The families and streets of Birr in 1821

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.

Continue reading

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

Liam Ó Briain visits Tullamore on Easter Sunday morning 23 April 1916 to issue countermand orders to the Volunteers and tell them the Rising was off.

Ó Briain set off early on Easter Sunday morning 1916 in a motor taxi to deliver the countermand order to  the local Volunteer contacts in Offaly and Tyrrellspass. Beatty he located in Edenderry but not finding Smith in Tyrrellspass, went on to Tullamore to a small shop owned by Eamonn Carroll. O’Carroll had worked in Scally’s shoe store  in Columcille Street, now the AIB bank, but was dismissed after the fracas on 20 March and how had his own store in the same street. In the kitchen of a house in Church Street Ó Briain met Séamus O’Brennan, who was on the run since the fracas in Tullamore and had been in Kimmage.

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.

Continue reading

The Group for the Study of Irish Historic Settlement and its South Kildare meeting, 5-7 May 2017.

The Group for the Study of Irish Historic Settlement

South Kildare meeting, 5-7 May 2017

Michael Byrne

Welcome to the South Kildare Conference on Friday 5 May from Kildare County Council

The Group for the Study of Irish Historic Settlement (GSIHS) was founded by Dr Robin Glasscock, then of Queen’s, in 1969. We are now talking of a celebratory conference in Dublin in 2019 to mark that occasion. GSIHS can rightly be proud of all that it has achieved over the last forty-eight years. Not only has it held together but it has gone from strength to strength. The aim of the Group was clearly set out at its inaugural meeting and was often repeated in the bulletins and newsletters of the 1970s. Continue reading

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