Place names in the parish of Kilbride, Tullamore, County Offaly: no.1 in a new series

Do you want to know more about your townland? In this article you will discover the origin name, meaning and history of some of the townlands in the parish of Kilbride, Tullamore. The civil parishes of Kilbride and Durrow are closely aligned with the boundaries of the Catholic parish of Tullamore

The description of the parish of Durrow and Kilbride from Petty’s Down Survey of c. 1654. The soil is fertile and watered by the Silver River and the Brasnagh – with great store of fish. The forfeited lands were those of the Briscoes of Srah Castle and the Herberts of Ballycowan Castle. Tullamore lands were owned by the settler Moores from the 1600s-20s period and as such Protestant and not for planting with new owners.
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The Bell of Bell Hill, Offaly: St Patrick, Ciarán of Saighir, Cooke of Birr and more. By John Dolan

Bell Hill is a small townland close to the village of Clareen, Co. Offaly.  The Bell Hill itself is situated on high ground with good views in all directions.  A large bush sits on the hill and is known locally as the Bell Bush.  There are a few other locations in Ireland called Bell Hill.

The story of Bell Hill starts with St. Ciarán of Saighir and is mentioned in nearly all of the Lives of the Saint. The story links St. Ciarán with St. Patrick and is probably best told in the Life of Ciarán as translated by Ingrid Sperber from the Codex Kilkenniensis, held in Marsh’s Library, Dublin.

In this Latin Life we find that when Ciarán ‘heard of the existence of the Christian religion in the city of Rome, he left Ireland and travelled thither. On his arrival, he was baptised and instructed in the Catholic faith, he remained there for 20 years, reading the Sacred Scriptures, collecting holy books, and studiously learning ecclesiastical rules. And when the people of Rome saw the wisdom and discretion, the piety and faith of the holy man Ciaran, he was ordained bishop and afterwards sent to Ireland, his native country.

And St Patrick, the Archbishop of all Ireland, met him on the road in Italy, and God’s two saints rejoiced in their meeting…. at that time St. Patrick was not yet a bishop, but he was later ordained archbishop by Pope Celestine and sent to preach in Ireland… and Patrick said to Ciaran, ‘go before me to the centre of Ireland, to a spring called Fuaran, on the border between the Southern and the Northern Irish. Build a monastery there, for there will be your estate and your resurrection’. St Ciaran said to him, ‘the location of this spring is unknown to me’. St Patrick answered him, ‘dear brother, proceed without anxiety, and God will be with you. Accept as your travelling companion this bell, which will remain dumb until you arrive at the same spring. When you have reached it, the bell will emit a clear sound and ring sweetly.… when St Ciaran reached Ireland, God directed him to the spring called Fuaran, and there the bell of the holy man rang clearly. This bell is called Bardan Ciaran and is kept and greatly honoured in the monastery of St Ciaran and throughout his entire diocese’.

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The History of Ballyboy, County Offaly in story and pictures from the children of Ballyboy National School   


Nestled in the foothills of the majestic Slieve Bloom Mountains, Ballyboy or Baile Buí, meaning the town of the Yellow Ford, is a picturesque village of rich historical significance. Like many villages in Ireland, the modest present-day facade of Ballyboy belies a history that has seen the rise and subsequent fall of an early Christian monastery, a site visited by many historical figures in the early years, including Hugh O’Neill, the Normans and even Oliver Cromwell.

St. Brigid’s Convent & St. Mary’s Church

St. Brigid founded a convent in our village in or around the year 500 A.D. The people of the village maintain that it was the very first convent she built in Ireland. The Convent was situated on the mound still known as Abbey Rath (later becoming the site of the Norman Motte and Bailey) The convent continued until 1539. Around the same time as St. Brigid built her convent, it is said that the first church in the village, St. Mary’s Church was also built. Mass would have been celebrated in Saint Brigid’s Convent or at St Mary’s church.

