December 2020
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New books for Christmas from Offaly History Shop, 9 to 4 30 Mon to Fri and online at
Buy a history book for Christmas at Offaly History Centre. Open on Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 30 p.m. So come in and browse. Only two at a time. Come to the window on Bury Quay if you want and give a shout if you want to click and collect from a distance.

Offaly History Centre has over 3,000 history titles to choose from and to suit all pockets – from under €10 to rare items for up to €250. Call and see us from 9 to 4. 30 Monday to Friday, or shop on line for new local publications.  You can pay by credit card or Paypal. We have almost 150 local publications to choose from. See for the catalogue.

We will be in the town centre for Christmas week in two locations to help keep numbers down at any one stall. Last year we were getting ready for ARTHUR & CHARLOTTE A VICTORIAN ROMANCE REMEMBERED in Hugh Lynch’s. This was one of our last fundraisers for the new archives and thanks to Martello Tower Players raised €1,000. We hope you will support the sales of Forgotten Souls by James Scully in our Books for Christmas below.
(Photo: Paul Moore Photography)

Events in December and in 2021


 On December 26 2020 we have a town walk starting at the Tullamore Town Park at 2.30 p.m. for about ninety minutes.

The second walk starting at O’Connor Square will be held at 11 a.m. on New Year’s Eve.

We are planning online lectures from January for the first half of the year. More details in the January newsletter.
Michael Byrne, Printing and bookselling in Offaly in the nineteenth century with particular reference to Birr (Esker Press, Tullamore, 2020), hard cover, limited edition of 250 copies, 144 pages and with almost seventy illustrations of rare items, many in colour.  €25 plus pp in Ireland, €5.
Birr is the only town in County Offaly which can be said to have a printing tradition dating from the late eighteenth century. This book argues that it could not have come about without the significant cultural influence of the town’s landlords, the earls of Rosse, and that this was particularly evident after 1800 when both the second earl and the third earl were resident in Birr. The pursuit of astronomy by the third earl and the building of the great telescope furthered intellectual pursuits and printing in Birr including the provision of the first county newspaper. Very little printing was done in the other towns and villages save Tullamore and here the dominance of Birr came to be felt from 1860 until the mid-1890s. Thereafter the pendulum swung in favour of the growing Catholic merchant class with the three new nationalist newspapers in County Offaly in just fifteen years from 1880 bringing an end to unionist dominance of the printing press.

Front cover: the Sheppard (formerly Sheilds) bookshop in Birr about 1900. It was a bookshop from the 1830s until the 1960s.

Back cover: Willis Printers, Tullamore in 1830 and c.1890. The Willis Printing Office, O’Connor Square, Tullamore, from a drawing in 1830 (possibly by Lady Charleville), and from a photograph of c.1890. The house became a private residence in the 1890s and remained so for ninety years.

Pre-order by cheques to Offaly Heritage Centre, or via our website,
BANAGHER COUNTY OFFALY (Tullamore, 2020),  280pp, paperback €20.
Forgotten Souls is a comprehensive study of Saint Rynagh’s old graveyard in Banagher, County Offaly. The survey covers 182 memorials ranging in date from 1576 to 1918. In addition to a transcription and description of each memorial, the text includes many short essays on notables buried there. These include members of the historic landed families, the MacCoghlans and the Armstrongs, as well as prominent members of the Banko, Flattery, Harton, McIntyre, McKeon and Woods families. Military personnel are also noted, particularly the accomplished diarist and artist Captain William Bamford.

