Michael Molloy, the Tullamore Distiller 1777-1846 ‘The first Mr Tullamore Dew’

Is Conor McGregor related to the Molloys? He probably is. He did his country proud last night as did Michael Molloy 150 years ago. Michael Molloy was the founder of the Tullamore distillery established in 1829. The date is to be seen over the gate beside the Tullamore Credit Union in Patrick Street. Molloy’s distillery is better known today as Daly’s distillery, Williams’s distillery or indeed, the Tullamore Dew Distillery. The first Bernard Daly was the owner of the distillery from the 1850s and was a nephew of Michael Molloy. Daniel E. Williams was the general manager of the distillery from the 1870s and, effectively, the owner of the distillery from the early 1900s. When Alfred Barnard visited the distillery in 1886 he noted that it had been founded in 1829 by an uncle to Bernard Daly and that Williams was the general manager. Much has been written about Daly and Williams, but who was Michael Molloy and where does he fit into the story of the Tullamore distillery?

Tullamore distillery in the late 1800s
The Michael Molloy distillery, Tullamore passed to his nephew, Bernard Daly, by 1851.

Michael Molloy, born c.1777, was the son of Edward Molloy of Tullamore, a spirit merchant. Michael Molloy was listed in 1824 as being in business with his brother Anthony as wine and spirit grocers. In 1846 he was listed in Slater’s directory as a miller and distiller, reflecting his ownership of the distillery in Bridge Street and the flour mill in Patrick Street. The piece on the Molloys of Tullamore (part of a larger article) by Liam Cox is confused on the family’s connection with the Tullamore distillery and no supporting evidence was offered for a supposed connection between Vaughan (one of the original leaseholders of 1756) and Michael Molloy. Cox does advert to Rahan and district as being ‘the cradle of the O Molloys’.  It may be that Michael Molloy’s family was from Clonshanny or Castletown in the parish of Rahan. This is surmise only based on the will of Michael Molloy, but as yet no tombstone has been located for Michael or his brother Anthony. One would expect them to have been buried in Rahan or at Durrow, Tullamore. In Durrow a new and important cemetery for the growing Catholic middle class was opened in 1832, and adjoining the church completed a year earlier. No less than three distillers are buried there – Bernard Daly (d. 1887), Daniel E. Williams (d. 1921) and John Locke.

Distillery house Brige St before demolition in 1992
Distillery House on left, from 1800s until 1903. Also called Old Hall in the late 1800s. Demolished in 1992 for Bridge Shopping Centre

Family members mentioned in Michael Molloy’s will include the following:

  1. Anthony who died without issue on 22 July 1851 (will dated 14 April 1850)
  2. John who predeceased his brother. Did he die in June 1846 (Wexford Independent, 20 June 1846)
  3. Martha Molloy married [?] Conroy and had issue Michael, Elizabeth, Mary Anne, Hannah, Martha, Margaret and Louisa.
  4. Elizabeth of Athlone who married [Bernard?] Daly and had issue Mary Anne and Hannah. Mary Anne married [?] Mara and had a daughter Mary. Faulkner’s Dublin Journal has a record of a marriage in 1805 of Bernard Daly, Cloghan King’s Co. to Miss Molloy, daughter of S. Molloy, Tullamore.
  5. Hannah who married Richard Daly and had Daniel and Hannah. He is probably Richard, the son of Daniel Daly of Athlone, born in October 1798, educated at TCD and qualified as a barrister.. A Richard Daly, barrister was listed in the 1843 valuation of Tullamore as living at 5 Charleville Square, now O’Connor Square.
  6. Mary Anne Molloy married [?] Faucett or Fawcett and had Anthony and Hannah.
  7. Another brother, Edward, died about 1824.


Anthony Molloy and Richard Daly are among the thirteen men listed as Esquires in Tullamore in 1846. Also mentioned is a Mrs Eliza Molloy in High Street.

In what might seem a curious transaction, Michael Molloy and his brother Anthony, who were partners in the wine and spirits business, bought the superior interest in part of what later became known as Distillery House, no 7 Bridge Street, in 1809 and then conveyed the property to their father Edward.  However, it may well be that Edward Molloy and his sons were already several years in possession of the former Flanagan distillery on the same site.

