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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

Interview with Dan Lawlor, a Mount Bolus character of the last century Interviewed by Jim Kenny. Recorded on 22nd November 1994. Dan Lawlor died 20 years ago this month. “She’s a good girl, she’ll earn her keep”

Dan Lawlor was born in 1907 and in this interview (extract – for the full interview follow the SoundCloud link) he talks about his early memories of growing up in the early 1900s, attending national school in Mount Bolus. Starting to work at the age of 14, where the wage was 3 shillings for a boy and 5 shillings for men and the working day was 8 or 9 hours at least.  He also recalls growing up during very disturbed times, the 1916 rising, the Black and Tans and the First World War.  Going around the rambling houses and the stories he heard about the Famine 1846 – 49, the big wind in 1903 knocking down all 13 acres of Colonel Biddulph trees, the big storm around 1803 (or was it 1839).  The telling of ghost stories, attending wakes, clay pipes and match making where the father gave £100 and those who couldn’t afford it and gave nothing would say “she’s a good girl and will earn her keep”.  His love of hurling in Killoughy, making their own hurleys and using a tin can if they couldn’t afford a leather ball.  He also speaks about the 1920s not being great times, but the crops were good for anyone who minded them, farming all his life also all his family, the farm evictions and the Economic War.  He also mentions about 80 years ago there was a brewery in Monasterevin called Cassidy’s and a monk in Clara who worked miracles with the mortar, they called him Cassidy’s Monk.


The Catholic church in Mount Bolus, built on the eve of the Famine

From the Tullamore Tribune 24 Jan. 1998

THE death took place on Wednesday evening last of the late Mr Daniel (Dan) Lawlor, Rathkerrigan, Mountbolus. Dan was Killoughey’s oldest resident and would have been 90 next March 6th. Deceased was the last member of an old established family that lived for generations in the lower end of the main street in Mountbolus. Dan, who was predeceased by his brother Pat and sister, Margaret, was renowned in the area as its greatest historian. Up until recently he could recall the day and date of every birth, marriage and death of every person in the general area for over 80 years. He had vivid memories of all the priests who had served in the parish this century was well as historic figures like the late Colonel W.M. Biddulph, sporting heroes and events surrounding “The Troubles’ in the early part of the century. Dan also had a great store of old sayings, country wisdom and verse. Whenever returned exiles of the third and fourth generations visited the area it was invariably to Dan Lawlor that they went and were sure to be told where the old place was, when the family had gone and what relations were still around.

Dan was buried in the old cemetery, adjacent to Mountbolus Church and within a few yards of the house where he had lived all his life. Dan was very familiar with this cemetery and knew every plot and everyone contained therein.

Stoning Col. Biddulph’s car as boys would

(The extract below is from the Offaly History transcript of the recording made by Jim Kenny)

Jim: Now Dan, we talked in your own mind we’ll go back, to test your memory

Dan: do test me now!

Jim: we’ll talk about Dan Lawlor as a child go back to your earliest memories of your childhood, your parents

Dan: I was born in 1907 and I lived in Mountbolus all my lifetime and I’ve one memory that I never forget the Col. Biddulph, there was a big estate in Mountbolus called Rathrobin and he was after buying a car, a scenery on the road a ‘Deedene Booden’   [Dion-Bouton] car

Jim:  what was that now?

Dan: a make of motor-car

Jim: oh yes, a make of a motor-car, a French car, that was the first one you ever saw

Dan: that was the first one I ever saw and me and me brother was standing by the side of the road and we hadtwo stones in our hand and Paul Wallace was a chauffeur, you know Paul Wallace?

Jim: I do of course.

Dan: he was driving by and he was passing where we were standing and the two of us, you’d think we were put up to it, anyway, we fired a stone and broke the windscreen on his car, the Colonel stopped the car – he says, I’ll have to get an explanation for that!

Jim: yes, well, what explanation did you give him?

Dan: well, we gave him nothing and it was and we had an ‘oul uncle and he says “it’s against my will, Colonel if anything happened to my car, we were always very friendly towards you and if there’s any damage done I’ll have it repaired immediately,” he said, it didn’t matter, so long as I know it wasn’t malicious so we got free.

Jim: Do you remember what year that was or how far back?

Dan: Ah ’twas before the war, before the First World War, say 1912, 1915

Memories of School

School children in Mount Bolus, about 1904

Jim: well, what other memories have you now, going to school?

Dan: I went to school in the National School, it was in Mountbolus, there was a school there.  I was taught by a man named Jeremiah O’Neill, he was a Skibbereen man, yes, from Cork and he was only passing you by, he was a great teacher, but he was very severe, he hit us now [and then]

Jim: he always had the stick handy

Dan: aye – he would hit you with the fist as well, he was a Cork man and we used to sing a little song for him to vex him, we were hardy fellas at the time,  “Ye starvin’ victims of Skibbereen arise and welcome their gracious Queen ”  He used to go mad at that, I’ll hold that song about Skibbereen,

Jim: and who was the Queen that they welcomed, Victoria was it?

Dan: Victoria, yes, she was on the penny, did you ever see her?

Jim: I did yes, indeed

Dan: she had a bonnet on her head.

Jim: she came to visit this country one time

Dan: she did, yes, it was above in the Park, I was going to go, I was only a child at the time and me Father went up and nearly 1 quarter of a million, I think it was in the Phoenix Park

Jim: to see Queen Victoria was it?