The extensive introduction describes the work of the stonecutters highlighting the vernacular qualities of many monuments with illustrations of lettering, ligatures, ampersands, mirrored letters and other features. The archaeology, architecture and history of the site are also documented with accounts of the cholera epidemic in Banagher in the 1830s and the events that led to the closure of the graveyard in 1924. The book is richly illustrated with almost 400 photographs and historical images.
Who were the Egans and where did they come from? What national and international impact did they have on nineteenth-century Irish political reform? How did they become successful lawyers and businesspeople? Considered to have descended from the ancient Brehons, the Egans (MacAodhagáins) were advisers and lawyers to the Kings and Queens of Ireland.  They were one of the midlands of Ireland most influential families both in business and politics for over two hundred years. How did they survive the battles of the Boyne and Aughrim? During the penal times they somehow remained significant land holders around Mount Temple, Moate, Tubber and were benefactors to the Carmelite order. As Catholics how did they manage and balance holding office in the colonial British administration as well as being staunch advocates of both unity with Britain and Home Rule? How did they manage to change colonial rule in the areas of land and prison reform? How did they navigate the difficult world and civil war periods of the early 20th century and remain in business up until the late 1960s?
Tracing over two hundred years of history and deciphering how an influential merchant family helped shape the political and business landscape of 1800s and 1900s Ireland, family members Maurice and David Egan have researched the path taken and relate the associated remarkable stories that followed.

Hardback, €24.99. Available online at and at Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore. This will ship from 31 July. 
Schooling in Ireland: a clustered history 1695-1912, by John Stocks Powell
Some locations are associated by attractions such as Blarney for its castle; or a trade and manufacture, as Belfast was for shipbuilding, and Kinsale is now for restaurants and gourmets.  Portarlington in County Laois, has been associated with a French speaking Huguenot colony, as nearby Mountmellick is with Quakers.  These on-the-lip identities long used may diminish others.   For over two hundred years small Portarlington experienced a clustering of schools: a local industry offering income from parents, employment and provisioning.

French speaking schools, Latin homework under floorboards, pupils becoming famous, such as Edward Carson, Oscar Wilde’s court prosecutor, and bringing the country to civil war with his struggle for the British union: the Chartist leader Feargus O’Connor, trying to elope with his headmaster’s daughter.  There’s the headmaster whose pupils were escorted away during the 1798 rebellion, and another headmaster who took his school away, in flight and fright during the Land League of the 1880s.

Histories carry wider themes, such as: how long was childhood? How was the young brain filled? Textbooks, rules and rulers. What was the value on languages, Irish? English literature? French grammar?  Could Huguenot dialects be teachable?   Why did sport become so important?   And the poor children; too much education to make them think, spinning wheels for those girls; whereas Mrs Despard’s boarders not turned out to spin or cook, but to marry well. In a small town the encompassing of education in its failures, triumphs, hierarchies and finances, the ideas and faces of childhood are revealed.

John Stocks Powell has been involved with the history of Portarlington since the early 1970s, and happily a resident in the vicinity. In 1994 he published an opening history of the town, and followed with several pamphlets and booklets covering Huguenot documents, the character of Cathair na gCappal, the earls of Portarlington at Emo, ranging from Lord Arlington to the Belgian refugees in 1914. Working in England, and a librarian finding sources scattered, he tried to bring ‘its history back home’. Home and the world beyond can see that Portarlington is a most interesting place.
Rooms, A Memoir, Mary Lynam Dunne, print Plus, 2020, 275 pages, Softback, €12.00

Born in Tullamore, Co. Offaly Ireland, where she still resides, Mary Lynam Dunne is a retired Drama Teacher, Stage Director and Photographer who has now turned her hand to writing.  Many of her short stories, plays, poems and essays have been published over the years. She is also the author of five books to date.  This memoir is a heartfelt and engaging recollection of Mary’s life in Tullamore and beyond.
Hugh Mahon: Patriot, Pressman, Politician
Volume 2: Politician, The years from 1901-1931
by Jeff Kildea,
As a political agitator, journalist, businessman and politician, Hugh Mahon had a varied and fascinating life. Born in Offaly, he and his family migrated to America in 1869, but returned to Ireland in 1880 after their American dream failed. He was active in the Land League in County Wexford which led to his arrest and imprisonment with Parnell in 1881, and exile to Australia. As a crusading journalist he exposed corruption and became a thorn in the side of the Forrest government in Western Australia during the 1890s. He was elected to the first Commonwealth parliament in 1901 and served in four Labor ministries, rising to Minister for External Affairs during the First World War. He has the distinction of being the only person expelled from the Commonwealth parliament after he criticised British rule in Ireland.

