise erected here, in the reign of Edward I. Some remains of a religious structure are still be seen, at the foot of a hill near the church. “Much has been written of St. Sincheal of Killeigh, whose monastery later in the 12th century, adopted the Augustian rule. In addition there was a Franciscian friary for monks (now on the site of Abbey House) and also a Franciscian convent at the far end of the village. The abbey dated from the 6th century and continued in operation until the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century, and the nunnery and Franciscian friary dated from the 12th and 13th century. In 1831 the village contained 36 houses and a brewery and malting house and a constabulary police station. It also had a Church of Ireland chapel and a Catholic chapel. Lewis too remarked on the remains of a rath that originally surrounded the village. This was likely the circular rath or fort on which the old monastic site stood and the remains of which can still be seen around the village.

In the Parliamentary Gazetteer of 1845, it was noted that the Church of Ireland chapel was rebuilt about the year 1654 and again almost wholly rebuilt in 1830. Sittings in 1834 were of the order of 350 with attendances at 180. The Roman Catholic chapel had an attendance of 1,250. The population of the village in 1841 was 262 with 47 houses.

Brewer records of Tullamore that it was “a neat and thriving town, situated in the barony of Ballycowan, and on the banks of the river Clodagh, is the estate of the Earl of Charleville. Few towns in Ireland have experienced so rapid an improvement, as that now under consideration; a circumstance to be attributed, partly, to the principle of re-action after the sustenance of calamity. Late in the eighteenth century Tullamore was a village of an inferior class, consisting chiefly of mean and comfortless thatched hovels. An accidental fire levelled those wretched habitations to the ground; and, on the site, has since a

risen a town of eligible disposal and a fair aspect. The Grand Canal, which runs along the borders of the town, is of obvious advantage to the inhabitants, and several branches of traffic are here pursued with considerable spirit. A handsome church has been lately erected, but as it would appear, at an inconvenient distance from the more populous parts of the town. This building, which is highly creditable to the talents of F. Johnston Esq. the architect employed, was completed in 1818, with the aid of £3000 lent for that purpose by the Board of First Fruits, and the gift of £600 from the same source. Tullamore gives the title of baron to the Earl of Charleville.
In the immediate vicinity of the above town is the costly mansion, and very fine demesne, of the Earl of Charleville. The house is a very spacious structure, recently erected, chiefly in imitation of an ancient English castle, after the designs of Francis Johnston Esq. The demesne is very extensive, and truly beautiful, although surrounded by bogs and moors, flat, dreary, and repulsive. The plantations are eminently fine, and the hand of tasteful cultivation is, indeed, visible throughout the whole of the grounds. The river Clodagh, supplied by several mountain-streams, pursues a rapid course though this demesne, often falling precipitously over disjointed masses of rock. Sequestered and lovely walks are formed upon the banks of the river. A disgusting piece of moor-land has been converted into a lake; and various decorative operations of art reflect high honour on the good taste, and munificent spirit, of the successive noble owners of this estate.”

The story of Tullamore is well known and does not need much repetition here. Suffice it to say that the story of the balloon is repeated but not specifically mentioned save as an accidental fire. This fire occurred in 1785 and contrary to what is stated here, it did not destroy the entire town but a portion of it only in the Patrick Street area, ruining c. 100 houses in all. Clearly the Grand Canal which reached Tullamore in 1798 gave a great impetus to building development and streets such as Harbour Street, Bury Quay, William Street and Store Street all owe their origins to this period. The Church of Ireland church was, by the standards of the time, a reasonable distance from the town, but the site was one which was mulled over for some time together with a site where the Granary Apartments are now situated in Market Square and also the magazine site on the Grand Canal, opposite the De Monfort Hall. Eventually the hill site at Hophill was selected for the new church and according to some authorities, was completed around 1814.

Charleville Castle was completed over the years 1800 – 1812, to a design of Francis Johnston, in close collaboration with the owner of the castle Charles William Bury. Brewer repeats the qualified praise for its location to be found in Coote’s survey of 1801 and to a much more acerbic extent, in Wakefield’s two volume survey of c. 1812. The Gazetteer of 1845 gathered here of 1845 describes the site and immediate environs of Tullamore as “a sort of oasis in the vast tract of morass which bears the name of the Bog of Allen”. It went on: ” most of the approaches to the town conduct through scenes of bleakness, sterility and dreariness pecularily repulsive and depressing; yet the immediate environs though quite destitute of any very striking natural features possess a comparative profusion of artificial decoration and compose a general picture of a decidedly pleasing and softly beautiful character”. It would seem that the author of this entry was giving praise by the word! Of Sragh Castle the writer noted that it was built in 1588 by John Briscoe an Elizabethan officer and that the upper windows of this old tower are accessible by a spiral stone stair and command a pleasing view of Lord Charleville’s deer park. Other houses of interest in the area were Brookfield House, Clonad House, Ross House, Castleview, Screggan Manor, Coolrain House and Silverbrook, while the ruins of Killurin church and Ballycowan Castle and Ballykilmurry Castle all got a mention. The writer noted that a stone with a date and armorial bearings in the castle of Ballycowan was picked out of the wall by an enthusiastic local antiquary and conveyed to his residence in Tullamore. Here the author of this entry is probably confusing this date stone with that in Sragh Castle, which was indeed removed from Sragh Castle and after some time in Tullamore ended up at Mount Briscoe in Daingean. The armorial bearings on the castle of Ballycowan with the date stone still survives at that location. The Gazetteer writer noted that Tullamore, in consequence of its position on the Grand Canal, and its central situation in reference to the surrounding country, is a place of considerable business. It is the principal town and chief shipping station on the entire line of the Canal, and besides being touched by all the boats in transit to Dublin, both from Ballinasloe and the Shannon, it has swift iron passage boats of its own, in communication with the metropolis. The average amount of sales of grain during the ten years ending in 1836, consisted of 45,000 barrels of wheat, of 26 stones per barrel, 35,000 barrels of oats of 16 stones per barrel and 20,000 barrels of barley of 16 stones per barrel. A brewery and a large distillery have long been at work and the linen manufacture was long ago introduced. The town had a savings bank and a branch office of the Bank of Ireland (opened in 1836). In 1843, the Tullamore Loan Fund (situated at the Town Hall), had a capital of £920 and circulated £3,331 in 1,680 loans. At the principal inn (Phoenix Arms), horses and carriages could be hired and at smaller inns cars could be had. A public car passed through the town in transit between Birr and Mullingar. The area of the town in 1841 was 223 acres with a population of 6,342 and 1,061 houses.

Ballycowan, Durrow and Clara

Within one mile of Tullamore, Brewer noted “are the remains of Balycowen (more properly Baly-Ecouen) Castle. This structure, when in its pride of strength, was taken from O’Melaghlin, A.D. 1536, by Leonard Lord Grey, then lord deputy. Queen Elizabeth having confiscated the estate of Art O’Melaghlin, representative of the ancient kings of Meath “chife of the line of Heremon,” granted, in 1589, a portion of his property, including the castle of Baly-ecouen and the district of Moyely, to Thomas Morres, Esq.* (* Rolls Office – The above named Thomas Morres, Esq. erected the mansion of Moyela, in the style usually denominated Elizabethan; of which building the walls are still remaining. The manors granted to him by Queen Elizabeth afterwards passed to the family of Herbert.) This castle surrendered to Sir Hardress Waller, the republican general, in 1650, and has since sunk progressively into decay. The extent of the ruins evince its former strength and importance.”

Ballycowen Castle still stands and is one of the finest castles in Offaly, similar in design to that at Donegal, in that it has fine chimney pieces and represents a halfway stage between a castle and a country house. It is not likely that Brewer is correct in saying that Leonard Lord Grey took Ballycowen Castle in 1536. There may have been originally a Molloy castle on the site but Leonard Grey’s trip ended not much further than Killeigh and Geashill in the 1530’s. Despite what is said about one Thomas Morres, it is clear from the stone over the entrance door to the castle that it was erected in 1626 by the Herbert family. The Herberts lost their lands in the Cromwellian confiscation and the property was passed into the ownership of the Coote family at Ballyfin, who held it until the Land Acts. The Coote estate ran right up to Tullamore where the present railway line is located along the Srah townland boundary.

“Durrow, now a small village, was formerly a place of some note, on account of a monastic institution, founded by St. Columb, A.D. 546. In later times, as we are informed by Ware and Archdall, a monastery for
regular canons of St. Augustin was founded at the same place. In 1175, this religious house, and the surrounding country, were laid waste by the English. * It is said, by some writers, that Sir Hugh de Lacy, Earl of Meath, was murdered at Durrow, in the year 1185, while superintending the works of a castle, commenced upon the site of St. Columb’s Abbey. According to other authorities this act of assassination took place at Ardnorcher, in Westmeath. It is generally admitted that the earl was slain from behind, whilst in a stooping posture, by the blow of an axe, inflicted, according to varying assertions, either by one of his own countrymen and immediate followers, or by an Irishman, named O’Cahary.
After the dissolution of monasteries, Durrow Abbey was granted, by Queen Elizabeth, to Nicholas Herbert, Esq. who converted it into his family residence. The estate afterwards passed to the family of Stepney, in which it is still vested. “Coote is not correct here in saying that the estate was still in the hands of the Stepneys in 1825 as it had in 1815 passed to the Toner family, having being purchased by the famous “Hanging Judge”, Lord Norbury, and it remained with this family until the 1940s. The old Abbey house was demolishe

Slieve Bloom – The Hills at the Heart of Ireland

Reproduced courtesy of Ireland of the Welcomes Vol. 41 no. 3, May – June 1992

For the hurried motorist travelling from Dublin to Cork or Limerick, Slieve Bloom is no more than a horizon that long range of low mountains which rises away on your right until you finally turn your back on them at Roscrea (or in Portlaoise if you are heading for Cork). Most people never get any closer than this, because no main road takes you to the foot of the mountains. Slieve Bloom is a place you must make a decision to visit. But it you do decide to step aside, you will find you have entered a world which might put American visitors in mind of the Catskill Mountains in the foothills of the Appalachians, where Rip Van Winkle encountered those strange little men from another place and time, and slept unknowing for twenty years.

Slieve Bloom is an island mountain

– an inlier the special language of the geologist, where a heart of older rocks rises out of the midland limestone plain. The highest point is only 1,734 feet above sea level, but so unvarying is that surrounding central plain that on a clear day you may expect to see all the way to Wicklow from Capard Ridge, and from Arderin, the highest point, you can see Lough Derg and the mountains beyond. During the last Ice Age 15,000 years ago, the great glaciers which stretched right across the Irish Midlands completely overrode Slieve Bloom, knocking off all the edges and giving it the rounded outline so familiar to today’s traveller. The moraines which the glaciers left behind are splendidly displayed in many of the mountain glens. For the visitor with a geological bent – or indeed for anyone who feels the thrill of being reminded how very recently Ireland lay frozen in the lifeless grip of the Great Cold – there is a special thrill in these places where today’s rivers are cutting their way through these relics of the Ice Age.

