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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

Partying in Tullamore in 1873 for the coming of age of the fourth earl of Charleville and the marriage of his sister Katherine Bury. By Michael Byrne. No.5 in the Tullamore 400th series

The summer of 1873 was marked in Tullamore with a great outpouring of support for the coming of age of Charles William Francis, the fourth earl of Charleville (1852–74). He had been an orphan for fourteen years and taken care of by his uncle Alfred Bury (1829–75). The fourth earl’s parents, Charles William George and Arabella Case, had both died at a young age in 1857 (countess of Charleville) and 1859 (the third earl). He was only 37 and left five young children of which the fourth earl was born 16 May 1852. His sister had been killed in an accident on the stairwell at Charleville Castle in 1861 and his younger brother John died in 1872 when only 21. Now the young earl had reached his maturity and his 21st year. He could mark the occasion with his two sisters Lady Katherine and Lady Emily. The celebrations ought to have been on 16 May 1873 but the party had been deferred for a few weeks so that the coming of age could be celebrated at the same time as the marriage of Lady Katherine to Captain Hutton A.D.C. The celebration in the town with triumphal arches and fireworks was the last such for the earls of Charleville. Over the period from 1782 to 1873 there had been three such Welcomes from the Tenantry. Lady Emily inherited Charleville under the will of the fourth earl who died in 1874 aged only 22. Emily came into possession on the death of her uncle Alfred in 1875 childless. She was still a minor and there was no official welcome. Lady Emily married Captain Kenneth Howard in 1881 but was a widow by 1885. The Land War began in 1879–80 and cast a shadow over landlord and tenant relationships permanently. Lady Emily died in 1931 and the estate passed to her only surviving child Lt Col. Kenneth Howard Bury (died 1963 aged 80).

The address of Dr Michael Moorhead in his capacity as chairman of the town commissioners at the celebration dinner in 1873 is replete with irony given that the young earl died in a little over a year after on a fishing and hunting trip near New York.

Due to the generosity of Professor Brian Walker[1] and his wife Evelyn the original of the address of the town commissioners to the fourth earl in 1873 is now in Offaly Archives. A framed high quality copy is on view at  Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore. This is the only surviving document from the town commissioners period. The original minute books of the town commissioners for the period from 1860 to its winding up in 1900 are lost. The urban council’s minute books would date from 1900 but have survived in readable format from about 1916 (see the Offaly Archives catalogue online for exact details).

Professor Brian Walker and Mrs Evelyn Walker presenting the 1873 scroll to Offaly History in 2021.

Progress in Tullamore since the 1860s

There were many in Tullamore who could recall the triumphant arrival of the third earl back in October 1851. The terrible famine of the previous six years was over and things were beginning to improve. Heavy emigration would continue into the 1860s but the economy was improving. There were displays of new farm machinery and ploughing matches from the 1860s. The Goodbody brothers (two of the famous five lived in Tullamore), Robert James and Thomas Pim, had started a tobacco factory in the late 1840s and it was going well with upwards of 150 employed. In 1860 they had led the progressives in the town in securing gas lighting for Tullamore and a new local authority – the Tullamore town commissioners. Visible signs of the progress were to be seen in a new brick building Goodbodys built in Charleville/O’Connor Square in 1872 (now part of Bank of Ireland). The Egan brothers from Moate, Patrick (d. 1897) and Henry (d. 1919), had a great general store in Bridge Street, Tullamore and had taken over the Deverell brewery (behind the Brewery Tap) in 1866. The Tullamore distillery was significantly extended and improved by Bernard Daly (d. 1887) in the late 1860s and was now managed by young Daniel E. Williams (1848–1921). Plans were in hand for a new boys’ school operated by the Christian Brothers beside the parochial house where the curates lived. The Jesuit boarding college in Rahan was also extended and was catering for boys from the well-off middle class (closed as a boarding school in 1886 and in the same year as the destruction by fire of the Goodbody tobacco factory in Tullamore).

Great things had been expected of the third earl of Charleville from drainage of the Brosna to the new rail connection to Dublin from the Clonminch railway station in 1854. It seems the third earl led a sedentary life and lacked the initiative that his grandfather, Charles William Bury (1764–1835),  had shown from the time he was first was welcomed to Tullamore as a young man of 18 in 1782. His coming of age on 30 June 1785 coincided with a burst of building  activity following the fire on 10 May of that year and the ending of the long minority from 1764. That minority arose from the early death of Charles Moore (1712–17 Feb. 1764), the first earl of the Moore family and the death of his successor nephew John Bury on 4 August 1764). Tullamore was left without leadership for almost 21 years and development was under legal constraint due to the succession of a grand nephew of the earl who was but five weeks old.

