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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 Offalyhistory.com , 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

The Gill Drapery Store in High Street Tullamore, 1900–22. From Gills to Guy Clothing. Recalling also the Mills and Mueller families. By Michael Byrne

Marking Tullamore 400th, Decade of Centenaries and Sustaining the country towns in the 21st century

August 1922 was a wicked month with the death of two Irish leaders, Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins. At local level we had the death in July 1922 of the Ulster Bank manager Tullamore in the course of a robbery and at Bunaterin the death of a Free State soldier, Matthew Cullen, on 29 August 1922. Raymond Cullen wrote about this in our blog last week and in July we carried a blog on the Ulster Bank robbery by the Republican IRA. The Republicans departed Tullamore on 20 July 1922 just before the Free State army reached the town. Before leaving the barracks, courthouse and jail were burnt. Later in the month and in August it was the turn of the Big House owners including Screggan Manor, Geashill Castle and Brookfield. Thucydides (d. 400 BC) wrote of how civil war exhibited a tendency to extremism. We were fortunate in Ireland that things, while bad, was not by any means on a par with the American of Spanish Civil Wars. That said the killings in the North of Ireland were terrifying.  But enough of that lets go back to our story for today which is about shopping in Tullamore in the early 1900s, living over the shop and the tragedy of early death for the family of the owner Michal J. Gill in September 1922.

High Street late 1940s with Gill’s as a ruin, third from left

Affable is a word I find myself using to describe the business people of High Street over the last 50 years from J.J. Horan, to McGinns, Daly’s shop, John Clifford, Midland Books, Kilroy’s Matty Coyne, Paddy Cleary, P.J. Carragher, Tom Lawless and so many more one could mention.  In the course of a family wedding recently I had the pleasure of being ‘fitted out’ by Anthony Kearns, his ‘affable’ father and the staff of the shop. Now I am revisiting but today to look back at the history of the store and the building here since the 1750s, but more especially in the time of Gill’s Drapery from 1901 to c. 1922. This was a good time for drapers and opposite Gill’s (on the corner) was the Rafter drapery. In William/Columcille St. was Tullamore Drapery and Scally’s (to become a massive new store in 1912), and of course there was Morris’ shop.

GV 6 and 7 High Street, Galvin’s ladies’ drapers, now Guy Clothing

Guy Clothing in recent times

The modern shop was erected in the early 1960s by P. & H. Egan Limited in a contemporary style and replaced a five-bay, two-storey house erected in 1753. Why the old house had been allowed to go to ruin in the 1940s is not known. For many years in the 1950s all that survived was a high wall. By the way the number of the shop comes from Griffith’s Valuation (GV) of 1854 and settled the numbering of these houses for many years.

The layers of transactions in regard to GV 6 & 7 certainly confirm the many layers in leasehold properties and the use they were put to in order to shore up income maintenance for investors. In April 1753 Lord Tullamore leased to Robert Mills, a farmer, the dwelling house adjoining John Nightingale. Mills also held, by a lease of three lives, twenty-six acres of arable land and four acres of bog at Spollanstown. The lives inserted were those of John Mills, Thomas Mills and James Mills, annual rent £3, and double that figure in the event of Mills selling to a papist.[1] He mortgaged the Tullamore property to John Finlay of Dublin in 1758 and in 1767 – the latter for a loan of £113.

Gill’s with the rolls of Cloth outside. Courtesy of NLI, c. 1905. Sergeant Ahern in picture.

Miss Mills and Sergeant Major Muller strike up a match

This Mills family of Tullamore were recalled in a story in 2001 in connection with the marriage of a daughter to a soldier in the King’s German Legion (KGL) some of whom are buried in Kilcruttin graveyard.That the KGL settled in Tullamore and were popular is evident from matches that were made including that of Anne Mills, a Tullamore farmer’s daughter to Sergeant Major Muller and who were married at Middleton County Cork in November 1806.  She died at Osnabruck in 1845.  The story of Anne Mills was told to the Irish Times journalist, Richard Roche in 1961 while on a press visit to Germany by his guide to Berlin, a descendant of the same Anne Mills.  He noted in his Irishman’s Diary article of 9 January 2001 that Anne Mills was still remembered in her adopted Osnabruck but wondered was she remembered in her native Tullamore?[2]  Her name does not appear in the Tullamore parish registers of the Church of Ireland but other members of KGL feature in 1807 and 1808.  A daughter was born to the ‘Germans’ in December 1806 and baptized at the old church in Church Street in July 1807 while a marriage is recorded on Feb. 29 1808.  On 30 November 1808 is recorded a birth outside marriage to a KGL captain and an Irish girl.  Was the child sent to the Foundling Hospital in Dublin as was usual at that time?[3]