Today the summit plateau of Slieve Bloom is clothed with the longest stretch of untouched mountain blanket bog in the country; a botanist’s dream, special for the way the typical plants of upland bog are joined by others more at home on the great lowland bogs – plants like bog rosemary; the county flower of Offaly so beloved of the great Linnaeus. Much of the lower ground is now forested – too much so in the eye of many lovers of natural landscape, but in autumn these new woods are very special places too, with a very rich flora of toadstools and mushrooms of every shape and hue.

The mountains are full of hidden magic places, especially perhaps along the streams and rivers which radiate out in all directions. Each has its hidden waterfalls and miniature ravines, places where the wild plants of the mountains still find a natural home. Everywhere there are places you can feel you are seeing the land, as it must have been when the first people stepped into it. These are places off the beaten track, places you must discover for yourself- but with the excellent maps now available this can be a real pleasure – and gives the visitor a real sense of discovery, the feeling of being an explorer finding these places and things for the first time.

And yet, in spite of the way Slieve Bloom retains so much of its natural heritage, its character is essentially human. Small farms climb onto the fringes of the moorland, fingering their way at times almost to the top. People have lived here for 5,000 years, farming the hills even before there was any bog at all. In those distant days woods of pine clothed the slopes – the stumps and roots of these vanished forest trees still come to light when the turf is cut away for fuel. In fact we now believe it was the activities of these first farming people of Slieve Bloom which triggered the growth of the blanket bog in the first place. They removed the trees at a time when the climate was getting wetter, exposing the fragile soils of uplands and slopes to the leaching action of the winter rains. The soils became impoverished and acid, and the hog began to grow. In little fields on the fringes, round barrows from the Bronze Age and ring barrows from the Pagan Iron Age are the only surviving relics of later prehistoric communities who farmed these same fields.

Slieve Bloom is peopled also with the memory of others whose place in the reality of prehistory us more shadowy. It was here in the solitude of the woods that Fionn mac Cumhall, one of the noblest figures in Irish mythology, spent most of the first seven years of his life, in hiding from Goll mac Morna, who had slain Fionn’s father and was in search of Fionn himself. Here he was reared and fostered by the druidess Bodmhall and the mysterious Liath Lucchra.

Two roads will take the traveller across the mountains, hut this is only for people in a hurry, and from the road you will get no more than a hint of the magic. The real Slieve Bloom can only he explored on foot. Perhaps the best way is to follow the Slieve Bloom Way, a circular long distanced walk which links together motoratble roads, forest and farm tracks and moorlands paths. It takes several days to complete but you may decide at any point that you want to leave it, to explore this valley or that patch of wood. It may be that when the spell has worn off, you too may step into the every day world feeling a bit like Rip Van Winkle. If you want a place to ponder in luxurious hospitality about the things you have seen and the people you have met, you can turn aside to Roundwood House, a very special hostelry a short distance off the Slieve Bloom Way. Roundwood House was built in the early 1740s and was at that time the home of the Quaker family of Sharp; there was a thriving Quaker colony in this part of the mountains at that time, giving it the name of Friendstown. Today Roundwood is a guesthouse and restaurant, and the home of Frank and Rosemary Kennan and their family – and a friendlier place you would be hard put to find.

Any one of the circle of quiet villages which lie at the foot of the mountains provides an ideal base for exploration. For those who prefer to explore from more urban surroundings, the towns of Birr, Roscrea, Mountrath and Mountmellick are each only a stone’s throw from the mountains, and each has its own special attractions: Roscrea with its rich monastic and medieval traditions, Birr with its world-famous castle gardens and Georgian architecture, and the great raised bogs of Offaly at its doorstep, with Clonmacnois just up the road. The county towns of Tullamore and Portlaoise are only one step further back from the mountains.

In the early centuries of Christianity in Ireland there was a necklace of monastic establishments set just back from the mountains, which no doubt provided a horizon for contemplation. Somewhere in the mist of legend and memory of that extraordinary time, out of which the Lives of the Irish Saints eventually crystallised, there is a tale of Saint Fintan, the saint who founded the great monastery at Clonenagh (the ruins of which you pass through halfway between Portlaoise and Mountrath). Fintan looked for advice to his mentor Saint Columba. And when Columba looked out from Slieve Bloom over the wood-covered foothills to the south-east, he saw the angels of God coming and going over Clonenagh beyond the foothills and told Fintan that this was to be the place of his monastery. I have always had the impression that he himself remained on Slieve Bloom for a while. It may be that there too, among the forests and glens and mountains, he saw those spirits which mediate between this world we live in and the world we dream about. They may still be there.

Geashill, Historic Barony of, in Old Offaly

According to the “Annals of the Kingdom Of Ireland“,compiled by the Four Masters and issued in 1636, it was in the Age of the World 3500 that the Milesians or Celts arrived in Ireland and defeated the Tuatha-De-Dananns.

The following is the considered opinion of the historian, John O’Donovan regarding the existence of these Tuatha-De-Dananns.

“From the many monuments ascribed by tradition to this colony, and their frequent mention in ancient Irish historical tales, it is quite evident that they were real people. And from their having been considered gods and magicians by the Milesians or Celts Gaedhil or (Scott) who subdued them, it may be inferred that they were skilled in arts which the later did not understand”.

My story deals with that great Celtic tribe who had conquered the country. Their two chief leaders were Eremhon and Emher and they assumed the joint sovereignty of Ireland, dividing it equally between them. At the end of one year, however, a dispute arose as to the possession of three celebrated hills. In the resulting Battle of Geashill, Emher was defeated and slain. This battle is no myth or legend, but is a part of real history.


The wealth of historic material regarding the Battle of Geashill is truly remarkable. There are engagements of much more recent date of which no such detailed accounts have been preserved.

In the first place, the division of the island then (as many times since) was into North and South. Eremhon was the Northern ruler and Emher was monarch of the South. It is said that it was the wife of Emher who incited the quarrel.

The three celebrated hills in dispute were

  1. Druim-Clasach, a long ridge which lies between Lough Ree and the River Suck;
  2. Druim-Beathaigh, a remarkable ridge which extends along the plain of Maenmagh near the town of Loughrea;
  3. Druim-Finghin which extends from Castle Lyons, Co. Cork to Dungarvan Bay, Co. Waterford.

The actual battle site was the brink of Bri-Damh (the Hill of Oxen), at Togher-idir-da-mhagh (Causeway-between-two-Plains). Mr Blake, N.T.,gave the benefit of his local research to Offaly Archaeological Society some years ago. It is remarkable that despite the changes of centuries scholars can still identify most of the places mentioned in
the old records.


It is a long jump from Eremhon’s victory to the Geashill of two centuries ago when the district had become British shireland and formed part of King’s County. In between, it had been for almost countless generations portion of the O’Connor territory of Old Offaly.

Every acre of the barony of Geashill became the property of Lord Viscount Digby. We find it an entirely rural district with no town and only the two villages of Killeigh and Geashill. Ballinagar was a mean hamlet. The native Irish existed in misery. Anyone who got little farms were allowed only thirty-one-year leases. The roads were bad.


When Charles Coote visited Geashill in 1801 he discovered yet another new type of tractor, Dean Digby, who described as “the only gentleman of fortune” in the barony, had his plough drawn by four oxen yoked after a particular manner. This was how the power was generated:-

“He uses neither collars nor hames but a long beam of wood is laid horizontally across the necks of the bullocks, which are occupied together. It embraces their throat by an iron bow, which pierces this beam and is keyed at the top. From the centre of the beam the long draught-chain is attached to the plough. It is considered easy on cattle.”

We have, of course, only touched some fringes of the history of Geashill but there we must leave it for the present.

Bernard Charles Molloy, M.P.

Junior Member for King’s County

King’s County Chronicle, 22 October, 1885
Below right: Photograph of the Molloy Coat of Arms from the Society’s collection.

Molloy Coat of Arms

Bernard Charles Molloy, M.P., Esq., Junior Member for King’s County, is the second son of the late Maria Teresa Molloy, of Hawke House, Sunbury, daughter of the late James Tracey Lynam, and of Kedo Molloy, who died in the Island of Jersey, in 1846, youngest son of Bernard Molloy, of Cornalaur and Charlestown House, Clara and grandson of Kedo Molloy of same place. This latter gentleman, when the Linen Trade flourished in this country, presented to the people a Linen Exchange Hall, while his son presented them with the south wing of the old Roman Catholic Church in Clara.

We believe Mr. Molloy, the subject of our illustrated sketch, is now painting a large Altar Picture to be presented to the new Roman Catholic Church, which has replaced the old one, the erection of which was promoted by the late Rev. Mr. Corcoran, the venerated P.P. of Clara, and now being completed under the direction of the able and energetic Rev. Mr. Gaffney, the present P.P.

The elder brother [James Lynam Molloy] of our Junior Member is a Barrister of the Middle Temple, and has married Miss Florence Baskerville, daughter of Edward Baskerville of Crowsby Park, Oxfordshire, by whom he has two sons and one daughter.

Mr. Molloy’s only sister was married to Judge Coghlan, J.C.S. eldest son of Lieut-General Sir William Coghlan, R.A. G.C.B., and grandson of the celebrated Admiral Coghlan. The lady was celebrated for her great beauty and high intellectual attainments, and died in India at an early age.

Mr. Molloy, M.P., was educated at St. Edmund’s College, Herts, and at the University of Bonn and France. In 1867 he volunteered for service in the Pontifical Army, when the Roman States were attacked by Garibaldi, the wonderful and successful guerilla General of the Nineteenth Century.

In 1870 Mr. Molloy entered the French Service and served during the terrible war between Germany and France as Captain on the staff of Generals Pellisier and Tevis. Having been reported on several occasions for bravery in the face of the victorious Germans, he received a Gold War Medal under the conditions given in the following extract from the Freeman’s Journal, of Nov. 21, 1874:–

Four large gold medals have been struck by order of Marshal McMahon, President of the French Republic, commemorative of the Franco-German war of 1870-71. One of these medals has lately been sent to Mr. Bernard C. Molloy, (one of the candidates for the King’s Co. and Co. Louth at the last election), who served as a staff officer during the war, and took part in the disastrous campaign under General Bourbaki. The medal, by order of the Marshal President, was forwarded by the Duke Decazes, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, with a special letter, of which the following is a translation;–

Foreign Office, Paris, 17th Aug., 1874.

Sir–It gives me the greatest pleasure to announce to you that the Marshal President of the Republic, wishing to give you a special mark of his esteem, and to recompense the services which you have rendered with courage and devotion during the war, has charged me to offer, in his name, the Gold Medal sent herewith. I am happy to have pleasure to transmit to you this mark o0f high distinction, and to offer you my sincere felicitations.
Receive, Sir, the expression of my highest consideration.
(Signed) Decazes, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
To Mr. Bernard C. Molloy, Ancien Officier d’Ordonnance, 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Army of the East.

