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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

The grant of Tullamore in 1622 to Sir John Moore of Croghan: the 400th anniversary of the beginning of township in Tullamore. By Michael Byrne

Tullamore is a well-preserved town and is the county town of Offaly since an act of parliament in 1832 displaced Philipstown (Daingean) which had been the county town since the shiring of Offaly as part of the new colonial government policies in 1557. The new county to be known as King’s County was then comprised of the baronies reflecting the Gaelic lordships of the O’Connors and that of the O Dempseys. The king in question was none other than Philip II of Spain married at that time to the tragic Queen Mary of England (1553–58) hence the new forts of Philipstown and Maryborough (Portlaoise). The county was extended about 1570 to include the territory of the O Molloys (now to be the baronies of Ballycowan, Ballyboy and Eglish) and also that of the Foxes in Kilcoursey and the MacCoghlans in what would be called Garrycastle. In 1605 the territory of the O Carrolls (to form the baronies of Ballybritt and Clonlisk) was added, as also was the parish of Clonmacnoise (1638) at the behest of Terence Coghlan of Kilcolgan. Those looking for an exciting seventeenth-century history for Tullamore will be disappointed as the surviving evidence of town growth in that troubled century is thin. This week we continue to series to mark the 400th anniversary of Tullamore as a town.

The earliest mention of Tullamore is probably that in the grant of a lease of1570 to Nicholas Herbert of the monastic lands of Durrow. Variants followed including Tullamoore by 1670.

Towllaghmore 1570 (Archdall, Monasticon Hibernicum, 806).

Tullaghmore, 1574 (Fiants Ire., Eliz., 8 July 1574, no. 2522, 335).

Tullamore 1585 Fiants Ire., Eliz., 4730, 695 (a pardon to Rory O Dwygyn, carpenter).

Tullaghmore 1600 Fiants Ire., Eliz., 6430,364 (a pardon to Edw. O Moloy)

Tullamore was situated in Fear Ceall, the territory of the O Molloys. Before his death in June 1583 the then chief of the family, Theobald O Molloy, bequeathed the castle and town of Tullamore with three carucates of land to Joan ny Carwill for the duration of her life. On her death the lands of Tullamore were to pass to their grandson Edward. Theobald O Molloy had been lord of Fercall for a short while after 1557. He became chief again in 1567 and retained the position until his resignation in favour of his son, Donald/Domhnall, in l578. Donald O Molloy was appointed seneschal of Fear Ceall in the same year. Donald was killed by the O’Connors at Durrow in 1582. Theobald then resumed the chieftaincy. Donald O’Molloy seems to have been very anglicised and had married an English woman, a daughter of Robert Cowley – a grantee of lands at Edenderry.Their son Edward O Molloy leased the Tullamore lands to Edward Moore for thirteen years at £10 per and a further payment of £3 per year to Callough O Molloy, the chief of his name, together with other impositions as might be levied. John Moore was related to Edward Molloy through the Cowley connection and both were of the same age. Edward Molloy’s property passed to his two sisters Suzanna and Matilda O Molloy. Shortly afterwards, John Moore purchased a half-share, or the entire, in the castle, town and lands of Tullamore from Edward’s two sisters. Susanna and Matilda. In any case Moore had a grant of all the lands from James I as part of the plantation of Fercall in 1620. Gaelic leaders like Callough O’Molloy together with Sir John McCoughlan had put themselves forward for election to the 1613 Parliament but were not wanted. Seven years later work on the plantation of the O’Molloy, MacCoughlan and O’Carroll lands began.

Srah Castle, near Durrow Ballycowan and Redwood. It was erected in 1588 on a native settler (Kearney and Briscoe) marriage. It is now Tullamore’s oldest house.

Who was John Moore the new owner of Tullamore?

John Moore (1580–1633) lived at Croghan Castle, northeast of Philipstown. He was a son of Thomas Moore (d. 1599) who had come to Ireland with his brother Edward (d. 1602) and two other siblings (Ann Moore and Brent Moore) early in Elizabeth’s reign. The family were of gentry stock in Kent and were soldiers out to make their fortune in Ireland. Edward Moore put down an uprising of the O Connors in 1573–4 which threatened the overthrow of the new settlement in King’s County. Edward Moore had received a grant of the monastic lands of Mellifont through his marriage connections and his support for the crown. His brother Thomas received a twenty-one-year lease of the Croghan lands in 1574, and a grant of the lands in 1577. This grant arose out of the precarious circumstances of the new plantation in Offaly. One of the grantees Robert Colley, nephew to Captain Henry Colley of nearby Castle Carberry was killed in the course of an attack on Philipstown by the O Mores in 1573. He was survived by a widow, Thomasine, and several daughters. The Croghan estate comprised of a good stone house and lands worth £100 a year. Thomas Moore answered the call and married the heiress and was secured with a grant of the lands in 1577. For his good service in Offaly Thomas Moore was knighted in 1593.