In 1790 William Finlay, administrator of John Finlay’s will sold the property to Samuel Bollard of Farthingston, Westmeath.[4] By 1843 the house was subdivided, the northern end of the building was occupied by Thomas Mullen (?McMullen) and later Robert Galbraith, possibly a draper. In 1854 it was occupied by Thomas Kenny and let at £12 a year. In 1843 the southern end of the house was occupied by Matthew Warren who ran an eating house, later Mary Bolan, and in 1854 John Flanagan.[5] Flanagan had cabins to the rear as shown on the 1838 5 ft scale town plan.

The first valuation in 1843

6. (24)     Thomas McMullen to be let (Robert Galbraith) [James Kenny, James Bollard].  This house was let at £12 a year.  The rere is small, enclosed with a lock up gateway – no garden, situation good.

                F.21, H.20, Q.L. 1B – YR (£14.0.0) LR (£10.4.0)

7. (25)     Matthew Warren eating house (Mary Bolan) [Rob Flanagan from James Bollard.  Warren holds from Susanna Smith of Wm. St. – there is no rere – and the house very inconvenient – part of the lower story is occupied by a poor tenant – the rent was £14 but reduced. The situation good.

                F.17, H.20, Q.L. 1B (1.C+) Y.R –£ 9.0.0 [L.R 9.0.0]

Kevin Fergus Egan sold the Egan interest in GV 7 to the Egan company in 1927 arising from an interest acquired in 1908. It is noted on the title to the property that Robert Bollard died a bachelor farmer, aged 64, in 1898. Meanwhile the occupancy was with Patrick O’Hanrahan from 1886 and subsequently Denis Fitzpatrick of Cappancur. Fitzpatrick was adjudicated a bankrupt in 1895 and the 99-year lease from 1886 was assigned to the Egan firm in 1896.  By 1898 the property was tenanted by drapers Richard J. Ranson and Thomas J. Adams and was known as ‘The Mart’. In 1901 it was leased to Michael J. Gill for £60 a year. Gill had been a draper with Malachy Scally in Columcille Street and opened on his own account. His widow surrendered the lease to Egan’s in 1927. A second part of the property was tenanted by John Flanagan and James Kenny. Flanagan had a 999-year lease from 1880. Egan’s acquired this or  another 999-year interest in the property in 1940.

Strange to say the 1901 census entry was not found in High Street or Charleville Square. Michael Gill, drapery manager, was living in William Street over Scally’s shop. An entry at no, 5 may mean this property was vacant in April of 1901 at the time of the census.

The census for 1911 census High Street (no. 59), GV 6 and 7 really shows us what living over the shop meant and how the drapers of those years had inhouse staff to make suits and other clothing. The Gill Family lived in what the census people called a 1st class private dwelling in a house/Shop with seven windows to the front. The house had three out-offices which were two stables and one shed. The household was comprised of the husband, wife, four sons, one daughter, six employees (four milliners and two draper assistant) and two servants (one female nurse and one servant).  It was largely a family concern with no less than seven family members and eight support staff to help in the house and the shop.

The Gill shop on census night in 1911

GillMichael JHead of FamilyRC40DraperMCo RoscommonGillElizabethWifeRC30–MCo LongfordGillMartinSonRC7–SKing’s CoGillMargaretDaughterRC5–SKing’s CoGillEugeneSonRC3–SKing’s CoGillMichaelSonRC2–SKing’s CoGillWilliamSonRC –SKing’s CoSmythPatrickDraper’s AssistantRC19Draper’s AssistantSCo WestmeathMarronPatrick JAssistantRC41Draper’s AssistantSCo LouthCarolanLizzieMillinerRC17MillinerSCo LongfordColganKateMillinerRC18MillinerSKing’s CoBasticBridgetMillinerRC16MillinerSCo WestmeathButlerKateMillinerRC17MillinerSKings CoLawlorMaryServantRC20ServantSCo WestmeathOwensLizzieServantRC38Nurse DomesticMKing’s Co

Michael Gill died at 51 in 1922 and his family departed for the United States. Michael Gill died at 51 in 1922 and was buried in Clonminch. His obituary noted: The death took place at his residence, High St., Tullamore, of Mr. Michael J. Gill, draper.  The deceased was a native of Castlerea and served his apprenticeship in the drapery establishment of the late Mr John Fitzgibbon, in that town.  He came as assistant to the drapery establishment of Mr. Malachy Scally, Tullamore, about 35 years ago.  He was a man of kindly genial disposition, and a citizen for whom there was great regard and esteem….[6]

Gill’s wife and ten children emigrated to New York in the late 1920s. A few of the children were back in Tullamore in the 1950s and 1960s for a dinner for friends of the Old IRA in 1953. Ten years later Michael J. Gill, a son of the draper, visited Tullamore.[7]

Gill’s site c. 1952. Bus Bar to left.

