From Edenderry to the Cape of Good Hope: The Story of the Right Rev. Bishop John Rooney, Vicar Apostolic of the Western Cape. By Maurice Egan

‘I found him’ I declared to my wife.

You see, as a child his was the Consecration Cross above my mother and father’s bed. On enquiring the significance of the cross, my mother would dismissively direct ‘Ask your father’. So, the story went that the cross came all the way back from Cape Town, South Africa to Tullamore, County Offaly, Ireland and was the Consecration Cross of the late Bishop John Rooney, Vicar Apostolic of the Western Cape Vicariate of the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.

Bishop Rooney died 90 years ago in 1927. Continue reading

Burial Grounds of Birr, by Stephen Callaghan

Birr is well known for its Georgian streetscape, mighty telescope and castle, however it might be a surprise to learn of the number of burial grounds to be found in and around the town. A total of nine burial grounds can be found within a short distance of the town.

While this blog post does not claim to contain the definitive history of each burial ground, as such a work would be several volumes of books, it does however hope to make the reader aware of the number of burial grounds in the town and give some interesting information about each. Continue reading

The Egan Brothers and the Battle of Messines, 7-14 June 1917, a precursor to the 3rd Battle of Ypres, by Maurice Egan

The battle was an offensive planned by the Allied forces on the western front, taking place from the 7th to the 14th June 1917. British, Canadian and ANZAC forces were actively involved in the objective of taking the German, heavily fortified and ‘impregnable’ 15kms long, Messines Ridge in western Belgium. The New Zealand division was assigned the task of attacking the southern bastion of the German defences upon the ridge. The Irish 16th Division, including the Royal Irish Regiment were assigned the task of attacking the north eastern fortified ridge. Continue reading

KILBEGGAN GRAVEYARD HAS A FEW INTERESTING STORIES TO TELL, by Stan McCormack

 A group of volunteers, supporting the work of Renew Kilbeggan, got together some time ago with the idea of cleaning up St Beccan’s Church of Ireland graveyard. The result of this work has recovered 28 gravestones and a booklet has been produced showing the inscriptions. However, there is much more to this event, as the  gravestones reveal stories that travel from Ireland to Australia, a young woman described as the first female paediatrician in Ireland, events like the 1798 rebellion, the founding of Kilbeggan Distillery,  the famous Knighthood of a local innkeeper,  Ribbonmen and  Secret Societies, cattle driving, a rector who had an affair with the wife of  Kilbeggan MP John Philpott Curran, and a Wesleyan who provided the first building for the  Sisters of Mercy in Kilbeggan in 1879.

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Hugh Mahon

Book  launch on 27 April 2017 at Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore at 8pm on Hugh Mahon, Killurin, Killeigh parish native who made a name for himself in Australia

This year marks the 160th anniversary of the birth of Hugh Mahon, a native of County Offaly, who, after a difficult start in Ireland, found fame and fortune in Australia, where he rose to high political office, serving as a Labour member of the Australian parliament for two decades and as a government minister four times.

A new book, Hugh Mahon: Patriot, Pressman, Politician tells the fascinating life-story of this son of the county, whose relations still live in and around Tullamore. The book will be launched at Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore on Thursday 27 April 2017 at a lecture to be given by the book’s author Australian historian Jeff Kildea. Continue reading

Kilbeggan Races 1840-2017, by Stan McCormack

Next meeting 21 April 2017

It is probable that some form of racing took place in Kilbeggan before the first recorded meeting on 9th March 1840, which according to tradition was held in the townland of Kilbeg. The main race was the Challenge Cup worth 40 guineas and an entry fee of £3, which clearly indicated that it was for the gentry and not the common people. The race was won by T. Crofton’s Razor but “not without very keen stroping”. The races were held over three heats of two miles- all run on the same day. It was stated that 30,000 attended and “on every side was to be seen happy hearts, smiling countenances and sparkling eyes”. The races continued during the famine years and mass emigration with the support of families like the Locke’s, Codd’s, Connolly’s of Loughnagore, Clarkes of Meldrum, Colgans, Kelly’s,  etc. The racing ended in 1855 due to financial problems & faction fighting. The first ever races in the current Loughnagore site was held in 1846. Continue reading

The King’s County: Epitome of its History, Topography & C. (Birr, 1883, reprinted 1998.) Review by Dorothee Bibby

Recently, I purchased a little booklet ‘The Kings County: Epitome of its History, Topography & C. by J. St. George Joyce ’ at the Offaly History bookshop at Bury Quay, Tullamore. Joyce was the first editor of the Midland Tribune in 1881. This pamphlet style read was published by him in 1883. It is remarkable that the original booklet would be a rare treasure to have today (maybe you should check your loft…). I enjoyed the old advertising with sentences like: Liver Complaints cured by Dr. King’s Dandelion and Quinine Liver Pills (without Mercury). Hair loss and Gout were all curable thanks to newly discovered ointments. Also monthly painless dentistry visits from Dublin Surgeon Dentists to the midland towns are listed, and every advertisement promises ‘modest rates’ for the product! (The book can be ordered online at http://www.offalyhistory)

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A Murder at Birr Barracks, by Stephen Callaghan

 

Birr Barracks was constructed by Bernard Mullins between 1809-1812, during the height of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) in Europe. The Barracks saw various regiments of the British Army stationed there. The Barracks was burned to the ground in July 1922 by North Tipperary Brigade, IRA. In 110 years of existence there were many notable, interesting events and scandals, one of the more macabre events was the murder of Adjutant Robertson Mackay of the 5th Fusiliers by Private George Jubee, this is their story. Continue reading