Offaly and the River Shannon. By Paul Clements

For his new travel book on Ireland, Paul Clements has been on a meandering journey along the River Shannon, following in the footsteps of the writer and singer Richard Hayward. His book looks back at Ireland in the 1930s but also considers the present-day Shannon which he believes is now undergoing a renaissance. [ 

The Ireland of the 1930s was an austere place in which barefoot children played in the street in a young country where the Catholic Church was all-powerful. Electrification of farms and rural houses was still some way off and some areas suffered badly from tuberculosis as well as mass emigration. Life was shaped by the rhythms of the agricultural year and farming was the mainstay of the economy.  Despite the poverty, there was another more carefree side to life which respected the arts and cultural history. People gathered at the crossroads for ceilidhs and made the most of what they had. This was the Ireland that fascinated the writer, singer and actor Richard Hayward (1892-1964), who, although born in Lancashire, grew up on the Antrim coast and became a lover of Ireland.

1. Richard Hayward, star of Irish films of the 1930s, and author of the  bestselling Where the River Shannon Flows (1940).

Noted for his travel books on the country, he explored the River Shannon in August 1939, just two weeks before the outbreak of World War II. He set off on his journey from the Shannon Pot in Co. Cavan in a 12 horsepower Austin car and drove the back roads trailing a caravan. He travelled with a photographer and cameraman and made a 25-minute black-and-white film of his river journey shown at cinemas across Ireland. The Shannon is largely the same river that Hayward admired in his book Where the River Shannon Flows, published in 1940. As a chronicler of the river, he was one of the first in the twentieth century to write about it in detail. His book was reviewed by Maurice Walsh in The Irish Times that summer and was top of the paper’s non-fiction section, ‘What Dublin is Reading.’

2. Cover of Hayward’s book Where the River Shannon Flows, jointly published in 1940 by Dundalgan Press and Harrap, with a foreword by Maurice Walsh. The book was reprinted in 1950, and in 1989 for the fiftieth anniversary of Hayward’s 1939 journey.

Since then, the river has nourished artistic souls and influenced many writers. Numerous epithets have been applied to it by travellers, poets, musicians and other chroniclers. The Kerry novelist, Maurice Walsh, who wrote the foreword to Hayward’s book, called the river ‘immense’. He said it once separated the Pale from Hell – ‘though there was a small dispute as to which side Hell lay’. The elegist of the midlands, John Broderick, was less flattering, referring in The Waking of Willie Ryan to the river’s ‘silent, menacing presence’. Writing in his autobiography Nostos, the Kerry-born poet, mystic and philosopher, John Moriarty, described the estuary from Tarmons Hill, near Tarbert, as ‘A grandeur of water … the Shannon flowing through it with a landscape that had in it a remembrance of Paradise’. In the final passage of James Joyce’s short story ‘The Dead’, he writes of the ‘dark mutinous Shannon waves’.

One literary connection to the Shannon that is not so well known is the fact that Flann O’Brien’s novel, At  Swim Two Birds, takes its title from an island on the river between Clonmacnoise and Shannonbridge. Although born in Strabane, Co. Tyrone, O’Brien’s family moved to the midlands when he was nine and his childhood was spent near Tullamore.

3. The title of the Flann O’Brien novel At-Swim-Two-Birds was inspired by an island in the River Shannon, north of Shannonbridge. O’Brien’s other book, The Third Policeman also influenced Paul Clements to go off in search of Shannon-related information on O’Brien who lived in Tullamore in his youth.  

 As part of my quest, and as a dedicated ‘Flannorack’, I set off, naturally enough by bicycle, to try to pin down information about two small islands which I had come across on an old map: Curley’s Island, and just south of it, Devenish Island, or Snámh-dá-Ean (literally ‘Swim-Two-Birds’). In the Anglo-Norman era, Curley’s Island was guarded by the castle of Clonburren on the west side of the river. Some accounts also state that St Patrick crossed the river into Connacht at this point.

The road from Shannonbridge followed hedges overflowing with cow parsley and bright yellow gorse. When I reached the riverside callows, I came across a fellow cyclist and dog-walker, who introduced himself by the name of Flan – a serendipitous encounter, which the author himself would have enjoyed, even though he spelt his name only with one ‘n’. We talked about the title of the O’Brien book with which Flan was familiar and walked across the callows to get as close as we could to the edge of both islands. The meadows were filled with a sea of buttercups, pignut, plantain, gleaming cowslip, the bobbing heads of bog cotton and cuckoo flower all starring the grass. The river here is low-lying here but it was clear that the two islands appeared to be made up mostly of grass and stone. Curley’s Island, a thin six-acre strip of grass and sand, lies to the north of Devenish Island which is larger. There was an architectural grandeur to the lofty tottering reed beds rising with a towering palisade of stems up to six metres. When we reached the river we made out the division with one part falling down like a finger to Devenish. Cattle were relaxing on the island, in no hurry to move anywhere.

