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Offaly History (short for Offaly Historical & Archaeological) was first formed in 1938 and re-established in 1969 and is located at Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly since 1993(next to the new Tullamore D.E.W Visitor Centre).

We are about collecting and sharing memories. We do this in an organised way though exhibitions, supporting the publication of local interest books, our website , Facebook, open evenings, our library and offices at Bury Quay.

Our Mission
To promote Offaly History including community and family history

What we do:

  • Promote all aspects of history in Co. Offaly.
  • Genealogy service for counties Laois and Offaly.
  • Co. Offaly photographic records for study and sale in addition to a limited number of publications on Laois and Irish general historical interest.
  • Purchase and sale of Offaly interest books though the Society’s book store and website.
  • Publication of books under the Society’s publishing arm Esker Press.
  • The Society subscribes to almost all the premier historical journals in Ireland.

Our Society covers a diverse range of Offaly Heritage:

  • Architectural heritage, historic monuments such as monastic and castle buildings.
  • Industrial and urban development of towns and villages.
  • Archaeological objects and artifacts.
  • Flora, fauna and bogs, wildlife habitats, geology and Natural History.
  • Landscapes, heritage gardens and parks, farming and inland waterways.
  • Local literary, social, economic, military, political, scientific and sports history.

Offaly History is a non-profit community group with a growing membership of some 150 individuals.

The Society focuses on enhancing educational opportunities, understanding and knowledge of the county heritage while fostering an inclusive approach and civic pride in local identity. We promote these objectives through:

  • The holding of monthly lectures, occasional seminars, exhibitions and film screenings.
    Organising tours during the summer months to places of shared historical interest.
  • The publication of an annual journal Offaly Heritage – to date nine issues.
  • We play a unique role collecting and digitising original primary source materials especially photographs and oral history recordings
  • Offaly History is  the centre for  Family History research in Counties Laois and Offaly.
  • The Society is linked to the renowned Irish Family Foundation website and Roots Ireland where some 900,000 records of Offaly/Laois interest can be accessed on a pay-per-view basis worldwide. Currently these websites have an estimated 20 million records of all Ireland interest.
  • A burgeoning library of books, CD-ROMs, videos, DVDs, oral and folklore recordings, manuscripts, newspapers and journals, maps, photographs and various artifacts.
  • OHAS Collections
  • OHAS Centre Facilities

The financial activities of the Society are operated under the aegis of Offaly Heritage Centre Limited, a charitable company whose directors also serve on the Society’s elected committee. None of the Society’s directors receive remuneration or any kind. All the company’s assets are held in trust to promote the voluntary activities of the Society. Our facilities are largely free to the public or run purely on a costs-recovery basis.

Acting as a policy advisory body –  Offaly History endeavors to ensure all government departments, local authorities, tourism agencies and key opinion formers prioritise heritage matters.

Meet the current committee:

Our Committee represents a broad range of backgrounds and interests. All share a common interest in collecting and promoting the heritage of the county and making it available to the wider community.

2017 Committee

  • Helen Bracken (President)
  • Pat Wynne (Vice President and Joint Treasurer)
  • Niall Sweeney (Vice President)
  • Michael Byrne (Secretary)
  • Lisa Shortall (Deputy Secretary)
  • Dorothee Bibby (Record Secretary)
  • Charlie Finlay (Joint Treasurer)
  • Darrell Hooper
  • Brian Pey
  • Fred Geoghegan
  • Noel Guerin
  • Henry Edgill
  • Peter Burke
  • Angella Kelly
  • Rory Masterson
  • Shaun Wrafter
  • Ronnie Matthews
  • Oliver Dunne
  • Ciara Molloy
  • Stephen Callaghan (Heritage Items)

If you would like to help with the work of the Society by coming on a sub-committee or in some other way please email us or let an existing member know.

+353-5793-21421 [email protected] Open 9am-4.30pm Mon-Fri

Left without a Handkerchief


Only 1 left in stock


On the afternoon of Wednesday, 10 January 1923, Lulu Bagwell wrote to her mother-in-law Harriet informing her the family house had been destroyed in a blaze earlier that morning. Lulu and the children had been obliged to stand shivering at gunpoint on the lawn watching the conflagration, the raiders responsible for the fire only leaving when it was too late to save Marlfield. Afterwards she discovered her handbag and all the family’s overcoats had been stolen. ‘We hadn’t even a handkerchief,’ she lamented, ‘everything has gone.’

The fate of Marlfield was not unique. It is estimated that between 250 and 300 Irish country houses were burnt in the early 1920s during the course of the War of Independence and subsequent Civil War. The reasons behind their destruction were various, but because of their scale and prominence on the Irish landscape, setting fire to them was judged by perpetrators to be good propaganda. Relatively little investigation has been undertaken into this devastation – to both property and lives.

But how was it for the owners of these buildings? How did they feel when, in the course of just a few hours, they saw their worlds overturned? Hitherto historians have concentrated on the actions and motivation of those responsible for carrying out the burnings. Left Without a Handkerchief will tell the other side of the story, of history seen from the perspective of the losers, left homeless and struggling to cope, emotionally and financially.

A key source for this story will be under-explored material held by the national archives of both Ireland and Britain. Correspondence back and forth, between claimants and the relevant authorities, reveal the extent of suffering experienced by those whose houses had been burnt, often shock that the local community, of which they had thought themselves part, displayed little concern in the aftermath of their devastation. These official documents will be supplemented by other material: letters, diaries, memoirs, some of it coming directly from descendants of the house owners and not previously shared inpublic.

Left Without a Handkerchief will fill a gap in the national narrative, featuring the stories of ten houses and their owners. From Galway to Wexford, Mayo to Cork, it will give a voice to the dispossessed, to the people who thought they had a place in Ireland until, usually in the course of a single night, they were disabused of this belief. As the centenary of the onset of house burnings arrives, now is the time to tell their story.

Additional information

Weight .415 kg
Dimensions 23.4 × 15.7 × 2 cm


Hard Or Paper Back

Place of Publication

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