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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 Papers of St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg. By Damien Burke and Lisa Shortall

Offaly Archives is pleased to announce the publication of the catalogue of the Papers of St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, the result of a collaboration with the Irish Jesuit Archives, Leeson St, Dublin, where the papers are permanently housed. This blog outlines the history of the college at Tullabeg, the scope of what is contained in the archives and how to access the online catalogue.

The Jesuit community at Tullabeg (St Stanislaus College), Offaly was established in 1818, four years after they were restored as an order. Tullabeg was initially intended to function as a novitiate (training centre for Irish Jesuits) and a suitable site was offered in 1815 by Ms Marie O’Brien (1765-1827), of Rahan Lodge. She had also helped the Presentation Sisters establish a convent nearby at Killina. When the Tullabeg building was complete, the idea of novitiate was abandoned and the new foundation served as a feeder school for Clongowes Wood College, Kildare. Tullabeg rarely counted more than forty pupils, all of them below early teens and the pace of life was unhurried. Drama, debates and sport (gravel football and cricket) were encouraged, and facilities followed. The appointment of Fr William Delany SJ (1835-1924) as rector, transformed the College educationally. Pupils were matriculated and examined successfully for BA degrees at the University of London, and later at the Jesuit-run University College, Dublin.

Mens’ Sodality group, Tullabeg, 1902

However in 1886, Tullabeg and Clongowes were both in debt and the Irish Jesuit Province suffered from a lack of man-power. Therefore, to the consternation of Tullabeg boys and masters, the ‘amalgamation’ between Tullabeg and Clongowes occurred, resulting in the closure of the school. Tullabeg was repurposed, and became for the next century, a house of Jesuit formation. The first master of novices was Fr Michael Browne SJ (1853-1933), a widely sought after spiritual director, and was considered influential in the lives of Blessed John Sullivan SJ (1861-1933) and Fr Willie Doyle SJ (1873-1917). Locally, there has been a devotion to Jesuits John Cunningham (1817-1858) and John Hyde (1909-1985).

To mark the bicentenary of the foundation of the College, Offaly Archives, in a unique collaboration with the Irish Jesuit Archives, have published online the catalogue of the papers of the Jesuit community at Tullabeg (IE IJA/FM/TULL).  The collection is housed at the Irish Jesuit Archives in Leeson St, Dublin and contains a wealth of archival material relating to the foundation of St Stanislaus College and its development as a school (1818-86), novitiate (1888-1930), and as a philosophate (1930-62). From the 1960s onwards, Jesuits conducted retreats, hosted garden fêtes and ran employment schemes at Tullabeg, until the closure of the house and public church in 1991. The Evie Hone windows were removed to the Jesuit retreat centre at Manresa, Dollymount, Dublin and today, the cemetery and the old buildings are a reminder of Jesuit life at Tullabeg.

The papers, dating from 1812 to the 1990s, are comprised of title deeds, correspondence, diaries, account books, maps, plans, and photographs – a true treasure trove of material with local historical significance. They were collected by Irish Jesuits over the years and deposited in the archives until they were first catalogued in 1999.

Shrovetide drama program 1885

Offaly Archives readily agreed to host the descriptions of the items in the Tullabeg collection on its online archives catalogue due to the pivotal role of the College in the lives of local residents in the Tullabeg/Rahan/Killina area and further afield in the county. A select amount of photographic material has been digitised to illustrate the catalogue and to provide a small insight into the treasures of local interest held in a centralised archive of a religious order. This was possible due to the generosity of the Irish Jesuit Archives and the advice and assistance of Damien Burke, the order’s Archivist.

The catalogue is available to browse by accessing the website and searching for the collection title ‘St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, Offaly’. The catalogue, which is completely searchable, contains approximately 350 descriptions and over 100 digitised items. The original material is also available to consult in person by making an appointment to view the archives in Leeson St. Email [email protected] for more information.

How many can you identify?
At opening of Retreat House, Tullabeg, 1963.

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