Charleville Castle completed over the period 1800 to 1812 for the Burys earls of Charleville

Charles William Bury (later Lord Tullamoore and earl of Charleville) was the great developer of Tullamore over the period from 1785 until his death in 1835. His early years up to the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815 were especially fruitful, but his new great mansion at Charleville (building 1800–12) and the decline in the economy when the war with France ended did not help his finances. Neither did the marriage of his only son (b. 29 April 1801, married 26 Feb. 1821) at the young age of 20. His wife, Harriet Charlotte Beaujolais Campbell, had good looks and accomplishments but no money to help support and develop a large estate and fund a new family establishment. Lord Tullamore came into what was a somewhat embarrassed estate in 1835 on the death of his father. He had successes in securing a new jail for Tullamore completed in 1830 and the courthouse in 1835. Yet he was insecure in himself and had not helped the family finances by his failure to get elected in his own county and having to fund expensive pocket borough elections in Carlow and Devon. Deeply conservative, once reform came in the franchise from 1832, he could never secure election. The second Bury earl of Charleville upset the one power that could have helped his election prospects in King’s County in the person of the Tullamore parish priest Fr O’Rafferty. The row was over remarks following the assassination of Lord Norbury in 1839 that were misconstrued by Charleville. Government and the priests were attacking Property as the earl saw it, and at a time when his own estate was under financial pressure. It would end for the earl in 1844 with his having to leave Charleville and live abroad on a slender allowance from receivers. The tragedy ended, as did his life interest in the estate on 14 July 1851 when he died in London. Little was said of the career of the second earl when his son and heir was welcomed in Tullamore in October 1851 and the same silence was maintained for the fourth earl’s succession in 1873.

Alfred Bury, the guardian to the children of the third earl was popular in Tullamore in the 1860s and helped to secure the civic status of town commissioners and a new railway station at Kilcruttin. He was recalled in a witty piece in the Irish Times in December 1864 which again shows the importance of the Goodbody merchants to Tullamore and the awe in which they were held.

Saturday, Dec. 31, 1864

St. Stephen’s Day in Tullamore

This day was kept as a strict holiday in Tullamore, every shop in the town being closed.  The Charleville lake, about two miles from Tullamore was the great centre of attraction on the occasion.  The Hon. Captain Bury, brother to the late Earl of Charleville, accompanied by his amiable and accomplished lady, the youthful Earl of Charleville and several members of the Charleville family were present and by their countenance and smiles added much to the hilarity that marked the day’s proceedings.

The young Earl of Charleville is a very nice boy, and heartily joined in the sports of the day with the humblest lads that would show any dexterity in the juvenile line.

The “elite” of Tullamore and its vicinity mustered very strong on the occasion and contributed to make the day enjoyable and what made the scene a most enchanting and romantic one, was the perfect rustics, associating and exchanging compliments with each other, fine ladies and rural beauties making common cause in attracting the attention of their respective votaries without any apparent rivalry; such a galaxy of beauty and fashion as to make the most ossified heart melt into feelings of sympathy, and to feel the influence of lovely woman.

The Messrs Goodbody of Tullamore and Clara, who give such employment in various ways, were present with their interesting families and dependants, and proved by their presence that enjoyment is compatible with prosperity.

The Goodbody store in Bridge Street, Tullamore. The tobacco factory was to the rear.

Addresses from the tenantry and the town commissioners in 1873

The celebrations in Tullamore to mark the coming of age began about Wednesday the 28th of May 1873 and finished the following week on Thursday 5 June with the wedding of Lady Katherine to Captain Edmund Bacon Hutton, A.D.C. The Chronicle reported that:

The illuminations touched their zenith on Wednesday night, in the afternoon of which day three deputations amalgamated in one, drove out in open carriages to Charleville Castle to present addresses of congratulation to his Lordship, and also to Lady Katherine Bury.

The members of deputation were: – Dawson French, J.P; Rev. Graham, Craig; Very Rev. Dr  McAlroy, P.P V.G Tullamore; Dr Moorhead, J.P. Chairman of the Town Commissioners; Andrew J. Connolly, J.P; George Ridley, J.P.;Captain Peirce, J.P.; Alexander Handy, J.P; Dr Ridley; Thomas Berry; Robert James Goodbody; Samuel Handy; John Peirce, A.M; John P. Aylward; Edward Cantwell, T.C.; P Egan, T.C; William Adam, T.C; Thomas L. Sterling; Thomas Seagrave, (Manager of the Hibernian Bank); N.M. Delamere; Joseph Grogan; Henry Ridgeway. The member of deputation were conducted by Colonel Bury to a splendid picture gallery which is filled with old family portraits of the Burys and Moores and with some fine historical paintings. Here Lord Charleville received the deputations in the presence of the company now staying at Charleville Castle. Amongst the guests present were:- Lord and Lady Hastings, Lieut-Colonel Bernard, (Lord Lieutenant of the County); Colonel the Hon Alfred Bury, D.L, and Mrs Bury; Hon Colonel and Mrs Westenra, Captain Hutton, A.D.C; Hon Mr. Prittie, Lady Katherine Bury. Mr Brinsley Marlay, Major and Mrs Milner; Miss Dixon, Lady Emily Bury,- McNair, Miss Skene, Major Stephens, Hon Mrs and Miss Arbuthnot, Miss Brooke, Miss Lawless, Miss Trench,, Colonel and Mrs Bury.

