Shackleton’s photographs of Tullamore and west Offaly in the 1890s. Michael Byrne

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Jane W. Shackleton’s Ireland compiled by Christiaan Corlett (Cork, 2012) is an attractive large format publication from the growing stable of books issued by Collins Press and consists of 180 well produced photographs by Jane Shackleton. Jane Shackleton (nee Edmundson) was born in 1843 and in 1866 married Joseph Fisher Shackleton of the famous Ballitore, County Kildare family of Quakers. Thirteen Shackletons are included in Richard S. Harrison’s, Dictionary of Irish Quakers (second edition, Dublin, 2008) including Jane’s husband, Joseph Fisher Shackleton. Like his father he was a miller and in 1860 took over the Anna Liffey Mills in Lucan.

Not surprisingly there are many pictures of mills in this book and there are about ten pictures of Offaly interest. Jane Shackleton started taking pictures in the 1880s and made several tours on the Shannon and along the Grand Canal and Barrow lines. These waterways photographs contribute greatly to the history of the canals and the great mills which were associated with river locations. Many of these were in fact owned by Quaker industrialists. Like other interested women of the period Jane Shackleton was a member of the Royal Society of Antiquaries (RSAI) and took photographs of some of their tours including that of June 1904 around Ireland. Midleton Biddulph, the amateur photographer and retired army officer of Rathrobin near Tullamore was also on this trip and some of his pictures survive. Corlett informs us that the collection consists of 1000 lantern slides and 44 albums containing several thousand prints, mostly of Irish subjects. This writer had the pleasure of seeing some of the Grand Canal and the turf works at Pollagh back in the early 1970s with Richard Shackleton and Jonathan Shackleton.

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Tullamore Harbour in the 1890s
This first published selection includes many of Anne Liffey mills with the family in the 1880s and 1900s .Also included are many photographs of County Kildare, Carlow, Meath, Kilkenny, Galway, Sligo, Lough Ree, and pictures of the Aran Islands and County Kerry. There are fine pictures of Lucan, Lyon’s Mill, Grange Mills, Saggart Paper Mills, Ardreigh Mills, Levittstown Mills, boys at Glencree Reformatory and the new craze of cycling. Mountmellick is included with pictures of the centenary celebrations of the Quaker school, the staff and students, the main street and Summer Grove House, all in the 1880s.
The turf being loaded on a barge at Rahan in 1894 is possibly part of the Sherlock works – one of the predecessors of Bord na Mona. The view of Tullamore harbour in 1894 has been published before but not to the quality of this publication. Also on this autumn trip of 1894 are views of canal company barges and a steam tug at Killina, Rahan and the brick kilns near Pollagh. A new book on Pollagh brick manufacturing is to be launched on 8 December 2019. This latter photograph is an important record as there are few pictures surviving of the brickworks of Pollagh-Ferbane. The photographer’s boat, The Pearl, can be seen near Ballycowan castle in a photograph of 1903. The selection from Offaly is rounded off with four views of Shannon Harbour, Clonmacnois and Banagher. Again some of these have been seen before in the books of Ruth Delany.

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Jane W. Shackleton’s Ireland is a valuable book and no doubt representative of the entire collection. Like the Fr Browne pictures of 40 to 60 years later they now need to be catalogued in full and all published in due course.

064921 Shackleton Collection - Copy