Wright and the other Volunteers: Birr, the Boer War and the Lindley connection. By Rosemary Raughter

This week’s blog is by Rosemary Raughter, an independent scholar, who has published widely on women’s and on local history. Her discovery of a collection of love letters, written 1898-1901, from her grandmother, Sarah Whelan, originally of Roscrea, to her grandfather, Thomas Eades of Birr, led her to research aspects of life in Birr at the turn of the twentieth century.

In the autumn of 1899 my twenty-one year old grandmother, Sis Whelan, was living in Newtownbarry (now Bunclody), Co Wexford. Far from home and friends, she kept up a regular correspondence with the young man whom she had met while working in Birr, and whom she would eventually marry.[1]  Like Sis, Tom Eades was a shop assistant: reared in Fortal, since his early teens he had been employed in Fayle’s hardware shop on the Main Street. Sis’s life was a narrow one, confined for the most part to the drapery shop in which she worked, to her lodgings above it, to the Methodist chapel across the square where she worshipped, and to the riverside paths and woods just outside the town where she walked on occasional free afternoons. Current national and international events impinged hardly at all on her consciousness, which was not surprising: as she told Tom, ‘we never see a paper here’.[2] Continue reading


The ‘Other Egans’ from Birr and Roscrea By Dermot McAuley

The author of this article is  Dermot McAuley of Dublin who is the eldest son of the late Joan McAuley (nee Egan) of Acres Hall, Tullamore (now the offices of the Tullamore Municipal Council in Cormac Street. Patrick Egan (the “P” of P. & H. Egan) and Elizabeth Moorhead were married at the church of St. Paul’s, Arran Quay, Dublin on 31st August 1874. While Patrick’s Egan ancestors from Westmeath and Offaly are well documented, what is less well known is that Elizabeth too had Egan ancestors – her maternal grandmother Julia Humphrys (née Egan) (sometimes spelt Humphreys) was born into a prominent family of Egans in Roscrea. While the two different branches of the Egan clan may have had some common ancestor in the dim and misty past no close relationship between the two Egan branches is known (so far).  Nevertheless, there are some intriguing parallels between the histories of the Tullamore and Roscrea families. And of course, any descendants of Patrick and Elizabeth carry the genes of two sets of Egans, not one.

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James A. Ennis, 1901-83, Solicitor, County Registrar and founder member of the first Offaly Historical Society in 1937-8. By Valerie Ennis

James A. Ennis was born in 1901 at Rhode, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, the fourth of six children of parents, James and Sarah (Grogan) Ennis, Shopkeeper, Merchant, Publican and Farmer, Offaly County Council representative.

The Ennis siblings were Patrick (later York, USA), Michael (Clonmeen) Rhode, James A. (Tullamore) Mary, Catherine, and Rose (nee Stephenson). The girls all lived their lives in Rhode as did Michael. All were educated in Rhode national school but James Anthony was sent to Mount Saint Joseph’s College in Roscrea where he received his secondary education completing his leaving cert in 1920.

Below a First Communion in Rhode where James A. Ennis would have had his early schooling.

Rhode church communion 1900s (1)

James Anthony went to University College Dublin to study law, received a distinction in his studies and trained as an apprentice solicitor with F. B. O`Toole (solicitor) in Edenderry. He qualified in 1924 and in 1926 went to Tullamore where he joined James Rogers of Rogers & Co. Solicitors, and became a partner. Mr Rogers was appointed County Registrar immediately and left the practice to James who managed the practice until Mr Rogers returned after he retired in 1943.

c (50) Opening of the reconstructed courthouse in 1927. James A. Ennis is in the back row.

In 1927 James attended the opening of the newly rebuilt courthouse at Tullamore where sixteen years later he was employed as County Registrar. In 1928 he was initiated into the Knights of St. Columbanus in Edenderry (CK29), he transferred to Tullamore (CK83) where he now resided. He held various offices during his career up to Grand Knight and was a founder member of the first executive of the newly formed Area 11(Meath) where he took a position of Advocate, He became a loyal member of the order receiving the long service medal 1950, Honorary Life member 1974 and awarded the 50 year membership in 1979. He remained a member up to his death.

In 1932 he became a member of Tullamore Urban District Council and was elected chairman on two occasions. Like his father James A. was elected on to the county council on the Fianna Fáil ticket. Elected in the same year he held his position until 1939. During this period he became a close friend of Eamon de Valera and had brought him to Tullamore for a public meeting, entertained him in his house where he was to come on two other occasions during his election campaigning.

c (51)
Opening of O’Molloy Street in 1938. James A. Ennis is second from the right.

Also in 1932 he employed Margaret Gibbons a young solicitor and a first female solicitor in Co. Offaly in his practise. Ms Gibbons was one of a dozen female solicitors who had qualified in Ireland that year.