The remains of Croghan Castle in the mid-1970sThe ancestral lands of the O Connors at Croghan passed to the Moores of Kent and in 1764 the Burys of Limerick by descent.

 Thomas Moore made considerable additions to his estate. Besides his grant of Croghan (the total area of the Croghan estate was 8,233 statute acres), Moore also acquired by purchase from the original grantees the townlands of Cruit, Mullaghrush, Cloneen, Clonagh, Rathdrum, Ballyteige Big, Wood of O and Clonad, bringing the total area of his estate to12,932 acres.  He also had land in the countries of O’Molloy and Mac Coghlan ‘in tenure called gavelkind’. This land was in the area of Garrysallagh (north of Birr) and Lemanaghan (near Ballycumber), but did not remain part of the Moore property. By 1622 the Moore estate at Croghan and nearby (but excluding the Tullamore lands) was one of the largest in the King’s and Queen’s counties granted to servitors in the plantation. Fresh hostilities broke out in the Midlands in 1597–8 when the O’Connors made their final attempt to regain their lands, but were completely defeated by Mountjoy in 1600. Soon after O Neill’s victory at the Yellow Ford the O Connors attacked Sir Thomas Moore’s castle at Croghan. Both Moore and Gifford, another planter, were killed. Moore’s wife was also taken and left on a bog where she died of cold. Sir Thomas’s son, John, was kidnapped at the time or soon afterwards, but he was freed in June 1601 by Cahill MacTeig O Connor on instructions from Hugh O’Neill.John Moore’s uncle, Edward Moore of Mellifont had influence with O’Neill, as did Moore’s son Garret. Edward Moore’s military approach to governing Ireland and his cunning astuteness has been the subject of a recent study by Diarmuid Wheeler and in the DIB by Terry Clavin.  From these articles it is not surprising that Moore, combined with the assistance of his son Garret (d. 1627) was able to save his nephew from possible death. Another interesting source of help for Moore’s family was Callough O Molloy who intervened to have a lady who war carried away from Croghan Castle released. Following the defeat of the O Connors John Moore and the other settlers returned to their estates. By 1622 the first plantation of the 1550s to the 1570s was  described by the commissioners as thriving ‘as it was well begun so it hath prosperously continued, and is for the most part well-built peopled by the English and a great strength to the county and ready for your majesty’s service and their own defence’.

Tullamore to Charleville c. 1900. The original road from Redgate to Mucklagh was straight until the early 1800s when the demesne was enlarged.

In the plantation ofFear Ceall (1620) 26,656 acres of profitable land and 21,532 acres of waste land were available to be disposed of. Of the thirteen undertakers who received grants ranging from 1,000 to 30 acres perhaps only one, Nicholas Herbert, was connected with Elizabethan settlements in the county. Over sixty natives participated in the share out of three-quarters of the lands to be planted. These included upwards of ten of the O Molloy family with Charles O Molloy of Rathlihen in Killoughy barony securing 2,000 profitable acres. No grants were less than sixty acres. The smaller landholders had no option but to become leaseholder tenants or farm labourers. Early settlers like John Moore, Briscoe of Srah, Herbert, Warren and Leycester were classed as natives. Moore, who was described as a good servitor in the 1622 survey, had a grant of 415 acres of profitable land and 732 acres of waste land. The grant included:

 the castle town and lands of Tullaghmore and one water mill’ together with the lands at Kilcruttin, Clowmuch [Clonminch] Wood, Cloncalga [Cloncollog], the wood of Curraghboy, Doonollan and Monehowne [now part of Charleville Demesne], 242 a. pasture and 710a. bog and wood; Ballyard [now Ballard] 125a pasture and 16a. bog and wood; a moiety of Coolreagh 6a.; and also 42a. pasture and 6a. bog and wood in Killenroe [later called Redwood and now part of Charleville Demesne and Brookfield] in the barony of Ballycowen. Rent for the 415a. pasture 4l. 6s. 51/2 d. Engl. And for the 72 acres bog and wood 5s.6d. To hold a Tuesday market at Tullaghmore and a fair on the feast of St Peter and the day following [29 and 30 June], with a court of pie-powder and the usual tolls and customs; rent 1l Ir. All ancient glebes, vicarages and rectories excepted; to have free warren and chase, with all deodands. To hold in free and common socage and not to assume without licence, the style, title or name of O’Roirke, O’Molloy, the Fox, McCoghlane or O’Doyne, or to receive or pay any rent, taxes or services, or to divide their lands according to the Irish custom of gavelkind . .  23 April 20th James 1 [1622].