‘Curley is a common name, more so in south Roscommon,’ Flan explained,  ‘where in the old graveyards a lot of those names are buried. There was a ford here which meant that the water was so shallow you could literally walk across it. You’d be walking through water up to your ankles and Devenish Island was likely dug out or drained to make it navigable. Once they dug it, then there was an island in the middle. The small ford that would have been used by people to cross the river and salmon would have loved it too.’

4. A cabin cruiser makes its way between Curley’s Island  and Devenish Island, which translates as ‘Swim-Two-Birds’  (Snámh-dá-Ean), and which provided the inspiration for Flann O’Brien’s famous novel At- Swim-Two- Birds.

It was intriguing to discover that At Swim-Two-Birds exists as a real place. I recalled a quotation from another of O’Brien’s books, The Third Policeman celebrating the romance and mysticism of cycling: ‘How can I convey the perfection of my comfort on the bicycle, the completeness of my union with her, the sweet responses she gave me at every particle of her frame? I felt that I had known her for many years and that she had known me and that we understood each other utterly.’

My travels around Offaly involved spending time at Clonmacniose, attending events such as the Banagher horse fair and the annual vintage barge rally on the Grand Canal at Shannon Harbour. The rally, organised by the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, is where the owners of many carefully tended classic old boats and barges – some dating back to 1846 – congregate to celebrate their colourful heritage.

5. Shannon Harbour barge rally, an annual event which attracts many classic boats and barges and is organised by the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland.   

Another summer highlight of the Shannon Harbour weekend is the annual opening of the Canal Bar beside the handsome single-arch Griffith humpbacked road bridge. It is an example of what a welcoming midlands bar should be: a half-door with a stone floor, low ceiling and dim lighting, cushioned benches beside a turf fire, red wainscoting with black trim, and a few jigs and reels coming from a corner. For years, many towns turned their backs on the river but are now embracing it. Today farmers, fishermen and recreational users all have a different relationship with it compared to the days when Hayward travelled along it, but the twenty-first century Shannon and its hinterland has been neglected by various agencies. However, Fáilte Ireland have launched a new regional tourism branding scheme, ‘Hidden Heartlands,’ a route running from Sligo to Limerick, taking in both banks of the Shannon. Along with a new marketing plan from Waterways Ireland, and the Atlantic Edge campaign in Limerick, the Shannon is clearly having a moment.

Developments in Offaly are taking place too, such as work on the defensive Shannon Napoleonic fortifications brooding over strategic river crossing points. This summer, Fort Eliza in Banagher, a five-sided, four-gun battery, built around 1812 and looking out over the river, was awarded a grant of €35,000 from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (match-funded by Waterways Ireland as part of its Conservation Management Plan) for important renovation work. But many feel that more still needs to be done, especially in relation to small towns such as Banagher where the crumbling Royal Shannon Hotel has been boarded up since its closure in 2005. The striking disused Georgian building with bow-fronted windows, was where the novelist Anthony Trollope lived when he worked for the post office in the 1840s. Now tumbleweeds sprouts from its roof, the garden is choked with dead plants, paint peels from its walls, while broken slates and smashed windows add to its pitiful condition.

6. Paul Clements at the ‘Snake in the Lake’ cycling and walking boardwalk, Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim.

This year life has slowed down for many people who have reconnected with their surroundings and discovered places on their doorstep. It has also redefined our relationship with the natural world and led to a river revival. The callows, bogland parks such as Lough Boora or Clara Bog, the new blueways and cycleways around Lough Derg, as well as those in Athlone and Drumshanbo are attractive places in which to spend time holidaying at home, experiencing the gentle comfort of sitting by the riverbank.

7. Cover of Shannon Country: A River Journey Through Time

Shannon Country: A River Journey Through Time by Paul Clements is published by The Lilliput Press at €15.and is available from Offaly History.