In 1938 he was a founder member and honorary president of Offaly Historical Society

James A. was a much travelled man taking holidays in and around the Mediterranean Sea. In 1936 while on holidays with his pal Kevin Adams in Spain they were extradited to France as aliens during the start of the Spanish civil War.

In 1939 he married Bernadette Rowan from Rochfortbridge Co. Westmeath. They went to Deauville in France on their honeymoon but after two days had to leave and return home as the Second World War was declared. During that year he had his own house on the Charleville road, built by John Duffy and called the house Deauville. He represented the urban council at the official opening of O`Molloy street new scheme of council houses by President Sean T. Ó Ceallaigh in the company of parish priest Monsignor James Flynn Tullamore, Tom Duggan County Engineer, John Duffy, builder contractor, and members of the Urban Council. Tullamore was thriving in that year with the opening of the outdoor swimming pool by the urban council on the Geashill Road and the new county hospital on the Arden Road very much in progress. In 1942 he was invited to become a board member of the Central Council of the Red Cross Society

056637 James Rogers Founder of Historical Society
James Rogers, possibly on the day of his second marriage in 1943-4.

In 1943 James A. Ennis was was appointed Offaly County Registrar to replace the retired James Rogers who returned to his practice, James Ennis carried out the duties of registrar with great pride. A fluent Irish speaker he enjoyed the courts which he attended around the county. His love of elections and as the director in Offaly he was always out early on polling day to visit as many polling booths as possible within the hours of opening and then the count on the following day in Portlaoise where he and his counterpart in Laois would manage the count until completion. He had two hobbies in his life and the first was as honorary member of the Tullamore Bridge Club he and his regular partner Roly O`Neill won many competitions around Ireland and represented Ireland abroad. He was installed as President of the Contract Bridge Association of Ireland in the Lake Hotel, Virginia Co. Cavan in 1962. His second love was GAA games and he never left his roots. He was chairman of Rhode GAA Club for many years and was a loyal supporter of the team arriving at a match with a football or refreshments for the team. His favourite players were Mick and Paddy Casey, Paddy McCormac, Eugene Mulligan and Seamus Darby. His love for the game gave him the pleasure of setting up the homecoming of the Offaly minor team after winning the All Ireland final in 1968. He also was chairman of the welcoming committee for the Offaly Senior Footballers in 1971 and 1972 with Sam Maguire.

James and Detta Ennis had five children: James M. (Fr. Hyacinth OFM), Michael (Kells), Rufina Recks (Clara), Barbara Canella (Montreal Canada), Patrick (died in Infancy) and was buried in Mucklagh Cemetery, a church of Rahan parish. His family home was on the Charleville Road in the parish of Rahan.

James was involved with the formation of the L.D.F. during the emergency. His life was based on community activities and he loved sport of all nature and was rewarded with success by all his children. His children were away at boarding school, when Jimmy Jnr. attending school at Gormanstown College announced he was joining the Franciscan order at their Novitiate in Killarney 1958. He took Hyacinth as his religious name, He was summoned home in 1959 on the news that his mother was critically ill. Detta Ennis died October of that year and was buried in Rhode Cemetery

Rufina and Barbara were at the Bridigine School in Mountrath and Michael was doing his leaving at CBS Tullamore. By 1961 James A. found the house on Charleville Road too big so he sold it to Dr Ted Vaughan and family and bought a bungalow on the Ardan Road where he remained until his death. Rufina married Richie Recks (Clara) in 1965 and James married Madeline Dunne, Rosenallis in 1966. He celebrated his son Hyacinth`s primary vows in Killarney 1959, his graduation at UCG and final vows in Galway 1962, his doctorate at Louvain Universary 1972 and ordination in Rome in March 1968. That same year in September Fr. Hyacinth assisted at the marriage of his brother Michael to Ina Kavanagh of Chapel street, Tullamore. In 1980 Barbara married Jose Canella (Montreal Canada) at Durrow Catholic church.

James Ennis enjoyed the addition of grandchildren to his family up to his death on the 5th March 1983 where he was laid to rest beside his first wife Detta in Rhode Cemetery. His  funeral mass was concelebrated by Fr Hyacinth Ennis and Fr Pat Fallon, PP, Tullamore  with  priests from Meath and Kildare and Leighlin diocese together with friars from the Franciscan Order.

Valerie Ennis wishes to acknowledge the assistance she received in writing this article from members of the Ennis family. Offaly History has fond memories of Mr Ennis during his time as treasurer of the Society in the 1970s and we recall meeting him for dinner with T.P. O’Neill, the author the Longford O’Neill biography. On that occasion Mr Ennis recalled seeing de Valera at the Mansion House in Dawson Street and later at UCD in the aftermath of the signing of the Irish Treaty in London. To him and his law firm partner, James Rogers (died 1967), the Society owes a debt of gratitude for their initiative in the late 1930s and steady support thereafter.