From 1650, when Cromwell’s army marched to the village from Cadamstown and destroyed St. Mary’s Church, until 1704, there was no church in the parish. The old church had a round tower that came almost to the centre of the present-day road. There was also a tunnel from the church to the fort at Abbey Rath. The tunnel was 400 metres long.

During Cromwell’s attack, the precious Pieta was bravely hidden by two McRedmond women from Knockhill. When they saw Cromwell and his men approaching from Cadamstown, they rushed to the church, took the Pieta from its place just inside the door and hid it outside in a heap of rubbish. Everybody fled to the woods and caves before Cromwell and his men reached the village, in case they would be killed. In the dead of night, for Cromwell’s army was still in Ballyboy, a party of men took the statue and carried it a short way across the Silver River and over the fields to Ballybracken, also known as Ridgemount. Here they buried it 6 feet deep in the bog below Derryhoy, where it lay hidden for over 60 years. Ridgemount is the area where the Faithful Fields are now situated. These men promised not to tell anyone where the Pieta was buried. Just before the last of the men died, he told people where it was located. When it was found, the Pieta was brought to the Church of the Nativity BVM in Kilcormac, where it still remains today.

The Pieta as it presently stands in the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Kilcormac.

During Penal Times Catholics were forbidden to practise their religion and resorted to celebrating mass in secluded places. There is still a corner field in Ballinacarrig called ‘The Mass Pit’. According to Rev. A Cogan’s “The Diocese of Meath, Ancient and Modern”, a priest was arrested in his vestments for saying mass near the Motte in Ballyboy.

St. Mary’s Church Ballyboy

St Mary’s Church, Ballyboy by Aran Kelly

St. Mary’s Church Ballyboy                                                                                             

Saint Mary’s Catholic Church was taken over by the Church of Ireland between the dates 1709 and 1715 when there was renewed persecution of Catholics. The present church was built in 1815 with a loan of £900. Several years later, it was repaired with a grant of £279. In 1874, a very bad thunderstorm hit Ballyboy and the tower of the church was struck by lightning. It is said that the flash ripped a body that had been buried a few days before out of its grave. Two years after Griffith’s Valuation, the women of Ballyboy got together and subscribed a sum of money to purchase a chalice for the Church. This chalice is still in use in Kilcormac and on its base is inscribed ‘Pray for the Matrons of Ballyboy, 1856’.

Written by

Seán Lambe, Aran Kelly, Andrea Feighery, Kyle Jennings, Harry Bracken, Rory Grennan

The Normans in Ballyboy

In 1175, the Normans arrived in Ballyboy and built a Motte and Bailey in the village on Abbey Rath, on the banks of the Silver River. The Castle was initially built as a secure garrison for the Anglo-Norman army as they advanced through this region using the routeways in Fir Cheall. Once the region of Fir Cheall had been secured by the Anglo-Normans, the castle acted as a focus for settlement which grew up around and under the protection of the earth and timber castle. At the base of the mound are the remains of old walls, said by some to be the ruins of St. Brigid’s Convent.

Towards the end of the 14th century, the O’Malley’s took possession of the Anglo-Norman castle. The lands and castle of Ballyboy remained in the hands of the O’Malley’s until the Irish War of 1641-53. After this war the lands and castle of Ballyboy were confiscated by the Commonwealth government and granted to Sir William Petty. During the Williamite Wars in Ireland of 1688-91, the village and castle of Ballyboy became a garrison for Williamite soldiers. In 1690 the Jacobite forces attacked and burnt the town and the Williamite forces took refuge in the castle located on the ‘Mount’ in the centre of the village.

The earth and timber Norman Castle in Ballyboy by Grace Guinan

The Bailey part of the Motte and Bailey
                                                               By Luke Guinan


The Norman Castle in Ballyboy by Anna Doolan


The archaeological remains of the earth and timber castle consist of a large D-shaped bailey that lies to the southwest of the low motte and survives today as a well-defined curving field boundary. The poorly preserved remains of a wall belonging to a stone structure can be seen standing on the summit of the motte. This wall may belong to the stone castle depicted standing on the summit of the motte on the 1654 Down Survey map.