The medal has on one side the Head of Liberty, with the words “Republique Francaise,” on the other side surrounded by a wreath are the following words:-

Bernard C. Molloy, Officer d’Ordonnance of Hawke House, Sunbury, devoted Services to the Army of the East, 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, War of 1870-71.

The colour of the Ribbon and Rosette is red, white and blue, the French National Colours. Mr. Molloy is to be congratulated on the distinction so unusual and so special as that of a gold war medal specially struck and presented”for services rendered with courage and devotion.” This recognition of the services of an Irishman in the ranks of France must tend to increase the good feeling which has always marked the relations between the two countries. It is not the first time that Irishmen have served in the cause of France, but it is the first time, we believe, that so special a distinction has been conferred on one of our countrymen.

In 1872 Mr. Molloy was called to the English Bar, and is a Barrister of the Middle Temple.

For services rendered to the Vatican he was nominated by the late Pope Pius IX a “Cameriere Segreto di Cappa e Spada.” This distinction of Private Chamberlain to His Holiness has been confirmed by the present Pope Leo XIII. He is also President d’honneur des chevaliers sauveteurs.

Mr. Molloy has devoted much time to chemical and electrical research, and a late discovery of his in Mettalurgy has been highly mentioned in the Scientific Press. It may be remembered that at the last meeting of the British Association in Dublin he read an interesting paper in the Chemical Section. He has also contributed papers on Scientific and other subjects, as well as Military and Agricultural matters.

A branch of the Molloy family lived near Banagher, which is now nearly extinct. Sir George Penrose married a daughter of the late Major Molloy of Strawberry Hill, and his wife the late Lady Penrose and her sister Mrs Croly are the last representatives of this branch of an old and honourable family. During the troublesome times a junior member of the family embraced the Protestant faith and obtained nearly all the estates which at one time were very large. The senior branch is now represented by Mr. B. C. Molloy and his brother, the last of a long line, and the lineal descendants of The O’Molloys, Princes of Fearchaill, in which district are the ruins of several old castles, the strongholds of the Family in olden times.

In the Fearchaill district stands the old house of Derrydolney, and over the door is the carved stone with the Family Arms–Harp, Shamrock and Lion, and stating the house was built during the reign of King James, Defendor of the Faith and King of England, Scotland and France.

In 1874 Mr Molloy first contested the representation of King’s County; but he was then in a great measure a stranger, having been reared in England, where his mother settled after his father’s death when he was quite a child.

He went to the polls on that first occasion with the following result, re-electing the old members:

  1. Sir Patrick O’Brien, Bart. — 2,009
  2. David Sherlock, Sergeant-at-Law — 1,201
  3. Bernard Charles Molloy — 758

In the same year after being defeated here Mr. Molloy was induced by Mr. Philip Callan, M. P., to contest Louth, but the electors refused to be dictated to by Mr. Callan, and they elected Mr. Kirk a man of the people and county. The Dundalk Herald of that date in commenting on the Election says:–

“We cannot conclude without referring to the manner in which the election was carried on, as far as Mr. Molloy himself was concerned. With the exception of allowing himself to be introduced by Mr. Callan, his conduct throughout the election was marked by gentlemanly feeling, and an absence of the personal hostility and acrimony which marked the canvass of Messrs. Callan and Sullivan. The contest must have been to him a disappointing and expensive one, but he has the satisfaction of knowing that his conduct throughout has been irreproachable, and as po

litical opponents and not directly interested in the success of either candidate, we are constrained to bear testimony to his attitude during the contest and wish him well with another constituency.”

Again in 1880 Mr. Molloy offered himself to the King’s County. Sergeant Sherlock retired from Parliamentary life in that year, not being of the advanced type which Mr. Parnell was moving into the foreground, but which at that time was very far, indeed behind the strides since taken by his active and vigilant party. Mr. Molloy was now returned with Sir Patrick, the state of the poll standing thus:–

Sir P. O’Brien 1893
B. C. Molloy 1712
Henry Vincent Jackson 801

The hon. Member will again, in the course of a very few weeks, have the opportunity of seeking a renewal of the confidence of half the County; and, although, nothing has been as yet been announced, the unanimous opinion is that he will put himself before the Tullamore Division for the suffrages of the five thousand and more electors now composing that Division.

We cannot close our notice without adding the expression of our sincere gratitude to one of his most sterling supporters for supplying us with the material for these particulars. We were sincerely happy to Thomas Hackett, Esq., Castle Armstrong, because Mr. Molloy’s interests have been in his hands for the last thirty years and could not have been in better care from first to last; nor could we have gone to a more authentic source. It is also well known that Mr. Hackett had a very considerable share in securing his return at the last general Election. Being ourselves politically opposed to the Party with which the Hon. Member saw fit to cast in his lot, our congratulations cannot of course be offered from a political stand; but nevertheless, so far as regards intellectual abilities and honesty of intention, we can sincerely congratulate all his friends on this higher ground, which in our disinterested and humble judgement raises Mr. Molloy to a supreme position among the Parnellite phalanx. The Hon. Gentleman which we have seen being little short of a genius in the mental world, we can have no hesitation in admitting that when the Electors who returned him were determined on having a follower of Mr. Parnell as their second Member in 1880, Mr. Hackett’s services in bringing forward so distinguished a Candidate were most important, and deserving of lasting gratitude. We will merely add that taking into consideration Mr. Hackett’s own aptitude of Parliamentary life, and his well-known wideness of sympathies, the Parnellite Party might, in the spirit of grateful acknowledgement, give practical shape to their feelings by nominating him for some of the Constituences which they claim as being at their disposal; and if they so they would be at the same time electing a descendant of one of the members of the old Irish House of Parliament, his ancestor and name-sake, who was the Mayor of Dublin in 1688, and a staunch supporter of King James, having in that eventful year sat for Dublin in the Irish House of Commons.

Philipstown (Daingean) – The Midland Boroughs in the 1830's


1. The Limits of the Borough of Philipstown extend on the north to the river Ashmore; on the south, to Ballynagar; on the east, to Mount Lucas; and on the west, to the boundary of the parish of Kill; a distance of about two miles in every direction from the centre of the town.

  1. the power of self election
  2. the absolute control vested in them respecting admissions to the corporate franchise.
  3. the tendency to dispense with any residential qualification for members and officers.
  4. the exclusion of the inhabitants of the borough from any effective voice in the management of local affairs and the expenditure of local funds.

The report of 1835 recommended a complete reform of municipal government. All political parties agreed but the Tories produced an ‘alternative’ reform measure of simply abolishing the Irish corporations. The House of Lords voted down successive versions of the Bill until in 1840 an Irish Municipal Reform Act was passed. Only ten Irish corporations survived with much reduced powers. None survived in the midlands. Oliver MacDonagh summarised the situation in A new history of Ireland v, p.217 when he wrote;

‘This struggle and the result showed several interesting features of contemporary Anglo-Irish politics. It showed more clearly even than the tithe issue the limitations of the whig alliance. After 1835 the case pressed was the strongest possible, and one on which liberals, radicals, and Irish were at one. Yet so long as the house of lords itself was not assailed, and so long as O’Connell would go on backing ministry concessions lest the ministry collapse, the reformers had to accept in the end comparatively small concessions. Next, it demonstrated that Irish protestants, faced with admitting catholics to power, with their own share probably diminishing in time, and with factional struggles likely to develop in the representative institutions, acquiesced in centralisation and the loss of self-government. On the other hand, the episode also showed that O’Connellism could not be altogether held back. The gains here were very disappointing, but in terms of O’Connell’s objects gains there were. Most of the surviving corporations were nationalist, and much of the corportations’ activity was political even in a narrow party sense. But the negative gains seemed almost, or perhaps quite, as important: an ‘Orange’ monopoly had been broken, and even if much of the old ‘Orange’ power went not to catholics but to central government, it none the less diminished the redoubts of the ascendancy. Perhaps after all, it was sharing rather than power that was being sought throughout the decade.’

1. The Limits of the Borough of Philipstown extend on the north to the river Ashmore; on the south, to Ballynagar; on the east, to Mount Lucas; and on the west, to the boundary of the parish of Kill; a distance of about two miles in every direction from the centre of the town.

Corporation extinct.

2. The borough has, since the year 1800, ceased to possess a Corporation. It returned two Members to the Irish Parliament; and the corporation seems to have been kept up for the sole purpose of making such return, and, accordingly, no corporate office has been filled since the borough was deprived of the elective franchise by the Act of Union. The compensation money, under the Act of 40 Geo. III. c. 34, was paid to George Earl of Belvidere, Robert Earl of Lanesborough, John King, Esq., and Lady Lanesborough his wife, upon the trusts of the will of Robert then late Earl of Belvidere.

Charters. 12 Elizabeth, 4th March.

3. The Charter by which this borough was incorporated, was granted by Queen Elizabeth, on the 4th of March, in the twelfth year of her reign. It is enrolled in Chancery. (Rot. Pat. 3 Jac. II. p. 1. d. m. 6.). By this charter the borough was incorporated by the name of “The Burgomaster, Bailiffs, Burgesses and Commonalty of Philipstown,” with like liberties and free usage as the corporation of Naas, or any other free borough. The charter prescribed the mode of electing officers, contained a grant of a court to be held before the burgomaster and bailiffs, without limit in amount of claim, and ordained that the inhabitants should not plead or be impleaded out of the borough, in respect of matters arising within it; it gave to the burgomaster and bailiffs the return of all writs, &c. within the district, and jurisdiction in assize of fresh force, as the mayor and sheriffs of Drogheda had; it constituted the burgomaster a justice of the peace and coroner within the borough, and escheator and clerk of the market; it contained a grant of a market to be held on every Thursday, and of tolls and customs for the use and advantage of the borough, to be collected according to a given schedule, as follows:

For every horse sold ……………………………… 2
For every cow sold ……………………………….. 2
For every goat sold ……………………………….. 1
For every sow sold ……………………………….. ½
For every sheep sold …………………………….. ¼
Every load of boards or planks ………………….. ½
For every sack of grain …………………………… ½
For every hide or pelt of the value of an ox-hide ….. ½
For every cart-body or plough ………………………. 1
For every pair of wheels ……………………………. ½
Any merchandise to the value of 2s. ……………… ½
Any merchandise to the value of 5s. ……………… 1

And it declared that the burgomaster and bailiffs might have and receive all other customs and profits of all things sold, as the bailiffs of Dundalk could take, at a rent of 10s.; it also gave to the corporation all waiffs and strays in aid of the repair of the borough; it ordained that none but those admitted to be free should use any occupation within the limits; that foreign merchants should not sell by retail any merchandise brought from beyond the sea without licence from the corporation; that no persons might, on market days, buy merchandise, or victuals, (except for their own present sustenance, or from a freeman,) unless between the hours of eight a.m. and three p.m., on pain of forfeiture of the goods bought.