River systems – the super highways of early Christian Ireland. By Bernie Moran

On 23rd April I will get another chance to show you some modern clues to our ancient past. I have a lot more evidence than I had when I gave a presentation in 2010. My article on the subject is in OHAS Journal 6, pp 84-98, published in 2011. Here is the short version again just to whet your appetite and encourage you to attend the lecture at Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore at 8 p.m. on 23rd April. Feel free to email me your questions to info@nativeguide.ie so I can answer them on the night. Continue reading

Sun too slow, sun too fast – Ethel and Enid Homan Mulock of Ballycumber House. By Lisa Shortall

Anyone who has read the Ballycumber chapter of the recently published Flights of Fancy: Follies, Families and Demesnes in Offaly by Rachel McKenna, may have noticed a remarkable set of snapshots from a photograph album of the Homan Mulock family of Ballycumber and Bellair. The album is still in Ballycumber House, now owned by Connie Hanniffy and thanks to her generosity, its pages have been digitised revealing life in the big house in the early 1900s. The album is more of a scrapbook filled with illustrations, sketches, and notes alongside the many photographs relating to the leisure pursuits of the Homan Mulocks. Particular interest is shown in horses and equestrian events locally and in England, with photographs from the Pytchley, Grafton and Bicester Hunts; racing at Punchestown; the Moate horse show; and polo matches and gymkhanas at Ballycumber House in the early years of the twentieth century. Continue reading

The changing face of Charleville Road, Tullamore, Cosney Molloy

The old town of Tullamore has gone through many changes in recent years and I see now that the settled Charleville Road has not escaped. For many years it was one of the best addresses in the county town, but now others can seek that title such as Spollanstown, Tegan Court, Mucklagh and, perhaps, Charleville View. Yet, for my money Charleville Road is still the best. It is on the high ground that starts to rise from Bridge Street and reaches a plateau at the site of Acres Folly on Kilcruttin Hill at Cormac Street. On the opposite site behind the junction of O’Moore Street and Cormac Street I read that two windmills were located from the 1700s until around the time that Napoleon was finally trounced in 1815. It all seems long ago, but to us Molloys who were here in number before anyone else its only yesterday.

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The murder of Lieutenant Clutterbuck of Birr Barracks in 1865

By Stephen Callaghan

A previous blog post detailed the murder in 1843 of Lieutenant and Adjutant Robertson Mackay of the 5th Fusiliers at Birr Barracks. Mackay was shot dead by a soldier he was drilling, Private George Jubee. Jubee ultimately being hung for his crime. Some twenty two years later a detachment of 5th Fusiliers were stationed in Birr Barracks, with the brutal murder of Lieutenant James Henry Clutterbuck taking place on the River Brosna. Continue reading

Offaly at the heart of Early Medieval Ireland, by Matthew Stout ‘Nipples of Croghan Man sliced in ritual sacrifice.’

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.

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Admiral Sir Henry D’Esterre Darby of Leap Castle, County Offaly: the naval adventures of an Offaly man and hero at the Battle of the Nile, by Noel Guerin

Henry D’Esterre Darby born 9 April 1749 was the third son of Jonathan and Susannah Darby of Leap castle. The D’Esterre name he inherited from his great grandmother, Anna-Maria D’Esterre.

The Darby family was first recorded at Leap Castle in 1659 and his father Jonathan was the third Jonathan to own Leap Castle and a large estate.  Susannah Lovett was the daughter of Robert Lovett of Dromoyle and Liscombe House, Buckingham. She was the niece of the architect, who was dead before the marriage, but this Jonathan was one who did neo-Gothic alterations to Leap Castle in 1753. He was known as Counselor Darby. Jonathan Darby died 16 Mar 1776 in Great Ship Street Dublin and was buried at Leap. Continue reading

The most haunted castle in Ireland: the story of novelist Andrew Merry (aka Mrs Mildred Darby) of Leap Castle, Co. Offaly, by Noel Guerin

Whilst dressing I was startled by a loud yell of terror stricken male and female voices coming – apparently from hall, and ran out to see the cause. My husband was out ahead of me at his heels I passed through corridor of wing and onto the gallery running round two sides of hall. Two lamps on gallery, two more in hall below. On the gallery, leaning with ‘hands’ resting on its rail, I saw the ‘Thing’ – the Elemental and smelt it only too well.

Mildred Henrietta Gordon Dill was born on 13 March 1869 daughter of Dr Richard Augusta Caroline Dill, of Birchwood, Brighton, England.  She was the youngest of six children, educated at Oxford and afterwards set her heart on a literary career and this would be difficult as her parents were Plymouth Brethren and higher education was not allowed for a woman. Before Mildred got engaged she ran off and joined the Salvation Army with the intention of tending to London’s poor. On 6 November 1889 at the age of twenty she married Jonathan Charles Darby, fifteen years her senior, and heir to Leap Castle and the Darby estates in King’s Co/Co. Offaly. Although young and small in stature Mrs Darby would prove to be no shrinking violet of a bride. Continue reading