In the post-medieval period, the castle was in ruins and the stone from it was probably reused in the construction of the present houses in the village. During this time, a stone wall was constructed along the base of the motte on the southern side. The church and castle with its associated settlement can be seen depicted on the 1654 Down Survey map of Ballyboy Barony. The Church of Ireland ruins are located on the site of the medieval church.

This photograph shows the motte or mound of the Anglo-Norman earth and timber castle. A later post-medieval wall cuts across the base of the motte which is visible on the left side of the photo.
The footings of the stone structure can be seen on the top of the motte.

Written by

Grace Guinan, Luke Guinan, Anna Doolan, Aaron Coady

Scoil Bhríde Ballyboy

Our school, Scoil Bhríde Ballyboy is named after St. Brigid.The site of our present-day school was originally a hat and glove factory. During Penal Times, it was against the law for Catholic children to be educated, so a hedge school was set up to secretly educate local children. For a short period during the early 1700’s, the ruins of the old church in Ballyboy was used as a hedge school also.

The site of the Hedge School in Ballyboy

When Penal Laws ended in 1782 it was no longer illegal to have hedge schools so there was a school built in the village. There is little known about the school other than it had a thatched roof.

In 1820 a new school with a thatched roof was built by Lord Lansdowne’s wife. It is said that the school was also aided by an annual donation of £6 from the Marquess of Lansdowne. This school had a Protestant Schoolmaster and provided Catholic and Protestant children with an education. In 1832, the school was taken over by the Board of Education. The roof was slated and a Catholic Schoolmaster appointed. Griffith’s Valuation tells us that there was a dwelling house where the master would have lived. There was no piped water and the ditch was used as a toilet.

The Schoolhouse in Ballyboy, built by Lord Lansdowne’s wife

Ballyboy Schoolhouse 1820-1962 by MJ Hynes

The school was originally very close to the road but in 1960 it was knocked and a new one, seen below, built further back. This new school design was typical of the time being a large one storey building with tall windows. All the children were taught in two rooms. There was a small solid fuel stove in each classroom for heat, and the children would fetch turf from the shed which is now our boiler house. 

Ballyboy School in the late 1960’s with the central chimney used to heat both classrooms. This central chimney is no longer present in our current school.

The school has been extended twice since it was built, in 1996 and in 2004. We now have a big playing pitch outside where we can play. We have a safe environment, and we are building a set down area so our parents can drop us off safely to school. For a such a small village we have a lot of history.

The First extension in 1996

Scoil Bhríde Ballyboy September 2022

Back in Time….the steps in our school wall that once led to the Hatter’s Factory

The old water pump outside our school. This pump would have been used as a source of water on the night of the fire in the hall.

Written by

Daniel Lambe, MJ Hynes, Theo Kilmartin, Sean Russell, Bryan Feighery, Aaron Grimes McDermott

Dan and Molly’s

Dan and Molly’s pub was built in the 1800’s. It has been a pub for over 150 years. Originally the Redmond’s owned the pub, then the Molloy’s, the Petits, the Lynch’s and then the Ryan’s. The Ryan’s moved into the building in 1863 and Jack Ryan passed it down to his daughter Molly, who married Dan Boland. The pub then became known as Dan and Molly’s. Dan and Molly’s daughter Catriona now runs the pub alongside her husband Fergal. Dan and Molly’s still has the thatched roof because there was a preservation order put on the building in the 1970’s which does not allow it to be removed. Dan and Molly’s is the only straw thatched pub left in Offaly. The pub is used for music sessions, set dancing, card games, music lessons and general community events. The lessons are run by Ballyboy CCÉ. The family have a keen interest in the arts as the music has been passed down through four generations – namely Jack Ryan, his daughter Molly, grand-daughters Catriona and Stella and now the great grand-children John, Anna, Daniel, Séan and Katie. On April 12th, 2011, the pub went on fire, when a spark from the chimney ignited the straw on the thatched roof. This was a devastating evening for the family and for the community. It took many units of the fire brigade to bring the fire under control. Luckily the roof was restored to its original condition soon after.      

