While many are now familiar with the value of the 1901 and 1911 censuses for family history, less use has been made of these documents for social history and population studies. Great excitement was created when the censuses were made available free online through the good offices of the Irish government and the people of Mumbai in India who transcribed them for us at no great expense. Now the department of heritage proposes to make the 1926 census available by again outsourcing the work to a far country. However, we will have to wait until 2026. How much more excitement there is for some places where the 1821 census survives. This is the case with Birr and the entire barony of Ballybritt.
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
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)
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
The Muniments Room
The Muniments Room in Birr Castle is a special space. Based in the eastern flanker of the castle, it was once a smoking room and contained a much painted-over and practically hidden Jacobean plaster frieze, the oldest complete example of its kind in Ireland. In 1980, on inheriting the castle, the present Earl of Rosse, set about restoring the frieze to its former glory and applied for an Irish Georgian Society grant which allowed master stuccadore Séamus Ó hEocha to undertake the painstaking restoration work soon after. It was the first act of modern restoration work in the castle and its results were startling. Continue reading