Dan: oh yes, yes

Jim: Of course, ye were all loyal subjects that time?

Dan: oh yes, we had to be, but we weren’t relying on that when we broke the window, however the hell I don’t know

Jim: To get back to going to school – what were conditions in the school like in those days?

Dan: every man brought a load of turf and black turf, and on a cold frosty morning ye had to go out in the cold and break blackthorn sticks and, and come in and give it to the ‘oul rascal from Skibbereen

Jim: I suppose, many a time you had to go to school in your bare feet

Dan: oh God, we did, the roads wasn’t made at all over the cut stones, we’d run races on your hardy feet and we were hardy at the time

Jim: well, you had to be hardy to survive

Dan: it was only the best that lived

Jim: only the fittest survived, well growing up as a young boy what were conditions like?

Dan: ah, they were getting better, of course, and then the war came, and things got dearer a little bit, you know,

Jim: and what stage did you start to work?

Dan: oh I started to work very young, I was at the age of 14.

Jim: what sort of a day would you work then, long days?

Dan: ah, we worked on the land, when the day was fine we worked until dark

Remembering 1916, the War of Independence and the Civil War

Jim: when you came into your teens, you were growing up in a very disturbed time in the country you were coming in, you lived through 1916

Dan: oh yes, the 1916 rising,

Jim: what were your recollections of that period?

Dan: oh that was a dangerous time, and the Black ‘n Tans came after them

Jim: do you remember them?

Dan: I remember them, fired at me, one day, when I run from them, they were horrid blackguards them oul’ Black ‘n Tans

Jim: what age would you be at the time?

Dan: I was about 14 and I seen, I seen them coming and I said I’d go and I run and did’nt I see them coming to a gate, and I seen them, and didn’t I run to a stile about 100 yards I got under it into cover and I lay on the ground and they fired three rounds of a Lee Enfield Rifle, I could be sleeping in the clay only I lay down quick

Jim: well, was there much activity of that nature around?

Dan: ah, there was ambushes, there was ambushes.  There was an ambush at the Cole Gap did you ever hear of that?

Jim: I know where the Cole Gap is

Dan: Doolan’s, at the Cole Gap, there was an ambush there, I was picking potatoes below where the ambush was goin’ on, and the bullets was goin’ like hell.

Jim: is that right.  How much of the history of that do you know?

Dan: well, there was a good dale of robberies going on too, people took advantage at the time though, and went to people’s houses and held them up and took the money and robbed them coming from fairs

Jim: Of course, there was no law and order in the country that time?

Dan: well, there was an R I C Barracks in Mountbolus and there was an R I C Barracks at Killoughey Cross, do you know where that is?

Beahan’s pub Mount Bolus (left about 1904).

Jim: I do, of course, yes

Dan: I seen ten police there, there where Keyes of Rahan sent these men into battle, there was a big battle there in 1849 in October 1849 at the Barracks in Killoughey, 500 men – ah I have it forgot.

Jim: but you say Keyes from Rahan, was related to me, (quote) His name was Johnny

Dan: Keyes took the Sergeant by the hand, my cops are on the run, as you may understand, and he went 500 men rode on, we loaded hay and corn on the lands in Clonaslee and when we were loaded, and to our great surprise, the sky went dark and dreary and dismal was the sky, 500 men.

Jim: and what were they doing, capturing the Barracks?

Dan: they were on what was called a rack rent to arms, and Keyes took it, he was a postman from Rahan and got away despite Police attention, a Royal battle there, 8 policemen shot and Keyes leg was broke in the meantime the right place to hide was at the Barrack Door –         they hid him at the Barrack Door in a Hay Rick,

Jim: I know where it is well – up there in Killoughey,

Dan: up there in Killoughey Cross and he was there for – until he was held up and then he went to Cobh in Cork (Queenstown) – no one ever knew he was there – there was no informers then

Jim: were they fighting against some of the landlords at that stage?

Dan: well they meant that

Jim: who was the landlord in the area at the time?

Dan: Captain Fox was landlord in Annaghmore and there was other landlords, Colonel Bernard at Kinnitty Castle and they were collecting high rents oh they were exaggerating on the rents were high,

Jim: of course, that would have been sometime around the famine 1848 – 49, did you ever hear any stories about the famine, I’m sure you must have heard some stories about the famine

Dan: oh yes, they died by the side of the road, we have a field by the side of the road, we were digging an old bank and came across a whole load of skulls where they died with the hunger, died with the hunger! In Mountbolus.

Jim: well, was there any stories circulating in the area about the famine,

Dan: oh I did, the cousin now was O’Connor, O’Connor was here in Tullamore, one time, did you ever hear tell of Sterling’s corner in Tullamore, the story, there was a man by the name of Sterling there and he was chatting this man’s wife and he said “I’ll get an ‘oul scut of you, so, I’ll tell you now where it happened, do you know where Stephen Quinn lived below outside of Ballycumber.

Jim: in Moorock

Dan: that’s right, put him sitting in a chair and they welded it in?

Jim: (JAMES KENNY COMMENT) this is a garbled account of a story about a cuckolded husband cutting of the nose of the culprit male- and, story continues,

some families survive

Dan: aye they were hardier and they were fit for it – others were sickly kind of weak people and they died of malnutrition

Below the Beehive, Mount Bolus. ‘In this hive we’re all alive, good liquor makes us funny’ It was a Williams licensed grocery in Dan’s early years and up to about 1965.

I love lamp

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