January 2020 newsletter
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Happy New Year to all our members and it may be healthy and prosperous for you.
Our sympathy to the families of deceased members and friends who died in 2019 and especially to the family and friends of Fr Sean McGearty who was a great friend to our society.
Monday 27 Jan. at 8 p.m. Offaly History Centre, Tullamore (following our AGM at 7 p.m.)

John Gibbons  
'Further memories of life around the time of the Rural Electrification Scheme in County Offaly'
This is the first of our lectures for 2020 and we hope to see you for the AGM at 7 p.m. and the illustrated lecture itself will commence at 8 p.m.
Audio/visual lecture by our member John Gibbons at 8.30 p.m. on 'Further memories of life around  the time of the Rural Electrification Scheme in County Offaly'. John has new material on this subject which was popular on an earlier occasion. The changes that electrification brought to our county were monumental. We hope to see a good attendance.
Agenda for AGM
Introduction, President Helen Bracken
  1. Minute of the last AGM
  2. Secretary’s Report – Michael Byrne
  3. Treasurer’s Report of Society, Charles Finlay
  4. Community Employment Scheme Report Lisa Shortall
  5. Election of committee for 2020 – 14 places excluding President.
  6. Offaly Archives– report from President and Lisa Shortall on the opening of the new Archives.
The year 2019 was a memorable year for our Society. It was our fiftieth anniversary and to mark it we completed the new Offaly Archives at a cost of over €700,000. Current costings would equate to €825,000. Much work has been done to fit it out and it is open every Tuesday for confirmed appointments.

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, Ciaran McCabe, Reneagh Bennett, Michael Scully.
Christmas Draw 2019
Thanks again for your support this year. The winners were:
1st Prize    Christmas Hamper      Tom Mallin, Banagher    
2nd Prize   Restaurant Voucher     Eileen Russell, Dublin 
3rd Prize    Btl Tullamore Dew     Seamus Kane c/o Hoey & Denning  
4th Prize    Book Hamper              Michael O’Rourke
5th Prize    Membership 2019        Christopher Maye Bridge Centre

Offaly history blog every week

We publish a local history article every week on Offaly History Blog and the site now has over 150 illustrated articles all to help you and for you to enjoy. We welcome contributions marked Editor, Offalyhistoryblog to be sent to The blogs are read by 1,000 people every week. Today over 100,000 have viewed the stories we put up. Don’t miss out. The most recent blogs were as follows:

Offaly Archives: an overview of the local government archival collections. By Erin Sears

Some Egan family members enter the church: Brothers, Sisters and Cousins: Ireland 1850-1918. By Maurice Egan

The Queen, Princess Margaret and Dooly’s Hotel, Birr by Cosney Molloy

The first aerial photograph of Tullamore 101 years ago – on the eve of the War of Independence. Michael Byrne

The curtain falls: Hugh Carr – 9 December 2019. By Geraldine Clarke

The Story of Brickmaking in Pollagh, County Offaly. By Caitriona Devery

Trip to Germany, 2 to 7 October 2020 by Dorothée Herman
Friday 2nd October - Wednesday 7th October 2020

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 Nibelung" 
- 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 
Cost = 885 Euros
I need contact phone numbers, emails of every participant!
I cannot 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
Contact:  089-2272656


Handy Links

  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 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
  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 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.
  8. Email us at

Annual Membership subscription is now due. We urge you to pay by standing order, or next best via Paypal.  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.

New books from Offaly History Shop,
9 to 4 30 Mon to Fri and online at

Our history bookshop did very well in the lead up to Christmas. Keep calling please as we have over 2,000 titles on offer, both local and national, new and secondhand. Some are rare and worth collecting. Our thanks to Christy Maye and John Cusack for their help with our history stand in the Bridge Centre before Christmas. It went well and lots of people went home with a local history gift for Christmas. Thanks to the members who worked at the stand, especially Michael Scully, Frank Brennan, Dorothee Bibby, Peter Burke, Charlie Finlay, Angela Kelly and Michael Byrne. All gave so much time to making it a success. We will forward a PDF of our 2020 catalogue of Local Studies books for sale next month.

Caitriona Devery, Pollagh Heritage Group, The Story of Brickmaking in Pollagh, County Offaly. Softback, €15.

This is a unique story written with the community of Pollagh detailing the evolution of the village as shaped by the brick making industry. The first-hand information has been gathered through interviews over the past decades, combined with more recent research. It provides a wonderful insight into the process of making handmade bricks as well as showing the determination and hard work that was necessary part of survival for Pollagh families in the nineteenth century and beyond.


Andrew Tierney, Central Leinster being a guide to the buildings of Kildare, Laois and Offaly (Yale, 2019, 700 pages, hardback, €45, normal price €52 to €57), promoted by the Buildings of Ireland Charitable Trust. This is the fifth volume in the Ireland series and Offaly History is delighted to have the county published and to such a high standard of scholarship from Andrew Tierney. Some of the entries for Offaly were co-written by Professor Alistair Rowan and Dr Michael O’Neill.
Ciarán McCabe, Begging, Charity and Religion in Pre-Famine Ireland (hardback, Liverpool, €25).
Begging, Charity and Religion in Pre-Famine Ireland is the first comprehensive study of the ubiquitous practices of begging and alms-giving in nineteenth-century Ireland, and is unique in the range of records consulted from archives throughout Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Begging, Charity and Religion in Pre-Famine Ireland examines contemporary legal and moral views of begging and alms-giving, and asks to what extent perceptions and responses were influenced by religion, social class and gender. The book makes a valuable contribution to the history of poverty and welfare not only in Ireland but also in a wider international context, as well as enriching our understanding of Irish local history and social history. Begging, Charity and Religion in Pre-Famine Ireland is available at the low price of €25 (usual price €35).
Mary Ward’s Sketches with the microscope, reprinted by Offaly History with introductory essays by Michael Byrne and John Feehan (Ferbane, 150 pp, hardback, €20).
This is a very limited run, so book your copy now. It’s in full colour hardback, a delight for all the family of all ages. Put away that Christmas present now.
Born in Ferbane to the King family of Ballylin, and cousin of the 3rd Earl of Rosse. Mary Ward became a well-known artist, naturalist, astronomer and microscopist.   The reprint is a faithful full-colour facsimile of the original publication and features new introductory essays by Michael Byrne and John Feehan. Some copies of the book are still available but order soon online or call to Offaly History Centre. Supported by Creative Ireland.
John Thomas (ed. and compiler), Order of Malta, Tullamore: an album of memories, 1949–2019 (Tullamore, softback, 88 pp €15).
Renew your membership for 2020
Copyright © 2020 Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society, All rights reserved.

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