A Murder at Birr Barracks, by Stephen Callaghan

 

Birr Barracks was constructed by Bernard Mullins between 1809-1812, during the height of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) in Europe. The Barracks saw various regiments of the British Army stationed there. The Barracks was burned to the ground in July 1922 by North Tipperary Brigade, IRA. In 110 years of existence there were many notable, interesting events and scandals, one of the more macabre events was the murder of Adjutant Robertson Mackay of the 5th Fusiliers by Private George Jubee, this is their story. Continue reading

Arthur Bell Nicholls’ Return to Banagher, 1861 – 1906, Part 1: A New Lifestyle by James Scully

Haworth

Arthur Bell Nicholls first came to Banagher in 1825 when he and his brother Alan were adopted by their uncle, the Rev. Alan Clerke Bell, master of Banagher Royal School and his wife, Harriette. Following a successful education there he entered Trinity College Dublin and graduated in 1844. The following year he was ordained and entered the curacy at Haworth in Yorkshire where Patrick Brontë was perpetual curate. He remained there for sixteen years. During this time he became a dedicated and trustworthy friend of the Brontë family and would have witnessed at close quarters the joyful  and  heartbreaking  events that befell them. Within the first three years of his curacy the Brontë sisters had their poems and first novels published. Jane Eyre by Charlotte, Wuthering Heights by Emily and Agnes Grey by Anne were all highly acclaimed. Tragically between September  1848 and  May 1849  Branwell,  Patrick’s only son, and both Emily and Anne died leaving Charlotte as the last surviving of  the six Brontë siblings. Continue reading

Hugh Mahon: Patriot, Pressman, Politician (1857-1931) From Killurin to Kalgoorlie

This year marks the 160th anniversary of the birth of Hugh Mahon, a native of County Offaly, who, after a difficult start in Ireland, found fame and fortune in Australia, where he rose to high political office, as a Labor member of the Australian parliament and a government minister. A new book, Hugh Mahon: Patriot, Pressman, Politician tells the fascinating life-story of this son of the county, whose relations still live in and around Tullamore. The book will be launched at Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore on Thursday 27 April 2017 at a lecture to be given by the book’s author Australian historian Jeff Kildea. Continue reading

Kilbeggan – a reason to believe

Kilbeggan is Tullamore town’s nearest neighbour to the north and was once part of the Tullamore Poor Law Union. It has been part of the county of Westmeath since the 16th century. Like Tullamore it depended greatly on milling and distilling. Locke’s Distillery fell into decay in the 1960s and was restored by the local community in the 1980s. It is again an active distillery. Thanks largely to the foresight of John Teeling the name of Kilbeggan is once again known throughout the world. Two midland towns, Tullamore and Kilbeggan, have given their name to world-class products. Both towns now have thriving whiskey distillery visitor centres.

Community activist and historian, Stan McCormack tells the story and looks to the future.

 

We seem to be living in this strange twilight zone, where a billionaire reality TV host becomes President of the USA, with issues regarding women, immigrants, tax, and ‘alternative facts’; where Britain exits the EU almost by mistake; Putin waits for his next move on Ukraine; and Kim Yong plays with nuclear bombs in North Korea, plus other right wingers waiting in the long grass. It is a reason to be, at the very least, afraid economically. The recovery of metropolitan areas in Ireland, where almost all the multi-national jobs have gone, has not travelled to rural areas. The myth of recovery

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The Rosse Papers in Birr Castle Archives

The Muniments Room

The Muniments Room in Birr Castle is a special space. Based in the eastern flanker of the castle, it was once a smoking room and contained a much painted-over and practically hidden Jacobean plaster frieze, the oldest complete example of its kind in Ireland.  In 1980, on inheriting the castle, the present Earl of Rosse, set about restoring the frieze to its former glory and applied for an Irish Georgian Society grant which allowed master stuccadore Séamus Ó hEocha to undertake the painstaking restoration work soon after.  It was the first act of modern restoration work in the castle and its results were startling. Continue reading

Offaly GAA: Slivers of History

To coincide with the release by Offaly History Archives of a collection of Offaly GAA minute books and records (1906-1980),  Dr Paul Rouse takes us through the history of the GAA in Offaly from its establishment in the county in the 1880s to the present day.

Without Gaelic games, there is nothing that unites Offaly. The county boundaries were first laid out in 1557 during the plantation of Leix-Offaly – but this was effectively a nominal administrative division that did not translate from maps, bore no relation to the divergent customs of the region and was largely ignored by the populace. Offaly sprawls across five Catholic dioceses and includes within its area, the ancient fiefdoms, or parts of fiefdoms, of a host of Gaelic chieftains. Continue reading

The Crowd in O’Connor Square, the spatial strategy and Tullamore as the ‘Kilkenny of the midlands’.

 

O’Connor Square has been an open space and at times a crowded place over its 300 years in existence. Described as a market place as early as 1713 it was not until 1789 that the market house (now the Rocket restaurant) was built. For over 250 years the square fulfilled the important market function of any provincial town. A place where town met country and where people came to sell their farm produce and livestock. Trading was carried on in the formal setting of the market house for just thirty years. By 1820 that function in the square was modified with the provision of a new Cornmarket (now the Market Square) off Harbour Street and close to the Grand Canal harbour. Continue reading

The war memorial in O’Connor Square: the first of the public memorials in Tullamore Town

The 2016-17 €3m enhancement plan for Tullamore town contains a broad proposal that the war memorial in O’Connor Square be moved to a widened footpath opposite the Brewery Tap. The reasoning is unclear, but may be to have a broad sweep in the square for a covered market or band stand idea to the front of the library. A Fergal MacCabe drawing of 2013 was able to provide for the retention of the war memorial where it was first placed in 1926. The purpose of this article is to provide a history of this and other memorials in the square with a quick overview of Tullamore’s monuments to recall ‘those who should not be forgotten’. Continue reading

The families of O’Connor Square, Tullamore over two centuries

There may be no families resident in O’Connor Square in 2017 and the area is now almost entirely a public and commercial space with well-designed buildings, a memorial in memory of the war dead of 1914-18, a public library, the restaurant ‘Bake’ and a market house/’town hall’ to which the public have access for the most part due to its being a restaurant at ground level. The great footfall recipient today is the Post Office, fulfilling in the square what the credit union does in Patrick Street. Continue reading

Tullamore is the best town in the county and ‘Little inferior to any town in Ireland’

 

Some of the options around the €3m Enhancement Plans for Tullamore town envisage O’Connor Square as a tree-lined open space with perhaps a band stand and from time to time one assumes the holding of local markets including a Christmas market. The market function goes back over 300 years and survived intact for the first 100 years up to the 1820s. By that time the town had expanded and a new market function, near the commercial harbour (an inland port) was developed in a rectangular area perhaps twice the size of O’Connor Square. Even so the main square continued to be used for the sale of light goods on the big trading days or Fair Days. That custom pertained until the 1980s when it came under fire from a pincer movement Continue reading