February 2021
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Dear members and friends,

We are closed at Bury Quay and the Offaly Archives and do much of our work from home.

Thanks to James Scully for the fine lecture on Offaly Graveyards in January. It can be viewed on YouTube.

We thank all who attended the AGM via Zoom and held on 1 February. The committee meets via Zoom on 8 February and we will advise further after that.
Jonny Dillon lecture, Monday 15 Feb 2021

Email us at for the link and mark your email as 'Zoom Folklore'
Lecture title: ‘Online Folklore Collections from County Offaly - An Exploration of Dú’
In this presentation Jonny will explore folkloric material collected from County Offaly and hosted on www.Dú, the online platform of the National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin. The history of the 1937-1939 Schools’ Folklore Scheme will be provided, along with an introduction to the Dúchas website and its functionality.
Jonny Dillon is an archivist at the National Folklore Collection (NFC), University College Dublin, a tradition archive which was inscribed to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in December 2017. Jonny produces and hosts the NFC’s monthly podcast Blúiríní Béaloidis. He is also a research editor for the NFC’s online platform Dú and is Honorary Treasurer to the Folklore of Ireland Society.
Renew 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 and no rental income in prospect for 2021. Renewing is only a click away and you can pay via credit card and join or renew on line.

And also a general thank you to all those who have renewed so far with a reminder to others to renew if anyone wishes to check whether they still need to renew they can contact us on and we will be happy to confirm.   €30.00 for yearly subscription

We welcome the following new members and acknowledge membership renewals as follows: D. Narey, D Thornton, P. Watson, G. Walsh, M. McCarrick, M. Kearns, A. Blanchard, T. O'Reilly, M. Ruthledge, P. Egan, M. Kribble, T. Woolfenden

All lectures will be delivered online via Zoom.


26 January, Tuesday, 7.30p.m. 

James Scully 'The Stories and Glories of Graveyards in Offaly'


15 February, Monday, 7.30pm

Jonny Dillon (National Folklore Collection, UCD)

‘County Offaly material in the National Folklore Collection’   


22 March 2021, Monday, 7.30p.m. 

Dr Diarmuid T. Wheeler (NUI Galway)

‘“We adore chaos because we love to produce order”: English colonialism and the Leix-Offaly Plantation’


19 April, Monday, 7.30p.m.

Dr Eamon Darcy (Maynooth University)

‘The 1641 Rebellion, the Confederate Wars, and the Cromwellian conquest – a perspective from King’s County’


17 May, Monday, 7.30 p.m.

Kevin O’Dwyer and Griffin Murray

‘St Manchan’s Shrine, Boher’


20 September, Monday, 7.30 p.m.

Dr Judith Hill

‘Catherine Maria Bury and the design of Charleville Castle, Co Offaly 1800-1812’

Report on Events 2020-21 and 2021 lecture programme and report from Ciarán McCabe Fixtures Secretary

The past twelve months has been a most unusual period for the society in respect of organising lectures and other events.
We held two lectures in the early part of 2020:
  • 27 January 2020: John Gibbons, on rural electrification;
  • 17 February 2020: Paul Clements on his journey tracing Richard Hayward’s famous journey along the River Shannon.
With the first lockdown in March 2020, our events programme was postponed in its entirety; as such, lectures which had been scheduled for March, April and May did not go ahead. Fortunately, each of the speakers whose lecture was postponed in these months has agreed to contribute to our 2021 lecture series and we look forward to those presentations.
Heritage Week 2020 was, on a national level, an entirely online affair.
Offaly History’s contribution centred on posting online videos onto our YouTube channel:
  • James Scully piece on Banagher graveyard;
  • Joe Kenny interview;
  • Lisa Shortall introduction to Offaly Archives;
  • Readings from the recently-published Poet Egan book;
  • Old videos of local interest, including ploughing in Tullamore and theTullamore church fire, 1983;
  • Lisa Shortall on Geashill Cauldron.
In September 2020 Declan O’Keeffe, the archivist and college historian at Clongowes College, delivered a lecture on local links to the early explorers of Mount Everest; the video was recorded and subsequently posted on our YouTube channel.
Moving into 2021, we note that on 26 January (just last week), we held the first lecture of our 2021 series and our first live online lecture, using the Zoom platform.

