There is a popular saying in politics sometimes attributed to Ronald Reagan ‘When you’re explaining,…
All the books here can be purchased from Offaly History (Bury Quay, Tullamore and online) and at Midland Books, Tullamore. You can also view/ borrow at Offaly Libraries.
Rathrobin and the two Irelands: the photographs of Middleon Biddulph, 1900-23. Michael Byrne (Offaly History, Tullamore, 2021), 330 pages, 280×240, hardcover, €24.99.
Rathrobin is a book that keeps on giving. Its 250 Biddulph photographs from the 1870s to 1920s, all carefully captioned, depict the two Irelands – unionist and nationalist, Catholic and Protestant, landed and cabbage garden. What is interesting about the pictures of Colonel Biddulph (1849-1926) of Rathrobin near Mountbolus are the nuances. He was of the lesser gentry, was a tenant of the Petty Lansdownes and was well aware of the Plantations of the 16th and 17th centuries. He appreciated the needs of the farm labourers and was good to his own tenants, staff and farm workers. His entire estate was not much more than a 1,000 acres. Biddulph’s circle was the lesser gentry and those who served it such as land agents and clergy. The Catholic Protestant divide was strong but landed Catholic families did mix in his set, but not merchants or traders (even if very rich). Biddulph had an empathy with his farm workers and their families and sought their advancement. Many local families were photographed together with their farming activities.
Biddulph’s story, and that of his associates and friends, is illustrated by a selection of over 300 pictures of which 250 are from the Biddulph Collection in Offaly Archives and fifty more to illustrate the introductory essay and provide the all-important context. The essay and the photographs provide a more nuanced understanding of Ireland in the revolutionary period of 1900–23. Biddulph’s wonderful house at Rathrobin that he had so carefully ‘restored’, and all his farm improvements, were lost in the Civil War in 1923. Many other big houses from Ashford, to Ballyfin, Durrow and Charleville are also recorded. Some such as Brockley Park in Laois are now gone making this an important work of record. The photographs by Middleton Biddulph were taken at a crucial time in Ireland’s history. Their publication now could not come at a better time. Rathrobin is the portrait of one small estate and parish in Offaly from the 1650s to the 1920s, but the story is of national interest. T.E. Lawrence spoke of the Arab Revolt perhaps in Ireland too we can talk of the Irish Revolt and not the full circle Revolution. You decide.
Supported by the Decade of Commemorations Unit in the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.
Published in earlyDecember, ‘Merchants, Medics, and the Military Commerce and Architecture’ provides an exciting insight on the social history of Ireland from 1875 to 1925, as seen through the lives of influential Irish families.
Published by Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society’s Esker Press and authored by Maurice Egan this volume is available in hardback including never seen before exhibits, many of them in colour. It is a must for those with a local, national, and international interest in social history and social justice. This is an excellent read and retails at €24.99.
Between 1875 and 1925, a tumultuous period in Irish history, many provincial families made significant sacrifices in the areas of social justice, infrastructure development and community upliftment. Who were they? What ever became of them? What did they manage to achieve? Where did these family members move to? How did they help change the face of Irish social history?
Researching this fifty-year period and uncovering how certain Tullamore families helped change the course of local and in some cases international history, Maurice Egan has discovered the significant roles families played in social reform. The fascinating stories that have emerged shine a bright light on the enduring impact they made.
‘Maurice Egan’s accomplishment in Merchants, Medics and the Military is that he has identified an important strand of Irish social history that has heretofore been largely unexplored. The stories of the revolutionaries and the land reformers are well documented. The organisation of the urban working classes and the empowerment of the agricultural tenantry have had many narrators. But there has been little focus on the mercantile classes that were at the centre of commercial and social life in the regional towns that remain to this day at the centre of our society…… and he has done them a service in this volume, ensuring that they will have their place in the formation of the Ireland we now live in.’ Conor Brady, (An Irish journalist, novelist, and academic, he is a former editor of The Irish Times).
Maurice Egan was born in Tullamore and attended the Christian Brothers School. He is a retired beverage industry executive and is chairman of P & H Egan (Tullamore) Limited, the brand owner of Egan’s Irish Whiskey. He resides in Johannesburg and has a keen interest in social history from 1850 to 1925.
Another handsome book from the pen of John Feehan and friends
’When the nightjar returns’, John Feehan with St Brendan’s Community School Birr. A new book on Killaun bog. €20. Over the past year and half two exciting projects have been happening at Killaun Bog which is just to the east of Birr town. Firstly the 30-year old wooden boardwalk in the reserve owned by St Brendan’s School was replaced and there is now a super new boardwalk from Irish Recycled Products in Birr Town. Secondly John Feehan has brought together the most wonderful publication about the evolution of the bog, how it has been used over the centuries and what it might become in the future. It is a story like no other featuring bears, Birr Barracks rifle range, Jack Pots, Young Scientist competition winner and fantastic photography, the site being one of photographer Tina Claffey’s ‘my offices today’ sites and local patch for citizen scientist Rachel McKenna (who took the image of the large emerald moth shown here). There is detailed mapping published including beautiful and informative maps courtesy of the Birr Castle archives. It will be of interest to all those associated with Birr, interested in the future of peatlands and the community story of the school’s involvement.
