May 2020

Hello to all our members and subscribers. We hope you are keeping well during this time. Enclosed details of our latest book, Poems and ballads of Edward (the Poet) Egan: A window on the social and political history of Tullamore in the 1890s, edited by Michael Byrne, Anne O'Rourke and Tim O'Rourke. While we would have loved to launch it in the usual manner at our Offaly History Centre, instead we are launching it virtually! Below you will find a detailed description of the book, some sample pages to browse through, and details of how and where to purchase.  We are always grateful for your support.
A new book comprising a selection of fifty of the poems and ballads of Edward Egan of the Meelaghans, Tullamore has just been published by Offaly History. The book was edited by Michael Byrne, Anne O’Rourke and Tim O’Rourke and is a fitting tribute to a man who died 80 years ago and in his time was revered throughout the midlands for his timely poetic commentaries on the social and political scene in his native county and his appreciation of all that was beautiful within a day’s walk of his home place. 
The poems in this new book are reproduced, in part, from the first edition of Egan’s only book, King’s County Couplets which was printed in Birr in 1892 and is now a very rare item. The remainder of the poems in this new collection were mostly located in the old newspapers by staff members at Offaly History and carefully edited by Anne O’Rourke and Tim O’Rourke. Most of the poems are accompanied by photographs selected and annotated by Michael Byrne and connected with the text. Many of them are rare views and some, such as family portraits and the old Geashill railway station, are now published for the first time.
Many of Egan’s poems were published in the 1890s and as they often describe local events of that time they offer a window for us into the modest doings in the years after the fall of Parnell. It was a time when the local newspaper provided the only access to the world and people lived mostly by candlelight and told stories to while away the long winter evenings. The subject matters includes visits to Geashill, Killeigh, Ballinagar,  Birr, Durrow, Ballycowan, Hophill and Charleville, the fair in Tullamore, the first piped water scheme of 1895, Ballykilmurry Races, local politics and his own ‘nine-hole-stone’ in the Meelaghans. Egan wrote in the introduction to his 1892 collection:
If Ican make an hour less dreary,
 Or soothe the sick, or cheer the weary;
  Or make some old curmudgeon laugh,
 When poring o’er my rhyming chaff—
  If I do this, I’ll count it gain,
 Nor ever think I've writ in vain.
Take a look through the book here!

Where can I get this book?
The Poems and Ballads of Edward (The Poet) Egan retails at €15 (soft cover, 128 pp, full colour, fully illustrated) and can be purchased as follows:
  1. Spar, Church Road, Tullamore
  2. Byrne’s Store, Geashill
  3. Midland Books, High Street online for now only
  4. Offaly History online shop only for now at Offaly History Centre is currently closed.
  5. From Michael Byrne, Tullamore by ringing 085 7727708 and or text. Free collection and deliveries in Tullamore area with post code please and payment online preferred, or card.
Edward Egan was born in 1858 and was a member of a family who had lived on their modest landholding of twenty-five acres since the 1760s. The Egan family of the Meelaghans, Tullamore has excited much interest from family history enthusiasts, especially in the United States, arising from the fact that Major Howard Egan, born in the Meelaghans in 1815, was among the American West’s outstanding frontiersmen and developers. He is best known as one of the original Mormon pioneers and a celebrated employee of the Pony Express, as were his two sons, Howard (born 1842, died 1918) and Richard (born 1840, died 1916), who also served as riders. When the old Egan homestead and farm were offered for sale by the Reps of Thomas Dunne in 2017 friends of the  Howard Egan Heritage in the United States sought to buy it for a museum cottage but did not reckon on Irish land prices in what was a very successful auction. 
Edward Egan died on 24 February 1940 at the age of 81. He was the last of his line and was buried in the family plot at Killeigh church cemetery in an unmarked grave.  His obituary was published in the Tribuneof 2 March 1940.

A notable Offaly man has passed away by death of Mr Edward Egan, of Meelaghans, Tullamore.  A man of cultured mind and great literary ability, for long years his was a familiar name as the author of short stories that were truly racy of the soil.  He contributed to many of the leading magazines notably to Irelands Own. Some thirty years ago he published a collection of ballads in a small volume, entitled King’s Co. Couplets
, He spent some time, as a young man in New Zealand [Australia] where he was engaged in sheep raising.  For more than forty years he lived alone on a little farm at the Meelaghans, enjoying life in his own quite, kindly way. During his last days he was cheered with visits of many old Tullamore friends who appreciated him, and whose esteem for him grew with the passing of the years
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