Researching Offaly History and using the DIB – No 8 in the Sources for Offaly History and Society Series. By Terry Clavin

The Dictionary of Irish Biography and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography at Offaly History Centre

This article was written by Terry Clavin in 2014 for the Lions Tullamore Annual and we thank him for permission to use it. The Dictionary of Irish Biography has proved invaluable since it was first issued in nine hard cover volumes in 2009. Now it runs to eleven volumes and much more online. It is at present free to consult and we hope will remain free to consult when Covid ends. From this wicked pestilence some good may come! Since Terry’s article we have a recent book on the Egans of Moate and Tullamore, the third earl of Rosse and last week the second volume of Jeff Kildea’s biography of Hugh Mahon. So keep in touch by consulting the online version of the DIB, our weekly blog and our website. See also our online library catalogue to keep in touch. We add new history books every week to our library at Bury Quay, Tullamore. We congratulate Tullamore man Terry Clavin on his research work for the dictionary and the entries he has written up and also edited.

The Dictionary of Irish Biography (DIB) is the most comprehensive and authoritative biographical dictionary yet published in Ireland. It contains over 9,000 biographical articles ranging in length from 200 words to 15,000 words, which describe and assess the careers of subjects in all fields of endeavour. The subjects eligible for inclusion are those who were born in Ireland with careers inside or outside Ireland and those born outside Ireland with careers in Ireland.

The time span covered by the DIB ranges from the earliest times to the early 21st century. All subjects included in the print edition must have died before the end of 2002. The online version (dib.cambridge.org; subscription only) includes all the entries in the 2009 edition as well as twice-yearly batches of new entries for subjects who have died since 2002. A forthcoming update will include a biography of Tullamore businessman Daniel Edmund Williams (1928–2007) [since published online]. Apart from the more recently dead, every two years we publish a batch of entries of ‘missing persons’ who were overlooked in the 2009 edition. In that respect we are keen to be advised on significant figures not originally included.

As far as possible each article includes details of birth, death, family education, the chronological sequence of career and details of significant awards, distinctions, or promotions. As well as basic biographical information, personal relationships and characteristics are commented on. A bibliography of the sources consulted is provided at the end of each life. As a result the DIB serves both as a work of reference and as a starting point for more detailed research.

The DIB features various Tullamore natives and also figures whose lives related to the town. Charles William Bury (1764–1835), first earl of Charleville, provides a good starting point as by granting new leases to his Tullamore tenants after the great fire of 1785, he created the town’s modern layout and enabled it to recover and thrive. He hired the renowned architect Francis Johnston for the Market House and St Catherine’s Church, and then for the construction of a Gothic castle just outside the town in Charleville Forest. The DIB notes ‘Begun by November 1800, [the castle] was completed in 1808, to which a terrace, lawns, artificial lake, grotto and 1,500 acres of woodland were added.’

C.K. Howard Bury

Bury’s descendent Charles Kenneth Howard–Bury (1883–1963) was raised in Charleville Castle before pursuing a career as an explorer, mountaineer and soldier. In 1921, he was part of a group of distinguished climbers who were the first Europeans to explore and map Mount Everest. During his travels he acquired a Russian bear and regularly wrestled with it, keeping the bear in the arboretum of his Mullingar residence. His life partner Rex Beaumont is described as an ‘inseparable’ friend.

One of the most notorious incidents outlined in the DIB involving Tullamore concerned the ill treatment in the town’s jail of the National League activist John Mandeville (1849–88). After being convicted for inciting tenants to defend their homes from evicting landlords, he was imprisoned in Tullamore in October 1887 where at the behest of Arthur Balfour, the chief secretary for Ireland and future British prime minister, he ‘became the target of bullying punishment designed to break his insistence on political status … Repeated periods of solitary confinement on coarse bread and cold water in foetid draughty cells brought about painful rheumatism, chronic sore throat, and continual diarrhoea. Stripped of his clothes by warders, he remained semi-naked for a day in extreme cold. The prison doctor, James Ridley, callously certified him fit for punishment whatever his state … By late December, Mandeville had shed over three stones in weight, trembled constantly, and had lost vision.’

Mandeville’s plight became public knowledge and provoked uproar. He was released after three months but his health was broken and he died in July 1888. The coroner’s inquest unequivocally linked his death to the brutal prison regime.

The DIB includes a number of Irish emigrants, and the most notable Tullamore exile is Hugh Mahon (1857–1931) who was born the thirteenth child of a local farmer and attended the town’s CBS. A journalist, he became involved in political radicalism and was briefly imprisoned for Land League agitation. Threatened with further imprisonment he fled to Australia in March 1882 under an alias. There he continued as a journalist, both editing and owning various newspapers, while organising fund raising tours for John Redmond. He was regularly embroiled in public controversy as he sought to rebut anti-Irish prejudice in the Australian media. Elected for the Labor party to the Australian parliament he ‘quickly established a reputation as a bruising political operator, cold and ruthless, and won some admirers but few friends; the Westralian Worker judged him “a democrat whose snobbish coldness of demeanour would make a snake shudder”.’

