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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

Offaly Heritage 12: a new book of essays on the history of County Offaly to be published Friday 6 October at a public event at Offaly History Centre.

It was 2003 when the first issue of Offaly Heritage was published. Just twenty years later the twelfth book of essays will be issued by Offaly History on 6 October 2023 at the Offaly History Centre at 6 p.m. and launched by a son of Tullamore, Terry Clavin. Terry is a distinguished historian who works with the Royal Irish Academy and has contributed over 400 biographies to the Academy’s Dictionary of Irish Biography. This is now available online and is a tremendous resource with about 11,000 biographies and eleven published volumes in the main series with a significant number of ancillary publications.

Offaly Heritage 12 is another bumper issue with over 500 pages and very much on a par in quality with the issues since no. 9 was published in 2016. It is a tremendous achievement and, no doubt, benefits from the support of the programme for the Decade of Centenaries and Offaly County Council.

For this issue there was a team of editors – Michael Byrne, Dr Mary Jane Fox, Dr Ciarán McCabe, Dr Ciarán Reilly, Lisa Shortall. Obituaries Editor: Kevin Corrigan.

The shell of the county courthouse, July 1922

The essays in section one reflect the ongoing research in Offaly into aspect of life in Ireland 100 years ago as we come to the end of the Decade of Commemoration (1912–1923). The essays reflect the changing nature of society in Offaly at that time, particularly during the years 1920 to 1923 and readers will enjoy contributions as varied as the end of the Wakely family of Rhode; the final years of the Leinster Regiment at Birr; the Protestant minority in Offaly during the revolutionary period; the courts of assize in King’s County in the years 1914–21; the burning of Tullamore courthouse, jail and barracks in 1922; the story of Belgian refugees in Portarlington, and Offaly claimants in 1916.

A series of short lives are presented in this volume, as they were in Offaly 11 and includes entries on individuals as diverse as J.L. Stirling, Averil Deverell, Middleton Biddulph, Robert Goodbody and volunteer Sean Barry.

This volume of Offaly Heritage is also strengthened by a wide array of essays on aspects of Offaly history stretching from Colmcille to early soccer activity in Offaly in the late nineteenth century. The editors were particularly pleased to include essays from a number of contributors for the first time. 

The compilation of writings on Offaly history topics continues in this volume and is proving to be an interesting addition and a useful record on Offaly historiography. Likewise, the book review section reflects some of the many publications of Offaly history since Offaly History 11 was issued in 2020. Since the last volume Offaly History, and society in general, has lost a number of individuals who have passed to their eternal reward and the obituaries section, edited by Kevin Corrigan, provides an overview on some of these lives. 

The new book is available from the Offaly History shop at Bury Quay, Tullamore (beside the Warehouse Bar and Restaurant) and online at  Full sets of Offaly Heritage are no longer available so if you want no. 12 do not let Christmas pass.

Offaly Heritage 12 comprises 512 pages including 32-page in full colour and inclusive of a colour section on the new Offaly Archives formal opening. This new issue of the journal, now in its twentieth year, is a wonderful repository to be referred back to time and again for detail on the history of the county. Offaly Heritage 12 is €18 in paperback and €25 in hardback and is excellent value, and priced to make it available to a wide market. The new book will be formally launched on 6 October 2023.

Offaly Heritage 1–12 (excluding no. 2, out of print) are available from Offaly History, Bury Quay, Tullamore, Ireland, [email protected] 05793 2141 and local bookshops. The number of issues of each journal is small and forms a valuable and growing library for County Offaly. The online bibliography of Irish History known as www. Irishhistoryonline cites 841 articles and books directly about Offaly History and of these at least 200 are from this Offaly Heritage publication series first commenced in 2003. The crop of books and articles published in 2023 and of Offaly interest will bring the total to perhaps 875 on the RIA managed Irishhistoryonline

Contents of Offaly Heritage 12

Stirlings of Tullamore and Athy.

Section 1: Essays by way of contribution to the Decade of Centenaries

The Wakelys of Ballyburly, Tim O’Neill                       

The Leinster Regiment, Mark Jones                                

 The courts of assize in King’s County/Offaly in the years 1914–21, Michael Byrne 

The burning of Tullamore courthouse, jail and barracks by the anti-Treaty IRA on 20 July 1922 with a note on surviving local authority records, Michael Byrne    

The Protestant minority in County Offaly in the early twentieth century, Sylvia Turner 

Offaly Claimants 1916, John Stocks Powell 

The day Mrs Odlum sang ‘Sister Susie’s sewing shirts for soldiers!’ for Belgian refugees in Portarlington, John Stocks Powell                              

Read Teddy Fennelly on the shooting of Lord Norbury in 1839his article in Offaly Heritage 12

Section 2 Short lives  

Seán Barry of Tullamore: a Volunteer who ‘was in any operation worthwhile in Offaly’. Michael Byrne                            

James Lyle Stirling Mineral and Medicinal Water Manufacturing, Importer of Wines and Brandies, Athy and Tullamore, Noel Guerin.                         

