Marking Tullamore 400th, Decade of Centenaries and Sustaining the country towns in the 21st century
August 1922 was a wicked month with the death of two Irish leaders, Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins. At local level we had the death in July 1922 of the Ulster Bank manager Tullamore in the course of a robbery and at Bunaterin the death of a Free State soldier, Matthew Cullen, on 29 August 1922. Raymond Cullen wrote about this in our blog last week and in July we carried a blog on the Ulster Bank robbery by the Republican IRA. The Republicans departed Tullamore on 20 July 1922 just before the Free State army reached the town. Before leaving the barracks, courthouse and jail were burnt. Later in the month and in August it was the turn of the Big House owners including Screggan Manor, Geashill Castle and Brookfield. Thucydides (d. 400 BC) wrote of how civil war exhibited a tendency to extremism. We were fortunate in Ireland that things, while bad, was not by any means on a par with the American of Spanish Civil Wars. That said the killings in the North of Ireland were terrifying. But enough of that lets go back to our story for today which is about shopping in Tullamore in the early 1900s, living over the shop and the tragedy of early death for the family of the owner Michal J. Gill in September 1922.
Affable is a word I find myself using to describe the business people of High Street over the last 50 years from J.J. Horan, to McGinns, Daly’s shop, John Clifford, Midland Books, Kilroys Matty Coyne, Paddy Cleary, P.J. Carragher, Tom Lawless and so many more one could mention. In the course of a family wedding recently I had the pleasure of being ‘fitted out’ by Anthony Kearns, his ‘affable’ father, and the staff of the shop. Now I am revisiting, but today to look back at the history of the store and the building here since the 1750s, but more especially in the time of Gill’s Drapery from 1901 to c. 1922. This was a good time for drapers and opposite Gill’s (on the corner) was the Rafter drapery. In William/Columcille St. was Tullamore Drapery and Scally’s (to become a massive new store in 1912), and of course there was Morris’ shop in Patrick Street and later Church Street.
GV 6 and 7 High Street, Galvin’s ladies’ drapers, now Guy Clothing
The modern Guy Clothing shop was erected in the early 1960s by P. & H. Egan Limited in a contemporary style and replaced a five-bay, two-storey house erected in 1753. Why the old house had been allowed to go to ruin in the 1940s is not known. It seems to have been a fire in the 1930s. For many years in the 1940s all that survived was a high wall. By the way the number of the shop, GV 6 and GV 7, comes from Griffith’s Valuation (GV) of 1854 and settled the numbering of these houses for many years.
The layers of transactions in regard to GV 6 & 7 certainly confirm the many layers in leasehold properties and the use they were put to in order to shore up income maintenance for investors. In April 1753 Lord Tullamore leased to Robert Mills, a farmer, the dwelling house adjoining John Nightingale. Mills also held, by a lease of three lives, twenty-six acres of arable land and four acres of bog at Spollanstown. The lives inserted were those of John Mills, Thomas Mills and James Mills, annual rent £3, and double that figure in the event of Mills selling to a papist. He mortgaged the Tullamore property to John Finlay of Dublin in 1758 and in 1767 – the latter for a loan of £113.
Miss Mills and Sergeant Major Muller strike up a match
This Mills family of Tullamore were recalled in a story in 2001 in connection with the marriage of a daughter to a soldier in the King’s German Legion (KGL) some of whom are buried in Kilcruttin graveyard.That the KGL settled in Tullamore and were popular is evident from matches that were made including that of Anne Mills, a Tullamore farmer’s daughter to Sergeant Major Muller and who were married at Middleton County Cork in November 1806. She died at Osnabruck in 1845. The story of Anne Mills was told to the Irish Times journalist, Richard Roche in 1961 while on a press visit to Germany by his guide to Berlin, a descendant of the same Anne Mills. He noted in his Irishman’s Diary article of 9 January 2001 that Anne Mills was still remembered in her adopted Osnabruck but wondered was she remembered in her native Tullamore? Her name does not appear in the Tullamore parish registers of the Church of Ireland but other members of KGL feature in 1807 and 1808. A daughter was born to the ‘Germans’ in December 1806 and baptized at the old church in Church Street in July 1807 while a marriage is recorded on Feb. 29 1808. On 30 November 1808 is recorded a birth outside marriage to a KGL captain and an Irish girl. Was the child sent to the Foundling Hospital in Dublin as was usual at that time?
In 1790 William Finlay, administrator of John Finlay’s will sold the property to Samuel Bollard of Farthingston, Westmeath. By 1843 the house was subdivided, the northern end of the building was occupied by Thomas Mullen (?McMullen) and later Robert Galbraith, possibly a draper. In 1854 it was occupied by Thomas Kenny and let at £12 a year. In 1843 the southern end of the house was occupied by Matthew Warren who ran an eating house, later Mary Bolan, and in 1854 John Flanagan. Flanagan had cabins to the rear as shown on the 1838 5 ft scale town plan.
The first valuation in 1843
Thomas McMullen to be let ( Robert Galbraith) [James Kenny, James Bollard]. This house was let at £12 a year. The rere is small, enclosed with a lock up gateway – no garden, situation good.
F.21, H.20, Q.L. 1B – YR (£14.0.0) LR (£10.4.0)
Matthew Warren eating house ( Mary Bolan) [Rob Flanagan from James Bollard. Warren holds from Susanna Smith of Wm. St. – there is no rere – and the house very inconvenient – part of the lower story is occupied by a poor tenant – the rent was £14 but reduced. The situation good.
F.17, H.20, Q.L. 1B (1.C+) Y.R –£ 9.0.0 [L.R
Kevin Fergus Egan sold the Egan interest in GV 7 to the Egan company in 1927 arising from an interest acquired in 1908. It is noted on the title to the property that Robert Bollard died a bachelor farmer, aged 64, in 1898. Meanwhile the occupancy was with Patrick O’Hanrahan from 1886 and subsequently Denis Fitzpatrick of Cappancur. Fitzpatrick was adjudicated a bankrupt in 1895 and the 99-year lease from 1886 was assigned to the Egan firm in 1896. By 1898 the property was tenanted by drapers Richard J. Ranson and Thomas J. Adams and was known as ‘The Mart’. In 1901 it was leased to Michael J. Gill for £60 a year. Gill had been a draper with Malachy Scally in Columcille Street and opened on his own account. He was from Castlerea and has worked in Fitzgibbon’s drapery. Mrs Scally was a Fitzgibbon and there is the link. Anyway it was severed in 1901 when Gill went out on his own. After his death in 1922 his widow surrendered the lease to Egan’s in 1927/ and or sold the contents of the shop to McFaddens of Patrick Street. A second part of the High Street property was tenanted by John Flanagan and James Kenny. Flanagan had a 999-year lease from 1880. Egan’s acquired this or another 999-year interest in the property in 1940.
Strange to say the 1901 census entry was not found in High Street or Charleville Square. Michael Gill, drapery manager, was living in William Street over Scally’s shop. An entry at no, 5 may mean this property was vacant in April of 1901 at the time of the census.
The census for 1911 census High Street (no. 59), GV 6 and 7 really shows us what living over the shop meant and how the drapers of those years had inhouse staff to make suits and other clothing. The Gill Family lived in what the census people called a 1st class private dwelling in a house/Shop with seven windows to the front. The house had three out-offices which were two stables and one shed. The household was comprised of the husband, wife, four sons, one daughter, six employees (four milliners and two draper assistant) and two servants (one female nurse and one servant). It was largely a family concern with no less than seven family members and eight support staff to help in the house and the shop.
The Gill shop on census night in 1911
|Gill||Michael J||Head of Family||RC||40||Draper||M||Co Roscommon|
|Smyth||Patrick||Draper’s Assistant||RC||19||Draper’s Assistant||S||Co Westmeath|
|Marron||Patrick J||Assistant||RC||41||Draper’s Assistant||S||Co Louth|
|Owens||Lizzie||Servant||RC||38||Nurse Domestic||M||King’s Co|
Michael Gill died at 51 in 1922 and his family departed for the United States. Michael Gill died at 51 in 1922 and was buried in Clonminch. His obituary noted: The death took place at his residence, High St., Tullamore, of Mr. Michael J. Gill, draper. The deceased was a native of Castlerea and served his apprenticeship in the drapery establishment of the late Mr John Fitzgibbon, in that town. He came as assistant to the drapery establishment of Mr. Malachy Scally, Tullamore, about 35 years ago. He was a man of kindly genial disposition, and a citizen for whom there was great regard and esteem…. Mrs Gill carried on the business until the mid-1920s. It was closed by 1927 when the upper floor was used by Cumann na nGaedheal for the 1927 general election. It appears that Mrs Gill sold her interest in this property to McFadden drapers of Patrick St. for £1,200 in 1929 (MT, 23/2/29) which conflicts with surrendering the key.
Gill’s wife and ten children emigrated to New York in the late 1920s. A few of the children were back in Tullamore in the 1950s and 1960s In 1953 Rita Ryan née Gill attended a dinner for friends of the Old IRA. Ten years later Michael J. Gill, a son of the draper, visited Tullamore.
The building appears to have been vacant from 1927 or soon after (more information needed here) and was taken down by P.& H. Egan Ltd in 1952. It was then left for eight years as a walled in yard. In 1961, and to a very modern style, a newly constructed shop was opened by that firm as a hardware store focusing on electrical goods and the new products in demand in the early 1960s for the modernised home. It was sold in the late 1960s with the winding up of the Egan firm and was acquired by Joe Galvin, the auctioneer, for offices on the first floor and ladies fashions on the ground floor. The new store, Galvin’s Ladies Drapery, was under the direction of Joe Galvin’s wife, Mrs Lily Galvin, having moved to much larger premises from her former shop in Harbour Street, established in 1957 twelve years earlier. Joe Galvin was from a distinguished Tullamore-based business family headed by his father Michael (of the gravel business, later Readymix), and brothers John and Andy, and Brendan (among others) also in business in Tullamore. Joe Galvin died at the early age of 54. His auctioneering business was continued for a time by his brother Andy and Enda Soden.
Galvin for Ladies closed in 2014 after forty-five years in this location of which twenty-eight years was under the direction of John Galvin. In appearance the building has been changed radically on two occasions since the time of the Gill ownership from 1901 to 1922. The first was in 1961 for Egan’s and the second about 2007. The store was continued as a drapery for younger women in a new location.
The High Street store got a new lease of life with the opening of Guy Clothing by Anthony Kearns and Kara Kearns in October 2014. Their fine store has brought new business to High Street after the closure of Kilroy’s (both stores in 2007). We wish them well.
If we had letters and diaries from the 1750s what a story could be told of this one house in High Street. We did hear that some members of the Gill family from the Unites States called to the town council about ten years ago and would hope to make contact. The same can be said to the Mills Muller family in Berlin. Maurice Egan has written in two books now of the Egan family and others in Tullamore.
If you have a story to tell why not email us email@example.com. For over 400 stories so far see Offalyhistoryblog. They are nicely organised on our website www. Offalyhistory.com. There are about sixteen houses in O’Connor Square and over forty in High Street. Every building has a story. Have you archival material, memorial cards, photographs, diaries, letters? Why not call us. Offaly history is about saving memories. Visit our website and that of Offaly Archives. Our thanks to Offaly County Council, Decade of Centenaries and the Heritage Council. Only 55 more stories for High Street and O’Connor Square!! Thanks to Offaly History Centre for so much help with this one.
 Offaly Archives/4/36, 6 Apr. 1753; RD, 154/592/107558. Charleville to Robert Mills; fee farm grant, 11 June 1880, RD, 1880/40/216.
 Irish Times, 9 January 2001. This article first appeared in The Irish Sword in 1971, x, p.73. A Mills family lived at Spollanstown and were farmers and had property in High Street, Tullamore. Lord Tullamoore granted a lease to Robert Mills of Tullamore, a farmer, in 1753 (Registry of Deeds memorial Book 154-592-107558). A later deed of 1773 (Registry of Deeds 308-478-206673) refers to a Spollanstown address for Robert Mills and James Mills.
 Church of Ireland parish registers, Tullamore. Index with OHAS, Research Centre, Tullamore
 RD, 6 April 1753, Tullamore to Mills, memorial no., 154/592/107558; 10 March 1767, Mills to Finlay, memorial no., 297/637/196497; 4 November 1758, Mills to Finlay, memorial no. 199/346/132431; 13 September 1790, Finlay to Bollard, memorial no., 416/493/277814.
 MS valuation, Tullamore, property nos, 24-5; Slater, Directory (1846), p. 93.
 Midland Tribune, 30 Sept. 1922.
 Offaly Independent, 8 Aug. 1953, 2 Nov. 1963.
 Offaly Independent, 3 June 1961.
 Tullamore Tribune, 29 Sept. 1979.
 Midland Tribune, 16 June 1984.