December 2016 sees the publication of two new books on the subject of the 1916 Rising in Offaly. The first is the latest edition of the journal of Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society, Offaly Heritage 9, a collection of essays to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, edited by Dr. Ciarán Reilly. A sister publication from the Society, a new book by Michael Byrne, Tullamore in 1916 – the making of the Tullamore incident, looks at Tullamore town as a place to live during this tumultuous period of Irish history and the issues confronting the town in terms of housing, local government and employment.
Much of the research in both volumes draws on important primary sources held in repositories in the county, particularly in Offaly History Archives and Tullamore Central Library. To coincide with the launch of these books, Offaly History Archives is pleased to release newly catalogued collections, which will be a further resource for the scholarship of this period.
Records of Rogers & Co. Solicitors
James Rogers of 12 Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin and Tullamore was admitted a solicitor in March 1907 and served his apprenticeship with the firm of A. & L. Goodbody at their Tullamore office. He established the firm of Rogers & Co. at High Street, Tullamore, in 1908 or 1909. He was enthusiastic about the Irish language and culture and was prominent in the Gaelic League and was subsequently employed in representing the prisoners connected with the ‘affray’ at Tullamore in March 1916. Rogers was election agent for the Sinn Féin candidates in 1918 and supervised all funds of the republican loan in County Offaly. He was election agent for the ‘Free State party’ in April 1922 and in 1923 was appointed state solicitor for County Offaly. Rogers resigned in August 1926 on his being appointed first county registrar for County Offaly. He retired from this position in 1943 and returned to private practice, conveniently switching place with his old colleague, James A. Ennis. He had taken a keen interest in local history and was the founder of the Offaly Archaeological and Historical Society in 1938. He died in 1967.
The Rogers & Co. collection consists of 54 bound volumes comprising letter books, client account ledgers, and cashbooks. The largest series is the letter books, which contain carbon copies of outgoing letters sent by Rogers & Co., Solicitors between the years 1911 and 1950. Unfortunately, it is not a full chronological set, with volumes for some years not extant, notably from July of 1916 to April 1927. All letter books contain an alphabetical surname index of clients. The rest of the collection is more financial in nature, consisting of series of cash ledgers, client account ledgers, cheques issued ledgers, a costs copying volume and a daybook recording daily work for clients.One of the most interesting letter books dates from January 1916 – July 1916. Due to Rogers’ nationalist sympathies, he was a natural choice to defend Peadar Bracken et al for their part in the Tullamore Incident of the 20th March 1916. Through letters sent by Rogers to correspondents such as Charles Wyse Power, and Timothy Michael Healy, MP, House of Commons, one can track the legal process set in train from the time of the prisoners’ arrest and imprisonment in Tullamore Gaol, their transfer to Dublin and their subsequent court-martial. Later volumes contain letters relating to subscriptions to the Dáil Éireann Loan 1919-1920 and its subsequent reimbursement. Names and addresses of subscribers are mentioned in the letters as well as the amount subscribed and the loan number.
O’Brennan Family Papers
This collection consists of original manuscript material, contemporary sources, newspaper cuttings, memoirs, photographs and later commentary all relating to the involvement of members of the Tullamore-based O’Brennan family in the formation of the Tullamore Pipe Band, the Irish Volunteers, the Tullamore Incident, the 1916 Rising and beyond. Of particular interest are original postcards from Séamus O’Brennan while training at Irish Volunteer Camps in 1914, Alo O’Brennan’s recollection of the Tullamore Incident, the original charge sheet listing the men arrested for the Tullamore Incident, and a scrapbook compiled by Alo O’Brennan in 1966 with annotations and commentary alongside contemporary newspaper cuttings.These papers should be viewed in connection with the O’Brennan Papers held by Offaly County Archives Service in Tullamore Central Library (Ref code: OCAS P77). This archival material is from the same source and covers the same time frame.
Although the centenary year of the 1916 Rising is coming to a close, there is always new archival material to collect, catalogue and preserve for future generations of researchers. We are currently collecting ephemera and publications relating to the various events and commemorations which took place during 2016, and any donations of archival material for this project will be welcome. We also accept donations of archival material relating to County Offaly generally. So much of our recent history is contained in archives held in private ownership and will be of significant interest to historians in the years to come.
Byrne, M., Legal Offaly: the county courthouse at Tullamore and the legal profession in County Offaly from the 1820s to the present day, Esker Press (2008)
Byrne M., Tullamore in 1916 – the making of the Tullamore Incident, Esker Press (2016)
Shortall, L. ‘Sources for the study of the revolutionary period in King’s County/Offaly (1912-1923), in Offaly Heritage 9, Esker Press (2016)