Dan & Molly’s Ballyboy by Anna McDonald

Written by

Anna McDonald, Fiadhna Leamy, AJ Bracken, Daniel Heffernan, Cára Guinan, Mark Dolan

Ballyboy Hall

Ballyboy Hall was built in 1954 by the Young Farmers Association. It was built by voluntary labour mostly in the evenings, after the work of the day was done. In 1690, more than 250 years before this, King William of Orange had spent a night in the hotel which had stood on this very site. (The new hall was built on the site of the old hotel.) In 1967, there was a fire in the hall during a Whist Drive. The calamity happened because an oil heater caught fire. Local people who were there, said that it was an awful tragedy and many people got very badly burnt. On the night, water was pumped from the village pump, located outside the school to treat the injured. Luckily nobody died in the fire. The hall has remained derelict for many years until recently, when several locals came together and formed a group called Ballyboy Community Development Group. The group are fundraising to build a new community hall on the same site as the old one. They plan to develop a green space and recreational area in the village including landscaped area with seating, lighting and amenity car parking area.         

Ballyboy Hall by Cian Brunswick

Written by

Cian Brunswick, Adam Coady, Lochlann Fletcher, Alice Molloy, Sophie McGarry, Michael Clavin

Great work from the children of 5th and 6th class at Ballyboy School. This is our first blog from a school. Many of our blogs are used by schools and we look forward to more contributions from your area. Congratulations to Ballyboy, all the children who wrote and illustrated. A special thanks to the staff and in particular to their teacher Ms Michelle Egan, and also to Ms G. Clendennen.

Offaly History welcomes contributions by way of articles on all aspects of the history of County Offaly

The new Esker Arts Centre at no. 13 High Street, Tullamore. A contribution to the Living in Towns series by Offaly History.

So we are soon reaching the day when the new Esker Arts Centre building will open in Tullamore. Is it the first public building since 2013 and the new bridges on the canal. Before that we had the town library (2011), the regional hospital, the town park, bypass, courthouse and the swimming pool. When Revd Dean Craig performed the opening ceremony for the newly built courthouse in June 1927 (after its burning in 1922) he could not remember when such an opening had taken place of a public building and that stretched back to his father’s coming to Tullamore in 1869. So these openings are important and give rise to a good deal of pleasure, pride in our place and hope for the future.

The arts in Tullamore was never a strong point when compared with towns like Birr and Athlone. That is in the past and we now look forward to a programme of events for 2023 and beyond. The arts centre project in Tullamore has gone through vicissitudes since it was first planned in the 2000s and dropped as late as 2014 when the budget was too high but less than it is today. . Now the new building is in the former Kilroy’s store in High Street and not in Kilbride Park as was once intended. Before that the library district was considered in a €20 million plan that was dropped after 2007. In its style, as to the exterior, the new arts center bears more resemblance to the Wexford opera house (2010). Unlike the great local public buildings, such as the courthouse (1835-1922-1927-2007) or the jail of 1830 (destroyed in 1922 by the retreating Republicans during a disastrous civil war) the new arts centre is built on the site of a shopping precinct since the 1880s and earlier.

The pavements were not great but the buildings were so fine. Bank of Ireland front of 1870 (now Hoey & Denning) and Ulster Bank (1890s). The Kilroy front was c. 1880.

The now arts building occupied three generations of the Kilroy family in the years 1908-2007. It was a great hardware store and early made a reputation that was consolidated under the young Dermot Kilroy whose coming into full management of the business coincided with the start-up of RTE Television. He and his father, James A. and son Derry Kilroy were all master marketeers – something that will not be lost on the news arts administration whose job it will be to make the new Esker Arts Centre a viable and attractive proposition. And no doubt it can be.

