The murder of Lieutenant Clutterbuck of Birr Barracks in 1865

By Stephen Callaghan

A previous blog post detailed the murder in 1843 of Lieutenant and Adjutant Robertson Mackay of the 5th Fusiliers at Birr Barracks. Mackay was shot dead by a soldier he was drilling, Private George Jubee. Jubee ultimately being hung for his crime. Some twenty two years later a detachment of 5th Fusiliers were stationed in Birr Barracks, with the brutal murder of Lieutenant James Henry Clutterbuck taking place on the River Brosna. Continue reading


So who were the Offaly women leaders: the first woman bishop, a literary ‘salon’ hostess, a formidable woman whose home was her castle, a multi-talented photographer with dash and dosh, an artist and microscopist with a difficult husband, some teacher activists and a playwright. By Cosney Molloy


St Brigid of Croghan Hill, Offaly

Mary McAleese kicked off International Women’s Day on 8 March 2018  with a lecture outside the walls of the Vatican – no codology there.  She could have adverted to the first woman bishop in Ireland (no man handed her the veil), St Brigid. St Brigid was born at Croghan Hill, County Offaly and not near Dundalk or in Kildare. Her father was of the Fothairt people, mercenaries to the Uí Fhailge dynasty (Kissane, 2017, p. 105). Cogitosus says she was consecrated a virgin at Croghan Hill by Bishop MacCaille who is associated with that place. Will you be there on St Patrick’s Day for the burning of the furze?

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Offaly at the heart of Early Medieval Ireland, by Matthew Stout ‘Nipples of Croghan Man sliced in ritual sacrifice.’

An invitation to speak to the Offaly Historical Society on 22 February 2018 caused me to consider whether or not you could tell the history of early medieval Ireland by concentrating on just one county. In the case of Offaly it proved possible.

When written Irish history begins (certainly by the late fifth century) Ireland was a complex patchwork of political units unified by the Celtic language. This Irish speaking culture came to Ireland before 700 along with the use of Iron and other Celtic traditions. A second wave of Celts from central Europe arrived on the island around 300 BC. These were the people that introduced La Tène artistic styles into Ireland.

Much of what we know about these people comes from the discovery of Old Croghan Man in 2003. Found in Offaly near the Meath border, this poor devil was sacrificed sometime around 270 BC. His nipples were sliced as part of the ritual associated with his murder and, tellingly, he wore a bracelet with a La Tène decoration. This is the world that Patrick describes in his Confessio written towards the end of the 400s AD: a world of strange pagan rituals and sun worship.

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Admiral Sir Henry D’Esterre Darby of Leap Castle, County Offaly: the naval adventures of an Offaly man and hero at the Battle of the Nile, by Noel Guerin

Henry D’Esterre Darby born 9 April 1749 was the third son of Jonathan and Susannah Darby of Leap castle. The D’Esterre name he inherited from his great grandmother, Anna-Maria D’Esterre.

The Darby family was first recorded at Leap Castle in 1659 and his father Jonathan was the third Jonathan to own Leap Castle and a large estate.  Susannah Lovett was the daughter of Robert Lovett of Dromoyle and Liscombe House, Buckingham. She was the niece of the architect, who was dead before the marriage, but this Jonathan was one who did neo-Gothic alterations to Leap Castle in 1753. He was known as Counselor Darby. Jonathan Darby died 16 Mar 1776 in Great Ship Street Dublin and was buried at Leap. Continue reading

The old pubs of Tullamore: can you name them all since 1968? And the Copper Pot Still (McGinn’s) is your opportunity to get stuck in. Cosney Molloy

First shot or First draft of the story!

The Copper Pot Still is one of the finest of the old pubs in Tullamore and has been connected with brewing since the 1800s when a brewery was operated at the back of the existing pub by the Deverell family. It is back in the news because it is now for sale and may sell for €375,000, or a long way shy of its €2.1m mark in busier times. Today there are just eighteen pubs,  four hotels and  six clubs trading, six more are licensed but not trading currently and thirteen are closed for good or not currently licensed. So for the Twelve at Christmas next year try Twenty Seven, if all six clubs are open on the night and you are admitted as a guest.

The former McGinn’s/Copper Pot Still pub comes from a long tradition of bar and groceries in Tullamore and was one of about forty such houses in the town in the early 1900s. Today we may have less than thirty  when one takes account of what houses have  closed. Now it is the turn of off licences in shops and supermarkets and the public house to which so many resorted may be an endangered species.