This book, the second part of a two-volume biography of Mahon, covers the period from his election to parliament in 1901 until his death in 1931. It describes his almost 20 years as a backbencher and a minister during which he gained a reputation as one of the brainiest men in parliament as well as one of the most controversial. It provides an insight into his reluctant decision to oppose conscription in 1916 and examines in depth his commitment to Irish self-government and the circumstances of his dramatic expulsion from parliament in 1920. The volume also looks at Mahon’s career as managing director of the Catholic Church Property Insurance Co. and his intervention in Irish politics during the debate over the Anglo-Irish treaty. It is the story of a flawed genius who simultaneously evoked high praise and damning criticism.
Dr Jeff Kildea is an adjunct professor in Irish Studies at the University of New South Wales. In 2014 he held the Keith Cameron Chair of Australian History at University College Dublin. He is the author of Tearing the Fabric: Sectarianism in Australia 1910-1925 (2002); Anzacs and Ireland (2007); Wartime Australians: Billy Hughes (2008), and co-author of To foster an Irish spirit: The Irish National Association of Australasia 1915-2015 (2020).
This book studies the Irish law dating from ad 697, called Lex Innocentium or the Law of the Innocents. It is also known as Cáin Adomnáin, being named after Adomnán (d. 704), ninth abbot of Iona, who was responsible for its drafting and promulgation. The law was designed to offer legislative protection for women, children, clerics and other non-arms-bearing people, primarily though not exclusively, in times of conflict. It will be of interest to historians, both professional and lay, in many fields, with special relevance for historians of warfare, the laws of war, and of attitudes towards violence in general. The study seeks to identify the place of this law in the history of the laws of war and, in so doing examines many of the relevant sources in the Christian West, with conclusions that some will find surprising.
James W. Houlihan practised law as a solicitor in the Irish midlands for many years. On his retirement he completed a MA and a PhD in UCD.
Four Courts Press. 240pp. Hardback. 978-1-84682-849-2  €50.00
Available online at and at Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore.
‘Photographer James Fraher was invited to document the process of making briquettes at the Derrinlough Briquette Factory at it approached its 60th year of production. His stunning black and white photographs record each stage and a number of the workers at the factory. This project was led by Jimmy Shortt of Bord na Mona and Birr Historical Society who also wrote notes to accompany each image. Published by Offaly County Council with support from Creative Ireland.

Softback, €15. Available online at and at Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore. 
Poems and ballads of Edward (the Poet) Egan: a window on the social and political history of Tullamore in the 1890s is our latest publication. It is 132 pp and priced at €15. Full colour soft back.

Available online at and at Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore.
Renew your membership for 2021


Support the Offaly History Christmas Draw please.  We need your support more than ever and thanks to all who have contributed so far. Members will receive a card in the post or you can collect at the Centre. This draw raises about €1,000 each year and gives us all a chance to contribute to keeping up the high standards we aspire to. So do participate and support our objectives call Offaly History Centre

Offaly Heritage 11
A bumper journal will be available from mid-December and we will email you to let you know about it. It will be over 400 pages and 32 of colour featuring Offaly in 1920s, earlier periods, book reviews, the opening of the new archive, comprehensive reports on our work with the annual bibliographies for 2018 and 2019. It will be only €15 and €25 in hardback. The equivalent size book from some of the university publishers would be at least €100.
Renewing your membership for 2021.
Friends it is vital that you renew your membership. Like all charities this is a difficult time for us with income down since March. Renewing is only a click away on our website or you can post in your subscription by cheque if that suits better. Also take advantage of the special offer and renew now for the remainder of this year and next year.

The trip to Germany, 18 to 23 April 2021
As you may know, or have expected, the trip in October is now deferred to 18 April 2021. We have paid for 21 seats at a cost of €4,200. The balance of funds received we hold in our account for those travelling. Dorothee will in touch soon with those who are travelling. We can take another five or six people comfortably.