Teresa Wyer, Sinn Féin activist, Michael Byrne and Owen Wyer 

Robert James Goodbody: a Tullamore tobacco manufacturer, Michael Goodbody

Averil Deverell, Liz Goldthorpe              

Middleton Westenra Biddulph, 1849–1926, Michael Byrne             

Sean Barry of Tullamore

Section 3: Essays

Colmcille: Light of Erin, Alba and the West of the World, Mary Jane Fox  

‘They cut off the heads of some of their name and nation’: Familial enmity, Tudor policy and sowing the seeds of discord within the O’Carroll and O’Connor clans of Offaly, c. 1540–1600’, Dr Diarmuid Wheeler               

 Samuel Robinson of Clara: a life of many complexities, Michael Goodbody 

 Meelick Martello tower, James Scully                                 

 A short history of Strawberry Hill House: architecture and notable previous residents, Ronan Healy.                 

Leinster Express ‘Big Wind’ story blown off the pages by Offaly murder, Teddy Fennelly                                 

The Birr Courthouse and Bridewell: 1810–2013, Michael Byrne             

Two of Tullamore’s finest Georgian houses: numbers 43 and 44 High Street, Michael Byrne                                  

Offaly as a centre of early soccer activity in Ireland, 1877–86, Martin Moore

“I am a useful man, and no one better than me”: John Neville, the Birr Workhouse Messenger, Cormac Leonard      

 Famine and folklore stories from the Rhode area as gathered for the Schools Manuscript Commission, Mary O’Connor.                         

Clara and the Marconi connection

Section 4: Short essays, notes and queries

The Famine-era memoirs of Geashill dispensary doctor Dr Lombe Atthill (1827–

            1910), (later the Master of the Rotunda Hospital), Ciarán McCabe

The contribution of Clara to the early days of radio, Michael Goodbody

The finding of the De Burgo-O’Malley chalice, Michael Byrne  

Section 5:  Book Reviews and notices; Writings on Offaly History 2019-22; Obituaries, Reports

Book Reviews and Notices

Writings on Offaly History, 2019-22, Michael Byrne

Obituaries, Kevin Corrigan (ed.)       

Offaly History Report, 2020–21, Michael Byrne, Ciarán McCabe and Dorothee  


Offaly Archives Report, 2020–21 Lisa Shortall 

Report of Offaly Heritage Office, 2021-21, Amanda Pedlow 

Opening of Offaly Archives by Minister Malcolm Noonan, 18 November 2021


Early socccer at Tullamore and Tullabeg

A note on the contributors to Offaly Heritage 12

Michael Byrne is a solicitor and notary public. He has been active in the promotion of local studies in County Offaly for many years and is general secretary of the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society. He is a regular contributor to Offaly Heritage, Offalyhistoryblog and was editor of Offaly and the Great War (2018).  His most recent books are Printing and bookselling in Offaly in the nineteenth century (2020) and Rathrobin and the two Irelands: the photographs of Middleton Biddulph, 1900–1920 (2021).

Kevin Corrigan has been sports editor of the Tullamore and Midland Tribune since 2005 and has worked in local media since 1990. He has written history books on Kilcormac-Killoughey GAA Club and Tullamore Harriers Athletics Club and is currently working on a comprehensive history of Offaly GAA. He lives at Killina, near Rahan. 

Teddy Fennelly, was thewinner ofIreland’s 2022 Heritage Hero award from the Heritage Council. Teddy Fennelly has written books on everything from the cooperative movement and Donaghmore Workhouse to the history of Laois GAA. As chair and president of Laois Heritage Society, he has been responsible for publishing journals, promoting research and carrying out practical conservation projects. But arguably his biggest contribution to Irish heritage has been his commitment to the story of Col James Fitzmaurice and the first East-West transatlantic flight, in April 1928. It’s a story of national and international importance and his book, Fitz and the Famous Flight, is the definitive work on the subject (Source: Heritage Council).

Mary-Jane Fox has a doctorate from the Institute for Peace & Conflict Research at Uppsala University in Sweden and specialises in political culture, democratization processes, jihadism, and child soldiers. She is on the review board for Small Wars & Insurgencies, and also edits and reviews academic manuscripts prior to submission for publication. Living rurally outside of Birr, she has used her research skills for articles on her family history and other related areas for OHAS since 2003.

Noel Guerin is a long-time resident of Tullamore and a member of the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society. He has an enduring interest in local history, but the combination of his scuba diving activities and pursuits in underwater archaeology in association with the National Museum of Ireland has focused his study on material examples of Irish glassware and their histories, in particular the glass and ceramic bottles unearthed in and around the waterways of Offaly.

Liz Goldthorpe is a former (English) solicitor and judge who has been writing about women in legal history since retiring in 2015.  She has written and lectured extensively in both Ireland and England on her research for the biography she is writing on the life and times of Ireland’s first practising female barrister, Averil Katherine Statter Deverell (1893-1979), who was called to the Bar on 1 November 1921. 