The new arts centre is in Tullamore central with a strong location in the High Street where so much business was done in the past and good parking in public and private carparks nearby. No doubt it will have coffee and liquor facilities. It would make sense to secure the adjoining Ulster Bank building if the bank would be disposed to sell at a reasonable price in recognition of its contribution to Tullamore since 1893. We say this because the bank and Kilroy’s (now the arts centre) were part of one property from the 1800s and had a common landlord in the Crofton family, long associated with Tullamore. Their main home was at Merryfield – a lost demesne on the site of what is now Charleville Lake (1809-12), but they also had 29 High Street (from the 1930s the Roberts garage).

The old shop front was considered the finest in Tullamore in the 1880s. This picture possibly about 1957 with J.A. Kilroy at the shop entrance. The Carragher pharmacy appears to be under renovation.
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Daingean GAA Club experience lean times during the revolutionary years, 1913–23. By Sean McEvoy. Decade of Centenaries Series

The Country is currently celebrating and remembering what have become popularly known as the Revolutionary years or Era spanning the timescale 1913–23. These years witnessed the formation of the Irish Volunteers in 1913, the Howth gun running in 1914, as well as the Easter Rising, the growth of Sinn Féin and the formation of the first Dáil in 1919. The events of this time are finally capped off with the War of Independence (1919–21), the signing of the Irish Treaty in December 1921, and the calamitous Civil War (1922–23) which followed during this period also, the Great War (1914–918) and the Spanish flu epidemic had varying degrees of impact on the life of the country. There is no doubt that this train of events combined had a great impact on almost all GAA clubs then in existence. Some clubs fared better than others for example during the years in question Killeigh captured two senior football titles while Rhode who had won only one title to date, captured three in six years. For Daingean however these years brought no titles in any grade.

These lean years for the clubs are surprising as Daingean had captured its first junior title in 1908 and their first senior title the following year. However, despite these successes the team broke up quite quickly. During the early years of the GAA player loyalty to clubs was not as entrenched as it is today. Clubs often were formed one year and would simply disappear the next. After Daingean lost the 1910 junior final to Banagher that was played in 1911, a number of players John Buckley and Peter Brazil left to line out with the new clubs formed in Ballycommon shortly afterwards. Daingean fielded no senior team in the championship from 1912 to 1927 and did not even field a junior side in 1912 and 1913. Meanwhile the new club in Ballycommon had early success capturing the junior Title in 1913 and reached the senior final the following year only to lose out to Ferbane. The success or failure of clubs at this time could often hinge on the death of a key player or official in this regard. The unexpected death of the club’s junior captain Denis Flanagan in 1912 left the club bemoaning the loss of an on­- field leader. Throughout 1913 the local correspondent to the King’s County Independent newspaper made a number of references to the poor state of the clubs. In August that year he lamented  ‘that we have already referred on more than one occasion to the great scarcity that exists in Philipstown at the present time of any sort of amusement, and the wonder if where there is such splendid material at hand, no attempt is made to organise a football or hurling club’.

The same correspondent kept up his pressure for the rest of 1913 and by April, the following year, the club had been revived again on a proper footing with Denis Gorman as president, John Harte as secretary and Nicholas Bolger as treasurer. There official wisely decided to plate the emphasis on developing a new young team based on juvenile sides that had emerged in the parish between 1911 and 1913. Surprisingly these teams had emerged at a time when adult teams in the club were struggling or not fielding at all (as pointed out earlier) and the new juvenile teams emerged at a time long before proper underage competitions would be organised countywide in the late 1920s. Prominent players on these sides included J. Reilly, J. Harte, C. Hayes, J. Walshe, James E. Greene, P. Lynch and Joe Quinn. A nice combination of these young players and some veterans

From the earlier years saw the junior side reach the 1915 final which took place in Rahan the following year against Cloghan. This was a bruising encounter that Daingean lost by the slimmest of margins and club’s supporters (possibly unfairly) felt that stricter referring may have altered the outcome. The club did lodge an objection to the ref’s final report to the county board and subsequently brought an appeal to the Leinster Council. This appeal was to be heard at the council’s last meeting in Dublin just before Christmas 1916 but no Daingean delegates turned up and the matter was dropped.