Mahon held various ministerial positions in the Australian government, causing a series of cabinet rows along the way. ‘Always committed to Irish affairs, he was at the centre of national controversy in November 1920, when he made a speech in Melbourne bitterly condemning the British government for the death of Terence MacSwiney … The reaction was immediate and hostile, and his many enemies used the speech as a pretext to get rid of him. On 11 November, the prime minister, W. M. Hughes, made an extremely personal and vitriolic attack on Mahon … Mahon was expelled from the house in a unique procedural case’. Driven from politics, he worked thereafter as managing director for the Catholic Church Property Insurance Company.

William O’Connor Morris

In contrast the judge and local landowner William O’Connor Morris (1824–1904) was a pillar of the Protestant Ascendancy. ‘His uncompromising position on land reform and his hostility to tenants earned him much criticism and he became very unpopular.’ He published a number of books on military history but according to the DIB entry they were ‘polemical, poorly researched and inconsequential’.

Other significant locals include the catholic bishop of Meath John Cantwell (1792–1866) and pioneering peat industrialist David Sherlock (1850–1940) who set up the Rahan Peat Works, which successfully carried out fuel and peat moss production for fifty years. The surgeon Robert Henry Woods (1865–1938) was the son of a Tullamore shopkeeper and after studying ear, nose and throat surgery in Vienna practised as a laryngologist in Dublin, gaining European-wide renown. ‘His work was characterised by skill and thoroughness, and he was famous for his operations to remove an entire larynx, affected by malignant disease as well as for his aftercare, treating patients to produce intelligible voice.’

Pat Egan

Businessman Patrick Joseph Egan (1876–1960) was born into a prosperous Tullamore merchant family. ‘Operating one of the first department stores in the midlands, he conducted a considerable retail and wholesale trade and expanded strongly throughout the midlands.’ The DIB entry describes him as one of the foremost business personalities in Ireland but he is particularly noteworthy for his support of the IRA in the War of Independence.

‘During the 1919–21 troubles he drew close to Sinn Féin, contributing generously to the Dáil Éireann loan, and serving as chairman of the dáil-appointed trustees who from summer 1920 managed the secret account of the Sinn Féin-controlled King’s County Council. He placed his company’s lorries and motorcars at the disposal of republican forces, and maintained on full salaries some eighteen employees interned or on the run.’ Later he was elected Cumann na nGaedheal TD for Laois–Offaly.

Finally, the most recent Tullamore born subject to be treated is Sister Genevieve O’Farrell (1923–2001). The daughter of a local farm manager ‘her decision to enter the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul surprised people since she was not notably pious.’ She taught children on the Falls Road, Belfast, from 1956, becoming principal of St Louise’s secondary school in 1963.

‘A former student, Mary Costello, fictionalised her in a novel as Sr Bonaventure: “stern, courageous, intelligent; and for a nun, unconventional, an odd-bod. She was also the only nun with sex appeal I’d ever met” … Another description was as “Margaret Thatcher with a spiritual dimension”.’

Following the outbreak of the Troubles, she ‘took on the British army, refusing to allow them to search the school and, on one occasion, demanding that a soldier who snatched a girl’s beret make a public apology. However, she stated publicly that the most dangerous aspect of life in the Troubles was the paramilitaries’ grip on communities … Her stance against paramilitaries earned her the title of ‘best man on the Falls Road’ and did her little harm within the community, but her cooperation with British authorities roused criticism. Her acceptance of an OBE in 1978 and her invitation in 1983 to Jane Prior, wife of the secretary of state, to visit the school brought angry denunciations … However, she insisted that enhancing the image of the school benefited the students, and in general her achievements were enough to silence criticism.’

If you have any queries regarding the DIB, please contact us through our website at http://dib.cambridge.org/home.do

The Story of Bog Butter. By John Dolan

Bog butters are large white or yellow waxy deposits regularly discovered within the peat bogs of Ireland and Scotland. They represent an extraordinary survival of prehistoric and later agricultural products, comprising the largest deposits of fat found anywhere in nature. Often found in wooden containers or wrapped in animal bladders, they are considered to have been buried intentionally by past farming communities. While previous analysis has determined that Irish bog butters derive from dairy fat, their precise characterisation could not be achieved due to chemical compositional alterations during burial in subsequent years. They generally produce a distinctive, pungent and offensive smell.

The largest Irish example weighed 23kg (50lbs) from a find in the Galtee Mountains in 1826.  Bog Butter is primarily held in the National Museum with some held by local museums.