A Joseph Flanagan development of 1787 at High St O'Connor Square
Date stone for Joseph Flanagan or O’Flanagan at High Street.

The Flangans or O’Flanagans of Tullamore

The Molloy distillery of 1829 had its origins not later than 1782 because at that time a distillery on the same site was owned by Joseph Flanagan or O’Flanagan. Flanagan was reported as having a 300-gallon still and his neighbour in Patrick Street, George Hamilton, one of 274-gallons.  Flanagan operated from the Bridge Street house with the long garden of 7 Bridge Street stretching down to the river.  He was successful in business and we know he built the large speculative block in O’Connor Square and High Street comprising 49 High Street and 1 and 2 O’Connor Square. In addition he had a 999-year lease of part of the Tanyard adjoining O’Connor Square. Bishop Plunket of Meath stayed with Flanagan in 1794 while on his annual visitation to Tullamore parish. This was an honour generally given only to the very respectable in each parish and often gentry.

The passing of the 1823 act may go some way towards explaining the opening of a distillery by Michael Molloy in 1829. Several other distilleries were established about the same time: Midleton in 1825; Bishop’s Water, Wexford in 1827; Comber, Upper and Lower in 1825. It was in 1822-3 that the new Pentland distillery was established at Market Square, Tullamore, but this had closed by 1841 losing a lot of money for its Manly family backers in the process. In 1847 it was converted for use as a temporary fever hospital during the famine yeas years.

We can only guess as to when Flanagan’s distillery ceased production. It was in operation when Coote wrote his Statistical survey of the King’s County in 1801 but it had most likely closed by 1811 for Atkinson makes no mention of it in his visit to Tullamore, recorded in his Irish tourist guide (1815). O’Flanagan was dead by 1804 and in that year Edward Molloy lent £2,900 to James and Andrew James O’Flanagan, the sons of the late Joseph O’Flanagan, on the security of the distillery property in Bridge Street and a brewery concern in Tanyard Lane. James O’Flanagan was declared bankrupt in 1823 and the Tanyard property passed to James Ryan of Tullamore, a grocer.



Distillery warehouses early 1970s on Tullamore river
The warehouses and chimney at Tullamore distillery in the early 1970s

Tullamore distillery

By his last will of 21 October 1820 Edward Molloy bequeathed his property to his son, also Edward. Edward, the testator, died in 1822 and the beneficiary, his son, in 1824.  Michael Molloy was the latter’s heir. Under Michael Molloy’s last will of 18 December 1841 he bequeathed the distillery to his brother John, absolutely if he had issue, and for his life otherwise.  The distillery was a fine property and a valuation surveyor noted of the distillery in 1843 that it:

Also contains dairy and store, bonding house, stables, kiln & bonding house malt house. Turf shed cooperage spirit store, back house & cooler, offices, still house, cooper house, grain house, mash house, engine house, engine and mill house. These premises are remarkably well enclosed and the buildings in excellent repair – the distillery business is carried on extensively – the machinery all worked by steam power – the yard is very large and no garden.

The distillery was greatly enlarged in the mid-1830s when Michael Molloy acquired the Hamilton­-Killaly flour mill in Barrack St./Patrick St. and adjoining his own property. The entrance to this property was from Patrick Street while the distillery entrance was from Bridge Street. This long established mill, and small distillery back in the 1780s, was described in the 1843 valuation as:

Also small office, store house, kiln, flour mill. Three pair of mill stones, French burs – diameter 4’4” – machinery all metals – open wheel – 40 float boards – the fall about 7’ feet, – the mill and machinery are of a superior class – the miller say he has 9 months’ work at 12 hours each day and half that time at night .I am told Mr Molloy purchased these concerns and pays a small rent they are very extensive and connected with the distillery concerns adjoining.  The garden contains 0.0.14

At that point the flour mill on the river at Patrick Street was vacant and perhaps out of use because of the Brosna Drainage Scheme and the deepening of the river. Compensation would have been paid to the Molloy family. As noted, a new mill was acquired by Bernard Daly in 1868.