 Rather than building on the progress made in 1915, the years 1916 to 1923 were some of the leanest in the club’s history. There are a number of reasons for this, starting with the departure of James O’Quigley a national teacher who had come to the town in the early years of the twentieth century. He can be best described as a typical Irish Irelander from this era and was dedicated member of the GAA, Gaelic league and the Irish Volunteers O’Quigley was the man behind the formation of a hurling club in the town and he was also behind the revival of the game of handball. In the latter case the promoted the game by staging an annual tournament among the school children that grew in popularity from 1908. On his departure to Mayo in 1916, the club made to him a special presentation of a suitably inscribed walking stick for his services rendered to the club. His loss to the club in relation to his administration and organisational skills really is difficult to calculate beyond saying that it came at a time when his guidance was probably most needed. This can be especially seen in the club’s lack of effort to promote hurling again until the 1920s. In fact in 1916, the club actually donated its stock of camáns for a north Offaly hurling team that played against a small Offaly selection in support if the National Aid Association Tournament held in Ballyduff  park in September 1916. Such tournaments were held to support the families of those who lost members fighting in the Easter Rising or members of families who had relation arrested in the aftermath. Sadly this rather generous gesture by the club in Daingean was most likely easier to take considering that the local hurling club had all but died out by then.

 A second reason why the club entered a lean period after 1916 is because recent research has thrown up that a huge number of the team that lost the 1915 junior football final became more involved in the independence struggle at this time. Many of the players became involved in the Sinn Féin branch in the town while the following list names those who served in the local GAA. These included Charlie and Ned Hayes, Denis Finlay, John and Ned Greene, Jim Brien, Pat Lynch, Nicholas Bolger, Mick Crystal and brothers, John and George Grace. While IRA activity in the Daingean area was not notable for spectacular ambushes, the local RIC barracks in the town and at Mount Lucas was attacked during this period. It should be noted as well that the British army did have a small garrison in the town which certainly helped to curtail IRA activity because of this involvement with the IRA the players above did not have the spare time for GAA activity that was needed to push the club forward. It is not totally a surprise then when one learns that the club had no representative at the 1917 Offaly GAA convention and the Midland Tribune reported that the junior side failed to fulfil this first round fixture in the next year’s championship.

 The club was spread embarrassment late in August 1918 when it managed to field both a senior side (against Ballycommon) and junior side (against Geashill) in compliance with the Central Council directive that all GAA units had to take part in games in what became known as Gaelic Sunday. This nationwide set of games was in response to the British Authorities insistence clubs having to seek permits for the holding of matches. This decision was in part designed to check the growth of Sinn Féin Central Council organised Gaelic Sunday in a blatant act of defiance of this request and the press reported that upwards of over 5,400 players took part nationwide making the day a glorious success. Sadly the two local Offaly papers do not list the names of the players on the various teams who fielded that Sunday in Offaly and one suspects this may have been because of the press censorship directive in operation at the time.

 Despite fielding two teams on Gaelic Sunday, this did not mean an immediate upturn in the club’s fortunes. Daingean failed again to take part in the 1919 championship and after drawing with Clara in the first round of their 1920 tie, the team showed its lack of practice in the replay by failing to score in the whole match. As the country sank deeper into the War of Independence no championships were completed in 1921 or 1922. It was only after the Civil War ended in May 1923 that field activity could start up again when Daingean took on Rhode at the pitch in St. Conleth’s that August. The local correspondent looked forward to the event claiming that ‘there had been no match in the locality of any description for nearly three years’. This is probably one reason why a large crowd turned out to cheer the local club to victory and even though the team lost the north Offaly final to Killeigh, in September the end of strife and national conflict meant that the chance to rebuild the club and country could now commence once again.