James IV., 1st October.

This borough afterwards obtained a charter from King James II., which bears date the 1st day of October, in the fourth year of his reign. This charter, after the usual recital in the charters of James II., of a forfeiture of former privileges by a judgement of the Court of Exchequer in Ireland, contained a grant of a new incorporation of all the inhabitants within the ancient limits of the borough, and directed that the corporation should consist of one sovereign, two bailiffs, 12 burgesses, exclusive of the sovereign and bailiffs; that the sovereign and bailiffs should be annually chosen by the sovereign in office, bailiffs, and burgesses, out of the body of the burgesses; that the burgesses should be elected from the inhabitants; and that the sovereign, bailiffs, burgesses, and commonalty should return two Members to serve in Parliament for the borough. It contained a grant of a court, to be held before the sovereign and bailiffs, for all pleas within the borough, without limit in amount of claim; and of tolls and customs, for the repairs of the borough, and of all lands theretofore held by the corporation. It authorized the appointment of a recorder and town clerk, but directed that they should not act until approved of by the chief governor; and reserved to the chief governor and privy council the power of removing any of the officers of the corporation.

It was not stated under what charter the corporation acted. I apprehend it was under that of Elizabeth, the charter of James being founded on an erroneous judgement.


4. The Corporation consisted of one burgomaster, two bailiffs, 12 burgesses, and an constituent un

limited number of freemen.


5. It was stated by a very old man, that upwards of 80 years ago, there was a great number of freemen, and that birth and servitude, prior to that time, conferred an inchoate right to freedom. He further stated, that about that period, the then Lord Belvidere purchased the borough, and that from the date of such purchase, no person was admitted as of right. He said that Lord Belvidere kept the corporation close, so that, the old freemen dying off, the corporation became limited to a few non-residents, whom Lord Belvidere had admitted to be free, and with whom he was in the habit of coming to Philipstown on every 29th of September, for the purpose of appointing corporate officers.

The corporation having altogether ceased to exist for 33 years, and having long before then been of no importance to the community, I was unable to ascertain how or by whom the freemen and other classes were elected, further than that the control of Lord Belvidere being unlimited, no person could be elected to any office without his approbation and consent.

It did not appear that the burgomaster or any other officer held any court or performed any functions for 20 years prior to the extinction of the corporation.

No books or documents belonging to the body were produced, nor is it known that any such are in existence.

I could not discover that there had ever been any corporate police or prison; and it was stated that, within the memory of man, the magisterial duties within the borough have been performed by county justices.


6. The number of the County Constabulary here varies from 7 to 16. They act under county magistrates.


7. The County Gaol was formerly in the town, but it has been removed to Tullamore, a distance of about eight miles.


8. There is no Borough Court. Petty Sessions are held every second Thursday before county justices, and quarter sessions four times a year.


9. The Charitable Establishments in the district are: a school, under the board of Charities. Erasmus Smith, for boys, returned as educating 66 scholars, 30 Protestants and 36 Roman Catholics; a girls’ school, under the London Hibernian Society; and a large dispensary, supported by voluntary subscription, and presentment in the usual way.

Markets and Fairs.

10. There is a large and improving Market in the town on Thursday in each week.
There are seven Fairs, four of which are termed the “New Fairs,” having been instituted about 1820. These are held in a part of the town called Molesworth-street.

In three or four years after their establishment, toll was demanded at these fairs; it was ultimately given up, and has not been collected for these last three years.

It appears that by patent bearing date the 21st February 1670, (enrolled P. 23 Car. II. p. I. m. 8. d.) power was granted to John Bysse, Esq. to hold fairs at Philipstown on the 17th March and 22d November, and the day after each, and to take tolls and customs at those fairs.

Tolls and Customs and Cranage.

11. With respect to the Cranage and the Tolls and Customs of the other fairs, and of the market, it appeared, that Lady Lanesborough, by indenture bearing date the 25th June 1816, demised the tolls, cranage, and customs of Philipstown to Thomas Geraghty, for three lives, at a rent of £10 a-year, that Thomas Geraghty, by a writing bearing the date the 31st of March 1826, reciting his lease of 1816, deputed Edward Dyer to be his craner, and that Dyer, although not sworn, set up a crane, and continues to hold it to the present time, and claims to be sole craner, and has summoned, and procured to be convicted, persons for setting up a crane and weighing for hire.

Tolls and customs are not now collected on market days, but are taken at the three ancient fairs.

The schedule in use at present differs materially from that given by the charter of Elizabeth, and is as follows:

For cows and heifers ……………………………….. 4
Yearling calves ……………………………………… 2
Sheep and lambs ……………………………………. 1
Horses ………………………………………………… 4
Pigs ……………………………………………………3
Covered standings ……………………………………. 6
Any other ……………………………………………….4
Brogue …………………………………………………..5
Any car going in with goods for sale ……………… 6 ½
Any hawkers and dealers …………………………… 5

Neither the authority for such charges, nor the title of Lady Lanesborough to tolls, were stated to me.

The collectors are, to the present day, in the habit of swearing persons as to whether or not they had sold at the fairs.

Cranage is collected at fairs and markets; the charge is 1d. per sack of eight stone and upwards, and ½d. for any sack under that weight.


12. There were Commons attached to this corporation, consisting, it is stated, of 350 acres or thereabouts, adjacent to the town. When the freemen and burgesses were numerous, these lands were divided amongst them in lots for life; and it would seem that after the purchase of the borough by Lord Belvidere, the neighbouring landlords, as the freemen and burgesses who held the lots died off, (there being no persons elected to succeed them,) encroached upon the commons until merely one acre remained, as it still remains, unenclosed.

Lord Lanesborough, the heir of Lord Belvidere, Mr. Bagott, Mr. Sherlock of Sherlockstown, Lord Ponsonby, and Mr. Gore are stated to be possessed of portions of the corporation commons, but they have been in possession of portions of the corporation commons, but they have been in possession for many years. A Mr. Thomas Whitefield stated that he held some land from Lord Belvidere which formerly constituted three burgesses’ lots, and he named other persons who also held ground that had belonged to the corporation.

Local Acts.

13. The 3,4 Phil. and Mary, c. 2, “for the disposition of Leix and Offaily,” and by which the name of Philipstown is given to the New Fort in Offaily, and the district called Offaily erected into the King’s County; and the Act of 2, 3 Will. IV. c. 60, hereinafter mentioned, are the only Local Acts of Parliament relating to this borough. The streets are repaired by county presentment.

Statistical Details.
The population of Philipstown, according to the returns of 1831, were then,
Males …………………………………………….. 684
Females ………………………………………….. 770
______ Total 1,454

Families chiefly employed in agriculture ………… 96
Ditto chiefly employed in trade, manufacture, and handicraft ……………… 97
All other families not occupied in the two preceeding classes ……………… 75

Occupiers employing labourers ……………………. 5
Ditto not employing labourers …………………… 18
Labourers employed in agriculture ………………. 102
Employed in retail trade and handicraft as masters or workmen …………… 121
Capitalists, &c. ……………………………………… 46
Labourers employed in labour not agricultural …. 9

Inhabited ……………………………………………. 256
Unihabited ………………………………………….. 9
Building …………………………………………….. 4
Families …………………………………………….. 268

General Remarks.

By the Act of the 2, 3 Will. IV. c. 60, the assizes for the King’s County are, after 1st July 1835, to be held at Tullamore instead of Philipstown, where they have been heretofore held. This c

hange is likely to have a prejudicial effect upon Philipstown.

The town is not at present in a prosperous condition, although the markets are good, and although the town is situate near the Grand Canal from Dublin to the west of Ireland, and thereby possesses the benefit of a water communication with the capital.

There is no manufactory in the town. It is not lighted.


Inquiry held the 24th September 1833.


from The King’s County Directory 1890

Shinrone is the name of a parish and townland as well as of a town distant six miles south of Birr. Its ancient name was Suidhe-an-Roin, signifying the “Sitting place of the seal or hairy person.” At Cloughmoyle, the western end of the town, the ruins of a castle occupy a prominent place on a hill. They are within the grounds of G. R. Poe. This district like others in the county, was in early times a chosen place for sun worship, and some years ago at Magherymore “Great field of adoration,” there were several Druidical upright stones. While besieging this castle in 1533, the Earl of Kildare had one of his best constables killed before its capture.

Shinrone, ruled over in former times by the MacGuilfoyles, appears to have been called by different names. In the inquisition taken in 1551, it is spelt “Goynoroyne.” It was granted in 1562 to Oliver Grace by the name of Coynrane, and in 1680 the rectory, church, and tythes of “Tevneraine alias Synroan” were granted to John, Bishop of Killaloe. In 1666 Sir William Flowers and John Baldwin obtained a patent of Shinrone and Kilballyroke with a castle thereon and 2,678 acres. The portion of these lands which fell to Baldwin passed into the hands of Provost Baldwin, who bequeathed them to Trinity College. Many of the family were buried here, the last being an M.P. for an English constituency. The estates included Boveen, midway between Parsonstown and Roscrea, and are at present held by relatives named Hamilton.

In 1792 the rectory and vicarage were united to Kilmurray, and these were afterwards episcopally united to the rectory of Kilcommon. It is related there were only ten houses in Shinrone in 1640. In 1828, the excitement over the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act was intense all over Ireland. A great meeting was held in Roscrea, when the men paraded in green ribbons, determined on a similar demonstration at Shinrone, at that time one of the few Protestant towns in the Midlands. When the inhabitants heard that thousands would march on their town from Galway, Tipperary, Kilkenny, and Queen’s County, they fortified themselves. The doorways and lower windows were barricaded. Sashes were removed from the upper windows, converting them into embrasures for musketry; and on the other hand the “Green Boys” swore, that march through the town they would, let the hazard be what it might.

However, on the 27th September, the day previous to the meeting, the late Lord Rosse, of Telescope-making fame, then Lord Oxmantown, received a despatch from the Duke of Wellington, at that time First Lord of the Treasury, and the Marquis of Anglesea, Lord Lieutenant, directing him to take to Shinrone a competent force to preserve the peace. When the preparations for the drafting in of two regiments besides police and some cavalry, by Oxmantown, became known, and news of this description circulated, the contemplated procession was dropped, only a small body persisting, but on getting close, they were prevailed upon to return. Thus ended a raid, which for the time, created discussion and excitement.

Clara – Goodbody Jute Works

Source: King’s County Chronicle 27th April, 1883

About five miles northwest of Tullamore, on the Athlone branch of the Great Southern and Western Railway, lies the prosperous and progressive town of Clara, with a population of one thousand souls, and a quarter of a mile outside Clara are the factory and village of Clashawan, the property of the celebrated jute spinning and weaving firm of Messrs. J. & L.F. Goodbody. The village consists of about one hundred and twenty cottages, built in small regular streets or blocks at either end of the factory.

