Hollow House, Tinnycross, Tullamore:  from fortified planter’s home to scenic gardens. By Aisling Walsh

The site on which Hollow House can be found on is one that has changed and adapted throughout its time starting in the 17th century. The first sign of life in the area is the bawn wall for the residence that was said to be “built by de Renzi” it can be assumed that there was a castle on the site because of an ordnance survey stating ‘Castle in ruins’. It is certain that they were living incredibly comfortably for the time because of their previous home in Clonony castle for eight years from 1612 to1620 before leaving and eventually buying the land where Hollow House stands today. The bawn and circular towers found in the area were originally built with defence in mind, as time passed their use became more domestic. The towers were repurposed as pigeon towers.

Remaining part of the bawn wall from the outside

The gardens at Hollow House have been described as early-eighteenth century by Maurice Craig and William Garner but the 1838 ordnance survey of Tinnycross seems to confirm no such gardens are depicted. However, the same survey also left out a large lake near Birr castle so it is still possible that the features were simply left out for some reason or another. This same issue presents itself with putting a date on the creation of the decorative pond in the garden as it first appears in a 1910 ordnance survey of Tinnycross, but since the 1838 survey may be unreliable, it is uncertain when the pond was actually built. The farmyard beside the house shows signs of being built in the mid-late 1800s, the largest building has a corner slab with the year 1863 seen on the wall. The pond in the garden includes two stone structures built in three tiers of oddly shaped limestone rocks, the gaps in these stones were more than likely used by water fowl as a shelter. These structures were decorative pieces more than anything, it is unfortunate to note that one of these structures was destroyed by a falling tree in recent years, the stones from the structure remain in the place where it once stood.

Long shot of the gardens, house, pond and turrets at Hollow House,

Sir Matthew De Renzy (1577-1634) was born in Cologne, Germany. It must be noted that the surname de Renzy has been spelt de Renzi or de Renci and these spellings were used interchangeably on different documents. He became a cloth merchant in Antwerp, one of many merchants who held control over the trade in the city, this fell apart due to a decline in trade in the area which was caused by a conflict between the Dutch United Provinces and the ruling Spanish Hapsburgs which led him to move to London in 1604, he found himself in financial difficulty in early 1606 and when he was unable to recover enough money from merchants who owed him, he was then declared bankrupt. With his creditors were pursuing him so he fled rapidly to Ireland via Scotland arriving in Dublin in August, without a penny to his name.

His main ambition upon arrival was to obtain land and he understood that to achieve this successfully he would need friends in high places. He made many good contacts in Dublin and further afield including Sir Arthur Chichester, then Lord Deputy of Ireland. As a polyglot he was fluent in Latin, Italian, English, German, French and Spanish and set about learning Irish he learned both spoken and colloquial Irish from Conchubhar and Tadhg Mac Daire MacBruaideadh he also learned classical Irish in Sligo from Tadhg Ó hUiginn so that he could read Irish manuscripts and write in the language this new skill aided him in communicating with the Gaelic Lords at the time and gaining the trust and more importantly, their land. He acquired 100 acres in Clonony where he lived in the castle that remains standing to this day. His 100 acres expanded to over 1000 acres in the following years.

Hollow House c. late 1970s. Courtesy Offaly History

In around 1620 he sold his land in Clonony and became a government administrator in Dublin, he was knighted in 1627. Not much is known about his marriage but he was first married in 1608 to Mary Adams and his second marriage was to Anne Maypowder. His interest in the Irish language was purely from the perspective of a planter attempting to gain land in a functioning Gaelic Lordship that still remained in Offaly at the time. Despite his affinity in their language the local farmers and families often disrespected his claim to the land he lived on often ploughing on his land and de Renzy had to fight hard to keep his claim on any land in the area both legally and literally, this conflict may have been the reason for the defensive style found at Hollow House. He also had a son Matthew de Renzy, his heir. In 1630 he purchased land near Tinnycross Co. Offaly, in the name of his eldest son. De Renzy died in 1634, his son Matthew Jr. commissioned a memorial for his father in St. Mary’s Church Athlone where it can be seen today.

Matthew Jr. was listed as the owner of the land in Tinnycross in the Down Survey of 1654-6, during his ownership of the land he let it to Francis De Renzy who lived there with his wife Elizabeth Keane. Francis died in 1665 and is commemorated in Durrow church with a carved grave slab. This stone was moved outside to the north face in about 2004. His wife remarried and eventually died in 1686. The land came into the hands of the Cox family of Ferns through another Matthew De Renzy in 1704. Sir William Cox was cited as the owner in Griffith’s Valuation of 1854. He leased it to Edward Kelly who has been noted to live in Tinnycross in a list of landholders in King’s Co. 1824 and Griffith’s valuation 1854. It is also noted in Griffith’s valuation that Edward Kelly was also leasing  small amounts of land to several people in the area, Michael Seery, William Freyn, Christopher and Elizabeth Hackett and James Lynham. It can be assumed that the land remained to be leased to different families for residence and farming for the next 50 or so years until eventually coming into the hands of the Walsh family where they would continue to live in the area for most of the 20th century and beyond.