Eighty (80) people attended James Scully’s talk entitled’ The Stories and Glories of Graveyards in Offaly’, attending from across Ireland, the UK, America and Russia.

The lecture was well received and proved to be an excellent first venture into the world of online lectures. All of our lectures for the foreseeable future (certainly in spring and summer 2021) will be held online via Zoom.
Donations to Offaly History for its ongoing charitable purposes and library
  1. Digital image of Williams signage Carmel Flanagan 
  2. Old ledgers from Paul and Cathy Ann Bell, Brewery Tap for Offaly Archives
  3. Documentation from Gorry’s newsagency– Nigel Ravenhill – in archive
  4.  Copy of Moll map of Midlands of Ireland from Bernard Doheny
  5.  Egan photographs from Phil Moriarty,
  6. Books from Ciarán McCabe, library and shop.
Research published on Offaly in 2020

About forty books and articles are listed so far in the draft listing for 2020 to be published as a blog soon and in Offaly Heritage 12.  Currently we have 773 items listed on Irish history online of which 190 are from Offaly Heritage 1-10. So the total listed will be about 820. This may be the highest in the midlands outside of Kildare with a journal since the 1890s and Meath since 1954.


This is in course of planning now for the October 2021 date as April is too soon in light of Covid-19 guideline. The previous detail was as follows as to sites to be visited. Dorothée will be in touch with those travelling.

OHAS trip to the Rhineland Palatinate

it includes: 
bus transfers: OHAS / Dublin Airport return
return flights: Dublin/Cologne-Bonn with Eurowings
6 day coach touring around Rhineland Palatinate
Hotel: 5 nights including breakfast
dinner in the hotel on arrival
- visit a wine producer and the wine festival in Rheinbrohl (some may remember it from before...)
- engage with the locals and learn about the living conditions over the last 100 years
- enjoy an evening in Coblenz 
- explorer Maastricht, one of the oldest cities of Holland
  and take a stroll through the narrow cobblestone streets of Monschau with its idyllic half-timbered houses
- discover the many beautiful sights of the oldest city of Germany: Worms - and the multimedia Nibelungen  
 Museum displaying the timeless masterworks been created in literature like Richard Wagner's "The Ring of the 
- as always - few more extra surprises are in the hat
 and best of all: we have each other for the banter and the crack 
Places are limited to 24 (maybe 28 - I confirm this in two weeks time)
Cost = 885 Euros
I need contact phone numbers, emails of every participant!
Do not take more than 6 people on a 'stand by' list.
Please specify - single, double or twin room
Please announce if allergy bed spreads, special diets or other requirements are needed
If people need my contacts:  089-2272656


New books for sale

We are operating an online shop and will deliver within 5k free of charge.
We have reduced postal charges within the ROI to just €3.95 up to 10 kg. We have 150 local books to choose from.

A new book by Brendan Ryan documenting the history of Gallen townland. €20, 200pp and available from

This is the eleventh volume of essays produced by the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society on the history of this Irish midlands county. Some of the county’s leading historians, writers and academics have contributed to this important and pioneering collection of essays. To mark the Decade of Centenaries, there are ten specially contributed essays and a number of short biographies of figures from the revolutionary period in Offaly.

The volume also contains information on the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society, the county heritage office and reviews of recent books of Offaly interest.

456 pages including 32-page colour insert marking the completion of the construction of Offaly Archives and a gallery of events from 2018 and 2019.

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.

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.
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

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 © 2021 Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society, All rights reserved.

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Copyright © 2021 Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society, All rights reserved.

View our previous newsletters

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Copyright © 2021 Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society, All rights reserved.

View our previous newsletters

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