These dwellings are almost all of uniform size and plan, neat, tidy and commodious, sufficiently large and in all respects quite suitable for the families of the mill operatives by whom they are occupied. Built by the proprietors of the jute works for the accommodation of their employees, the houses are their exclusive property, and are let by them, to the factory hands, at a moderate rent which is deducted every pay day from the wages.

The sanitary arrangements of the village appear to be of the most perfect kind, each row of cottages being provided with closets and well-drained yards of ample size. The number of houses having been lately found inadequate to the annually increasing demands of the factory, sixteen new residences are now in course of construction, twelve of which will be in concrete. It is also in contemplation to extend the houses along the road the entire distance from Clashawan to Clara, and thus connect the two places.

Though similar, the village of Clashawan is in many respects similar to the manufacturing of Bessbrook, near Newry, erected beside their flax spinning mills, also for the accommodation of their employees, by the Bessbrook Spinning Company. Bessbrook has long been known as a model town of which its proprietors may be justly proud, but, thanks to the laudable solicitude and watchfulness of the Messrs. Goodbody, we can safely state that in point of morality (one of the chief grounds on which Bessbrook’s claim to distinction is founded), Clashawan is in no way inferior, for the Messrs. Goodbody employ no-one whose character is not strictly unapproachable, and the slightest impropriety on the part of any operative is punished with the instant expulsion of the offender from the factory.

Such busy hives of industry are unfortunately so rare in the midland and southern counties of Ireland that a traveller visiting Clashawan for the first time would be led to imagine himself on the banks of the Bonn rather in the valley of the Brosna, and this train of thought suggests the query, ‘Why are such manufactories so scarce in this part of Ireland as compared with the northern province?’ The answer, we regret to say, will have to be sought for not so directly in want of capital as in our want of enterprise in this portion of the country. An unpalatable fact this may be, but that it is a solid truth will hardly be denied by any candid, fair-minded man. And is it not wiser to look stubborn realities fairly in the face, and by reflecting on them soberly and honestly, to rectify the errors of the past, to substitute energy and determination for weakness and vacillation, rather than childishly continue deceiving ourselves with the pleasing delusion that the absence of manufacturing industry is due to other causes than the want of that vigorous self-reliance from which all successful enterprise proceeds. In the Clashawan jute factory and the extensive flour mills of the Messrs. Goodbody we have an excellent illustration of our meaning. In this part of Ireland it is but too common to hear men complain that we can do nothing towards promoting local manufactures and providing employment for our labouring population without government aid, thereby implying that we are deficient in that very quality of self-reliance to which the prosperity of Ulster may be traced. Now, let us examine into what the Messrs. Goodbody have done without government aid. Twenty years ago the ground on which the jute factory now stands was a desolate, unproductive swamp, in which the snipe alone found a refuge. In 1804 the Messrs.

Goodbody built these magnificent works. In 1873 they were enabled to enlarge and improve them, today the jute factory alone employs 600 hands, earning £14,000 a year in wages, and we may fairly assume it leaves a handsome margin of profit to the proprietors. We believe we are correct in stating that fifty years ago this family owned only a small flour mill at Clara, and today they are the proprietors of three immense establishments for the manufacture of flour, in which 24 pairs of stones are regularly working, and a meal mill at Coola, containing five pairs of stones-all four, with their surroundings and accompaniments, affording steady employment to 100 other persons, who draw close on £4,000 per year more in wages and salaries. And yet the Messrs. Goodbody never received or sought assistance from Government or any other source. Depending on their own brains and energy, self-reliance, that noble characteristic of sterling manhood, is the grand secret of their success and to it may be attributed the prosperity of the large district now enriched by their manufactories.

We shall consider our object fully attained if, in the course of these articles, we can establish the fact that what is wanted, in order to develop the resource of the country, and provide sustaining employment for our now inoperative labour, is, not external assistance, so much as trustful reliance on our own unaided abilities. A dozen such families as the Messrs. Goodbody in every county in Ireland would soon afford a practical proof of the soundness of our argument.

We will now ask the reader to accompany us through the jute works at Clashawan, merely remarking at the outset, by way of explanation, that jute is an Oriental product; that it is a coarse fibre somewhat like hemp; that in India it grew to a height of from ten to fourteen feet; and that it is merely steeped and scutched, like flax, before being exported from its native country to Europe. We may also observe that Dundee is the great centre of the jute trade in these countries, and that there are only three or four of these factories in all Ireland.

This occurs to us to be the proper place also to mention that the factory buildings stand on both sides of the village street. On the left hand side as you enter from Clara, are the spinning, and on the opposite side the weaving works. The machinery on the spinning side is worked by a five-hundred horse power steam engine, with a driving wheel 22 feet in diameter, and that in the weaving department by a two-hundred horse power engine, and when necessary a water wheel. There are four eighty-horse boilers working at a pressure of 120lbs to the square inch. On each side there are two sets of engines, so that should an injury occur to one the other can be set to work immediately, thereby providing against any serious interruption of operations. The factory has also a very useful adjunct in the shape of a mechanics’ shop, in which about 20 men are constantly employed, hence injured machinery can be repaired with the utmost possible despatch.

This, we understand, was the first factory in Ireland in which driving ropes, such as are now in use here, were substituted for gear wheels, on account of the facility with which they can be applied in case of accident, as compared with the more tedious and expensive operation of repairing cogs.

Clashawan being only about one hundred yards distant from Clara railway station, a private aiding is run from the latter for the accommodation of Messrs. Goodbody’s traffic. Contiguous to the siding stands a coal store, capable of containing 600 tons. When the jute reaches the aiding in the railway wagons, the bales are run down on a gangway of rollers to the stores, which are sufficiently ample to hold 10,000 bales of 400lbs each. Another very large concrete store for raw material is now rapidly approaching completion. When taken out of the store the bales are first opened, and the loose material is
conveyed on trucks to a machine called the ‘softener’, in which it is teased or softened, and saturated with oil and water as it passes through. The fibre next goes to the carding and drawing machinery, after which operation it is spun into ‘rove’ – a thick cord like thread. It is next transferred to the spinning frames, where it worked into a much thinner thread, called yarn. Thence it passes to the winding frames, on which the yarn is wound into bobbins. This is the entire process of spinning, but simple as it may seem from the brief description we give, it is by no means a light or insignificant operation; and in order to have a thorough appreciation of it one would require to examine the delicate and complicated machinery through which the fibre passes in every stage, and observe the skill, rapidity, and precision with which the spinners (chiefly young women) regulate the action of the machinery, and perform all those mysterious movements that so bewilder the uninitiated beholder.

A large quantity of the unwoven yarn is sold to weavers and rope makers in all parts of the United Kingdom, but by far the greater portion is woven here; and therefore we will next direct our attention to the weaving department on the other side of the street.

Across the road, on a tramway, the bobbins are conveyed in trucks to the weaving rooms. The first process the thread undergoes here is called ‘starching’, the yarn being taken off the bobbins, passed through starch, and then wound again in great quantities, on large metal beams. This latter operation is known as ‘beaming’ after which the thread is ready for the loom. Of course, as there are various qualities of jute-some coarse others fine-so are there several qualities of thread and consequently many descriptions of cloth woven-some fine, white, and close in fabric, others coarse, brown, and looser in texture. It is deeply interesting to watch the looms weaving the different qualities of cloth-bessiana and sackings – and observe how nicely the most intricate movements are simultaneously performed in opposite directions by the ingeniously devised machinery, the operator having little more to do than stand and watch the working of the loom, as it feeds itself with the thread of the loom, weaving with unerring accuracy and more than the precision of an intelligent being, until finally it turns out the completely woven web of beautiful fabrication. There are various kinds of looms in the factory, but two new looms of American invention struck us as being the most ingenious, yet simple and admirable of all. When woven, the cloth is passed through the cylinders, in which it is pressed and finished, ready for use. A large quantity of it is now made up in bales for sale, but a great proportion of the cloth is given out to be sowed into bags of different sizes and qualities, thus furnishing a good deal of employment for bumble housekeepers in Tullamore, Mullingar, Moate, Kilbeggan and other places. A large number of sacks are also made for the firm by the prisoners in the county gaols at Tullamore and Mullingar. Why are not the inmates of poorhouses, who are unfit for other employment, engaged at making these sacks?

The revenue derivable by Boards of Guardians from this source might be small, but it would help to reduce the poor-rates. Large quantities of sacks are also made at the works, and the purchaser can have his name or the title of the firm or establishment for which they are intended, printed on them here, the factory being provided with metal types for the purpose and a steam printing press, worked on the same principle, and in every respect pretty similar to the machines in regular printing office. The cloth and sacks are pressed into hard, compact bales in a hydraulic machine, and, by means of a hydraulic lever, which a child can work, the largest and heaviest bales are lifted out of the press and carried to the truck at the door for transmission to another building at the railway, capable of containing 400 tons and used for the storage of the manufactured goods ready for delivery to purchasers.

An idea may be gained of the amount of work performed at this factory when we state that 2,000 tons of jute are manufactured here annually. The Messrs. Goodbody have also a rope walk about 60 yards long, at the factory, where ropes of every size are made to order.

The buildings are provided with a steam pump for the protection of the premises against fire, while through all the yards fire valves are disposed at suitable points, supplied from an elevated tank, capable of holding 4,000 gallons of water and as water seeks its own level, the pressure is such that when in case of fire, hydrants, with hose attached, are inserted into these valves, the water is forced to the tops of the highest buildings in the group.

Having now concluded our sketch of the jute spinning and weaving factory we will take leave to direct the attention of the reader to Messrs. Goodbody.


The three large flour mills at Clara stand on the banks of the Brosna, and all are worked by water power, while one is furnished as well with steam machinery, which can be used in case of a failure of the water power from any cause.

One water wheel alone is capable of grinding 900 barrels of wheat per week. From 20 to 24 pairs of stones are constantly working in these mills, and the system of grinding in operation combines the principles of stones and rollers. In addition to large quantities of Irish wheat produced in this and the neighbouring counties, the Messrs. Goodbody use a great deal of Australian and Californian wheat, which they purchase in Liverpool and Dublin. They have storage accommodation at the mills for no less than 35,000 barrels. We believe there is no part of Ireland to which the flour produced here does not find its way, and it is no flattery to state that it bears a high character everywhere.

At Coola, about four miles from Clara, the Messrs. Goodbody have a fourth mill for grinding oaten and Indian meal. Five pairs of stones are constantly working here.

As above stated, the flour mills, with their surroundings, employ about 100 persons who draw close on £4,000 a year in wages.

On inspecting the mill premises we picked up a piece of information, which may be of use to merchants, farmers and others who keep a number of horses and cattle. The Messrs. Goodbody have here a large hay shed, with galvanised zinc roof, supported on a wall at rear and pillars on front. It is 100 feet long by 30 feet wide and capable of holding 150 tons. We were assured that this shed which may last for ages, was erected for a sum that would be absorbed in thatching in very few years and that the Messrs. Goodbody have effected a very considerable saving in hay since they adopted the shaffing system in regard to the fodder for horses and cattle.

