November 2019 newsletter
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November lecture and book launch


Date: Monday 25 November 2019
Time: 8pm
Venue: Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore
Title: Capard: an Irish County house and estate, Dr Ciarán Reilly

Join Offaly History in welcoming back Dr Ciarán Reilly to talk about his new book on Capard house and its families. Last year we had the story of the family this time it’s the book launch and a 30 minute presentation on the book with a chance to talk to the author and have the book signed. Capard retails at €40 but those at the launch can buy it for €30 only.In the early 1970s Capard House in county Laois was described as ‘a house of only moderate interest’. This description followed the death of Charles de Jenner in 1970 which heralded the end of the Pigott lineage in the county which stretched back to the early 1560s. The 1970s were also witness to the subsequent decline of Capard’s fortunes. Sitting nestled on the edge of the Ridge of Capard, part of the Slieve Bloom Mountains, Capard House is situated near the village of Rosenallis. Since 2015 Capard has undergone one of the largest restoration projects of an Irish country house.


Courtesy of the Martello Tower Players

Arthur & Charlotte: A Victorian Romance Remembered is the title for a dramatic evening to be presented by Offaly History in Hugh Lynch’s Pub, Tullamore on Thursday 5th December at 8 p.m. The event will chronicle the story of Arthur Bell Nicholls of Banagher and his romance with and marriage to the famous Victorian novelist, Charlotte Brontë of Haworth in Yorkshire. Using contemporary source material the presentation will narrate this intriguing love story in written word and song. Readings will recall Arthur’s early years when he lived in Cuba House with his uncle the Reverend Alan Bell, Master of the Royal School of Banagher, his subsequent ordination and appointment as curate to the Reverend Patrick Brontë in Haworth. Extracts from Charlotte’s letters will describe her marriage to Arthur and her honeymoon in Ireland. The production will close with an account of Arthur’s life following Charlotte’s death in 1855 and his return from Haworth to Banagher in 1861, up to his death in 1906.

The event will be performed by the Martello Tower Players from Banagher, All proceeds from the evening will go towards the new Offaly Archives recently completed in the Axis Business Park, Clara Road Tullamore.

Tickets are €12 each and can be obtained from Offaly History Centre. Telephone: 05793 21421 or  email: and James Scully, Banagher
Hugh Lynch’s Pub, Tullamore on Thursday 5th December at 8 p.m.
The 2019 Offaly Heritage Seminar held on 15 and 16 November was a great success with thanks to Heritage Officer Amanda Pedlow and all who contributed to the seminar as speakers or by their attendance.
Support the Offaly History Christmas Draw please.  We need your support more than ever and thanks to all who have contributed so far. Members will receive a card in the post or drop into Offaly History Centre to collect one.

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

Offaly history blog article 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:

County Offaly in the Military Service Pensions Collection: an exploration by Cécile Gordon
Shackleton’s photographs of Tullamore and west Offaly in the 1890s. Michael Byrne

Johnny Gorman the tailor of Ferbane. The Story of a Fenian. By Tomas O Cleirigh M.A. and Offaly History

Going in on the Altar or an altar boy`s apprenticeship in West Offaly in the 1950s. By Pádraig Turley

Stories and traditions from the historic ruins in Ballinagar. Specially Contributed by John Malone
Offaly Archive Completed at Unit 1F, Axis Business Park
We had almost 150 visitors to the new archive building since it was first opened during Heritage Week in August. There was a good response to our appeal but we still need your help with donations. A sum of €35,000 would help to liquidate the debt and put us in a position to get on with the work of the new archive. You may wish to help us defray the capital costs of the archive. Many members have. A sum of €250 may attract tax relief and amount to €330. Can you help? The archives has cost in excess of €700,000 and your support is needed to clear the debt and allow us to focus on the provision of the service.
Buy a history book for Christmas at Offaly History Centre. Open on Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 30 p.m. so come in and browse.

We have over 2,000 history titles to choose from and to suit all pockets – from under €10 to rare items for up to €250. Shop on line for new local publications. We have almost 150 local publications to choose from. See for the catalogue.
New books from Offaly History Shop,
9 to 4 30 Mon to Fri and online at
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).


Published last month is Michael Carton’s Kilmonaghan Graveyard Memorial Recordings (€7). This is the second book of cemetery readings in as many months following Breda Condron’s very successful Remembering the Past: a history of Killoughey Church and Graveyard. Will there be another one from the Banagher direction before Christmas?

Lettice Baroness of Offaly and the siege of Geashill by Clemens von Ow is the colourful story of a strong-minded woman who owned the entire barony of Geashill from 1619 until her death in 1658.

