January's News & Events from Offaly History Society.


January's Lecturer: Patrick Kavanagh and his Tullamore connection 

by Una Agnew, Monday 21 January at 8pm at Offaly History, Bury Quay, Tullamore

The first lecture of 2013 promises to be as interesting and broad ranging as those of 2012. All are welcome, a contribution by way of admission will be appreciated of €2 to members and €5 to non members. This is a fascinating story be sure not to miss it. If you go to Dublin town and to Baggot Street and the Grand Canal you can reflect again on all you will hear in Tullamore on 21 January.
My father wrote the history of his family for me on a sheet of foolscap.  I have often wondered since if he hadn't some instinct that I should one day give it the permanence of print.  It was a romantic story of his father who had come out of the West to sow the wild vigorous seed of Connaught among the little hills of South Ulster. [The Green Fool p. 12 1938]

Recovering the official story of Patrick Kevany’s liaison with Nancy Callan. On April 4th, 1855, the Commissioners of Education received a letter from W. Steuart Trench Esq., (later the notorious agent in Geashill)  stating that  he had suspended a teacher "as he has been for some time living with a widow who is with child by him and not married to him."  Kevany was dismissed, banished from the area, the school closed and Nancy Callan left to raise her child alone. This child, christened James Cavanagh (a corruption of Kevany) on August 25th, 1855, was Patrick Kavanagh’s grandfather. 

Tullamore Workhouse 1856-1896) Within the year, (Feb.1856) Kevany turns up in Tullamore and applies for the position of schoolmaster and agriculturalist in the Workhouse.  He is appointed by the Board of Guardians of Tullamore Union at a salary of 40 pounds yearly and given rented accommodation, first in the town and later in the workhouse itself.  It is not until October 10th, 1859 that the Inspector of Schools informs in the September Report of the facts connected with Kevany's dismissal while teaching in Monaghan. The Commissioners have him reinstated. [Could this have anything to do with numerous prizes won by the agriculturalist of Tullamore Workhouse at the RDS in 1858, 59, 60 and several years following….?]

Master of the Workhouse 1862-1896
Three years later, in 1862, he is appointed Master of the Workhouse.  Here he remained until his retirement in February 1896.  He had served the Poor Law Union of Tullamore for a period of more than forty years.  The position of Master of the workhouse was a position of some prestige.  All were answerable to the Master.  In the monthly minutes of the Board of Guardians of the Poor Law Union of Tullamore there was a regular signed report from the Master of the Workhouse. Some of his letters prove interesting since he liked to experiment with fertilizers.

Marriage to Mary Molloy of Mountmellick
Then in 1873 he married Mary Molloy from the townland of Urney, near Geashil in what was then Queen's County.  The marriage was celebrated in the church at Mountmellick, April 23rd.  Mary Molloy was also engaged in workhouse employment. They lived in Harbour St where Kevany had acquired a drapery business.  The original shop still exists in Harbour St.
Kevany had four children from his marriage to Mary Molloy. The two daughters became nuns in Galway.

Forty Years' Service and no pension at the end!
Patrick Kevany remained master of the workhouse until January 1896 when there is mention in the King's County Chronicle of Mr. Kevany's illness and the fact that "he will be requested to retire on superannuation" if the period of illness is prolonged.  Then on May 20th, a few days after the Guardians granted him his pension, Patrick Kevany died.  The Census of 1901 shows that his widow and son Patrick continue to live in their rented draper's shop in Harbour Street, Tullamore. Nancy Callan died in Monaghan the same year and her son’s signature on the death certificate was James Kevany!
Sr Una Agnew SSL  is  originally a native of Courtbane, parish of Upper Creggan  in the foothills of Slieve Gullion. She is Associate Professor emerita in the Dept. of Spirituality at the Milltown Institute, Dublin and author of The Mystical Imagination of Patrick Kavanagh: A Buttonhole in Heaven, Dublin: The Columba Press, 1997.

