January 2021
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Happy New Year to all our members and it may be healthy and keep safe.

Our sympathy to the families of deceased members and friends who died in 2020. You can email us with names of those we may include an obit for in Offaly Heritage 12.
Monday 1 Feb. 2021 AGM of the Society will be held at 7.30 p.m. by way of Zoom. An invitation will be sent to members at your email address to join the meeting.

A report of the meeting will issue to members with the next newsletter. In view of the year past and the inability to have meetings (with this year until October being no better) the following is proposed:
  1. That the term of the President be extended by up to two years.
  2. That the outgoing committee be retained in office. This will include the five members co-opted last year.
  3. Once the AGM is complete the committee meet by Zoom to make all necessary co-options, appoint the officers for 2021 and the management committee.
Agenda for AGM
Introduction, President Helen Bracken
  1. Minute of the last AGM
  2. Secretary’s Report – Michael Byrne
  3. Events – Ciarán McCabe
  4. Archives and IT of Society Lisa Shortall
  5. Treasurer’s Report of Society, Charles Finlay
  6. Community Employment Scheme Report Breda Kenny
  7. Motions as per 1-3 above
  8. Election of committee for 2021 – 14 places excluding President.

Christmas Draw 2020

Thanks again for your support this year. The draw is a great help to our finances as is your participation. Your generosity is appreciated. The winners were:

1st prize - Berry Family
2nd Prize- Paddy Finlay
3rd Prize - Mattie Mooney
4th Prize The Daniel Family
5th Prize - John & Irene Brennan

Book sales in December 2020

Our history bookshop did very well in the lead up to Christmas with online, shop and Bridge Centre sales. We must pay for stock but nonetheless there is huge interest out there and is important work for the Society to be doing. 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 Frank Brennan, Dorothee Bibby, Helen Bracken, Angela Kelly, Paula Nolan and Michael Byrne. All gave so much of their free time to making it a success. We missed a few regular helpers this year due to health needs and we hope to see them again in 2021.

All lectures will be delivered online via Zoom.


26 January, Tuesday, 7.30p.m. 

James Scully 'The Stories and Glories of Graveyards in Offaly'


February, date tbc

Official launch of Offaly Heritage 11


15 February, Monday

Jonny Dillon (National Folklore Collection, UCD)

‘County Offaly material in the National Folklore Collection’   


22 March 2021, Monday

Dr Diarmuid Wheeler 

‘The Leix-Offaly plantation in the sixteenth century’ (title tbc)


Early April, tbc

Kieran Keenaghan and James Scully, ‘West Offaly families’ castles’


19 April, Monday

Dr Eamon Darcy (Maynooth Univ)

‘The 1641 Rebellion, the Confederate Wars, and the Cromwellian conquest – a perspective from King’s County’


17 May, Monday

Kevin O’Dwyer and Griffin Murray

‘St Manchan’s Shrine, Boher’


20 September, Monday:

Dr Judith Hill

‘Catherine Maria Bury and the design of Charleville Castle, Co Offaly 1800-1812’


This is in course of planning now for the October 2021 date as April is too soon in light of Covid-19 guideline. The previous detail was as follows as to sites to be visited. Dorothée will be in touch with those travelling.

OHAS trip to the Rhineland Palatinate

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 
- 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 (maybe 28 - I confirm this in two weeks time)
Cost = 885 Euros
I need contact phone numbers, emails of every participant!
Do not 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
If people need my contacts:  089-2272656



This is the eleventh volume of essays produced by the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society on the history of this Irish midlands county. Some of the county’s leading historians, writers and academics have contributed to this important and pioneering collection of essays. To mark the Decade of Centenaries, there are ten specially contributed essays and a number of short biographies of figures from the revolutionary period in Offaly.

The volume also contains information on the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society, the county heritage office and reviews of recent books of Offaly interest.

456 pages including 32-page colour insert marking the completion of the construction of Offaly Archives and a gallery of events from 2018 and 2019.

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.

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.
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



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.

Offaly history blog every week

Here is a selection of recent blogs by some of our regular contributors in case you missed them. If you have a piece of research you would like to share with our readers, contact us at, for attention of blog editor. 

Agriculture in Offaly on the eve of the Great Famine. By Ciarán Reilly

Mother and Child Report: an opportunity to reflect and research our family and social history.

The Dowris Hoard. By John Dolan

The Tullamore Grand Canal Hotel, 1801–1974. By Michael Byrne

Robert Goodbody, amateur doctor in Clara and Tullamore during the Famine. By Michael Goodbody.


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, Michael Scully.

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

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Copyright © 2021 Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society, All rights reserved.

View our previous newsletters

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