February 2019 newsletter
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February 2019

Forthcoming lectures....

‘Archives: the raw materials of history’. An illustrated lecture by Lisa Shortall

Thursday February 28, Offaly History Centre, 8pm
What are archives and why do we need to keep them? Who decides what goes into an archive and what is left out? How can we use archives for historical research and what are the pitfalls to look out for? What archives are available in Offaly and where can you see them? All these questions and more will be discussed by Lisa Shortall in her whistle-stop history of the practice of record-keeping. With examples from the earliest written records to modern day practices, the lecture will deal with the nature of archives and demonstrate the importance of preserving our documentary heritage. Illustrated with many examples of local manuscripts and historic photographs, the talk will chart the development of Ireland’s national archives and the as-yet incomplete network of local authority archives around the country. Archives not only preserve the written evidence of a community’s history but also its collective cultural memory. Local archives services have an important function in this regard and the lecture will outline the vision behind the county archive project for Offaly, which will see Offaly History in a lead role in managing the collections of both OHAS and that of the County Library in a new purpose-built archive building under construction at present.
25 March, Monday, 8 p.m.  Joachim Fischer on German visitors to Ireland the Irish Midlands from 1750. Dr Joachim Fischer is Senior Lecturer in German and Joint Director of the Centre for Irish-German Studies at the University of Limerick.


The annual meeting and new committee for 2019

Following on our AGM on 28 January your 2019 Committee is as below. We welcome suggestions for improvements, proposals for lectures, outings and anything else you may wish to comment on pertaining to the Society. The management committee comprised of the officers meets every Thursday at 2 p.m. If you would like to volunteer your time weekly for jobs in our centre contact any of the officers.

Your 2019 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, Stephen Callaghan, Frank Brennan, Reneagh Bennett, Michael Scully and Ciaran McCabe.

Our thanks to outgoing committee members Pádraig Turley and Declan Monaghan and a warm welcome to Michael Scully, Reneagh Bennett and Ciaran MacCabe.

Library Nights

The popular Library night on Thursday is back from 7.30 pm until late for January to March. 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.

Annual Membership subscription is now due.

We urge you to pay by standing order, or next best via Paypal. We enclose a standing order form for those not already completing one. Last year we had over 150 paid-up members. Help us save cost by using email.We can notify you of lectures and other events at short notice if you send us per email or post your mobile number. Please indicate if you have both text and whatsapp.

See you on Thursday evening 28 Feb. at 8 p.m. Teas, coffees and cake after the meeting.

New books of local interest

Congratulations to our committee member Dr Ciarán McCabe on the recent launch of his Begging, charity and religion in pre-famine Ireland (Liverpool 2018). We can offer it at €39 or 50 percent discount to members only.

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 a cost of €750,000. We have a donate button on our website if you would like to assist us.
  8. Email us at
You are cordially invited to the launch of the Book
A History of Raghra c.1600-c.1900
Written by
 Laura Price and Brendan Ryan
On Saturday 16th March in Shannonbridge Community Hall at 8 p.m.
The Launch will be performed by Michael Donegan and the Guest Speaker will be Dr. Michael Egan, Chieftain of the MacEgan Clan.

M.C. for the night will be Declan Ryan.

Price €25 (€20 on the night of the Launch)


The Tullamore Capriccio is now available to view and or purchase at Offaly History Centre and the issue is limited to thirty very fine copies of the original drawing, all signed and numbered. Congratulations on this imaginative work.

 ‘Capriccio’ (Kahpritsio)-

A composition of imaginary or real architecture in a picturesque or dramatic setting.
A painting or drawing composed of disparate architectural and archaeological elements
A fictionalized assemblage of archaeological and architectural bits and pieces, a luxury image of cultural plenty
A pictorial genre dedicated to an imaginary composition where various architectural architecture and landscape elements cohabit in a fictive setting
A device for locating familiar buildings in unfamiliar settings to allow a reappraisal of their qualities.
Tullamore (An Tulach Mor, meaning the Big Hill) is located in the centre of Ireland and is the administrative and socio-economic capital of County Offaly. Apart from the knoll upon which the town sits, the landscape around, apart from the distant extinct volcano of Croghan Hill is flat and featureless and consists of farmland interrupted by bogs, woods and the occasional meandering stream. The surrounding area contains the remains of the earl Christian and medieval monastery of Tihilly and the fortified houses of Srah (1588) and Ballycowan (1626).

The town grew steadily from 1716 when a military barracks was established and expanded further when the Grand Canal arrived in1798, facilitating the distilling and milling industries upon which the town thrived and expanded. The sole set back was the crashing of a hot air balloon but this gave the local landlord young Lord Charleville the opportunity to relay out much of the town in a grid pattern.
The new town centred on O’Connor Square which was dominated by the Market House of 1789 and the houses of the principal merchants.

My capriccio takes the concept of the Tulach Mor and imagines the town standing at the foot of a steep hill on a rocky island surrounded by a meandering river. Bisected by two, almost Roman, straight roads which meet in its centre, it is dominated by Charleville Castle in a manner reminiscent of continental fortresses or hill towns or maybe Cashel or Dunamaise. The town walls and intervening gate buildings and corner towers are composed from the old Gaol, the Mucklagh Gate, and Carlisle and Acres Towers.
There are two public squares. One, the market square, with cafes and stalls, is of course O’Connor Square, and is dominated on one side by the County Courthouse. The other, at the intersection of the two roads, is dominated by the commercial buildings of the town, Scally’s, the Bridge House and William’s Head Office. Along the street leading to the two entry gates are many of the other commercial buildings of the town, such as the offices of Hoey and Denning and The Mallet Tavern.
Renew your membership for 2019
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