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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 Truce in Offaly: ‘The developments give ground for confidence and hope. The first and most important step has been taken, and by it Ireland is placed in a position which since the olden days she has not enjoyed.’ By Offaly History

Welcome to this our 48th blog for the Decade of Centenaries. All of them will soon be posted to the Decade of Centenaries site hosted on www.offalyhistory and with thanks to all our contributors and partners and especially Offaly County Council, Offaly Libraries, the heritage office and Offaly Archives. We have now posted 302 blogs since 2016 and reached 304,000 views. Our contributors grow in number and so does this body of knowledge, free to use and enjoy across the globe. We welcome new contributors via [email protected].

The coming into force of the Truce in the war with England on 11 July 1921 marked the end of an era in that the struggle with our powerful neighbour was to cease. The editor of the Midland Tribune, James Pike, of Roscore, Tullamore, saw it as grounds for optimism. The Offaly Independent was burned out by the British security forces the previous November. The Chapman family paid a heavy price for their advocacy of Sinn Féin. The Birr King’s County Chronicle, as a staunchly loyalist newspaper, cannot have been much pleased with the outcome but it was accepted.

Only the previous week the might of England was displayed when the visiting assize judges, Wiley and Sullivan, came to Tullamore courthouse for the last time, surrounded by soldiers, but with hardly anyone in attendance at the courts, save the officials and just four grand jury members. Despite the high level of serious incidents reported by the police, there was no one held accountable. The Chronicle reported (and see our blog of 10 July 2021) ‘There was no criminal case for hearing at King’s Co Assizes, and the Sub-Sheriff (Mr. Barry) presented, Mr. Justice Wylie with white gloves, which his lordship declined to receive.  Mr. Serjt. Sullivan, K.C., sat in the Record Court.KCC, 14/7/1921)

Mr Justice Wiley, the last judge of the assizes in Offaly sitting on 4 July 1921 was hopeful of prospects for Ireland and declined to harangue or accept white gloves

The war in Offaly in 1921 included the following:

Jan., 1921 – Ambush at Belmont. Eight rifles and 900-rds. Captured.

22nd Feb., 1921 – Police ambushed near Philipstown; five wounded.

22nd Feb, 1921 – Police lorry ambushed at Mount Lucas, Edenderry.

21st March, 1921 – Police fired on at Portarlington; one wounded.

(6th Period)  – Blueball – planned ambush.

1st April, 1921 – Policeman wounded in Tullamore [and death of IRA man Matthew Kane]

18th April, 1921 – Philipstown Barracks attacked; one wounded.

23rd April, 1921 – Edenderry Barracks attacked.

15th May, 1921 – Constable wounded at Edenderry.

17th May, 1921 – Two constables killed and two wounded at [Kinnitty] Birr.

3rd June, 1921 – Edenderry Barracks attacked.

Late June 1921 – Burning of Derrylahan House four miles south of Birr in North Tipperary

[30 June 1921] the killing of two of the Pearson brothers, Richard and Abraham, at Coolacrease

4th July, 1921 – Crossley tender ambushed at Ballycara

[3] 6th July, 1921 – Military and police ambushed at Raheen, Geashill.

8th July, 1921 – Police ambushed near Ballyduff.

8th July, 1921 – Skirmish in Mitchell’s Lane, Tullamore.

[‘An ambush of Crown forces took place on Friday evening near Ballyduff Hills, at a place known as Mitchell’s Lane.  The Crown forces replied, the interchange continuing for some time, but the attackers eventually withdrew.  As far as can be ascertained there were no casualties.’]

(7th Period)    – Banagher – planned attack.

[10 July 1921] Killing of an alleged spy Alexander Steadman near Tullamore

11th July, 1921 – Policeman wounded at Edenderry.

In the three months before the Truce the war in Offaly was intensified. An attack in Tullamore in April left IRA volunteer Matthew Kane dead. In May two policemen were killed in Kinnitty. Something that very much upset the parish priest of Birr as did the killing of Sergeant Cronin in Tullamore on 31 Oct. 1920 against which Fr Callary had much to say. The Kinnitty ambush took place in which two constables (of a group of seven cycling policemen) serving summonses for jury duty were killed and two more injured while engaged in what Ryan saw as a harmless and not meddlesome duty. He went on to declare to his parishioners that thankfully Birr and the surrounding districts had been up to that point spared the troubles, the terrors, the bloodshed prevailing in parts of the country. People were justified, he said, in asserting their civil rights, but only within the law of God. The Midland Tribune was strongly pro-Sinn Féin and reported that the shops in Birr had been directed to close for the funeral but that few local people attended. The unionist King’s County Chronicle reported the attendance of a large and representative gathering of the general public. Of the two constables who were killed John Dunne was serving in Birr and had joined the RIC in 1918. Edward Doran, also killed, had joined in the same year.