Donate to the society
We have a donate button on our website if you would like to assist us with our work. You can pay by credit card or call or post to Offaly History Centre. Email us at if you need further information. We are a registered charity and donations from taxpayer individuals of €250 will mean €330 to the society
Renew your membership for 2021



OFFALY ARCHIVES- help us record the history of Coronavirus in Offaly
We are living in extraordinary times - a moment in history that will be remembered forever. Just as historians and scientists today have learnt from the contemporary accounts kept during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, we can ensure that the experience of COVID-19 is documented for future researchers. 

How can I help?
Keep a diary, as simple or as detailed as you like, recording your everyday lived experience in Offaly during the pandemic. You can make it anonymous or personal. We will preserve it forever in Offaly Archives.

What will I write about?
No detail is too big or too small. How is the situation affecting you, your friends and family? What is the weather like? Do you have any observations on nature/wildlife? How are you spending each day? What are you eating/cooking? What can you buy or not buy in the shops? What do you miss doing? Are you able to continue with your work/hobbies? How has your schooling or university education been affected? 

Who can take part?
Anyone can take part from all walks of life and all ages, including children.

Your diary can be in electronic format (for example, a Word document) or hand-written on any type of paper. You can submit photographs of your street/area, or maybe an oral-history recording. 

How will I send it in?
When the time is right we will let you know through the newsletter, on our website and through social media how to submit your diaries to the archives. 

What will happen my diary in the Archives?
All diaries will be treated sensitively. Archives, such as a diary with personal information, are often closed from access for a long period of time. When this period of time elapses, a diary can become a valuable record with a wider significance. For future generations, it can become an important historical source.

Offaly history blog every week

Here is a selection of recent blogs by some of our regular contributors in case you missed them. If you have a piece of research you would like to share with our readers, contact us at, for attention of blog editor. 

John O’Donovan’s Ordnance Survey Letters of Kings County, 1837 – 1838: Scientific Survey, Clan Maliere and Placenames. By John Dolan

The policies of the Offaly Independent and its destruction by the Black and Tans in November 1920. No. 14 in Sources for Offaly History and Society. By Michael Byrne


Birr Barracks and burials: a new military and family history record published. Sources for Offaly History and Society, no. 13. By Stephen Callaghan

The killing of Sergeant Henry Cronin in Tullamore on Sunday 31 October 1920 and the consequences in Tullamore and Clara. By Michael Byrne

A Lived Memory: A History of Acres Hall, its Folly, and its Formal Gardens, Tullamore. By David F. M. Egan

The Pearson executions, Offaly – June 1921. By Robert McEvoy

Handy Links

  1. The easiest way to access all our content is through our main website
  2. Our Laois-Offaly family records are posted on Roots Ireland site and comprise over one million items.
  3. Our books about Offaly for sale are in the shop section of and the catalogue can be downloaded also.
  4. The Library catalogue is also there and serves as a useful local and family history bibliography. It currently runs to almost 12,000 titles and 20,000 books.
  5. We publish a local history article every week on Offaly History Blog and the site now has over 120 illustrated articles all to help you and for you to enjoy. We welcome contributions marked Editor, Offaly History Blog to be sent to
  6. We have uploaded guides to County Offaly including the towns of Tullamore, Birr and Banagher. See touring information in the Touring Offaly section of
  7. We publish Offaly Heritage with ten issues since 2003 containing over one hundred articles and over one million words of Offaly history.
  8. We have completed a new Offaly Archives at an overall cost of €750,000. We have a donate button on our website if you would like to assist us.
  9. Email us at

2020 Committee: Helen Bracken (President), Michael Byrne, Dorothee Bibby, Pat Wynne, Charlie Finlay, Noel Guerin, Henry Edgill, Peter Burke, Niall Sweeney, Angela Kelly, Rory Masterson, Shaun Wrafter, Oliver Dunne, Ciarán McCabe, Frank Brennan, Stephen Callaghan, Reneagh Bennett, Michael Scully. In addition the committee has agreed the co-option of Paddy Clarke, Tullamore and Jim Keating, Tullamore together with the renewed co-option of Stephen Callaghan, Reneagh Bennett, Michael Scully.

Renew your membership for 2021
Copyright © 2020 Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society, All rights reserved.

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Copyright © 2020 Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society, All rights reserved.

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Copyright © 2020 Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society, All rights reserved.

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