The building  appears to have been vacant from 1927 and was taken down by P.& H. Egan Ltd in 1952. It was then left for eight years as a walled in yard. In 1961, and to a very modern style, a newly constructed shop was opened by that firm as a hardware store focusing on electrical goods and the new products in demand in the early 1960s for the modernised home.[8] It was sold in the late 1960s with the winding up of the Egan firm and was acquired by Joe Galvin, the auctioneer, for offices on the first floor and ladies fashions on the ground floor. The new store, Galvin’s Ladies Drapery, was under the direction of Joe Galvin’s wife, Mrs Lily Galvin, having moved to much larger premises from her former shop in Harbour Street, established in 1957 twelve years earlier.[9] Joe Galvin was from a distinguished Tullamore-based business family headed by his father Michael (of the gravel business, later Readymix), and brothers John and Andy, and Brendan (among others) also in business in Tullamore. Joe Galvin died at the early age of 54.[10] His auctioneering business was continued for a time by his brother Andy and Enda Soden.

The new store of c. 1961

Galvin for Ladies closed in 2014 after forty-five years in this location of which twenty-eight years was under the direction of John Galvin. In appearance the building has been changed radically on two occasions since the time of the Gill ownership from 1901 to 1922. The first was in 1961 for Egan’s and the second about 2007.  The store was continued as a drapery for younger women in a new location. 

The lovely new consumables of the early 1960s. Tullamore was a lead town in the midlands in that decade

The High Street store got a new lease of life with the opening of Guy Clothing by Anthony Kearns and Kara Kearns in October 2014. Their fine store has brought new business to High Street after the closure of Kilroy’s (both stores in 2007). We wish them well.

 If we had letters and diaries from the 1750s what a story could be told of this one house in High Street. We did hear that some members of the Gill family from the Unites States called to the town council about ten years ago and would hope to make contact. The same can be said to the Mills Muller family in Berlin. Maurice Egan has written in two books now of the Egan family and others in Tullamore.

If you have a story to tell why not email us [email protected]. For over 400 stories so far see Offalyhistoryblog. They are nicely organised on our website www. Offalyhistory.com. There are about sixteen houses in O’Connor Square and over forty in High Street. Every building has a story. Have you archival material, memorial cards, photographs, diaries, letters? Why not call us. Offaly history is about saving memories. Visit our website and that of Offaly Archives. Our thanks to Offaly County Council, Decade of Centenaries and the Heritage Council. Only 55 more stories for High Street  and O’Connor Square!! Thanks to Offaly History Centre for so much help with this one.

[1] Offaly Archives/4/36, 6 Apr. 1753; RD, 154/592/107558. Charleville to Robert Mills; fee farm grant, 11 June 1880, RD, 1880/40/216.

[2] Irish Times, 9 January 2001.  This article first appeared in The Irish Sword in 1971, x, p.73.  A   Mills family lived at Spollanstown and were farmers and had property in High Street, Tullamore. Lord Tullamoore granted a lease to Robert Mills of Tullamore, a farmer,  in 1753 (Registry of Deeds memorial Book 154-592-107558).  A later deed of 1773 (Registry of Deeds 308-478-206673) refers to a Spollanstown address for Robert Mills and James Mills.

[3] Church of Ireland parish registers, Tullamore.  Index with OHAS, Research Centre,  Tullamore

[4] RD, 6 April 1753, Tullamore to Mills, memorial no., 154/592/107558; 10 March 1767, Mills to Finlay, memorial no., 297/637/196497; 4 November 1758, Mills to Finlay, memorial no. 199/346/132431; 13 September 1790, Finlay to Bollard, memorial no., 416/493/277814.

[5] MS valuation, Tullamore, property nos, 24-5; Slater, Directory (1846), p. 93.

[6] Midland Tribune, 30 Sept. 1922.

[7] Offaly Independent, 8 Aug. 1953, 2 Nov. 1963.

[8] Offaly Independent, 3 June 1961.

[9] Tullamore Tribune, 29 Sept. 1979.

[10] Midland Tribune, 16 June 1984.

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