April 2019 newsletter
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April 2019

NEXT LECTURE: 11 April, Thursday 8 p.m. at Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore (beside Tullamore DEW)

Dr Arnold Horner 'Using early maps to explore local history and heritage – a midlands perspective'

Arnold Horner, author of Mapping Offaly has two new books which will be specially mentioned on the night and that on the Bogs Commissioners will be given an Offaly launch after the lecture with refreshments to follow and signed copies available. So please come to hear Ireland’s foremost expert on historic mapping. His book on Mapping Laois is an exemplar on what can be done for many counties in Ireland.

Arnold Horner formerly lectured in Geography at University College Dublin. He has written widely on the geography of Ireland, giving increasing attention in recent years to the history of maps and mapping in Ireland. He has had three books concerning the innovative county maps produced in the early nineteenth century by the roads engineer and surveyor William Larkin: Mapping Offaly (2006), Mapping Meath (2007) and Mapping Sligo (2011).  His Mapping Offaly is a great favourite and was the lead in book for the others in the series

Admission: €2 members, €5 non-members. Teas, coffees and cake after the meeting.


Documents relating to the Bogs Commissioners, 1809–1813

Edited by: Arnold Horner

The bogs of Ireland have changed greatly over the last couple of centuries. The records of the Bogs Commissioners help in assessing the extent of these changes, feeding into local and national studies of environmental change.

This book describes the large volume of documents associated with the government-appointed commissioners who in 1809 were charged with enquiring ‘into the nature and extent of the several bogs in Ireland, and the practicability of draining and cultivating them’.

Operating until 1813, the commissioners compiled maps and reports on bogs in some 22 counties across Ireland. Much of their working materials, including many of the manuscript reports and many of the fine manuscript maps and diagrams prepared by their engineers, are now preserved in the National Library of Ireland. Other records are in the National Archives of Ireland (NAI) and among the Foster papers in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

The present edition identifies and draws together a diverse range of material, thereby allowing the potential significance of the work of the bogs commissioners to be appreciated better. The principal document in this edition is the minute book, in the NAI collections, which recorded transactions of the commissioners over four and a half years. Attention is also given to the manuscript maps and other documents now in the National Library of Ireland. The records associated with the commissioners include much local detail and offer insights into various aspects of early nineteenth-century Ireland, particularly its administration and the countryside.

Price: €40.00. On the night we can give a discount to reduce the price to €34.99.

Mapping Laois from the 16th to the 21st century

In Mapping Laois from the 16th to the 21st century, Arnold Horner reviews and seeks to provide context for the extraordinarily rich diversity of manuscript and printed maps that record the changing political, economic and social circumstances of an Irish county over nearly five centuries. The flavour of these varied, informative and often colourful maps is captured in over 400 illustrations, among which are reproductions of six early county maps and a unique assemblage of images from the Ordnance Survey ‘fair plans’ of c. 1838–40.  

With a map record that stretches back more than 450 years, County Laois (formerly Leix and Laoighis, and between 1556 and 1920 officially known as Queen’s County) has a distinguished place in the history of cartography in Ireland. This book explores that record, from the first map of c. 1560, covering the eastern part of the county, through to the present century. The aim here is to draw attention to the extent, variety and interest of the maps made during a period of major transformation across the county—a period when far-reaching changes in landownership and settlement were accompanied by significant environmental modifications.
Key features:
•   Comprehensively illustrated with 400 maps
•   Comprehensive coverage of County Laois from the 16th century to the 21st century
•   Detailed index 

Price €30. We have an offer on the night of just €22.99

Mapping Offaly in the Early 19th Century with an Atlas of William Larkin’s Map of King’s County, 1809 

Arnold Horner (Bray, 2006), 76 pp.

You can buy this for €20 and have it signed on the night. If you already have it bring it with you for signing.
This book describes the geography and early mapping of Offaly (known as King’s County between c. 1560 and 1920) with particular reference to the huge manuscript map of the county made by William Larkin.  Larkin’s long-neglected map of King’s County has fortunately been preserved in the National Archives of Ireland.  The version reproduced here in atlas form was made in 1809 at the request of the newly formed Bogs Commissioners, and was used to guide their engineers.  This book now tells the story of this map and makes it widely available for the first time.  Included also are many other early map images, among them extracts from the near-contemporary surveys of the bogs engineers.  The result is an exceptional introduction to the Offaly of 200 years ago, the rural world of the generation before the Great Famine.

Library Nights

Library Night every Thursday and we are open Mon-Fri, 10 to 4 p.m. The library will not be open on 11 April because we have the Arnold Horner lecture.

Lots to read. In preparation you can see our library catalogue online at Shortcut via our website, We are also open from 10 to 4 each day Monday to Friday.

Handy Links to Offaly History databases

  1. Our Laois-Offaly family records are posted on Roots Ireland site and comprise over one million items.
  2. Our books about Offaly for sale are in the shop section of and the catalogue can be downloaded also.
  3. 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.
  4. We publish a local history article every week on and the site now has over 120 illustrated articles all to help you and for you to enjoy. We welcome contributions marked Editor, Offalyhistoryblog to be sent to
  5. We have uploaded guides to County Offaly including the towns of Tullamore, Birr and Banagher. See touring information in the Touring Offaly section of
  6. We publish Offaly Heritage with ten issues since 2003 containing over one hundred articles and over one million words of Offaly history.
  7. We are currently building a new Offaly History Archive at an overall cost of €750,000. We have a donate button on our website if you would like to assist us.
  8. Email us at
Thanks to our March speaker, Dr Joachim Fischer, who gave an informative and entertaining account of German travel writers and their views on Ireland from the 18th century. He has kindly given us a PDF version of his presentation – interested members may email to request a copy (by email only).

Saturday 18 May. Meet at 11 a.m. at the Town Hall, Cormac Street, Tullamore

Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the death of Henry Egan, first chairman of Offaly County Council (1899-1910) and one of the founders of P. & H. Egan Limited. We meet for a walk in Tullamore to the places associated with the firm starting at the town hall, formerly the residence of Henry Egan at 11. 00 a.m. See our articles (forthcoming) and blog on Henry Egan and a funeral you ought to have attended. See also the article on Offalyhistoryblog on Henry Egan and Tullamore Tweed.
Renew your membership for 2019
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