Clemens von Ow tells the story in a handsome publication of 93 pages and full colour (Tullamore, Print Plus, €15)  and is available in our shop and online.
Fergal MacCabe's 'Tullamore Capriccio' represented Ireland at this year’s exhibition of the Confederation of European Watercolour Societies in Haapsalu in Estonia. Signed copies of a limited edition of prints of the drawing are available by order from the Offaly Historical Society bookshop on Bury Quay for Euro 300. Fergal's  'Buildings of James Gandon'  won the Senior Artist award at this year’s Royal Hibernian Academy and signed prints of that drawing are available also for the same price.
‘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
In this drawing, I have dramatised and idealised  the  Midland town that I grew up in. The image is largely composed of the buildings ,spaces  and landscape that made an impression on me, while erasing the more mundane  elements.  This is the town as I wished it to be  rather than as it was.
Fergal MacCabe
Tullamore (An Tulach Mor, meaning the Big Hill), the principal town of County Offaly, is located in the centre of Ireland. Apart from the small knoll upon which the town sits,  the distant Slieve Bloom mountains and the extinct volcano of Croghan Hill , the countryside around is flat and featureless and consists  largely of farmland interrupted by bogs, woods and the occasional  meandering stream.
The town grew steadily from 1716 when a military barracks was established there and expanded further when the Grand Canal arrived in1798, thus facilitating the distilling and milling industries upon which the economy of the town thrived. The sole setback was the crashing of a passing hot air balloon in 1785 which burnt out many of the poorer thatched cottages, but which gave the local landlord  young Lord Charleville , the opportunity to lay out much of the town in a more modern grid pattern.
My capriccio takes the concept of the Tulach Mhór and imagines the town nestling at the foot of a rocky outcrop on a small island surrounded by a river meandering on its way to a great lake –possibly  Lough Derg. The town is dominated by Francis Johnston's  Gothic extravaganza Charleville  Castle  (completed 1812) sitting on the peak of the  hill in a manner reminiscent of continental fortresses  or hill towns,  such as  Salzburg (Austria) or Cesky Krumlov (Czech Republic) or closer to home, Cashel  or Dunamaise.
The plan of the lower town is based on the classical grid pattern Greek or Roman layout of two cross axial streets meeting and forming a public square.  The settlement is enclosed by a town wall which can be closed at night for security. This is the model of many medieval towns on the Continent such as Aigues -Mortes (France) and which was imported into Ireland in the Plantation towns of the North- Derry/Londonderry being the best example.
The walls and intervening gate buildings and corner towers are composed of Srah Castle (1588) the old Gaol (1826) the Mucklagh Gate and Camden Tower (1785) and Acres Folly (1812) and the entry gate of the Pentland Distillery (1820) in Market Square.
There are three public squares. The largest with its cafes and stalls is of course O’Connor Square, dominated on one side by the County Courthouse (1835) and on the other by the Market House (1789) formerly the Town Hall and the Goodbody warehouse (1870). The two War Memorials of the town stand harmoniously side by side at its centre. Leading from this main square and at the intersection of the two cross axial streets, is a second square dominated by the commercial buildings of the town, Scally’s great drapery shop, (1912), the P&H Egan’s general emporium (1910) and the head office of D. E. Williams (1760).  A third square is based on O'Carroll Street whose vista is closed by the County Infirmary (1788). Behind that is a smaller square, dominated by the warehouse on the eastern side of Market Square and in the streets off it are the Presbyterian church (1865) and St. Columba’s Classical College (1912).
Along the main streets are many of the other commercial and public buildings of the town, such as the Methodist Church (1889), Williams's general grocery (1940) the Round House (1750), the offices of Hoey and Denning (1870) and the Mallet Tavern (1809).  The secondary street ascends the hill past Scally's house (1912) the Grand Central Cinema (1924), Acres Hall  ( 1790) and gives access to the kilns and drying lofts of the brewing and distilleries of the town.  A transverse  street is closed at either end by the principal  churches of the town, St. Catherine’s (1815) to the east  and the Church of the Assumption (1906) to the west  which has  a watergate based on the remains of the original  Catholic  church (c.1800).
The buildings of the Grand Canal harbour (1800) and the DEW warehouse (1897) are located on the western bank of the river, while on the eastern bank, across the Kilbeggan Bridge (1930), the Charleville Estate office (1740) and the Grand Canal Hotel (1801) focus on the Oldershausen memorial (1808) in Kilcruttin cemetery.
 Along the road to the east, is the 24th Lock House (1798), Convent View terrace (1907) and the Clonminch Road villas (1909) as well as the Clontarf Road housing and canal side poplar planting by Frank Gibney (1948).  The housing area in the south east     is based on the 1950 plans of Gibney for the expansion of the town. The housing scheme is designed around a small park with the King Oak at its centre. As the river flows into Lough Derg past Croghan (or Endrim) Hill, the Swimming Pool (1938) and Ballycowan Castle (1620) are found on its eastern bank and the remains of 6c.Tihilly monastery on the western bank.
This is of course an ephemeral vision, as in the far distance, a hot air balloon approaches once again.......
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