Michael Goodbody moved to London to take up a career in the city in 1962. He is now retired and lives in Essex. At an early age he developed an interest in Irish Quaker families and their social and business relationships. He is the author of The Goodbodys: millers, merchants and manufacturers, 1630–1950 (Dublin, 2011) and has written a number of articles relating to Irish Quakers, as well as about Clara. His most recent book is 100 years of Clara History: a Goodbody family perspective (Tullamore, 2021).

Ronan Healy is a recent graduate of the Certificate in Local History from University of Limerick. He holds a B.A from University of Galway in Psychology and History. He is a native of Cloghan and currently works for the Heritage Council. 

Mark Jones is currently employed as a Volunteer Manager for a UK based anti-poverty charity. He has a particular interest in the social history of the British Army and the reforms undertaken within the Army during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. Mark holds an undergraduate degree in Archaeology from the University of Edinburgh, and is currently studying for a Masters Degree in Military History at the University of Birmingham.

Cormac Leonard is currently a PhD candidate with the Department of History in Trinity College, Dublin. He is also a professional Irish Sign Language / English interpreter, and registered member of RISLI, ITIA and CISLI. He has a keen interest in the history of Deaf people and sign language in Ireland, particularly in institutional settings. His thesis, “Deaf People in Ireland: Education, Poverty and the Law 1851 – 1922” is forthcoming.

Ciarán McCabe lectures in modern Irish history at Queen’s University Belfast. His publications include Begging, charity and religion in pre-Famine Ireland (Liverpool University Press, 2018) and, co-edited with Emily Mark-FitzGerald and Ciarán Reilly, Dublin and Great Irish Famine (UCD Press, 2022). He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and serves as Fixtures Secretary of the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society.

Martin Moorehas had two original-research articles on the origins of association football in Ireland published in the academic journal Sport in History as well as a number of newspaper and other articles on early Irish football. He lives in Belfast, where he works as a civil servant.

Mary O’Connor is an historian, poet and has lectured and published on international surrogacy law, family law and the rights of the child. She lives in Edenderry.

Timothy P. O’Neill is a historian and a barrister. He has written extensively on nineteenth century Irish poverty and public health, evictions, law and folklore. His current interest is in the history of the Crown lands in Ireland. He has contributed recently to Offaly Heritage, to Offaly History blogs and to Riocht na Midhe. He is a retired UCD professor of history and is a native of Mucklagh, Tullamore.

Amanda Pedlow is the County Offaly Heritage Officer

The Crawford building at High Street Tullamore, seen here with a new facade in 1960 – featured in an essay on two houses in High Street.

John Stocks Powell has a long-standing interest in the history of Portarlington. His most recent book is Schooling in Ireland a clustered history 1695-1912 (Offaly History, Tullamore, 357 pages 2020.

Ciarán Reilly is an historian of 19th & 20th Century Irish History based at the Dept of History, Maynooth University. He is author of The Irish Land Agent, 1830-1860: the case of King’s County (Dublin, 2014); Strokestown and the Great Irish Famine (Dublin, 2014) and John Plunket Joly and the Great Famine in King’s County (Dublin, 2012).

James Scully has for many years had a keen interest in local history with reference to west Offaly and the Grand Canal. A gifted communicator he has a fondness for writers with an eye to the topographical such as Joyce, Flann O’Brien, Trollope and the Brontes.   His most recent book is Forgotten souls: memorials in Saint Rynagh’s old graveyard Banagher County Offaly (Tullamore, 2020).

Lisa Shortall was Offaly Archivist between 2017 and 2022.

Sylvia Turner is a semi-retired university tutor in Education and has a long-held interest in Irish history. Her research relates mainly to Kerry, the home of her grandfather’s ancestors and Offaly, her mother’s home county.  

Diarmuid Wheeler obtained his Bachelor of Arts Double Honours from Maynooth University in 2010 as well as a Masters in Military History and Strategic Studies from the same institution in 2012. He subsequently pursued and completed his PhD in Early Modern European and World History at NUI Galway in 2018. His dissertation focused on the midlands plantation in particular and was titled: ‘From Gaelic lordships to English counties: the Tudor transition in Leix and Offaly, c. 1547-1603’. He resides in New York, USA with his wife and family where he is currently serving as History Department Head of a private liberal arts academy.

Owen Wyer is a long-standing member of Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society with a keen interest in local history.

For further information contact [email protected] and see

Already published in this series are:

Offaly Heritage, Journal of the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society,

volume 1 (2003), volume 2 (2004) out of print, volume 3 (2005), volume 4 (2006)

volume 5 (2007–08), volume 6 (2011), volume 7 (2013), volume 8 (2015), volume 9 (2016)

volume 10 (2018), volume 11 (2020), volume 12 (2023)


Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, Ireland, Tel.: 00353 5793 21421, Email: [email protected] Buy books on-line at:

The martello tower at Meelick

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