The research for this article depended heavily on the files of the county’s two Nationalist newspaper from this time, namely The Midland Tribune and The Tullamore and King’s County Independent; sadly no minutes of Daingean club meetings or photographs teams from this period have survived. A trawl through some County Board minutes in the OHAS shows no major points of reference for the Daingean club while the monthly RIC police reports from 1913 to 1921 don’t add any materials of note about the club’s struggle at this time either. The author would welcome any reader with material not unearthed to date that may be lying in some attic or if anyone has photographs of Daingean players on teams to contact him, on any member OHAS regarding same.

Sean McEvoy        

Planning for a new central Tullamore. By Fergal MacCabe. Knowledge-based support for creativity and innovation

‘The Beaujolais’

Sometime in the 1830s, the architect William Murray (1789-1849), best known for designing mental hospitals all around Ireland, presented a quick outline of a new public square in Tullamore which would be bounded on three sides by fine houses and dominated on the fourth by the imposing portico of the recently erected County Courthouse. 

The title of his drawing’ Thoughts for a Square at Tullamore, Ireland facing the Courthouse to be called ‘The Beaujolaissuggests that it was not an actual commission but more likely a broad brush and quickly executed response to a remark by Lady Beaujolais Bury the wife of the local grandee, perhaps exchanged at a social gathering. Architects do this a lot to get business and Murray may have been trying to reconnect commercially with the family who had given his cousin Francis Johnston such valuable and prestigious commissions as Charleville Forest and St Catherine’s Church.

Of course Murray’s elegant scheme was never realised and was to be the last proposal for a civic design set piece in Tullamore for some time. In the 1950s, the urban planner Frank Gibney suggested the creation of a parkland setting for the Church of the Assumption but this notion was eventually shelved and for the following seventy years no further interventions which would combine coherent built form with public benefits were to be advanced and the planning of the town remained firmly in the hands of engineers whose principal spatial concern was the accommodation of the motor car.

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Crow Street/Tara Street, Tullamore in the past 200 years. A contribution to the Historic Towns Series

Now what would Edward Crow say if he came back 200 years after his death to view the street that he created in the 1800–1815 period. That was during the time of the wars with Napoleon and before Waterloo. After the war Pensioners Row (now O’Molloy Street) was built for the army veterans by the Crow family. Crow Street was on a grander scale but is now no more than a parking lot on one side and the other is occupied by the Town House pub building. This road off High Street was greatly widened in the early 1990s to facilitate access to the new Bridge Centre opened in 1995. About 90 residential properties have been built since the mid 1990s on lands beside the Bridge House carpark and on the long garden behind the Round House and its neighbours each side in High Street. Three of the four residences on High Street (west) now form part of the Direct Provision facility. Part of the old garden of the former Goodbody & Kennedy house on High Street was used as a site for the Central Ballroom/Garden of Eden in the 1970s. It was at the foot of Crow/Tara Street and was adapted for a cinema in the early 1980s. The dancehall/cinema was demolished in the late 1990s to make way for the Altmore apartments.

 In summary the  building boom of the 1994-2007 period saw the construction of:

Tara Court, River Court and the old mill on the Tullamore river – 54 apartments

Altmore House and large office block  – 36 apartments

Altmore House at the foot of the old Crow Street. Crow Lane was, we understand, one of the names suggested for the new arts centre!

Tara Court and River Court were built on Tullamore distillery lands known as ‘the turf field’ and Altmore on the old Crow estate property. Who was Edward Crow (or Crowe) who gave his name to this former residential street of what were mostly quality houses.

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V.S. Pritchett on disturbed Ireland during the Civil War. A visit in 1923 reporting for the Christian Science Monitor and in 1966 for Dublin: A Portrait (1967). A contribution from Offaly History to the Decade of Centenaries.

