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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 Tullamore and County Offaly Agricultural Show: part of the heritage of the county and now a national event. Contributed by Offaly History

The Tullamore and County Offaly Agricultural Show may be described as a unique cross urban/rural community undertaking and a traditional family day out attracting up to 60,000 people to the show. The Tullamore show was rekindled in 1991 by a small group of local people representing urban and rural communities. The Tullamore and Co. Offaly Agricultural Show Society Ltd was founded in 1990 and since its inception the Tullamore Show has grown to become one of Ireland’s largest and finest one day shows with entries from the 32 counties. In the early years of the 1990s the Tullamore Show was held in the grounds of Charleville demesne and castle in the month of August.

A 2018 show launch courtesy of the Show Gallery

The year 1840 saw the first ever agricultural show to be held in Tullamore. It lapsed in 1843 and was revamped in the early 1900s. It then ceased in 1938 for 53 years until 1991. It should be noted that the show was originally established under the patronage of the second earl of Charleville and with the strong support of the local landowners. It was successful until destroyed by the events of the Famine years of 1845–49.

A winner at the 2022 event. Courtesy of the show gallery

Agricultural shows saw a revival in the 1900s with increasing prosperity in the country and the end of the 30-year struggle to get ownership of the land culminating in the land acts of 1881 to 1903. By the end of the 19th century the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction had been established.  So also had the dairy co-operative movement and steps were taken in 1905 to establish a bacon factory at Roscrea.  Locally a county committee for technical instruction had been established in 1901 which was eventually to develop as the Offaly Vocational Education Committee in 1930 with a separate county committee for agricultural education (later Teagasc). Shows were held in Tullamore, Birr, Kilcormac, Croghan, Philipstown/Daingean in the early 1900s.

The committee for the revived show of 1925 which continued until 1938

An attempt to revive the Tullamore Show in 1950 did not excite sufficient interest. In Birr, the annual Show was revived after the war and here shows were held almost every year from 1946 until the mid-1960s. The Tullamore Show Secretary, John J. Clavin, told a Birr audience at the meeting called to revive the Birr Show in September 1945 that the approximate cost of running a show was £628, with receipts of £547, leaving a debit balance of £171. It was this balance which was raised from dances and whist drives and lotteries. The first revived Birr Show was a great success, showing a credit balance of almost £500.

D.E. Williams trade stand at the 1925 show

P.K. Pilkington was a leading light in the Birr Show and his tragic death in 1958 (attacked by one of his own prize Shorthorn bulls) was a great loss to the Birr Agricultural Society. The late C.B. Corcoran took over as secretary until his resignation in 1962. A deteriorating financial situation saw the demise of the Birr Show in the mid-1960s.

The Tullamore Show was revived in 1991, largely due to the enthusiasm of Christy Maye, Tom Meagher and many others. It took its inspiration from the Mullingar Show as the old shows in Tullamore had been long forgotten. It is now in its 32nd year and has a dedicated committee and a big number of supporters. Attendance is said to number about 60,000 at the shows in 2015 and 2016. All a long way from the tentative steps taken by Thomas Bewley and the second earl of Charleville back in 1840.

An early 1990s Tullamore Show Committee

The 2023 Show will take place on Sunday 13th August 2023 at the Butterfield Estate and will feature over 1,000 classes with a prize fund of €175,000 along with a range of highly sought-after Gold and Silver Medals for the Livestock competitors. The Tullamore Show and FBD National Livestock Show (FBD being the sponsor) will showcase classes in Dairy, Pedigree, Commercial and Sheep. The Pedigree section will host the National Show for Simmental, Charolais, Limousin and Hereford. There are over 12 breeds of Pedigree Cattle competing for the ever sough after Gold and Silver Medals. The Commercial Cattle section is delighted to host the Commercial Blonde d’Aquitaine Sired Calf extravaganza for its first year, with a prize fund of €2000. The Sheep programme will be expanding this year with introduction of the Lanark Sheep Breed All Ireland Classes.The show Programme also offers competitions in Equine, Cookery, Poultry, Art, and Inventions and many more and there are 700 trade spaces. Enjoy the day.

Prizewinners at the 2019 show Honey Section.A Famine History stand at the 1997 show

Offaly Archives has material on the shows of the 1920s. Offaly History Centre has collected material on the shows since 1991.

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