December 2020
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Happy Christmas to all our members. We hope you will have a good safe one and that we will see you all soon again as in the old days. The Centre and the Offaly Archives are both looking well and all here are in good spirits.
We thank you the members, our committee, directors and all staff. The management team have met frequently since over the year and things are in good order with our centre and our plans for 2021.

Buy a history book for Christmas at Offaly History Centre. We have over 3,000 history titles to choose from and to suit all pockets – from under €10 to rare items for up to €250. Call and see us from 9 to 4. 30 Monday to Friday, or shop on line for new local publications.  You can pay by credit card or Paypal. We have almost 150 local publications to choose from. See for the catalogue.


We will be in the Bridge Centre for Christmas and if you would like to help in the shop there contact us. We have a rota and will need two staff maximum from Thursday 17 Dec. until 3 pm on 24 Dec.


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 you can collect at the Centre. This draw raises about €1,000 each year and gives us all a chance to contribute to keeping up the high standards we aspire to. So do participate and support our objectives call Offaly History Centre
Renewing your membership for 2021.
Friends it is vital that you renew your membership. Like all charities this is a difficult time for us with income down since March. Renewing is only a click away on our website or you can post in your subscription by cheque if that suits better. Also take advantage of the special offer and renew now for the remainder of this year and next year.

The trip to Germany, 18 to 23 April 2021
As you may know, or have expected, the trip in October is now deferred to 18 April 2021. We have paid for 21 seats at a cost of €4,200. The balance of funds received we hold in our account for those travelling. Dorothee will in touch soon with those who are travelling. We can take another five or six people comfortably.

Donate to the society
We have a donate button on our website if you would like to assist us with our work. You can pay by credit card or call or post to Offaly History Centre. Email us at if you need further information. We are a registered charity and donations from taxpayer individuals of €250 will mean €330 to the society
(Photo: Paul Moore Photography)

Events in December and in 2021


 On December 26 2020 we have a town walk starting at the Tullamore Town Park at 2.30 p.m. for about ninety minutes.

The second walk starting at O’Connor Square will be held at 11 a.m. on New Year’s Eve.

We are planning online lectures from January for the first half of the year. More details in the January newsletter.
OFFALY HERITAGE 11 (Tullamore, 2020),  480pp, paperback €15.

Michael Byrne, Printing and bookselling in Offaly in the nineteenth century with particular reference to Birr (Esker Press, Tullamore, 2020), hard cover, limited edition of 250 copies, 144 pages and with almost seventy illustrations of rare items, many in colour.  €25 plus pp in Ireland, €5.
Birr is the only town in County Offaly which can be said to have a printing tradition dating from the late eighteenth century. This book argues that it could not have come about without the significant cultural influence of the town’s landlords, the earls of Rosse, and that this was particularly evident after 1800 when both the second earl and the third earl were resident in Birr. The pursuit of astronomy by the third earl and the building of the great telescope furthered intellectual pursuits and printing in Birr including the provision of the first county newspaper. Very little printing was done in the other towns and villages save Tullamore and here the dominance of Birr came to be felt from 1860 until the mid-1890s. Thereafter the pendulum swung in favour of the growing Catholic merchant class with the three new nationalist newspapers in County Offaly in just fifteen years from 1880 bringing an end to unionist dominance of the printing press.

Front cover: the Sheppard (formerly Sheilds) bookshop in Birr about 1900. It was a bookshop from the 1830s until the 1960s.

Back cover: Willis Printers, Tullamore in 1830 and c.1890. The Willis Printing Office, O’Connor Square, Tullamore, from a drawing in 1830 (possibly by Lady Charleville), and from a photograph of c.1890. The house became a private residence in the 1890s and remained so for ninety years.

Pre-order by cheques to Offaly Heritage Centre, or via our website,
BANAGHER COUNTY OFFALY (Tullamore, 2020),  280pp, paperback €20.
Forgotten Souls is a comprehensive study of Saint Rynagh’s old graveyard in Banagher, County Offaly. The survey covers 182 memorials ranging in date from 1576 to 1918. In addition to a transcription and description of each memorial, the text includes many short essays on notables buried there. These include members of the historic landed families, the MacCoghlans and the Armstrongs, as well as prominent members of the Banko, Flattery, Harton, McIntyre, McKeon and Woods families. Military personnel are also noted, particularly the accomplished diarist and artist Captain William Bamford.