100 years of Clara History, a Goodbody family perspective, J. Harold Goodbody and Michael Goodbody editors, Esker Press, 2021, 360 pages, HB €19.99, SB €14.99 Hardback now sold out
Clara has long been associated with the textile industry; stretching from the bleach greens of the early 1700s to development of the country’s largest jute factory, which gave employment to the district from 1864 and ran as a very successful business for the next hundred years. Reading the diaries if his Victorian great-aunt during world war II Harold Goodbody realised that she had kept a day-to-day record of how this industry had been created and how her family’s flower milling activities had supported the local community. Harold made extracts of the more relevant parts of the diaries and added his own notes and recollections, creating a history of the Goodbody family in Clara and how a modest Offaly village had been turned into one of Ireland’s leading industrial centres. His work has now been edited to what will be a valuable local history source. Harold’s own historical research, covering the period from the late 1800s to the 1940s, is particularly insightful in the context of a period of significant change in Ireland and in the fortunes of Clara its leading entrepreneurial family. The work is illustrated with over 200 carefully selected photographs.
Supported by the Decade of Commemorations Unit in the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.
Business and Professional Women 50 years in Tullamore 1971 – 2021, Print Plus, Tullamore, Dymphna Bracken (ed.) Jean Durkin, Mary Wrafter, 130 pages, paperback, €10.00
Fifty years ago, in 1971, in a very different Ireland, a group of enthusiastic and inspiring women took the opportunity to set up a Business and Professional Women’s club in Tullamore. This book is the story of how the club provided opportunities through leadership roles and education for women to advance in their particular chosen careers while advocating for more equal opportunities for all women.
The Nolans Football Royalty across Clara, Offaly, Leinster, New York The Reynolds family carried on the tradition, Billy Browne, €20.00
The wonderful story of a family who gave so much joy to Offaly people around the world
Tullamore Annual 2022. This is the tenth issue of this fine publication. A wonderful collection of Stories, Interviews, Profiles and much more in this tenth. 160 pp, soft, A4 format printed on high quality in full colour. Just €15.
Tullamore Golf Club 125 years a history 2011 – 2021 a few more rounds, Tim Guiney Ed. 116 pages €15.00
This publication details a history of Tullamore Golf Club, the achievements of its members, club activities, junior golf, tournaments and events, nature at the club and more. All of these sections are wonderfully illustrated by a wide variety of colour photographs.
A People’s Army, Cloneygowan D Company, Second Batallion, Offaly No.1 Brigade, Irish Republican Army 1919-1923 – P.J. Goode. Cloneygowan Press, 2021, 96 pages, softback, €20.00
This book is primarily for the people of Cloneygowan, to recall what it must have been like a century ago in what was once a small part of an empire, that there was a people’s army here and a new National army who fought in our name. The names on the lists presented are known to many, the veterans are all gone but their memories will be forever cherished. Therefore there are few endnotes or footnotes and little background on the political radicalisation of that remarkable generation. Context and interpretation will play little part in what follows. But hopefully this booklet will form part of a wider study of Offaly activity in these ongoing centenary commemorations.
Adomnán, Adhamhnán, Eunan life and afterlife of a Donegal saint, Brian Lacey, Four Courts Press, 236 pages, Softback €19.95
Adomnán (c.625–704) was ninth abbot of the monastery on Iona off the Scottish coast, and comarba (head) of the confederation of churches associated with St Columba/Colum Cille. Like Columba, Adomnán came from what is now County Donegal. He was one of the most significant churchmen and intellectuals of the seventh century. The copying and re-copying of his written works meant that, in medieval times, his reputation spread widely on the Continent. He was, in modern parlance, an ‘all-rounder’: monk, priest, manager, writer, historian, lawmaker and diplomat, to name just a few things. He was the author of one of the first laws, anywhere, for the protection of non-combatants in times of conflict, and compiled an exegetical ‘guide-book’ to the ‘sites’ of the Holy Land – the oldest surviving text of its kind from anywhere in Western Europe. He also wrote a major hagiographical Life of his predecessor and distant relative Columba. So powerful and influential a text was that book that it all but shoved Adomnán himself out of the limelight, in favour of his illustrious forerunner.
Although much has been written about individual aspects of Adomnán’s career, this is the first study to outline the totality of his life and reputation – in so far as we can know it! It is structured in two parts. The first part examines his historical life and writing, while the second part analyses his ‘afterlife’ as a ‘saint ’– throwing new light on the early years of the bishopric of Raphoe with which his memory has since been linked.
Brian Lacey is an archaeologist and historian, mainly specializing in the north-west of Ireland, from the sixth to the sixteenth centuries. He is the author of over ten books, and many research papers. From Dublin originally, he now lives in Dún Lúiche in the west Donegal Gaeltacht.
Birr Annual 2021. This is the 21st issue of this fine publication. A wonderful collection of Stories, Interviews, Profiles and much more in this issue, soft, A4 format printed on high quality in full colour.
The Birr Annual 2021, c. 100 pages only €10
James Scully writes about A novel approach to Charlotte Brontë’s honeymoon.
Pauline Clooney’ Charlotte & Arthur, an imaginative recreation of the Charlotte Brontë’s honeymoon in Wales and Ireland, is an exciting combination of fact and fiction. The extensive historical research which preceded the writing of the book is evident throughout and this coupled with the creation of less historic characters and the weaving in of more fictional nuances ensures a work that is at once refreshing and convincing. While the sources of history are comparatively plentiful for this episode due to Charlotte’s prolific letter writing and an abundance of biographies of the two main characters, it is the richness of Pauline Clooney’s writing that makes the work engrossing and appealing.
Offaly History has copies of this delightful read for just €15.