Michael Molloy died on 11 June 1846 bequeathing to his brother Anthony  property to the value of £10,000 together with lands at Clonshanny and Castletown, Rahan and elsewhere. Michael Molloy appointed Francis Berry and William Molloy as his executors. Francis Berry (d. 1864) was Lord Charleville’s agent and the most prominent figure in Tullamore. William Molloy (married to Mary, neé Molloy), had predeceased the testator. The latter was a spirit dealer, a son of James Molloy, a brewer, and may have been a nephew of Michael Molloy. He had a son Constantine Molloy who became a well-known barrister. Mary Molloy was listed as a hardware dealer in 1824.

By the mid-1830s the Molloys were significant property owners in Tullamore and Michael Molloy had the mill in Patrick Street property that included what is now Smyth’s pub and a series of warehouses running to the present-day bridge at Bridge Centre. In Bridge Street Michael had part of what was later the Hoey & Denning building and all the warehouses behind to the river. Anthony owned the house on the site of what is now the Tullamore post office, while Michael Molloy’s co-executor William Molloy had 4 and 5 High Street, the former G.N. Walshe shop and what is now the Conway & Kearney building. Between these properties was Molloy’s Lane with a few cabins in 1843 and closed by 1854. In addition William Molloy had several houses in Crowe/Tara Street.

John Molloy the intended successor to the distillery property and the residuary legatee under Edward’s will predeceased his brother Michael and the distillery property passed into the court of chancery, probably for the protection of the six living nephews who were now to inherit the  sale proceeds of the distillery, but were not also the residuary legatees. None had been named as such in what was a deficiency in the will that was not resolved by Michael Molloy following on the death of his brother John. The six nephews were Bernard Daly, Edward Daly, Edward Conroy, Michael Conroy, Daniel Daly and Anthony Faucett (Fawcett). Only three of those nephews were mentioned specifically in the will in connection with small legacies.

In 1847 a legal notice was published confirming the sale of the distillery property by the Court of Chancery to take place on 11 October 1847, on foot of a decree given on 25 May 1847. The proceedings were entitled Bernard Daly and others, as Plaintiffs and Anthony Molloy and another, Defendants. Jeremiah Mara, solicitor, a cousin of Bernard Daly’s was acting for the plaintiffs.The distillery was sold to Michael Molloy’s own brother Anthony in 1848 for £2,700.

Michael Molloy was a prominent citizen in Tullamore and a supporter of Catholic emancipation and Catholic schools and charities. His name and that of Anthony also appear on an 1831 list expressing disappointment with the House of Lords rejection of the Reform Bill.  Molloy was a benefactor of the new Mercy sisters in Tullamore who arrived in 1836 and helped with funding for the new convent, laying the foundation stone in 1838. He and James Ryan (probably the same man as acquired the Tanyard property from Flanagan’s in 1823) were the lessees in 1834 from Lord Charleville of the plot at Bury Quay/Convent Road for what was to be the first national school in Tullamore. (The old date-stone is set into the new convent).  Molloy also acquired a house in Store Street for the Mercy sisters beside that which had been donated to the sisters by a Miss Penthony, and Molloy later transferred it to the bishop and the sisters. Bishop Cantwell of Meath, mindful of the interests of the distiller donor, advised the nuns against inviting Fr Theobald Mathew, the Temperance campaigner to preach the opening ceremony for the new convent completed at Bury Quay in 1841

Michael’s brother, Anthony, was treasurer of the Tullamore Savings Bank in the town hall and was also a magistrate. Anthony Molloy died in July 1851 having made his last will on 16 April 1850. The will is not known to have survived, but from recitals in later documents we know that his executor was Bernard Daly, one of the six earlier mentioned nephews.  In addition Bernard Daly inherited the distillery property from his uncle. Other legacies were given to nieces and nephews to the value of c. £22,000.


The gate to the old Tullamore distillery
Tullamore Credit Union had the 1930s gates to the distillery cleaned. The gates were made in the 1930ss by a Mr Troy of Church Road, Tullamore

Today, the heritage of Tullamore distillery is emphasised in the story of Michael Molloy’s founding of the distillery in 1829 and Daniel E. Williams’s Tullamore Dew brand from the 1890s. Perhaps it is time to have a founder’s heritage label in the name of Michael Molloy who was not only a distiller but an advocate of parliamentary rights for the Catholics of Ireland. Locally, Molloy was a strong supporter of education as a way of permanently bettering his countrymen and women.