Here too, are gas works, also the property of the Messrs. Goodbody, in which, about 250 tons of coal are consumed per annum and which not only light the flour mills and the Clashawan factory but also supply the householders and shopkeepers of Clara at a moderate price.

In the vicinity of the mills, and also on the picturesque banks of the Brosna, stand some of the private residences of different branches of the Goodbody family surrounded by rich gardens and charming pleasure grounds, the mansions themselves models of chaste and beautiful architecture in every feature bearing flattering testimony to the refined tastes of the occupiers. Here, indeed art, nature, and enterprise combine to produce a scene at once lovely and animated, and as the visitor lounges on rustic bench, beside those beautiful gravelled walks, running beneath rows of stately trees, whose overhanging branches stretch across the noble river and feasts big eyes on the fascinating landscape before him, the splash of the mill wheel and the hum of industry remind him that there is no room for idleness or poverty-the fruitful source of social disorder and political discontent-and reflecting on all that well directed enterprise has done for the people of this locality, h

e is forced to admit that the Messrs. Goodbody deserve well of their country.

Banagher – The Midland Boroughs in the 1830's

King’s County was in a position to send six members to parliament prior to the Act of Union in 1800 – two for the county, two for the borough of Banagher and two for the borough of Philipstown. Similarly the boroughs of Kilbeggan, Maryborough (Portlaoise) and Portarlington all sent members to parliament until the union. The Portarlington borough retained its right to send one member to parliament until 1832.

A government commission appointed to enquire into municipal reform in Ireland, investigated the situation in 1833 and reported in 1835. Its findings confirmed that the sixty odd corporations were self perpetuating oligarchies paying little or no attention to the welfare of inhabitants and devoting their energies to protecting the position of the protestant ascendancy. Virginia Crossman in her study of Local government in nineteenth century Ireland notes that the commissioners identified four main defects in the system of municipal government.

  1. the power of self election
  2. the absolute control vested in them respecting admissions to the corporate franchise.
  3. the tendency to dispense with any residential qualification for members and officers.
  4. the exclusion of the inhabitants of the borough from any effective voice in the management of local affairs and the expenditure of local funds.

The report of 1835 recommended a complete reform of municipal government. All political parties agreed but the Tories produced an ‘alternative’ reform measure of simply abolishing the Irish corporations. The House of Lords voted down successive versions of the Bill until in 1840 an Irish Municipal Reform Act was passed. Only ten Irish corporations survived with much reduced powers. None survived in the midlands. Oliver MacDonagh summarised the situation in A new history of Ireland v, p.217 when he wrote;

‘This struggle and the result showed several interesting features of contemporary Anglo-Irish politics. It showed more clearly even than the tithe issue the limitations of the whig alliance. After 1835 the case pressed was the strongest possible, and one on which liberals, radicals, and Irish were at one. Yet so long as the house of lords itself was not assailed, and so long as O’Connell would go on backing ministry concessions lest the ministry collapse, the reformers had to accept in the end comparatively small concessions. Next, it demonstrated that Irish protestants, faced with admitting catholics to power, with their own share probably diminishing in time, and with factional struggles likely to develop in the representative institutions, acquiesced in centralisation and the loss of self-government. On the other hand, the episode also showed that O’Connellism could not be altogether held back. The gains here were very disappointing, but in terms of O’Connell’s objects gains there were. Most of the surviving corporations were nationalist, and much of the corportations’ activity was political even in a narrow party sense. But the negative gains seemed almost, or perhaps quite, as important: an ‘Orange’ monopoly had been broken, and even if much of the old ‘Orange’ power went not to catholics but to central government, it none the less diminished the redoubts of the ascendancy. Perhaps after all, it was sharing rather than power that was being sought throughout the decade.’

Borough of Banagher.


1. The local Limits of the Borough of Banagher extended, on the north-east, to the castle of Streamstown; on the south, to the mearing of the Glebe and Garrycastle; on the south-west, to the bridge of Lusmagh; on the west and north-west, to the Shannon and the Bresna rivers. On the north-east, the limit is distant about a mile from the town, the other limits, except the Shannon, are about half a mile; the river is not so far; except by the rivers, the boundaries are but imperfectly defined.


2. This town was incorporated by a Charter of King Charles I., bearing the 16th day of September, in the fourth year of his reign, by which it was ordained that 101 acres of arable land and pasture, and 10 acres of bog and moor, in the town and lands of Bannacher-Srahnabrone, Locharrow, and Bealanaleek, next adjoining the river Shannon, and 99 acres of arable and pasture land, 10 acres of wood and moor of the land of Lomcloane, next adjoining to Clongawnagh; and 50 acres of wood and moor of Clongawnagh and Camcourt, should be a free borough. And the same charter granted one-thirteenth of all the aforesaid lands there expressed to contain 200 acres of arable land and pasture, and 70 acres of wood and moor, together with the liberty of fishing in the river Shannon, to Sir Arthur Blundell, his heirs and assigns, for ever, to be holden in free burgage at a rent of 3s. 1d.; and one thirteenth of the said lands and tenements to Sir Matthew Derenzie, his heirs and assigns, for ever, at a like rent; and granted one other one-thirteenth to each of the other 12 burgesses in said charter named, at a like rent. It further granted to the sovereign, burgesses, and free commons of Banagher, and to their successors for ever, certain lands mentioned to contain 222 acres of arable and pasture land; and 7 acres of wood and moor, for the maintenance of such preaching minister as should be appointed by the sovereign and burgesses, or a majority of them, and their successors, to reside in the said town, and for so long as such preaching minister should reside and discharge the cure there, and no longer, and in his absence, for such person as should celebrate divine service in Banagher. And it granted 43 acres of arable and pasture, and 25 acres of wood and moor, in the lands of Boulmarge, next to the lands of Egliss and Ballycolcan, and 80 acres of arable and pasture of Ballyneturry, adjoining Derry, and 77 acres of arable and pasture, and 60 acres of wood and moor, in the lands of Derry, containing together 200 acres of arable and pasture, and 85 acres of wood and moor, to the use of such schoolmaster as the chief governor of Ireland for the time being should appoint, to reside and teach in the said town; and in default of such appointment, to the maintenance of a free school and such master as the major part of the burgesses should appoint, until another should be appointed by the chief governor for the time being. It contained a grant of a court, to the limit of £20 sterling. It constituted the sovereign, or deputy-sovereign, a justice of the peace within the limits of the corporation, and coroner and clerk of the market, and empowered the corporation at large to return two Members to the Irish Parliament.


3. The corporation is entitled in this charter, “The Sovereign, Burgesses and Free Commons of the Borough and town of Bannacher alias Bannagher.”


4. In 1800, this Corporation was deprived of its right to return Members to Parliament,

Extinct. and £15,000 compensation money was paid to the patron, the Right Honourable William Brabazon Ponsonby; since that year the corporate offices have not been filled. Prior to 1800, the corporation consisted of one sovereign, 12 burgesses and freemen; all were named by the patron, and the form of election only was observed.

Books and Proceedings.

5. The Books belonging to this corporation are not forthcoming; and I was unable to obtain any testimony as to its several officers, further than that they generally non-resident, and seldom performed any functions save that of electing the nominees of the patron to corporate offices and to Parliament.

There was no inchoate right to freedom, and its seldom occurred that any inhabitant was made free.


6. Formerly the sovereign held, under the charter, a Court for the recovery of debts to the amount of £20 Irish; but this court has been discontinued for nearly 40 years, and I was unable to obtain any evidence as to its course of proceeding. The only court now held in the district is the Petty Sessions Court, which sits every second Monday. Th

e Quarter Sessions for the district in which Banagher is situate, are held four times a year, at Birr, a distance of about six miles. It may be observed here, that the assistant barrister holds sessions only in two towns in the King’s County, namely, Birr and Philipstown. There are several large towns in the county, such as Banagher, which would be benefited by sessions being held in them.


7. There is not, and never has been any corporate Police. The county constabulary act within the district; there are seven stationed in the town.


8. There is no Gaol within the district. The county gaol is at Tullamore, a distance of 18 miles from Banagher. Prisoners are often sent to Birr, where there is a bridewell. There is a place of temporary confinement in the police barracks, where persons are detained until fully committed.

This week I am continuing with the review of midland municipal corporations or boroughs and looking in this series at Banagher, Philipstown, Kilbeggan, Portlaoise (Maryborough) and Portarlington. The report was compiled in 1833 and published in 1835. All the above boroughs and some 45 more were abolished in 1840. Municipal local government based on the 1828 and 1854 acts was introduced in Birr and Tullamore in 1854 and 1860 respectively. Daingean (Philipstown), Kilbeggan and Portarlington did not again see local town government while Portlaoise has had the more limited town commissioners form up to the present time. Set out below is a continuation of the report on Banagher.


9. The charter gave to the corporation 200 acres of pasture, and 85 acres of wood and moor, to the use of the schoolmaster, “to reside and teach” in the town; and a School was accordingly established. An Act of Parliament 53 Geo. III c. 107, after reciting the patent of the 4 Charles I., so far as relates to the grant for the use of the schoolmaster, vested the lands in the Commissioners of Education in Ireland, and placed the schools under their control. This Act was amended by the 3 Geo. IV. c. 79. and II Geo. IV. and I Will. IV. c. 56, but not so as to affect the government of the school; and the establishment in Banagher is now under the control of the board appointed by the 53 Geo. III c. 107. The Lands granted by charter for this purpose are still in the possession of the board, and contain about 369A. 3R. 17P., according to a survey made in the year 1817, of which about 233 acres are arable and pasture. This land was formerly let at a rent of upwards of £300 a year; it is now all held by Doctor Alan Bell, the schoolmaster, at a rent of £148 17s. 10d., which seems to be much below its value. The school is held within less than a quarter of a mile of the town, and within the limits of the borough. Doctor Bell is the schoolmaster, appointed by patent; he stated that the rent of the lands has been, for some time past, principally laid out on repairs of the house. There are no free scholars on the establishment, and Doctor Bell insists that he is not obliged to receive any. He charges as he thinks fit, and the establishment is in no respect different from an ordinary classical school, except that it is under the control of the board.

From the year 1798 to 1807 the school was not open, and it was stated by Dr. Bell, that the rents of the lands were, during that period, received by the gentleman who held the appointment of schoolmaster.

The other schools in the district are, a parochial school, under the Act of the 28 Hen. VIII. c. 15, supported by 40s., late currency, from the incumbent, and an allowance from the Society for Discountenancing Vice; and a national school, supported by a grant from the new Education Board, and voluntary contributions: the last is very numerously attended.

The only other charitable foundation within the district is a dispensary, supported by voluntary subscriptions and county presentment, in the usual way.