2013 Lecture Programme
1. Monday 21 January   Una Agnew on Paddy Kavanagh and the Tullamore connection
2. Monday 18 February  Pat Given on distilling in the east midlands
3. Monday 25 March, Mairtin D’Alton on ‘The Buildings and landscape of the Plantation of Laois and Offaly, c. 1548-1600’ 
4. Monday 22 April Jim Madden on Fr Fahey
5.                         May to be advised
6.                         June do
7.                         July  do
8.                         August Heritage Week
9.   Monday 16 September Dr David Doyle, ‘The contradictions of Irish Capital Punishment, 1923-2001’.
10. Monday 21 October  Sikora of the National Museum on finds from Offaly
11. Monday 18 November  Darrell Hooper on Francis Johnston, architect
12. Friday 6 December  John Feehan on Reflections on 50 years working in natural history


We thank all the  members and friends who supported  the Christmas draw again this year.  The net amount raised after prizes was €1100.  Proceeds go towards supporting lecture expenses throughout the year which run at about €250 per lecture. Thank you for your support.
Christmas draw winners 
1 Padraig Turley - hamper
2 Dr Michael J S Egan - meal voucher
3 Matt Mooney - Christmas cake
4 Niall Sweeney- bottle of Tullamore DEW
5 Ann Sommers - book token
6 Deirdre Horan - free membership subscription for 2013


Annual Subscription for members not yet on standing order from 1 January 2013
January is subscription time for the Society and we appreciate the support you have given us in recent years. The subscription rates remain the same as in previous years.  If you wish to set up a standing order to facilitate payment you can get the form by (downloading here) or send on payment directly using the membership renewal form (download here) or contact for copy. We would be obliged for your early attention to this as it can be forgotten as the year progresses. Also if you would like to introduce others members to the Society please let us know. It costs €250 to organize each lecture and we hold about ten of them in the year together with some other outdoor events. In addition to that we have considerable costs in the running the centre and promoting Offaly History. For example we will now be proceeding with the binding of the hard cover of the local papers for the year 2012. In addition we are working with Offaly County Library to have access available in the Library and at Offaly History Centre for the early issues of the newspapers so as to facilitate local historical research.

Membership Rates
Individuals and families: €30
Overseas member: €30
Corporate subscription: €75
Friend of Offaly History: €100
Life membership: €500
Primary/Secondary School Student Rate: €5



We are open every Thursday night from 7.30pm. to 10.30pm. The Library is now in very good shape with all the items catalogued and running to about 9,000 catalogued items.  This does not include copies of Journals or some publications. We will forward to you next month a list of the periodicals we hold in the collection and hope to put the entire catalogue on line in our new website. Don;t forget our book store is open daily and on Library Night. 

Publications received to the library of Offaly History interest 
1. Archivium Hibernicum volume 65 (2012) this issue has considerable interest for Offaly with the following articles:-
(a) ‘Register of a Midland Parish 1791 – 1810: Ballinahown Co Offaly and Co Westmeath’ by Cathal O Hainle. This is an interesting article and is all of family history covering that period.
(b) ‘Accusations against Murtagh King, 1638’. This is an article by Brendan Scott. King was from a well-known family of scribes and poets from Westmeath/Offaly. Although King was raised a Catholic he converted to Protestantism at some point between 1603 and 1628 and helped in the translation of the Bedell bible. Accusations were made against King in 1638 which survive in the State Papers Office and this is what the article is about.
In the 2012 issue of Saothar 37 there is an article by Niall Whelehan on ‘Labour and Agrarian Violence in the Irish Midlands, 1850 -1870’.  The article looks mainly at County Westmeath but it will be of interest to Offaly readers interested in Ribonism and the plight of herdsman in the 1860s and 1970s.
For great local reading see the Birr Annual 2012 edited by Michael Donegan and Tullamore Annual 2012-13 edited by Denis Doherty. Both can be viewed in our library and bought locally.
Donations to the Library 
The Society wishes to thank Andrew Duffy of Clara and Brian Mahon of Geashill for donations of biography and books on Australia to our library. Also to Eoin Clyne for his help.

to staff leaving Offaly History in 2013

We want to thank all who participated with us and FAS in the training scheme in 2012. Much was achieved for the participants and for the Society. A Christmas lunch was held to mark both the occasion and the annual celebration. Why not call to the centre during office hours and show your interest in the ongoing work.

Esker Press 



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