Some will remember the eight pubs of Patrick Street of which there are only two surviving and one of those not currently trading due to restructuring. Can you name them: Brazil, McGowan/Smith, Coleman’s Windmill, the Murals, Rattigans (Copper Urn), Cash (Brady/De Brun), Bolger, James Walsh. How many can you name in the other streets? Be sure to offer your comments and corrections. Send pictures and memories to Continue reading

The most haunted castle in Ireland: the story of novelist Andrew Merry (aka Mrs Mildred Darby) of Leap Castle, Co. Offaly, by Noel Guerin

Whilst dressing I was startled by a loud yell of terror stricken male and female voices coming – apparently from hall, and ran out to see the cause. My husband was out ahead of me at his heels I passed through corridor of wing and onto the gallery running round two sides of hall. Two lamps on gallery, two more in hall below. On the gallery, leaning with ‘hands’ resting on its rail, I saw the ‘Thing’ – the Elemental and smelt it only too well.

Mildred Henrietta Gordon Dill was born on 13 March 1869 daughter of Dr Richard Augusta Caroline Dill, of Birchwood, Brighton, England.  She was the youngest of six children, educated at Oxford and afterwards set her heart on a literary career and this would be difficult as her parents were Plymouth Brethren and higher education was not allowed for a woman. Before Mildred got engaged she ran off and joined the Salvation Army with the intention of tending to London’s poor. On 6 November 1889 at the age of twenty she married Jonathan Charles Darby, fifteen years her senior, and heir to Leap Castle and the Darby estates in King’s Co/Co. Offaly. Although young and small in stature Mrs Darby would prove to be no shrinking violet of a bride. Continue reading

Puttaghan, Tullamore: living on a powder keg 210 years ago

The older residents of Tullamore will know where the magazine was and will quickly tell you it was near the old footbridge in Convent View in the townland of Puttaghan. The magazine or arsenal on a site of almost one acre was built by the army in 1808 and the stores were surrounded by a nine-foot high wall, part of which survives at 21/21 Convent View. The high walls were designed to protect the powder magazine, store rooms and guard room. Other such walls surrounded the 1716 barracks and can still be seen near the garda station bordering Marian Place and a little more at Parnell Street (best viewed from the Marian Place off Kilbride Street). Little of the old Wellington Barracks (of c. 1800) survives in Cormac Street.

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Interview with Dan Lawlor, a Mount Bolus character of the last century Interviewed by Jim Kenny. Recorded on 22nd November 1994. Dan Lawlor died 20 years ago this month. “She’s a good girl, she’ll earn her keep”

Dan Lawlor was born in 1907 and in this interview (extract – for the full interview follow the SoundCloud link) he talks about his early memories of growing up in the early 1900s, attending national school in Mount Bolus. Starting to work at the age of 14, where the wage was 3 shillings for a boy and 5 shillings for men and the working day was 8 or 9 hours at least.  He also recalls growing up during very disturbed times, the 1916 rising, the Black and Tans and the First World War.  Going around the rambling houses and the stories he heard about the Famine 1846 – 49, the big wind in 1903 knocking down all 13 acres of Colonel Biddulph trees, the big storm around 1803 (or was it 1839).  The telling of ghost stories, attending wakes, clay pipes and match making where the father gave £100 and those who couldn’t afford it and gave nothing would say “she’s a good girl and will earn her keep”.  His love of hurling in Killoughy, making their own hurleys and using a tin can if they couldn’t afford a leather ball.  He also speaks about the 1920s not being great times, but the crops were good for anyone who minded them, farming all his life also all his family, the farm evictions and the Economic War.  He also mentions about 80 years ago there was a brewery in Monasterevin called Cassidy’s and a monk in Clara who worked miracles with the mortar, they called him Cassidy’s Monk. Continue reading

Flour and fire: the rise and fall of Robert Perry & Co, Belmont Mills

The Perrys originated with Henry Perry, a Quaker from Shanderry, near Mountmellick in Co. Laois. He had five sons, many of whom became successful industrialists. Robert Perry, the eldest, founded Rathdowney Brewery, of Perry’s Ale fame,  and was father to the Perry Brothers who founded Belmont Mills. Another of his sons, James Perry, was a visionary in terms of transport development. He was a director of the Grand Canal Company and then turned his attentions to railway advancement. With the Pims, another Quaker family, he promoted the first railway line in Ireland, the Dublin to Kingstown line. He made a sizeable fortune investing in that company, and then became director of the Great Southern and Western Railway before leading a new group to form the Midland Great Western railway, and the two companies battled it out to win routes west of the country, finally managing to get a train line through Clara in 1859. Continue reading

Remembering Michael McDermott, Durrow, Co. Offaly (1895-1976), an old IRA soldier of the War of Independence, by Máirtín D’Alton

My grandfather Michael McDermott of Durrow, County Offaly was born in 1895 and died on 30 March 1976. My mother later stated that he was actually aged 81 years (not 79 as on the gravestone) when he died. What caught my particular attention was that his gravestone records him as ‘CO (sic) North Offaly Batt. IRA’.  But he was not in fact the OC of the North Offaly Battalion as claimed. For the funeral, as is usual for old IRA men, the coffin was draped in the Irish tricolour, and the ‘Last Post’ was played, with a firing party over grave. My cousin still has one of the spent cartridges from the blanks. Continue reading