10. There are not any corporation lands. It was stated that there were formerly 20 acres of commonage on the north-east side of the town, and 30 acres on the south side, but that they are all enclosed; the 30 acres, about 55 years ago by a tenant of Mr. Frazer, the 20 acres by degrees since.

Lands. The rector of the parish holds the Land granted by the charter for the preaching Minister. The present rector is the Rev. Mr. Burdett, who is resident. He was presented to the living by Doctor Maxwell, the former bishop of Meath, in 1798. It was stated that the lands granted to the corporation for a preaching minister were formerly held by a clergyman, who officiated in a church now fallen into decay in the town, and who was always appointed by the corporation; but that an arrangement was entered into between the bishop of the day and the corporation, that there should be but one clergyman in the parish, to take the lands and the tithe, and that the bishop and the corporation should alternately appoint: this statement was denied by the Rev. Mr. Burdett, who asserted that the bishop is entitled, and has often exercised the right appointing to the rectory, and that the lands have long gone with the rectory.

Fairs and Markets.

11. The following are the grants of Fairs and Markets to be held at Banagher, which appear on record:

Date of Grant.
Enrolment of. Grantees.
Fairs, Markets, &c.

28th November 1612, 10 Jac. I. p. 3, m. 2, d. Sir John McCoghlan, Market, Thursday, at rent of 13s. 4d. Knt. Fair, 8th September, and one day after, with the customs of both fair and market.

16th September 1628. 4 Car. I. p. 2, m. 41. Corporation Market, Monday. Fairs, 1st May and 28th October, and day after each.

It is observable that the market has been held on Friday, and not on either of the days above mentioned; nor do the fairs, as held, except one, correspond with the patent days. There are now held three fairs in the year: the first on the 1st of May, the second on the 15th of September, and the third on the 28th of November.

Tolls and Customs.

12. Tolls and Customs are collected at both fairs and markets; the Honourable Frederick
Ponsonby claims to be entitled to them under a patent which was not produced. They are at present let at a rent of £40 a-year, under the Court of Chancery.


13. The population of the town amounted, according to the census of 1831, to 2636.
Their occupations were,
Families chiefly employed in agriculture ………… 162
Ditto in trade, manufactures, &c. …………………… 210
Ditto not comprised in the two preceding classes … 119
Labourers employed in agriculture …………………232
Persons employed in retail trade, or in handicraft, as masters or workmen ………………… 312
Capitalists, &c. ……………………… 49
The number of houses were,
Inhabited ……………………………………459
Uninhabited …………………………………23
Building ………………………………………21

General Remarks

14. Banagher is situate on the river Shannon, and has the advantage of a steam Navigation to Limerick and the sea, and also of a water-communication with Athlone, Ballinasloe, and Dublin, which affords it great advantages for trade, and it appears to be an improving town, and possessed of capacity for still further improvement. It has a very considerable corn-market. There was a general expression, on the part of the inhabitants, of a wish that a corporation should be established here, for the purposes of local government; and they think that moderate imposts, in the way of tolls and customs, would supply ample funds for the support of a corporation, and for the general improvement of the town.

Churches and Houses of Architectural Interest in Offaly

William Garner Report


BALLINA (One and a half miles south of Ballycumber)

It is a three-bay single-celled Catholic church of circa 1840, with rendered walls and narrow pointed windows with Y-mullions. The four-centered doorcase has a drip label and over it is a large wide window. The building is very plain. The interior has a west gallery and there is a decorative centre to the coved ceiling. (B&D)


Ballinagar Catholic church dates from circa 1830 and is a large single cell of four bays with lined and rendered walls and raised coigns. The pointed windows have chamfered limestone dressings and y-mullions. The three stage west tower has raised coigns, string courses and clasping corner pilasters on the top stage, crenellations and pinnacles. There are three pointed door-cases at the west, end which are set in rectangular frames, and all have drip labels. Also at the west end, are holy water stoups with putti on them. The interior is simple; at the west end is a gallery and at the east end is a gothic screen which acts as a reredos. (A&D)

To the east is a building which appears to have been an old school and has two fine doric pilasters on the gable end facing the road, and a simple doorcase which are possibly of late eighteenth century workmanship. (B)


Catholic church, three miles north of Roscrea. This is a very small T-plan, barn-style church with eaves. (B)

BARNA (Two miles north-west of Dunkerrin)

This is a transitional church of circa 1840 to 1850 with nave and chancel, diagonal buttresses to the walls, in and out dressings to the windows, cut stone frontispiece with a bellcote. There is an open timber roof and beside the church is a school-house. (B)


Sometimes called High Street, which is west of Ferbane. This is a single-cell Catholic church dating from the early nineteenth century. It is very prettily situated at the corner of the road and it still retains its roof. It has pointed windows with original switch-track glazing, and seems to be in some sort of parochial use. (B)


Boher Church, Ballycumber, is a T-plan, transitional church, possibly a re-building of an early nineteenth century church, because it still retains some switch-track glazing over the doorcase which is obviously about 1800. The walls are lined and rendered. The windows have heavy tracery and it has a high, pitched roof, and small tower. The church is really better known for the Shrine of St. Manchan. (A)

BOHERA PHUCA (Five miles north-north-east of Roscrea)

This is a plain T-plan, barn-style church which is of local interest. (B)


St. Brochan’s church. This is a single-cell church with a facade of rough cut ashlar. It has a rather unusual arrangement of doors and windows having twin doorcases, which are pointed and have block and start dressing. The windows are immediately over the doorcases, and there is a blank oculi in the gable, with “St. Brochan’s Church, Brachna’ in it. The re-roofing of this church may have meant that it could have had pinnacles which would have been cut off and consequently the profile of the church looks rather strange. The interior has a barrel-vaulted east end, and in front of that tracery which comes down to form a pointed arch. (A&D)


Is a single-cell church with a west bellcote and a lined and rendered frontispiece. It has three bays with square headed windows and two romanesque stones inserted, one a head the other with interlace. The roof inside has Queen-post trusses. The church has been re-roofed and restored since the initial An Foras Forbartha list of 1973 was taken.


The Fransciscan Monastery, is a very important example, as the building has not been added to and remains exactly as the architect first conceived it. It is a (3-plan building with a five-bay two-storey centre and gabled wings which are advanced forward and have tall windows with quatrefoils over them. The building is of rough-cut ashlar with drip labels over the ground floor windows. The whole affect is slightly Puginesque though a provincial version of Pugin’s work and dates from about 1840. The interior was not inspected. (A)


This church dates from after 1898 (not marked for l” Ordnance Survey map), it is a gothic, single cell, built of rusticated limestone with a large plate-tracery west window, bellcote, buttresses beside the west end of the nave and a pointed doorcase. (A)


Catholic church north of Portarlington. This is a small early nineteenth century T-plan barn church, with rendered walls and round-headed windows and a west bell cote. A porch has recently been added and the interior is plains (B)

COOLDERRY (Four miles north-north-west of Roscrea)

It is a very pretty T-plan barn-style church dating from the very early nineteenth century. (A)


Durrow Catholic church, dated 1831. This is a very elegant gothic barn church being a single cell of four bays with a west tower of three stages. The walls are rendered, have raised coigns, pointed windows, drip labels, y-mullions and small panes of glass. At the corner of the roof are pinnacles with crockets exceptionally well detailed. The top two stages of the tower are of dressed limestone and the tower is topped with crenellations. The interior has perpendicular ribbed moulding, and at east end there is gothic reredos. The gate piers into the church yard are octagonal and appear to be contemporary. This is an exceptionally fine example of an early nineteenth century barn church, probably the finest in the county. (A&D)

EGLISH (Five-Alley)

This is a small T-plan Catholic church with rendered walls, raised coigns and a high-pitched roof, pointed windows. It dates from about 1850. It is transitional in style and was modernised in 1906. (B)


This church is dated 1783 and is an exceptional survival. It is a T-plan church, with rendered walls, round-headed windows, and at the west end, a two-stage tower which has raised coigns. The gable-ends of the nave have coping stones and the tower has crenellations. The church is decorated with exceptionally fine carvings and has a pedimented doorcase with chamfered jambs at the west end. The interior is plain, having recently been changed. (A)


Kilcolman is a T-plan barn church of three bays with very delicate painted lime rendering on the walls, pointed windows with original glazing bars and glass. It also has original slates on the roof and a pointed doorcase. The interior appears to have been altered in the late nineteenth century. The bellcote is not original indicating that the church is prior to 1830. This is a fine example of the type of building that is becoming very rare indeed. (A)

LONGFORD (This is south of Kinnity)

A T-plan barn church with rendered walls and pointed windows which has been modernised in recent years. (B)


The church is an extremely fine mid-nineteenth century building. (A&D)


This is a large single-cell barn church with a date-stone of 1837, and block and start dressings on the windows over the doors. The church has been modernised in recent years. (B)

POLLAGH (Four miles east of Ferbane)

This is a remarkable church of two converging naves “built by the faithful of locality in 1907”. (Not seen 1984)


Beside the convent which is a small, three bay, two-storeyed house, is a T-plan church which appears to have been completely re-built. However, the tower dates from the early nineteenth century and is of coursed rubble and has two stages. (B)


This is a large single cell church of circa 1900 with lined and rendered walls, a high pitched roof, granite dressings at the windows,
triple window at the west end over the porch and pointed doorcase. It has four granite piers at the gates. The interior has an open timbered roof with crossed raised beams. (B)


Rhode Catholic church is a pretty little T-plan, barn-style church dated 1816, with white tracery in the windows and raised coigns and rough-cast walls. The church is separated from the road by a very nice nineteenth-century railings.