The members of the deputation having been introduced by Mr. D. French.

Mr. John Pierce, A.M, read the address from the tenantry, and Dr Moorhead, J.P, read that from the Town Commissioners.

An address not the least interesting was that from the tenantry, which was read by Mr. R. Goodbody, to Lady Katherine Bury, in reference to her approaching marriage with Captain Hutton. Accompanying this address was a magnificent present of plate, consisting of a large silver salver, a tea kettle and stand, claret jug and gold bracelet set with diamonds.

A splendid déjeuner which was laid out in the large dining room of Charleville for the town commissioners and members of other deputations.

After the addresses were presented, Mr. French asked Lord Charleville to accept an invitation to a banquet given in the Court-house [the following day, Thursday 29 May] in celebration of his majority, an invitation with which Lord Charleville very readily complied. The members of the deputation were subsequently entertained at a splendid déjeuner which was laid out in the large dining room. The band of the Rifle Brigade, from Birr, in charge of Herr Meyder occupied a place on the terrace, and played a selection of music. The members of the deputation, having spent some time in the pleasure grounds returned to town; and later in the evening Lord Hastings and Captain Cox, High Sheriff of the County, drove two four in head drags which were occupied by guests from Charleville Castle. Other members of the company occupied places in various carriages, and their progress through and round the town was a continuous ovation from the immense throng of people with which the town was crowded. The horses were taken from Lord Charleville’s carriage, and many of the townspeople drew the carriage, the cheering all the while rending the air. Lord Charleville and his friends at ten o’clock drove through the town, which at that hour was brilliantly illuminated. A magnificent display of fireworks, by Mr Lawrence, Dublin, wound up the proceedings of the evening.

The address of 1873 from the town commissioners to the fourth earl of Charleville. A high quality framed copy can be seen at Offaly History and the original is now in Offaly Archives

The address from the chairman of the Tullamore Town Commissioners, Dr Michael Moorhead, M.D. (died 1885) was as follows:

The Right Honourable the Earl of Charleville

Charleville Forest Tullamore

From the Town Commissioners Tullamore,

My Lord,

We, the Town Commissioners of Tullamore, desire to convey to your Lordship our hearty felicitations on the event of your attaining your majority.

Although, as inhabitants of the Town, identified with and connected in the general movement undertaken by the friends and tenants of your Lordship for the purpose of celebrating this auspicious event we nevertheless – as representative body of the Township – feel bound to tender a special address to your Lordship, expressive of our warmest congratulations.

The epoch of life which we thus desire to commemorate marks a period in the existence of your Lordship when control ceases and freedom begins.  From it we trust the happiness of your Lordship shall date, and shall uninterruptedly increase with your years, until when old time shall lead you to your end your mind shall be stored with fondest and dearest recollections.

We too, as tenants of your Lordship, desire in an especial manner to tender to your Lordship on behalf of that numerous and respectable body, of which we constitute but a humble and insignificant contingent, our deep and heartfelt congratulations.  Deep, lasting and heartfelt they are, because they have been merited and well deserved – not as yet – by your Lordship, but by those of your noble ancestors, who have gone before you.  Their good deeds towards us have not been buried with them, but on the contrary live fresh and green in our memories and like angels whispering from their tombs, admonish us today to testify to the world that the Escutcheon of Charleville has never been tarnished by the blighting shadow of an exterminator.   [our italics]

You, my Lord, represent and inherit this principle.  It has been transmitted to you as have been your name and property.  To you also have been transmitted other numerous and distinctive qualities of kindness and consideration which have ever characterized your noble ancestors in their dealings with us.  We have no doubt your Lordship will uphold these traditions and accord to them a faithful observance.

We sincerely trust you Lordship may long live in possession of the distinction and honor to which you have attained, and in the full enjoyment of all the pleasure and happiness resulting there from.

We finally venture to express a hope, that amid its most brilliant scenes of dazzling splendour and exquisite pleasure, the silent thought will ever occur to your Lordship’s must (Stealing gently over it like south wind breathing softly on a bed of Violets) that there is a happiness more exquisite still and more durable than all those to be sought and to be found in the hearts and affections of a contented and grateful tenantry.

Town Commissioners Office                          On Behalf of the Town Commissioners

            Tullamore                                                       I have the honor to subscribe myself,

            May 1873                                                        My Lord

                                                                        Your Lordships obedient humble servant

                                                                                                M. J Moorhead, M.D.


[1] Brian M. Walker is an historian and a political scientist. He is professor emeritus of Irish Studies at Queen’s University. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts and an honorary member of the Linen Hall Library, Belfast.. We are very grateful to Professor Walker for this gift to Offaly History and to his friends J.F. and B.B. for their assistance (ed. Offaly History blog).

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