From the Chronicle of 7 July 1921

Head Constable McEvill was shot dead in Kilbeggan on 12 June. Paul Hughes in a recent blog on the Westmeath Decade of Centenaries platform noted that:

The killing of McElhill is documented as part of an account of activities of the Irish Republican Army’s Offaly No. 1 Brigade, under the command of which the Kilbeggan Company fell. IRA veterans recalled that five Volunteers led by Offaly No. 1 Brigade officer and Kilbeggan man Sean McGuinness were involved in the shooting, four of them directly so.

With McGuinness was fellow Kilbeggan man Christopher Bastick and Tullamore Volunteers Martin Connell and Thomas Berry, with Patrick Crowley, Kilbeggan Company, functioning as a scout. McElhill was shot by the IRA party from close quarters before being disarmed by Berry, who had to cut a lanyard to remove the policeman’s revolver. sources. . .

Both Offaly brigades were under intense pressure from the IRA’s General Headquarters (GHQ) for their perceived lack of activity in the war against Crown forces, and it is against this backdrop that the targeted killing of McElhill took place.

There were others who also suffered in those June days such as the Pearson brothers at Coolacrease. A policeman in Edenderry (severely wounded) and an alleged spy in Tullamore Alexander Steadman. His death came in the days before the Truce came into effect and he was found dead at Puttaghan, Tullamore on 10 July. The Tribune recording that:


A report was received in Tullamore on Sunday morning that the dead body of a man was found lying on the roadside a short distance from the town. The Crown forces went out and took possession of the remains about 9.a.m. They were found at Puttahawn, about a mile from Tullamore, the body being labelled “Tried, convicted, and executed on the 9th July, Sooner or later we get them’. Beware of the I.R.A.” and on the label also was the name, according to report received, “Alexander Steadman, Birmingham.” He appeared to be a man of about 35 years of age, and it is stated must have been dead for some time, local opinion being that he was shot in some other place and moved to the spot at which his death was discovered. (Midland Tribune, 16 July 1921).

John Poynton, of Portarlington was dragged from his bed at three o’clock on Monday morning and shot dead by two armed and masked men.

The house of M Buckley, an ex-soldier, was burned down on the previous night in the same locality.  (KCC, 14/7/1921)

Courthouse and jail. By July 1922 both buildings were destroyed in the civil war.

LOCAL PRISONER’S REMOVED from Tullamore jail

Prisoners removed to the Curragh from Tullamore Jail are :- Peter Mahon, Cloncon, Killeigh; P. Bergin, Clareen, Birr; M Bergin, do.; S. Lyons, Ross; J. Conroy, do; A. Molloy, John Donegan, Geashill; M Donegan do ; Tim Guinan, Clareen; – Murray, Banagher; T. Guinan, do.;- Garrihy, Cloghan; H. Grogan, Killyon;;- Jennings, d;- Donnelly, Cadamstown; J. G. McRedmond; do;- Dillon, do; John Carroll, do; T. Horan do; James Delahunty, do; Jos. Carroll, do; John Coughlan, Belmont; Chairman, Birr Board of Guardians; Patk. Fox, Five Alley, Birr; M. Colgan, Banagher. (KCC, 14/7/1921)

The Truce came into operation on Monday 11 July. The flags, so often removed by the RIC, from 1917 onwards, would now be left undisturbed. The weather was good and people were happy to be out in the sunshine and free of danger. The divisions to come in the IRA, and the civil war to follow by June of 1922, were not on the radar. On the day before the Truce the Chronicle reported:

Great swimming exhibitions were witnessed by a large crowd at the Banagher Bridge on Sunday, when songs and step dances, to melodeon accompaniment, on one of the canal boats, were also greatly enjoyed.

The Tribune reported that

The truce took effect at 12 0’clock (noon) on Monday [11 July 1921], when signs of joy and hope were everywhere in Tullamore.  Republican flags were hoisted from various buildings-notably those which suffered from the effects of reprisals ­ – including the wrecked Sinn Fein Hall.  A feeling of relief was experienced after the long period of anxiety and tension.  During the day bicycles were about as usual, and cyclists who felt the ban and the want of facilities were in a happy mood as they wheeled along again in freedom.  Those who travelled on foot or by vehicle once again did so under favourable conditions, and free from risks and difficulties which up to this made travelling a hardship and danger.  Greatest of all difficulties perhaps, curfew was off, and people, especially younger folk, were roaming in the gloaming as of old.  The people enjoyed to their hearts content the spirit of freedom after their anxieties and troubles, and were at the same time full of hope that there would never again be a return to conditions which tried their courage and endurance, and tired them not in vain.  Soldiers and police walked about unarmed.  All were untroubled by anything save the terrible host which seems determined to continue to make things to make things hot for us; but we don’t complain – for it is indeed delightful weather, and one of the summers that from the weather point of view – apart from the other things which have helped to make it historic – will not soon be forgotten.  Children and the sunshine sang songs of glee, for their delight at having peace and freedom of movement were not less than that of their elders.  The day marked the end of an era in the history of the country.  The developments give ground for confidence and hope.  The first and most important step has been taken, and by it Ireland is placed in a position which since the olden days she has not enjoyed. It is significant and is with just justification regarded as a distinct advance on the road to national freedom. (Midland Tribune, 16 July 1921)

Coming shortly

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