This is a T-plan early nineteenth-century church which was altered in the late nineteenth century. It has stone tracery in pointed windows, lined and rendered walls. (A)


It is a three bay, single-cell Catholic church, dated 1841. The walls are lined and rendered. It has round-headed windows and the original roof slates, with eaves and brackets. The facade has a four-centred-doorcase with three niches over it and all set in a panel. It also has the original door. The interior has a classical fronted gallery and a curious semi-circular sanctuary. (B&D)

Church of Ireland Churches

AGHANCON (Six miles north of Roscrea)

This is a barn-style single cell church with quaint finials and a bell-cote. It has an inscription to the Darby Family and the Board of First Fruits 1787. (A)


A transitional design between the First Fruits type and the archaeological gothic of the mid-nineteenth century. It is a four-bay, single cell with battered, rough-cast walls, lancet windows with limestone dressings and a five-light east window which relates to medieval east windows. The tower rises over the west end and has huge pinnacles. The church is in a curious site being right beside the road. This is an impressive and curiously scholastic building. (A)

BLACKLION (Lugamarlow / Killoughey parish)

Is a First Fruits type with tower, diagonal buttresses and spire at the west end. The nave is of three bays, and has lined, rendered walls and pointed windows with y-mullions. The tower is of two stages and has crenellations and pinnacles though the spire is badly designed. Facing the road is a wall with gates. The church is no longer in use, but is a very fine site. (A)


This is a four-bay single cell church with narrow windows built from coursed rubble stone, and dating from the early nineteenth century. The church itself is plain, but the position within an island monastic site in the middle of a field makes it very attractive. (A)


This is a very plain single cell church of two bays; a tiny building with rendered walls limestone dressings and pointed windows with y-mullions. There is a late nineteenth century bellcote at the west end though it is said to date from the late seventeenth century. The church is still in use. (B)

CLONEYHURKE (Garryhinch)

This church is evidently by John Semple and is a five-bay single cell built of coursed rubble, with clasping buttresses and pinnacles on the buttresses at the east and west end. There is a large chamfered doorcase in the manner of John Semple with a hugh plain chamfer. The west tower rises out of the nave, and has tall pointed opes and tall pinnacles and crennellations. The gate piers are similar to those to be found at Cloneygowan church. (A)


This is dated 1844, and is a single cell of four bays with lined and rendered walls and narrow windows, porch and bellcote. It is now in use as a factory. (B)

CRUHISKHAN (Half a mile north west of Clononey)

This is a roofless church with transepts and has a rectangular sanctuary and short west tower. The roof has been removed since the 1973 An Foras Forbartha report. (B)


This is a very important late seventeenth or early eighteenth century church in the demesne of Durrow Abbey and has a fine west doorcase, with architraves and a scroll keystone. The church was still roofed when visited in 1973. (A&D)

The present Durrow Church of Ireland Church, is built of rusticated limestone and is a small late nineteenth century single cell of four bays with a porch. It has three-light windows, west bellcote with a conical roof. It is by J.F. Fuller. (A)


It is a four-bay, single cell church of coursed rubble, dating from 1840. The church itself is of minor interest architecturally, but what is of importance is the surrounding graveyard and of course the relationship with Eglish castle.

ETTAGH (Five miles south-east of Birr)

This is a small single-cell church of two bays with rendered walls and a short tower with pinnacles. The short sanctuary is later and there are good monuments in the graveyard. Lewis says the church dates from 1831. This attractive church has been abandoned and the interior stripped though it is still roofed. (B)


This is a late First Fruits church perhaps of 1840, well kept but architecturally somewhat dull.
Behind the church and of much greater interest is the large mausoleum of the Atkinson family which has buttressed stone walls and stone roof. (A)

LISS (West of Ballycumber)

It is a tiny three bay, single cell church, with a west tower, built of coursed rubble limestone with narrow pointed windows. The west tower has three stages, pinnacles and crennelations and is very nicely placed opposite a small, gable-ended, four bay school. (A)

Beside the church are three mausolea one of which is dated 1768, and may once have been roofed, but now consists of a wall which was built of coursed rubble limestone, raised coigns and an arched doorcase and keystone. There is a large box mausoleum behind that and near the road a later mausoleum, circa 1900, with a crenellated front and rear, and stone gables. (A)

LYNALLY (Charleville)

This church of 1886 is by J.F. Fuller and is a memorial church to one of the Burys of Charleville. It is a single cell, built in the hiberno-romanesque manner and has rusticated stone walls and red-pantiled roof. The ornament is hiberno-romanesque with dog-tooth door case, round-headed windows and a three light west window. (A&D)


The tiny single-cell church is on an island site and incorporates hiberno-romanesque work of great architectural interest. Consequently the church, dated 1732 contains a hiberno-romanesque chancel arch and oculus at the east end. The simple round-headed doorcase dates from the eighteenth century and the east window appears to be a late nineteenth century copy of the doorcase of the church sited to the east of the present Church of Ireland church. (List A & B)


This is a tiny single cell church, with one pointed window, and rendered walls. It is now in agricultural use.


AGHANCON (Six miles north of Roscrea)

It is a large five bay, two-storey building with a narrow central gabled projection. (B)


The house is now an ivy-clad ruin. It dates from the late eighteenth century and has a five-bay, two-storey facade over a basement. It still retains a very fine pedimented doric doorcase. Behind the house are stable buildings and garden walls.

ANNAGHMORE (South of Tullamore)

This house of circa 1835 is probably of two dates. The rere appears to be an earlier house, but the present front is three bays and two-storeys, with full-height bow ends. Painted lime rendering, a base mould string course over the ground floor, and wide transom and mullion windows. The ground floor windows have bracketed cornices over them. The roof is largely hidden by a cornice and parapet and between each bay are strip pilasters. Over the centre is a pediment and in front a porch with a plain doorcase. All of this painted a dazzling white. Behind, is a large yard dating from the early nineteenth century, which is entered through an ashlar frontispiece, over which is a fine geometric bellcote of ashlar limestone. The interior is said to conta

in interesting pilaster work and an interesting staircase. (A&D)


This is a three-bay, single storey house over a basement with painted lined rendering and a hipped roof. it has original fenestration and a wide elliptical headed limestone doorcase and side lights, very similar to Barnaboy. It is in good condition. (A)


This is a five bay, two-storey, gable-ended house, which is ivy coloured, has Georgian glazing bars in the windows and enclosed porch. (B)


Opposite Annaville House, which is west of the Brosna river, near Gloster, is a three-bay, single-storey house with rendered walls, and a hipped roof. The doorcase is inset in a scooped out (or Morrison) porch. (B)

ARD (At Geashill station)

This is a fine big two-storey gable-ended house Рmore of a farmhouse than a country house and dates from the late eighteenth century. It has plain rendered walls with a shallow breakfront and strip pilasters at the ends of the fa̤ade. (B)


A small early-nineteenth century house with lime-rendered walls, a basement and a hipped roof. The three-bay, two-storey façade has a shallow breakfront and an enclosed porch. The limestone stacks are set parallel to the façade.


This is a fine big two-storey, gable-ended house, with painted and rendered walls and Georgian glazing bars, and a porch obscuring the doorcase. It appears to date from the mid-eighteenth century. (B)

BALLVER (Castle Iver) (Two miles south-west of Cloghan)

This is a house of five bays, with another five bays added of two-storeys, which makes a big square box with rendered walls and raised coigns and a glass porch. (B)


This is a five bay, two-storey house with rendered walls, basemould cornice, and hipped roof. The rhythm of the windows speeds up towards the centre so that there are three opes lighting the hall and the landing over the hall. It has a fine pedimented doric doorcase of circa 1780. This house is built in front of an earlier house which has early

BALLINLA (Edenderry)

Ballinla House is a plain, three-bay, two-storey early nineteenth-century house with rendered walls, hipped roof and inset doorcase. (It should not be listed)

BALLINTEMPLE (Near Toomevara)

This is a good example of a solid late eighteenth century house of five bays and three storeys with gable ends and deep stacks, rendered walls, a round-head, block and start doorcase with keystone. (B)


Behind the Church of Ireland church is a small three-bay, two storey house with an advanced bay in the centre, rough- cast walls, a round-headed doorcase and hipped roof. The house is possibly the same date as the church (see above under Church of Ireland churches). (B)

BALLYAVILL (South west of Geashill station)

It is a five bay, three storey, gable-ended farmhouse, with rendered painted walls. The rhythm of the windows slows towards the centre. The enclosed porch obscures the doorcase. The house dates from circa 1800. (B)


This is a five bay, three storey, gable-ended house, with rendered walls, and round-headed doorcase with a scroll keystone. The ground floor windows have lintels and keystones. There is a cornice and a later wing to the side. The house is axially set to the road where the gate piers have corncies. This is a very attractive example of a late eighteenth century farmhouse and is illustrated in Dr. Craig’s History of Irish Architecture. (A)


Is a four bay, two-storey, lined rendered house, with georgian glazing bars and a hipped roof. The doorcase is placed off centre. Behind the house are ruins of Ballybritt castle itself. The house verges on the vernacular, but the combination of the house, ruins, and farm buildings, makes it very attractive. (A)


It is a five bay, two-storey, with rendered walls, round headed doorcase and side lights, a venetian window over a pediment with an oculus and a hipped roof. It dates from circa 1770. (A)


This is a five bay, two-storey house over a basement, with the rhythm of the fenestration slowing to the centre. It has a round-headed tripartite doorcase. It appears to date from the mid-eighteenth century, but it was much altered in the late nineteenth century. The date stone at the back of the house says that Dermot Coughlan built the castle here in 1627.
The gates are curious having an early eighteenth century base moulds with late eighteenth century entablatures. (B)

BALLYDERMOT (North of Clonbulloge)

This is a five-bay two-storey house with gable-ends and a large return. It appears to be a late eighteenth century farmhouse. (B)


This is a very fine neo-Greek essay of circa 1820 with a three-bay, two-storey facade over a basement. It has rendered walls, limestone stip pilasters, a very fine, neo-Greek inset doorcase, with doric columns set in antis, and a shallow bow on the return wall. The roof is hipped of low pitch and has brackets under the eaves. At the rear is a wing with a proto-victorian half-hexagon bow. On the garden wall behind the house are two mid-eighteenth century Palladian doric doorcases. The house is an important example of early ninteenth century villa almost certainly by Bernard Mullins.
(A & D)
The entrance gates are in keeping with the house, and outside the gates is a small gothic lodge of about 1830, with three bays on the facade, gabled silhouette and high pitched roof with pierced barge boarding, and gothic frippery. (A.A.)


At Ballyforan, is a five-bay, two-storey gable-ended house; long in proportions with rendered walls, small windows and simple elliptical-headed doorcase which appears to date from the late-eighteenth century. (B)


West of Edenderry, is a very simple, three-bay, two-storey house with a hipped roof and inset round-headed doorcase dating from about 1840.

BALLRIHY (Three quarters of a mile north-west of Dunkerrin)

The house is in ruins with a farmhouse made out of the buildings and a walled garden. (B)


This is a three-bay, two-storey house, with rough-cast walls, and a hipped roof. The windows have georgian glazing bars and it has a good elliptical-headed, limestone doorcase, with radial fan light and side lights. (B)

BARNAGROTTY (South-west of Laughton)

The house is of little architectural merit. The lodge has bow ends in a hipped
roof, in essence an up-graded cabin.

BELLAIR Ballycumber

This is a three-bay, two-storey villa with a longer front to the right including a bow. The door is deeply recessed in a niche and has string courses and a hipped roof. It appears to be by Sir Richard Morrison. At the end of the stables Is a gothic screen wall similar to those at Whigsborough and Emmel Castle. (list A)
The walled garden also has a gothic tower. (list B)
To the east of the big house, on the south side of the road, is a small, gable-ended house with a facade of the three bays and two storeys, lime-rendered walls, limestone cornice and a round headed, midland-type doorcase from circa 1800. This is a very good example of a small georgian farmhouse. (list A)


It is a four-bay, two-storey, gabled-ended farmhouse, with rough-cast walls
and an elliptical headed doorcase. (B)


This is an early-nineteenth century house which appears to have been given gothic crenellations at a later date (B). It has gothic gate piers energetially detailed. (B)