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Lady Beaujolois Bury, the prayerful artist of Charleville Castle, Tullamore. By Michael Byrne

Charleville from the east by Fergal MacCabe, architect. From essays in honour of Maurice Craig.

The prayer book of Lady Beaujolois Bury of Charleville Castle, Tullamore was donated to the Offaly History Centre by the late Jane Williams some years ago. Like some family bibles it contains on two of the blank pages scraps of the family lineage of her ladyship and her siblings, the third and fifth earls of Charleville. The information recorded agrees with what is provided in Burke’s Irish Family Records (1976 edition), but like every family there is more to it than the bland recital of names and dates. Lady Beaujolois Bury (1824–1903) was the talented daughter of the second countess of Charleville (1803–48) and granddaughter of Lady Charlotte Susan Maria Campbell. Her Bury in-laws, the first earl and countess, were the builders of the great castle, known as Charleville Forest, and which was commenced in 1800 and completed in 1812. According to Mark Girouard it is ‘perhaps the finest Gothic Revival Castle in Ireland’.

The first earl of Charleville as a young man when he was more assured of himself in the world.

Charles William Bury (1764-1835) was a landowner of considerable wealth, derived partly from the Bury estates in Co. Limerick (where the family had settled in 1666) and partly from property in King’s County, inherited through his father’s mother, the only sister and heiress of Charles Moore (1712-64), earl of Charleville and Baron Moore of Tullamore.

Lord Tullamore (or Tullamoore as he preferred), the only son of Charles William Bury (1764–1835), first earl of Charleville (second creation) was born in 1801 and married handsomely but not financially well while on the Grand Tour of the cultural capitals of Europe in 1821. He was almost 20 and his wife just 18 years old. As the entries from their daughter’s prayer book tell us Lord Tullamore married on 26 February 1821 at Florence. His wife was Harriet Charlotte Beaujolois, the third daughter of Col. John Campbell of Shawfield in Scotland and her mother was Lady Charlotte Susan Maria Campbell. The latter was the daughter of Elizabeth Gunning and John, the fifth duke of Argyll, and was born in London in 1775, and died in 1861. Harriet was born in 1803 of Lady Charlotte’s first marriage. Lady Charlotte, despite her famed good looks, made a modest marriage with Colonel John Campbell and by whom she had nine children. He died in 1808 and she married again in 1818 (despite the reservations of friends including Sir Walter Scott) her son’s tutor, the Revd John Bury (no connection with Tullamore), by whom she had two daughters. John Bury, later rector of Lichfield, died in 1832 and Lady Charlotte in 1861. She is best remembered now for her Diary Illustrative of the life and times of George IV (1838). Earlier money-making efforts included Flirtation (1827) and The History of a Flirt (1840). Such titles might be expected to make more money today than they did for their impecunious, if titled, author. Curiously, Beaujolois’s mother-in-law, Lady Catherine Maria Charleville, had herself caused some scandal with the publication in 1796 of a translation of Voltaire’s La Pucelle which was attributed to her by some, although published anonymously. Others have suggested that it was written by her soon-to-be husband C.W. Bury, or that the co-author was a bishop!

The young blue stocking who was a widow when she married the first earl and lived for another sixteen years after her second husband. She was rushed to Dublin by canal boat for the delivery of her only son by Charles William Bury when she was 39.

At the age of fourteen (and four years before her marriage) Harriet Charlotte Beaujolois Campbell completed a manuscript account of her trip to Florence which was published as A journey to Florence in 1817 (edited by G.R. de Beer, London, 1951). An illustration of Lady Tullamore, who became the second countess of Charleville in 1835, is provided as a frontispiece to the printed 1817 Journal. It is hardly surprising that the young Lord Tullamore was captivated by this blue-stocking beauty. Some pictures survive of him too from the 1830s, when money was still flowing and prospects were good.

The insecure second earl of Charleville, His stepbrother outshone him and money added to his problems. He had hoped to do much after his father’s death in 1835 but could not temper ambition to his straitened circumstances. He died in 1851.
The second countess of Charleville. She married while on the Grand Tour and died in Naples in 1848. She had talent and good looks.

