March 2018 newsletter
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March 2018

The Round Towers of Ireland
With particular reference to The Irish midlands and Co Offaly.
Dr George Cunningham

Monday 26 March 2018 at 8 p.m. at Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore.

The evening will commence with the conferring of Honorary Life Membership on George Cunningham. George was unable to attend the December conferrings, but we benefit in that he accepted our invitation to speak to the society and his talk on the Round Towers of Ireland will follow. This is a very special evening as we honour a man who has given a life of service to local history and, indeed, to our nation’s heritage and that of our county. Refreshments will be served after the lecture.

The first part of the illustrated talk will feature an overview of the purpose, origins, theories, dating, access, and the number of Round Towers.

Part two will feature a review of outstanding Irish Round Towers, highlighting these features.  Of special interest will be the antiquarian images of these, many sourced and published in his book on Round Towers for the first time

Roscrea will be taken as a case study and special attention will be given to the midland towers and those in Co Offaly.

George Cunningham, FSA, D.Litt., (hc UL), M.Litt., MA (hc NUI Galway), author, historian, editor, publisher and bibliophile is a former primary school principal (Coolderry Central School, Birr) and a community activist at many levels, not least the promotion of an awareness of heritage and the environment.

He has been involved with promoting the south tip of Offaly since his first guided tour to Ely O Carroll territory in 1973, and was part of the first voluntary archaeological survey of Offaly in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Founder (1980) and life president of Roscrea Heritage Society/Centre; founder, publisher and editor of Roscrea People, 1974 to date. 
Now a national director of Crann, he has revived its SW Midlands branch, incorporating it into Roscrea’s Tidy Towns. He has taught and lectured at all levels and gave seventeen years public service to the Governing Authority, many years as Deputy Chair, of UL and chairman of its library development committee. Chairman of the Bolton Library Board, 1994 to 2010.
Recently UL honoured him with a D.Litt.

He directed the Roscrea Conference (1987 to 2017); the Spring conference in April 2017 was the 60th consecutive gathering at the Cistercian Abbey, Roscrea. ’60 at Roscrea’ a commemorative volume celebrating the 60 conferences is his latest book. At present he is directing a major heritage project on the Heritage of the Dovea Estate, Thurles…’From Landlords to Genetics’. This will be published towards the end of 2018.

Prominently associated all his life with all aspects of Irish heritage and a noted bibliophile, his personal library contains in excess of 20,000 volumes.

A major book project has been ongoing since 1987; to date over 65,000 books have been donated to schools, colleges, and charitable institutions.

Recently he has donated his local archives to the relevant Public Library Service of Offaly, Tipperary and Laois. Offaly Co Co hopes to have their donation catalogued by the end of March 2018. A major pioneering heritage/historical project is in hand with Coláiste Phobal Ros Cré: initial donation of 3500 books by Carmel and himself from their personal library and relevant local archive material (catalogued with the Public Libraries and in their trust).

He has written or edited some sixteen books and hundreds of minor publications mainly on the Irish midlands and on the Burren.  Signed copies of some of his publications in print will be available on the night at special prices.

These will include his much-praised The Round Tower at Roscrea and its environs and the commemorative volume for the 60 conferences at Mt St Joseph Abbey, 60 at Roscrea.

Offaly History Lectures and Events

April - July 2018

All lectures commence at 8 p.m. at Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore
(unless otherwise stated)
Adm: members €2, non-members €5
Includes tea and biscuits

Programme for 2018, April to July at Offaly History Centre.

23 April, Monday, 8 p.m.    Bernie Moran on River Systems - Super-highways of Early Christian Ireland

28 May, Monday, Helen Bracken, The heritage of Durrow: progress to date and what is to come, an illustrated presentation in the days before the annual pattern of 9 June. Please note change of date from that previously announced. 

30 June, Saturday, from Tullamore Railway Station and then by shared taxis, Dublin outing: Marsh’s Library, National Print Museum, Little Museum of Dublin, the new headquarters of the Irish Georgian Society, optional walking tour.

8 July, Sunday, to meet in grounds of Catholic church at 3 pm (ample parking) The historic sites of  Kilcormac and Ballyboy to include the Catholic church, the parochial grounds, the Mercy Convent, Bord na Mona housing and on to Ballyboy, the village, church, cemetery and old hall concluding with refreshments in Dan and Molly’s celebrated historic pub.


The 26 February, Monday, 8 p.m
.  at Offaly History Centre, Film Screening:  THE MINNITTS OF ANABEG  had to be cancelled by the director at short notice that day and apologies to postal members and to those who were unaware through not opening Facebook or their personal email.
New books of local interest

A PDF catalogue for 2018 is now available and has been emailed to members. Please forward a copy to all your friends who may be interested or download here and share.

Our history bookshop has been further improved. If you have second hand histories you would like to donate to our library or for resale we would be glad to have them.


Our bargain book this month is Diary of an Offaly Schoolboy(1858-59) by William Davis (ed. By Sandra Robinson). It is an excellent read. First produced in 2010, we have been able to  reduce the price by 50% to just €7.50 (softback) and €12.50 (hardback)   at our bookshop at Offaly History Centre (beside Tullamore DEW). One copy only per customer please. Call and collect from 9 to 4 Mon- Fri and Thursdays from 7.30. Only for March and while stocks last. Also online at our shop on

Library Nights

The popular Library night on Thursday is back from 7.30 pm until late. Lots to read. In preparation you can see our library catalogue online at Shortcut via our website, We are reviewing opening hours to provide a daily service. We need 10 volunteers who would be available for a morning or afternoon slot (10 to 1 or 2  to 4.30, Mon. to Fri.) Training will be provided.

James Kenny, Clara Bridge, Tullamore

Congratulations to our former committee member James Kenny on his 90th birthday. Jim contributed significantly to our audio collection of men and women talking about their native county. We recently featured his 1990s interview with Dan Lawler on our website.


We are grateful as ever to our members and others who generously donate archives and artefacts to our collections. Many thanks in recent months to Tullamore & District Chamber of Commerce who transferred their archive; Fergal MacCabe for donating original drawings of Tullamore; Geraldine O’Neill for copies of her twelve novels for the library; Philip Kelly for a donation towards the publication of Offaly Heritage Journal 10; Ed Allebast for donating a copy of a newly published biography of Major Howard Egan of the Meelaghans to the library; Miss Hughes for donation of photographs of Tullamore in the 1960s; Pat Bracken for 12 wonderful postcards of old Tullamore; and Philip Murray and Andy Gonoude for the donation of a framed set of Guinness labels which were printed for P. McGinn’s, Tullamore.
2018 Committee
Helen Bracken (President), Michael Byrne, Dorothee Bibby, Pat Wynne, Charlie Finlay, Darrell Hooper, Noel Guerin, Henry Edgill, Peter Burke, Niall Sweeney, Angela Kelly, Rory Masterson, Shaun Wrafter, Oliver Dunne, Stephen Callaghan, Frank Brennan, Declan Monaghan and Pádraig Turley.
Renew your membership for 2018
Copyright © 2018 Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society, All rights reserved.

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