In Midnight Oil (London, 1971) V.S. Pritchett (1900-97) describes how The Christian Science Monitor sent him to Ireland early in 1923 to write about the Irish Civil War. The Anglo-Irish treaty had been signed, the Irish politicians split, and the two parties were killing each other. When Pritchett arrived the siege of the Four Courts in Dublin was well over and the fighting was drifting away to the south and west. In fact there was not much more than three months left before the Republicans decided to dump arms

On a misleadingly sunny day on the first of February 1923, I took the train from London to Holyhead. In a heavy leather suitcase I carried a volume of Yeats’s poems, an anthology of Irish poetry, Boyd’s Irish Literary Renaissance, Synge’s Plays, and a fanatical book called Priests and People in Ireland by McCabe [McCarthy, 1864–1926, published in 1902], lent to me by a malign Irish stationer in Streatham who told me I would get on all right in Ireland so long as I did not talk religion or politics to anyone and kept the book out of sight. Unknown to myself I was headed for the seventeenth century.

The Irish Sea was calm—thank God—and I saw at last that unearthly sight of the Dublin mountains rising with beautiful false innocence in their violets, greens, and golden rust of grasses and bracken from the sea, with heavy rain clouds leaning like a huge umbrella over the northern end of them. My breath went thin: I was feeling again the first symptoms of my liability to spells. I remember wondering, as young men do, whether somewhere in this city was walking a girl with whom I would fall in love: the harbours of Denmark gave way to Dublin Bay and the Wicklow Hills. The French had planted a little of their sense of limits and reason in me, but already I could feel these vanishing.

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2023 will be remembered as the year in which Tullamore tried to reinvent itself: the Dream Team. By Fergal MacCabe

Last year Offaly County Council and Waterways Ireland appointed advisors to prepare regeneration plans for the town centre and for the Grand Canal Harbour at the heart of it. The consultants brief required ideas for the redevelopment of the key underused sites, proposals for linking them all within a coherent, livable, safe and attractive town centre whose crowning glory would be an accessible Harbour containing dramatic new buildings full of vibrant day and night-time attractions. A date in mid to late 2023 was set for the delivery of their proposals.

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‘Back in the Minutes’: Offaly in the Grand Canal Company minutes, 1900-1950 with special reference to the 1911-23 period. By James Scully

Growing up on Clontarf Road, Tullamore, on the banks of the Grand Canal in the 1950s and 1960s I spent many childhood hours playing beside the canal. This was where my father’s family had lived for generations in East View Terrace before he and several of his siblings had acquired houses in Frank Gibney’s new state-of-the-art housing on Clontarf Road. In early teenage years I took to walking the canal line and ventured to Kilgortin Mill and Rahan, where my mother’s people, my grandfather and uncles and a multiplicity of cousins, lived. Not surprisingly the canal got under my skin if not indeed into my bloodstream.

[James Scully is speaking at Bury Quay and via Zoom on Monday 30 Jan at 7.45 p.m. and via Zoom (details below.]

Hiking west from Tullamore the ‘canal line’ took us to exotic locations: The Metal Railway Bridge and slow-moving trains, the inaccessible Srah Castle, Molloy’s Bridge for in-season snowdrops and horse chestnuts and the hugely impressive six-chimneyed Ballycowan Castle, overlooking the imperious and impervious Huband Aqueduct. Rambling east towards Cappancur we soon explored in detail the small aqueduct which seemingly miraculously ushered the Barony River under the canal and were further allured by the rotundity of Boland’s lockhouse and a lock manned by a team of sisters. Graduating to the bicycle we set out along the towpath for far-flung towns and villages: Ballycommon and the Wood-of-O, the Kilbeggan Branch, historic Daingean and the outré but warm and welcoming church at Pollagh.

Grand canal from the 27th lock at Cox’s Bridge, Tullamore about 1910
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