The first child of this romantic marriage, Charles William Bury, was born at Geneva on 8 March 1822 and succeeded as third earl of Charleville in 1851.The marriage did not initially go well with Lord Tullamore’s father, the first earl of Charleville, because the young bride brought charm and good looks but no money. Yet he was soon reconciled ‘as I like the young lady, who appears to me both amiable and sensible’. The first Lord Charleville was conservative and may have been a bit hen-pecked by his talented and ambitious wife. In 1798 he married, within six months of her husband’s death, Catherine Maria Tisdall. He and Catherine Tisdall were the co-executors of her late husband’s estate and she had two smart young children John T.T. Tisdall and Catherine Louisa Tisdall. Joining them, from 1801 was the only child of their marriage and heir to the Charleville estates, known in his young days as Lumpy Tullamoore. He must have been an insecure child with two elder stepchildren and seems to have been constantly trying to prove himself, but at considerable expense to the property and his family. His birth was a fraught time for his mother (b. 1762 and now aged 39) with Charleville having to hire one of the new boats on the canal in early 1801 to take the expectant mother to Dublin in haste.

The building of the wonderful Charleville Castle cost the first earl a very considerable amount of money. His son’s extravagances led to the second earl bankrupting himself in 1844. His lovely wife died in 1848 in Naples and the second earl died in 1851. It was a difficult time for the family and for Tullamore. So much promise unfulfilled and so much need in Tullamore town and on the 20,000-acre estate in the 1840s during the Famine years. Were it not for the wise management of their agent, Francis Berry, things would have been worse.

The music room at Charleville . It was enlarged in the 1880s by the removal of the wall behind the bookcase. The Strawberry Hill chair is on the left. The drawing is by the young Beaujolois Bury who worked so hard to keep the family together in the difficult 1840s. She died in 1903.

Coming back to Beaujolois’s crisp clean prayer book the entries for her siblings (see illustration) were:


1  Charles William George, born at Geneva on 8 March 1822, succeeded as third earl in 1851 and died in 1859. His young wife predeceased him by two years leaving four children of the marriage. Their deaths caused great sadness in Tullamore. They had married only in 1850, had three or four children who found themselves in 1859 in the care of Uncle Alfred and his wife. Alfred was only 30 years old and childless. Two years later one of the children in his care was killed in an accident on the stairs at Charleville. The so-called ghost of the castle, young Harriet Bury, now needs some rest from ghost tourism. Her little coffin is still preserved with that of her young parents in the crypt in St Catherine’s, Tullamore.

2   Henry, the next child, was born in 1823 and died in 1829. He can be recalled today in the name Henry Street (now O’Carroll Street) Tullamore.

2  John James was born in 1827, married in 1852 and  died in  1864.

3  Alfred,  was born in 1829, married in 1854 and died on 28 June 1875. On the death of the young fourth earl in 1874 Alfred succeeded as fifth earl, but died the following year. Alfred got a lot done from 1860 including the building of houses for staff and the railway station at Charleville Road. Burke (1976) states that the property passed to his sister Lady Emily, but she was a daughter of the third earl not the second and was reared by Alfred and his wife after the death of her parents in 1857 and 1859. Her sister, Katherine, married Edmund Bacon Hutton, in 1873 within a few weeks of her brother coming of age. It was a time of celebration and was well reported. Their wedding provides what is thought to be the earliest surviving wedding photograph in Offaly. Military officers passing through Tullamore, as in Jane Austen’s novels, were a singular opportunity and both Katherine and her sister Emily both married handsome young officers.

 Beaujolois Elenora Catherine, the owner of our prayer book, was born on 4 December 1824 and survived almost as long as her later cousin, Col.  Howard Bury (died 1963). In case anyone would think that the name Beaujolois is in recollection of some Bacchanalian festive evening we should know that the unusual name was (as De Beer writes) due to her having as her godfather, Louis Charles d’Orleans, Comte de Beaujolais, brother of Louis Phillipe. There is much about this connection in the Charleville Papers in Nottingham University. Beaujolois married Captain Hastings Dent in 1853 and died in 1903. Dent died in 1864. Lady Beaujolais had been married for only eleven years and was a widow for almost forty. Beaujolois Bury is remembered today as the accomplished artist who sketched at least four views of Charleville in 1843, and subsequently printed as lithographs and reproduced in the late Knight of Glin’s collection of topographical drawings, Painting Ireland. The interior views are especially interesting to see the salon, music room, dining room and the great stairwell. One of the chairs from the Walpole home at Strawberry Hill was acquired by the second earl in the 1842 sale of Walpole’s creation and can be seen in Beaujolois’s drawing of the music room at Charleville. The room is now larger by the removal of a wall in the 1880s. The chairs were sold at Charleville in 1948 and, if you were about, of course you would have bought them for only £20 and now worth €100,000.

In 1843-4 the Charleville family departed their lovely castle to live cheaply in Berlin and the house was shut up until 1851. Of the two surviving girls of the third earl it was Emily who inherited in 1875 and lived on, mostly abroad, from her widowhood ten years later until her death in 1931. She had closed the house in 1912 and her son Lt. Colonel C. K. Howard Bury auctioned the contents in 1948. The castle was leased in 1971 to one Michael McMullen and his occupancy is well documented in the local press. His coming to Tullamore was fascinating too in that he first saw the castle in an advert made in Tullamore for one of the big English banks. The lately deceased Ann Williams of Dew Park and Cloghan provided the black horses to take the funeral coach from the castle to St Catherine’s at Hop Hill.

The finest gothic house in Ireland, 1800-1812 .

The siblings of the second and third earls were visited by the miasma that troubled almost all of the Bury family down to the extinction of the earldom in 1875 and the death of Lady Emily Bury’s husband, Captain Howard, in 1885 and their daughter Marjorie in 1907. Only Col. Charles Kenneth Howard Bury was destined for a long and hardy life. Of Everest climbing fame he was born in 1883 and died in 1963 at Belvedere, Mullingar, the home he inherited in 1912 from his kinsman, Charles Brinsley Marlay. Marlay’s grandmother was Catherine Maria, first countess of Charleville by her first marriage. His mother, Louisa Tisdall, married a Lt. Col. Marlay in 1828 and, yes, she was a widow after just two years and lived on until 1882. She was a kind and astute lady. Her son Charles Brinley was immensely rich, died a bachelor, and left estate valued at over £500,000 in 1912.  Lt Col. Bury was also a bachelor and was aged 80 and had a long and colourful life between his travels and his war service. Today the golfers in Tullamore and Mullingar can pay tribute to Colonel Bury for the finest club grounds in the country that he made available out of the Belvedere and Charleville estates.

The early death of Lady Emily’s husband, Captain Howard, only a few years after their marriage brought closure on what otherwise might have been a long and happy stay for his family. The old church at Lynally, now a private residence, was erected in 1887 to his memory. Lady Emily contented herself with living abroad for the most part.

In should be mentioned that the Gothic-style castle, known as Charleville Forest, was written up by Mark Girouard for Country Life in 1962. Just over fifty-three years later another article has appeared (October 2016) in the same prestigious publication and this time by Dr Judith Hill, awarded a doctorate for her work on the Gothic in Ireland.

The great salon is on the first floor and looks to the new lake on the Birr road. The Moors were derived from Charles Moore, the first earl of the the first creation who died in 1764. A very sure-footed man but he had no progeny.

Much thanks is due to the Hutton Bury family and to Bonnie Vance and her family for keeping safe and intact a tremendous heritage potential for Ireland and the midlands. People take these things for granted but it should not be so.

Charleville Demesne is part of the great oak forests of Offaly and there has been a mansion house on the lands since 1641. The formal grant of the lands goes back to 1622 when Tullamore was just a castle and perhaps ten cottages. Much has happened and, as we know since 2001, the trajectory is not always ‘onwards and upwards’. The Whig Interpretation of history is dead. Perhaps Lord Charleville felt the same having laid out so much money on his great house of Charleville. The demesne and the castle are the great monument to him today.


The new road ran to the south of the enlarged demesne after 1800. A nice piece of planning in the early years of the first earl when he had so much enthusiasm for building and demesne design.

Offaly GAA blessed with some great club history publications: sources for Offaly History and Society, no. 7. By Kevin Corrigan

Offaly GAA blessed with some great club history publications: sources for Offaly history and society, no. 7. GAA is very fortunate to have a number of fabulous club history publications at its disposal. Clubs such as Clara, Daingean, Edenderry, Kilcormac/Killoughey, Seir Kieran and Tullamore have produced particularly comprehensive and detailed club histories and their value to members is immense.

  I have started research earlier this year on my latest project, a comprehensive, detailed history of Offaly GAA. It is a very big undertaking with a huge volume of research required before you even consider putting pen to paper. It will be a three year plus project and trying to get a picture of all eras and factors in the growth of the GAA in Offaly is quite daunting.

  My aim is to do a proper history of Offaly GAA, one that transcends its mere sporting contribution to the county. To a very large degree, the GAA successes from the 1960s through to the 2000s contributed greatly to the well-being of Offaly as a county and provided its own distinct unique identity. Whether you have any interest in sport, GAA doesn’t float your boat or you prefer other sporting codes, the importance and contribution of the national games to Offaly simply can’t be understated.

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The rediscovery of Bloomville, County Offaly. Christopher Fettes

Bloomville, Cloneygowan, County Offaly

On June 15th 1991, I climbed a locked gate marked Bloomville, just as the rain stopped and the sun came out.  There were some lovely beeches, but no sign of a house. I then spotted two ancient chestnuts, and it was only then that I could see the house in the distance.

It was a case of love at first sight, with everything sparkling in the sunshine, and I wondered why the agent’s advertisement had not included a photograph.  Only when I approached the house could I understand the reason.  The traditional roses (still flourishing 29 years later) looked pretty, but, close up, the house looked very neglected.

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6 Sources for Offaly History and Society. ‘Offaly one hundred Years Ago’: A compendium by John Wright and published in 1890 as ‘The King’s County Directory’ was reprinted in 1989 as ‘Offaly one hundred years ago’.

Written and compiled by John Wright- owner/editor of the King’s County Chronicle, Birr, from 1872 until his death in 1915 – the book was published early in 1890 as ‘The King’s County Directory’.  His son Archie succeeded and died in 1954. Increasingly, over the intervening years, it has been treasured as an invaluable source of reference for local historians but it has long been out of print and only a few copies remain extant.  It was reprinted in 1989 now in hard back form, in a facsimile edition which reproduces its 368 pages – including 24 pages of advertisements and a number of drawings of noteworthy buildings. Since then it has also been made available on CD.

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THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED. By James Scully

NOTEABLE FUNERARY MONUMENTS IN COUNTY OFFALY

PART 1.  OCCUPATIONAL SYMBOLS

Over the past few months I have been finalizing a book on the memorials in Saint Rynagh’s Graveyard in Banagher. For some time now the recording of the transcriptions has been complete but the decision to add a description of each memorial has absorbed more time than intended. It has however been a most rewarding task because now when I visit other graveyards I look at memorials with a more trained eye and with greater awareness of the skills and talents of the stonecutters. This has fostered a greater appreciation of the decorative carvings and lettering styles which are abundant throughout County Offaly. It has also prompted greater recognition of unusual features such as ligatures, mirrored letters, ampersands and other hallmarks of a vernacular style. Above all it has stimulated a resolve to publicize those monuments which are unique whether it be for the occupational or funerary symbols portrayed on them or that they are fine examples of a particular stonecutter. Tombstones which have a dedication of literary merit or those which carry symbols of the Passion of Our Lord will also be a focus of attention.

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5 Researching Irish history – using historic maps: exploring Geashill village, County Offaly since the 1830s

 

Researching Irish family history can be challenging due to the lack of written records. Owing to variation in the legislative union of Ireland, Scotland and Wales with England, registration of births, deaths and marriages was different in each country and comparatively late in Ireland. In Ireland, state registration of non-Catholic marriages began in 1845, but the registration of all births, marriages and deaths did not begin until 1864.   Additionally, Church records are often incomplete and those that exist are rarely found before 1800, particularly in rural areas.

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Thomas Dunne of Ballinagar, Offaly: ‘A Sterling Irishman’. By John Malone

 

47 Ballinagar Village, Co. Offaly - 1950's maybe!!
Ballinagar village early 1960s

In December 1968 Thomas [Tommy] Dunne received the tribute of a soldier’s burial from surviving I.R.A comrades in Offaly and the army in Annaharvey graveyard, near Tullamore.

Thomas Dunne grew up in Ballinagar (between Daingean and Tullamore) along with his siblings Mary, Richard, Margaret and James in the late 1800s. Their father was Tommy and their mother was Anne Brien from nearby Clonmore. Tommy was in his time a leading member of the local Fenian movement and came to Ballinagar from Rathfeston during the time Trench was the land agent for Lord Digby. The family tradition was that Tommy was about 27 at the time and by all accounts was a fine strapping young man. A family of Dunne’s owned the farm at the time, they were relatives of Tommy’s, but because they were all females and because of the impossible situation of that time, they were about to throw up the farm. Trench had someone in mind for the farm but Tommy took it over. One day Trench arrived on the farm and spent a while staring and trying to unsettle the young Dunne. Then Trench spoke “I see you have come Dunne.”  “Yes” was the firm reply. Trench then said “On account your family has been here for so long I will let you stay, but instead of the rent being 7 shillings and sixpence an acre it will now be 30 shillings an acre.” This left it nearly impossible to farm but he managed. This incident took place shortly after the infamous evictions on the Geashill estate, where it was reported that the evicted tenants of Geashill filled the streets of Tullamore. A lot of these tenants went on a ship called Erin go bragh to Australia which was charted by a Fr Dunne from Daingean who raised funds for this purpose. He was possibly a relation of the Ballinagar Dunnes.

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