Map of 1838 showing Hollow House with the inscription “Castle in ruins”

The beginning of the 20th century sees Hollow House being inhabited by two young men Patrick Walsh, 18 listed as the Head of the Family and his younger brother Andrew, 17. Looking at the House and Building Return from the 1901 census the landlord listed for their dwelling was Michael Walsh who appears to be their father from his own census record with many children and of perfect age to have had both of the brothers. Another link between them is that Michael is listed as a farmer under his own occupation while the young men put themselves down as farmer’s sons. The evidence suggests that the brothers had started to farm on their own just north of where their father lived and worked with the rest of the rather large family having eight other children at home and a servant to help either on the farm or around the house. By 1911 we can see that Andrew has started a family with his wife, Elizabeth and two young children Michael and Patrick.

Archaeology.ie provides the following:


Description: An early Georgian farmhouse is situated on the site of castle of which nothing remains. The four round corner towers along with bawn wall and round arched gateway with triangular pediment and spiral finials all belong to the late 18th or early 19th-century and were built after the castle was destroyed probably by the occupiers of the now ruinous Georgian farmhouse.
An early Georgian farmhouse is situated on the site of a castle of which only the bawn survives. The four circular angle towers along with part of the bawn wall (OF009-023001-) appear to date from the seventeenth century. The round arched gateway with triangular pediment and spiral finials appear to belong to the late eighteenth or early nineteenth-century and were built after the castle was destroyed probably by the occupants of the ruinous farmhouse. The back wall of this cottage is part of the earlier bawn wall of 17th century date. Probable plantation castle of 17th century date with large rectangular bawn wall with four corner flanking towers. The wall and angle towers are defended with gun loops that provided flanking fire along the outer face of all four walls of the bawn.

The above description is derived from the published ‘Archaeological Inventory of County Offaly’ (Dublin: Stationery Office, 1997). In certain instances the entries have been revised and updated in the light of recent research.

Offaly History members and friends at Hollow House, late 1970s. The picture includes Fr Conor McGreevy, Baron von Ow, Ger Coughlan, Cecil Lumley, Danny Robbins, Joan McGill, John Devereaux, Frank Meehan, Tom Galvin, Owen Wyer, Mrs J. Doyle. Younger members Terese and Noel Scully, Brendan Doyle.

Scope note

Class: Bawn


Scheduled for inclusion in the next revision of the RMP: Yes

Description: An early Georgian farmhouse is situated on the site of a castle of which only the bawn survives. The four circular angle towers along with part of the bawn wall appear to date from the seventeenth century. The round arched gateway with triangular pediment and spiral finials appear to belong to the late eighteenth or early nineteenth-century and were built after the castle was destroyed probably by the occupants of the ruinous farmhouse. The back wall of this cottage is part of the earlier bawn wall of 17th century date. Probable plantation castle (OF009-023—-) of 17th century date with large rectangular bawn wall with four corner flanking towers. The wall and angle towers are defended with gun loops that provided flanking fire along the outer face of all four walls of the bawn.

Compiled by: Caimin O’Brien.

Date of upload: 23 May 2011


Griffith’s Valuation 1854

A list of landholders names in King’s Co. 1824. Available at RootsIreland


map images found on – https://osi.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=bc56a1cf08844a2aa2609aa92e89497e

Offaly History wishes to thank Aisling Walsh for her work for the Society as a transition year student from Sacred Heart, Tullamore. Well done

The recent discovery of the earlier name for Banagher, County Offaly and its significance. By Kieran Keenaghan and James Scully

In 1120 Turlough O’Connor, high-king of Ireland, built a ‘principal’ bridge on the River Shannon at a place called Áth Cróich. Recent study has proven that this is an earlier name for Banagher.


Sir Mathew De Renzy writing in December 1620 about West Offaly with particular reference to roads and passageways made two clear statements regarding a major crossing point on the River Shannon at Banagher and how there was practical and convenient access to the West and Galway from that location.

1. ‘At the Benghar there ought a towne or a good fort to be made, to keep that passage of the Shannon, for that in no other place can come any horsemen near the river to take passage out of Connaught but only here, by reason of the impediments of the bogs and woods; from this passage it is but 30 or 34 miles to Galway all hard and fair ground.

2.  At Banagher ‘…to be no more than about 30 miles (from the Shannon at Ahcro or Benghar to) to Galway over the Shannon, all hard and faire ground

Both these references leave no doubt that there was a major crossing point at Banagher in the 1620s. More importantly the second quote equates Banagher with a place called Ahcro (Áth Cróich). This information was crucial to the recent acceptance by the Locus placenames project (Locus) that the two places are synonymous. Consequently, in future editions of their definitive dictionary of Irish placenames, Banagher and Áth Cróich will be recorded as one and the same place. The implication of this decision is that it requires a major revision of Banagher’s early history.