The court of pie powder mentioned in the 1622 grant was the lowest under English law and was associated with the markets and fairs. The grant of Birr to Laurence Parsons on 26 April 1620 in the plantation scheme for Ely O’Carroll included the castle of Birr, the watermill and a number of townlands with 20 acres set aside for the parish church and the entire to form part of the manor of Parsonstown with power to hold courts leet and baron and have jurisdiction up to 40s. and entitlement to empark 500 acres for demesne lands and to have free warren and chase within.

The Moore coat of arms, shield and supporters, c. 1740.

Presumably, what Moore was getting was an addition to the lands he already possessed in the Tullamore area. The 1,147 acres in the grant was equivalent to nearly 5,000 statute acres. When this is added to what Moore inherited from his father it gave him an estate of c. 18,000 statute acres. When a survey was made of the Charleville Estate in King’s County in 1786 it was found to contain about 23,000 statute acres. The increase is explained by lands in the barony of Upper Philipstown which had been acquired from the Hollow Blades company in the 1720s. About three-fifths of the estate was profitable land and the rest bog and wood.

In the plantation of Fear Ceall 1,500 acres of land was provided for four glebes and 200 acres for a free school. The school was not established. No provision was made for the establishing of towns, corporate or otherwise, in Fear Ceall. Several of the thirteen Fercall under­takers built castles, but there was none among them as enterprising as Laurence Parsons of Birr. Private initiative in Fear Ceall  did not fill the breach caused by the lack of government sponsorship of urban development. Despite John Moore’s grant of Tullamore and the surrounding lands the bulk of his estate was at Croghan where he choose to continue in residence until his death in 1633.

Only in Ely O’Carroll was progress made with the building of castles, especially that of Sir Laurence Parsons – a fact borne out by Cooke’s research for his Picture of Parsonstown (1826). No provision was made for a fort or town in Fear Ceall nor a school. The 1622 commissioners noted that the plantation in Fear Ceall, Kilcoursey and Garrycastle had not at that stage settled and many grantees had not extracted patents from the Chancery office. None of the undertakers was resident and no new buildings had been erected.   Some of the natives had old castles in convenient reparation. These old castles would have included Croghan, Tullamore and that at Srah. Work on renewing Ballycowan castle was possibly nearing completion by 1626 when the armorial plaque was erected.

The Philip Molloy of Derrydolney stone for a house of 1684. Very little land was in the ownership of the native families by 1700.

The old county town of Philipstown did not fare so well. By 1622 the fort was in poor condition and none but the gaoler and some poor people dwelling within the fort.

Because of various irregularities, many of the planters in Fercall, including Thomas Moore, heir to John Moore, took out new grants under the Commission for Defective Titles set up by Deputy Wentworth. The Commission had been busy rectifying titles and revising terms of tenancies since 1634 and by the end of 1637 its activities had added more than £3,000 to the annual revenue. In July 1638, Thomas Moore had a confirmation of his King’s County estates from Charles I. This cost him a £68 fine while his head rent was raised to £33.l5s.8d. or an increase of roughly £13. The grant included the lands in what was now the Manor of Croghan and Tullamore inclusive of two watermills in Tullamore and the town and fields of Killinroe contiguous to Ballyard and to hold a court baron and court leet within the manor to the value of 40s. These were additional privileges similar to what Laurence Parsons had secured in the plantation of Ely O’Carroll in 1620.

Thomas Moore succeeded to his father’s estate in 1633. At the time of his death John Moore, who had married Dorothy, a daughter of Adam Loftus, Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Chancellor, was in possession of a great mansion house, a water mill and twenty cottages at Croghan. At Tullamore he had a ruined castle, ten cottages and two water mills.

Dating the houses of Tullamore from the 1720s can be difficult. How many can you indentify? Pic: courtesy of Fergal MacCabe and with thanks. Framed prints of this drawing are available from Offaly History, Bury Quay for only €40 each.

Later in this series: how things fared for Tullamore from 1633 to 1715. We resume the survey of the town in 1838 next week.

I have relied on valuable articles by Clavin, McCuarta, Nicholls and Wheeler. The work of these historians will be fully acknowledged in due course.

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