The extensive introduction describes the work of the stonecutters highlighting the vernacular qualities of many monuments with illustrations of lettering, ligatures, ampersands, mirrored letters and other features. The archaeology, architecture and history of the site are also documented with accounts of the cholera epidemic in Banagher in the 1830s and the events that led to the closure of the graveyard in 1924. The book is richly illustrated with almost 400 photographs and historical images.
Who were the Egans and where did they come from? What national and international impact did they have on nineteenth-century Irish political reform? How did they become successful lawyers and businesspeople? Considered to have descended from the ancient Brehons, the Egans (MacAodhagáins) were advisers and lawyers to the Kings and Queens of Ireland.  They were one of the midlands of Ireland most influential families both in business and politics for over two hundred years. How did they survive the battles of the Boyne and Aughrim? During the penal times they somehow remained significant land holders around Mount Temple, Moate, Tubber and were benefactors to the Carmelite order. As Catholics how did they manage and balance holding office in the colonial British administration as well as being staunch advocates of both unity with Britain and Home Rule? How did they manage to change colonial rule in the areas of land and prison reform? How did they navigate the difficult world and civil war periods of the early 20th century and remain in business up until the late 1960s?
Tracing over two hundred years of history and deciphering how an influential merchant family helped shape the political and business landscape of 1800s and 1900s Ireland, family members Maurice and David Egan have researched the path taken and relate the associated remarkable stories that followed.

Hardback, €24.99. Available online at and at Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore. This will ship from 31 July. 
Schooling in Ireland: a clustered history 1695-1912, by John Stocks Powell
Some locations are associated by attractions such as Blarney for its castle; or a trade and manufacture, as Belfast was for shipbuilding, and Kinsale is now for restaurants and gourmets.  Portarlington in County Laois, has been associated with a French speaking Huguenot colony, as nearby Mountmellick is with Quakers.  These on-the-lip identities long used may diminish others.   For over two hundred years small Portarlington experienced a clustering of schools: a local industry offering income from parents, employment and provisioning.

French speaking schools, Latin homework under floorboards, pupils becoming famous, such as Edward Carson, Oscar Wilde’s court prosecutor, and bringing the country to civil war with his struggle for the British union: the Chartist leader Feargus O’Connor, trying to elope with his headmaster’s daughter.  There’s the headmaster whose pupils were escorted away during the 1798 rebellion, and another headmaster who took his school away, in flight and fright during the Land League of the 1880s.

Histories carry wider themes, such as: how long was childhood? How was the young brain filled? Textbooks, rules and rulers. What was the value on languages, Irish? English literature? French grammar?  Could Huguenot dialects be teachable?   Why did sport become so important?   And the poor children; too much education to make them think, spinning wheels for those girls; whereas Mrs Despard’s boarders not turned out to spin or cook, but to marry well. In a small town the encompassing of education in its failures, triumphs, hierarchies and finances, the ideas and faces of childhood are revealed.

John Stocks Powell has been involved with the history of Portarlington since the early 1970s, and happily a resident in the vicinity. In 1994 he published an opening history of the town, and followed with several pamphlets and booklets covering Huguenot documents, the character of Cathair na gCappal, the earls of Portarlington at Emo, ranging from Lord Arlington to the Belgian refugees in 1914. Working in England, and a librarian finding sources scattered, he tried to bring ‘its history back home’. Home and the world beyond can see that Portarlington is a most interesting place.
Rooms, A Memoir, Mary Lynam Dunne, print Plus, 2020, 275 pages, Softback, €12.00

Born in Tullamore, Co. Offaly Ireland, where she still resides, Mary Lynam Dunne is a retired Drama Teacher, Stage Director and Photographer who has now turned her hand to writing.  Many of her short stories, plays, poems and essays have been published over the years. She is also the author of five books to date.  This memoir is a heartfelt and engaging recollection of Mary’s life in Tullamore and beyond.
Poems and ballads of Edward (the Poet) Egan: a window on the social and political history of Tullamore in the 1890s is our latest publication. It is 132 pp and priced at €15. Full colour soft back.

Available online at and at Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore.
Renew your membership for 2021

Handy Links

  1. The easiest way to access all our content is through our main website
  2. Our Laois-Offaly family records are posted on Roots Ireland site and comprise over one million items.
  3. Our books about Offaly for sale are in the shop section of and the catalogue can be downloaded also.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. We have uploaded guides to County Offaly including the towns of Tullamore, Birr and Banagher. See touring information in the Touring Offaly section of
  7. We publish Offaly Heritage with ten issues since 2003 containing over one hundred articles and over one million words of Offaly history.
  8. 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.
  9. Email us at

2020 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, Ciarán McCabe, Frank Brennan, Stephen Callaghan, Reneagh Bennett, Michael Scully. In addition the committee has agreed the co-option of Paddy Clarke, Tullamore and Jim Keating, Tullamore together with the renewed co-option of Stephen Callaghan, Reneagh Bennett, and Michael Scully.

Renew your membership for 2021
Copyright © 2020 Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society, All rights reserved.

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Copyright © 2020 Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society, All rights reserved.

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Copyright © 2020 Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society, All rights reserved.

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