When Christians arrived in Ireland and started to write about the country they found an island of Gaelic kingdoms, perhaps up to 150, that was dynastic and the political organisation was based on the tuath. The tuath was the bedrock of the Gaelic political system and is described as a small kingdom. Most of what we know now has been gleaned from the Irish Law Tracts, commonly known as the Brehon Laws. Other written sources include the Hero and Saga Tales.
Oliver Mulpeter was heard to say he ‘would not miss it for the world’ and carrying the national flag which he proudly bore as the nephew of one of the wounded soldiers, he was among the first to arrive.
The commemoration was to honour soldiers of the National Army who were wounded in a Civil War ambush, two of whom died some weeks later. Relatives of all four casualties gathered for a roadside ceremony on a bitterly cold January day with traffic thundering past inches away on that busy road between Raheen and Geashill in North Offaly.
An honour guard of soldiers of The Irish Defence Forces Veterans group was present led by Declan Sheridan. They came to attention and gave the salute as the ceremony progressed – a poignant mark of respect to their comrades-in-arms of a century ago, their presence there an important and vital element of the event.
It was one hundred years to the day that the ambush took place at that spot, within sight of old Raheen chapel, on a bend of the road overlooked by rising ground. The ambush party opened fire with rifles and a Lewis gun from both sides of the road on a platoon of fourteen soldiers marching from their Geashill garrison to Sunday mass. Luckily the Lewis gun jammed, otherwise casualties would have been much higher.
Huge Crowd Gather in Bracknagh Community Hall for viewing of Film
Bracknagh Community Hall was full to capacity on Thursday last for the viewing of a film on the Ballynowlart Martyrs and the Turf Co Operative 101. The event was organised and hosted by the newly formed Bracknagh Heritage Group (A sub group of the Bracknagh Community Association). The guest speaker was Larry Fullam, local historian and researcher from Rathangan. Tony Donnelly extended a warm welcome to the large gathering. Mary Delaney, on behalf of the heritage group introduced and welcomed both Larry Fullam and Amanda Pedlow (Offaly Heritage Officer). Amanda addressed the audience on the supports provided by the Heritage Council for viable local projects.
Larry spoke on how in 1917 a local priest Fr Kennedy with the help of Fr O’ Leary from Portarlington had the remains of the victims of a fire at Ballynowlart church in 1643 exhumed and reburied in the grounds of the St. Broughan’s church. The story of Ballynowlart attributes the setting alight of the church on Christmas Day in 1643 to Cromwell’s forces. A congregation of 108 people, who were attending Christmas Mass all died, with the exception of two, who were said to have escaped. The film produced by Pathe showed Fr Kennedy handling the exhumed skulls of the victims and preparing them for reinternment in Bracknagh in 1917. The second part of the film centered on how in 1921 (one hundred and one years ago), as part of the Government’s selling of bonds and fundraising, the Bracknagh Turf Co Operative exported sacks of turf to New York to raise money to fund the then, newly formed, Dail Eireann. Larry donated a number of photographs of the stills from the film to the Bracknagh Heritage Group.
The last time a film on Ballynowlart was shown was in 1964 in the cinema in Portarlington. This event was organised by the late Harry Milner of Walsh Island and was attended by a huge crowd from the Bracknagh area, many of whom are still part of the community of Bracknagh today. The Bracknagh Heritage group are very grateful to Larry for his in-depth research and knowledge and for providing us with a great insight into Bracknagh’s past.
The members also expressed their appreciation to all those who attended Thursday evening’s event and are delighted to see the interest and enthusiasm for local history in the area.
The group intend to pursue the following projects in the near future. The real story of the Ballynowlart Martyrs. The monastic site of Saint Broughan at Clonsast. The Impact of Bord na Mona in the area. The Story of John Joly and the extended Joly family.
Lord Ashtown and his role in evicting tenants from the Bracknagh area in the mid 19th century, and how some Bracknagh emigrants were banished to places like Oneido in New York.. The RIC Barracks in Ballynowlart and The Mill at Millgrove. It was highlighted at the conclusion of the meeting how the Catholic Church, built at the peak of the Irish Famine celebrates 175 years this year. The group extend;’/ thanks to Lisa Quinn, Chairperson of the BCA for facilitating the event.
(on behalf of the Bracknagh Heritage Group, which include. Francis Cunningham, Mary Crotty, Mary Briody, Barry Cunningham, Tony Donnelly & Aidan Briody).
The scene at the railway station [Tullamore] will long be remembered. Long before the hour for arrival of the train, the stream of people to the station premises and surroundings was continuous. There was joy everywhere and the light and hope that the glad tidings brought were seen in the faces of the huge gathering. The railway station premises were thronged while from every point of vantage round about it people awaited the home-coming of the boys whose familiar faces they yearned to see once more.
Late 1921 was a time of ferment in Offaly. Once the Truce was announced in July 1921 attention turned to matters such as reforms in public health that would see the county infirmary along with the workhouses at Edenderry and Birr closed. The former workhouse at Tullamore was now to serve as county hospital and ‘county home’. It was a major reform pushed through by Sinn Féin who dominated much of local government, save in the urban councils of Birr and Tullamore. As more people were pushed out of the institutions and the economic situation deteriorated the demand for home help grew. Some of the ratepayers were concerned but not the Midland Tribune which was then owned by Mrs Margaret Powell who was one of the few women involved in the Birr local health committees. Her editor from 1912 to late 1940s was James Pike from Roscore, Screggan. Four women sat on the Tullamore Hospitals and Homes Committee chaired by Mrs Wyer. Pike in an editorial on 17 December 1921 was to describe it as a momentous week with the secret debates in the Dáil. Offaly Technical Committee did not wait for the outcome of the Dáil debate and supported the Treaty almost immediately. Supporters included the chairman Fr O’Reilly, Kilcormac, Revd John Humphreys and James Rogers as did Revd R.S. Craig.
Some of the more recent contributions to the narrative of the 1912–23 period, such as that of Ferriter and Dolan, have looked at the personal histories of the combatants and less at causation and the course of the military campaign (Hopkinson and Laffan). Others such as Foster (and earlier Thompson) examined the cultural background for what role it played in the mind-set of the young revolutionaries. These approaches can be combined in the context of at least one Tullamore family that of Barry of Earl Street, now O’Moore Street, Tullamore. Here two sons of Richard Barry, Richard jun. and John (Sean) each played a significant role – Richard on the cultural side and Sean as a soldier Volunteer. We will look at Richard’s early years in the cultural movements in Tullamore in a later article.
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.
‘Well, Tommy, I am sentenced to death on this day 23rd February  and tomorrow will face it. I feel quite happy thank God only I feel very lonesome when I think of you… I am praying for you as I know you will for me, and I hope they will be heard… from your old chum Tom, Goodbye ever, it’s a long way to Tipperary.’
Last letter from Thomas Gibson who was executed at Portlaoise during the Civil War.