March/April 2020
View this email in your browser


This is the 51styear of the current society (founded in 1969) and the 82ndof the original society of James Rogers, founded in 1938. The old society suffered as a result of the Second War and did not reorganise after its termination in 1945. The local hisory flag was unfurled by others including Frs Hurley SJ, Tadgh McCarthy, James I. Fanning, Lord Rosse and Revd Dr William Moran. None of us thought at the Clements lecture in February that we might not meet again until May or June and that the Offaly History Centre and Offaly Archives would close.

The work of the Society goes on in the homes of the committee and some of the members. You may have seen the RTE Nationwide film on Birr Castle on the work of Mary Ward on Monday 6 April. Thanks to local organisers: Offaly Archivist Lisa Shortall and Offaly Heritage Officer Amanda Pedlow. It was an excellent programme and can be viewed on RTE Player. Stock is running low of the first book of Mary Ward, Sketches with the Microscope which was reissued in August 2019 on the 150thanniversary of her death. Order online at



Ciarán McCabe, Events Officer

Postponement of April and May lectures

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 public health crisis, our lectures for April and May have been postponed. The affected events are as follows:

* 20 April, Monday. Dr Eamon Darcy, ‘The 1641 rebellion, the Confederate Wars, and the Cromwellian conquest – a perspective from King's County’;

* 18 May, Monday. Jonny Dillon, ‘County Offaly material in the National Folklore           Collection’.
We are disappointed to have to make this decision but it is undoubtedly in the best interests of all. We hope to have the speakers to us on a later date and we will keep you informed. 
In addition to continuing work on our Heritage Week programme of events (15-23 August), we currently have two speakers confirmed for autumn 2020:
21 September, Monday, 8pm. Declan O’Keeffe (Clongowes College) will deliver a lecture on the contributions of Charles Kenneth Howard Bury of Charleville (Tullamore) and Belvedere (Mullingar), and Anthony Adams Reilly (Belmont House, Mullingar) to the development of modern mountaineering and the ascent of Mount Everest.
19 October 2020, Monday, 8pm. Prof Alistair Rowan (TCD), an esteemed architectural historian, will deliver a lecture on aspects of architectural history, with a particular eye to Offaly and the Midlands, and his own extensive collection of pattern books.


OFFALY ARCHIVES- help us record the history of Coronavirus in Offaly
We are living in extraordinary times - a moment in history that will be remembered forever. Just as historians and scientists today have learnt from the contemporary accounts kept during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, we can ensure that the experience of COVID-19 is documented for future researchers. 

How can I help?
Keep a diary, as simple or as detailed as you like, recording your everyday lived experience in Offaly during the pandemic. You can make it anonymous or personal. We will preserve it forever in Offaly Archives.

What will I write about?
No detail is too big or too small. How is the situation affecting you, your friends and family? What is the weather like? Do you have any observations on nature/wildlife? How are you spending each day? What are you eating/cooking? What can you buy or not buy in the shops? What do you miss doing? Are you able to continue with your work/hobbies? How has your schooling or university education been affected? 

Who can take part?
Anyone can take part from all walks of life and all ages, including children.

Your diary can be in electronic format (for example, a Word document) or hand-written on any type of paper. You can submit photographs of your street/area, or maybe an oral-history recording. 

How will I send it in?
When the time is right we will let you know through the newsletter, on our website and through social media how to submit your diaries to the archives. 

What will happen my diary in the Archives?
All diaries will be treated sensitively. Archives, such as a diary with personal information, are often closed from access for a long period of time. When this period of time elapses, a diary can become a valuable record with a wider significance. For future generations, it can become an important historical source.


Society finances
Currently the Society is having to fund works to the vacant first floor (estimates awaited) and the company has directors’ loans in respect of the archive of €27,000 arising from the new archives expenditure. More on this as the year progresses.

Formal opening of Offaly Archives
The formal opening date for the new archives had been fixed for 21 April but we are deferring this to the autumn.

Lisa Shortall has now been appointed to the whole-time position of archivist at Offaly Archives while continuing to serve as manager of Offaly History. Breda Kenny has been appointed as manager/supervisor of the CE scheme of Offaly History at Bury Quay, Tullamore.


Offaly history blog every week

We are now posting two blogs each week on Offaly History Blog and with excellent feedback. Thanks to our contributors Michael McNamara, Tim O’Neill, Claire Gogarty, Pádraig Turley, John Dolan and Stephen Callaghan. If you would like to contribute, let us know of your intention by emailing us at The number of views since 1 January 2020 was 22,769 and is now averaging 1,500 per week for all 185 blogs posted since  2016.

Here is a selection of recent blogs in case you missed them:

A Birr Letter’s Untold Story: Hugh Leonard of Crinkill. By Stephen Callaghan

DRAYTON VILLA, CLARA: ‘a handsome residence, a good home neatly furnished’. By Michael Goodbody

Is Dolan’s of Tullamore, the oldest pharmacy in Ireland? By Michael Byrne

Seir Kieran- Part 1. By John Dolan

Seir Kieran, County Offaly by John Dolan. Part 2

‘Killing the pig in 1950s West Offaly’. By Pádraig Turley

Researching the story of your house: Brady’s shop, Daingean, Offaly and some of Daingean’s old families. By Claire Gogarty

From a hedge school in Cappincur to adventures in the American Civil War: the story of Peter Cavanagh. By Michael MacNamara

Pandemics in Ireland and Spanish Flu cases in Offaly, 1918-19. Dr Tim O’Neill and Offaly History

How did we cope with Cholera in Offaly in the 1830s? Edited from an article by Dr Tim O’Neill in Offaly Heritage (2003)


New books of local interest can be purchased online at

Pollagh and Capard are both in stock with a special offer on Capard at €30 or a saving on the €40 retail price.
Poems and ballads of Edward (the Poet) Egan: a window on the social and political history of Tullamore in the 1890s will be published soon and we will email you for the online launch of the book. It is 132pp and priced at €15. More later.
Preparations continue with the finalising of the journal, Offaly Heritage 11. We plan to launch during Heritage Week in August.

Work is progressing on three other books that we know of: 
The P. & H. Egan family and business; Portarlington Schools by J. and a new book from Birr solicitor James W. Houlihan PhD on Adomnán’s Lex Innocentium and the Laws of War (Four Courts, 272 pp €50). Orders are now being accepted for this and please email us. Publication was intended for c21 April but may now be in May.


Special offer on Capard at €30  - a saving on the €40 retail price. Available in store only.


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.


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.

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.

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
Renew your membership for 2020
Copyright © 2020 Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society, All rights reserved.

View our previous newsletters

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp
Copyright © 2020 Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society, All rights reserved.

View our previous newsletters

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp
Copyright © 2020 Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society, All rights reserved.

View our previous newsletters

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp