St Brigid of Croghan Hill, Offaly
Mary McAleese kicked off International Women’s Day on 8 March 2018 with a lecture outside the walls of the Vatican – no codology there. She could have adverted to the first woman bishop in Ireland (no man handed her the veil), St Brigid. St Brigid was born at Croghan Hill, County Offaly and not near Dundalk or in Kildare. Her father was of the Fothairt people, mercenaries to the Uí Fhailge dynasty (Kissane, 2017, p. 105). Cogitosus says she was consecrated a virgin at Croghan Hill by Bishop MacCaille who is associated with that place. Will you be there on St Patrick’s Day for the burning of the furze?
An invitation to speak to the Offaly Historical Society on 22 February 2018 caused me to consider whether or not you could tell the history of early medieval Ireland by concentrating on just one county. In the case of Offaly it proved possible.
When written Irish history begins (certainly by the late fifth century) Ireland was a complex patchwork of political units unified by the Celtic language. This Irish speaking culture came to Ireland before 700 along with the use of Iron and other Celtic traditions. A second wave of Celts from central Europe arrived on the island around 300 BC. These were the people that introduced La Tène artistic styles into Ireland.
Much of what we know about these people comes from the discovery of Old Croghan Man in 2003. Found in Offaly near the Meath border, this poor devil was sacrificed sometime around 270 BC. His nipples were sliced as part of the ritual associated with his murder and, tellingly, he wore a bracelet with a La Tène decoration. This is the world that Patrick describes in his Confessio written towards the end of the 400s AD: a world of strange pagan rituals and sun worship.
First shot or First draft of the story!
The Copper Pot Still is one of the finest of the old pubs in Tullamore and has been connected with brewing since the 1800s when a brewery was operated at the back of the existing pub by the Deverell family. It is back in the news because it is now for sale and may sell for €375,000, or a long way shy of its €2.1m mark in busier times. Today there are just eighteen pubs, four hotels and six clubs trading, six more are licensed but not trading currently and thirteen are closed for good or not currently licensed. So for the Twelve at Christmas next year try Twenty Seven, if all six clubs are open on the night and you are admitted as a guest.
The former McGinn’s/Copper Pot Still pub comes from a long tradition of bar and groceries in Tullamore and was one of about forty such houses in the town in the early 1900s. Today we may have less than thirty when one takes account of what houses have closed. Now it is the turn of off licences in shops and supermarkets and the public house to which so many resorted may be an endangered species.
Some will remember the eight pubs of Patrick Street of which there are only two surviving and one of those not currently trading due to restructuring. Can you name them: Brazil, McGowan/Smith, Coleman’s Windmill, the Murals, Rattigans (Copper Urn), Cash (Brady/De Brun), Bolger, James Walsh. How many can you name in the other streets? Be sure to offer your comments and corrections. Send pictures and memories to email@example.com Continue reading
The older residents of Tullamore will know where the magazine was and will quickly tell you it was near the old footbridge in Convent View in the townland of Puttaghan. The magazine or arsenal on a site of almost one acre was built by the army in 1808 and the stores were surrounded by a nine-foot high wall, part of which survives at 21/21 Convent View. The high walls were designed to protect the powder magazine, store rooms and guard room. Other such walls surrounded the 1716 barracks and can still be seen near the garda station bordering Marian Place and a little more at Parnell Street (best viewed from the Marian Place off Kilbride Street). Little of the old Wellington Barracks (of c. 1800) survives in Cormac Street.
Dan Lawlor was born in 1907 and in this interview (extract – for the full interview follow the SoundCloud link) he talks about his early memories of growing up in the early 1900s, attending national school in Mount Bolus. Starting to work at the age of 14, where the wage was 3 shillings for a boy and 5 shillings for men and the working day was 8 or 9 hours at least. He also recalls growing up during very disturbed times, the 1916 rising, the Black and Tans and the First World War. Going around the rambling houses and the stories he heard about the Famine 1846 – 49, the big wind in 1903 knocking down all 13 acres of Colonel Biddulph trees, the big storm around 1803 (or was it 1839). The telling of ghost stories, attending wakes, clay pipes and match making where the father gave £100 and those who couldn’t afford it and gave nothing would say “she’s a good girl and will earn her keep”. His love of hurling in Killoughy, making their own hurleys and using a tin can if they couldn’t afford a leather ball. He also speaks about the 1920s not being great times, but the crops were good for anyone who minded them, farming all his life also all his family, the farm evictions and the Economic War. He also mentions about 80 years ago there was a brewery in Monasterevin called Cassidy’s and a monk in Clara who worked miracles with the mortar, they called him Cassidy’s Monk. Continue reading
It would be nice to write that Durrow Abbey house, Tullamore is in course of restoration and that it, the High Cross and Church and the parklands adjoining will soon be properly open to the public. It’s possible but getting more difficult as the house continues to deteriorate. It has been vacant for a considerable time. Councillor Tommy McKeigue drew attention to it recently at Offaly County Council and Paul Moore has reminded us of it in his photographs that are too kind to its present sad condition. But there are hopeful signs. The footpath from Durrow Woods should be completed this year and will allow walkers to come close to the house and the old church at Durrow and High Cross. At least more people will see it and become aware of its potential to midlands/ Ireland East, or is it Lakelands Tourism.
Brigadier General James P. Cullen died at his home in Scarsdale, New York on 8 December 2017 at the age of 72. He was born in Queens, New York on 27 January 1945 to Agnes Gorman and Patrick Cullen but came to Ireland and to Rahan, Co. Offaly when he was four and spent almost four years in the Offaly parish before returning to New York where he took his first job soon after. Thereafter Jim never stopped working, giving of his time whether for remuneration or in a voluntary capacity. Continue reading
Flights of Fancy; Follies, Families and Demesnes in Offaly by Rachel McKenna has just been published by Offaly County Council at £30. It’s a large format coffee-table type book with over 350 pages, in full colour and hard cover. It can be bought across the county, Irish Georgian shop, Dublin and Offaly History Centre, Tullamore.
The book looks at the evolution of the demesne in Offaly with no less than fifteen studies of demesnes across the county from Charleville, Birr, Gloster, Tubberdaly, Ballycumber, Moorock, Busherstown, Prospect, Acres, Belview, Mullagh Hill, Ballyeighan, Hollow House, Kinnitty to Loughton. The big names such as Birr are well-known but there are others that provide surprising and interesting excursions into the county’s landscape, architectural history and family history. There are lots of curious things that are fascinating such as the story of the ‘mummy’s hand’ at Prospect House and Lord Bloomfield’s experiences as ambassador to Russia in its glittering heyday. Continue reading