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Ah Here! Ireland’s Liveability Index – Offaly is the most ideally suited county to access all parts of Ireland. By Imelda Higgins with Pics by Paul Moore.

 Now that we are all locked down in our various counties I miss my occasional trips to Offaly to visit old friends. I keep an eye on local news on line and love the Tullamore Tribune and the Offaly Express. I was dismayed the other day to see a report on the Express that Offaly ranked lowest in Ireland on a Liveability Index! What in the name of Heaven is a Liveability Index!! I decided to look into it all a little further. Seemingly a father and son (with obviously too much time on their hands!) decided to rate every county in Ireland on four (4!!) parameters. One criterion was natural amenity which they assessed by developing ‘a unique method of ranking the natural amenity of a particular area using the percentage of each area covered by water and mountains and attributed as urban’ (Leinster Express 16 Jan 2021 Lynda Kiernan). Having spent so many happy years in Offaly I would certainly disagree with the findings and would challenge that duo to explain them fully! The very fact that Offaly is not covered with water and mountain makes it one of the most attractive counties in Ireland. Offaly’s unique landscape is one of peace and tranquility. The wide open stretches of bog covered with the most wonderful heathers and gorse throughout the year make it a joy to behold in any season. A mid 19th century saying that when gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of season is certainly true of midland scenery!

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Dancing in Ireland since the 1920s: Your recollections needed. Maria Luddy

Many readers and their parents will have great recollections of the dancing scene in Ireland. You can help write the history. Share your thoughts and send on the stories needed to build a picture of the dancing scene in Ireland. Many will recall Je t’aime played in the 1960s in St Mary’s Hall, or the Harriers, Tullamore. But what about the County Ballroom and the parish halls in Clara, Birr, Rahan, Killeigh and so many more. Did dancing bring about the ‘ruin of virtue’?

Dancing has always been a source of expression, fun and entertainment in Ireland.  People danced at the crossroads, in each other’s houses, at social events, festivals, and in licensed dancehalls all around the country.  From the early twentieth century the Catholic hierarchy became particularly concerned with the opportunities that might arise for sexual immorality in dancehalls.  In October 1925 the bishops and archbishops of Ireland issued a statement which was to be read at ‘the principal masses, in all churches on the first Sunday of each quarter of the ecclesiastical year.’ The statement referred to the ‘evils of dancing’ and it was ‘a grave and solemn warning to the people with regard to the spiritual dangers associated with dancing’.  The statement noted: ‘We know too well the fruit of these [dance] halls all over the country. It is nothing new, alas, to find Irish girls now and then brought to shame, and retiring to the refuge of institutions or the dens of great cities. But dancing halls, more especially, in the general uncontrol of recent years, have deplorably aggravated the ruin of virtue due to ordinary human weakness. They have brought many a good innocent girl into sin, shame and scandal, and set her unwary feet on the road that leads to perdition’.  The behaviour of the men did not elicit much comment. From the mid-1920s and throughout the early 1930s there were constant references in the newspapers to the problems of dancehalls and motor cars.  In 1931 Cardinal McRory combined the two and saw a growing evil in ‘the parking of cars close to dancehalls in badly lighted village streets or on dark country roads.  Cars so placed are used … by young people for sitting out in the intervals between dances’.  ‘Joy-riding’ had a very different connotation in the period than it does now.  Reporting on a sermon by the bishop of Galway, the Irish Independent noted that ‘joy-riding’ was conducted by ‘Evil men – demons in human form come from outside the parish and outside the city – to indulge in this practice.  They lure girls from the town to go for motor drives into the country, and you know what happens… it is not for the benefit of the motor drive.  It is for something infinitely worse’.

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The Maynooth Local Studies Series, recent issues, the Offaly volumes and the entire series listed here. Sources for Offaly History and Society, number 10.

The current issue of Irish Historical Studies (no. 165, May 2020) has a featured review of five issues from the Maynooth Local Studies series published in 2019. That brought the number issued to 144. We attach the list to 144 for your convenience and we bring to your attention the latest batch of four. Raymond Gillespie is the quiet man behind the series and who has acted as general editor since its inception in 1995. The reviewer in IHS, Maura Cronin, reminds of his characterising local history as being ‘primarily about people in places over time’. Place is described as the bedrock of local history, but it must be seen in the context of the actions of people and the pivotal role of historical research  is looking for the forces of disruption and of cohesion. What brought people together and what drove them apart.

The four new issues of 2020

Four new volumes have been published in the Maynooth Studies in Local History series (general editor Professor Raymond Gillespie). The volumes by Denis Casey, Emma Lyons, Brendan Scott and Jonathan Wright and can be ordered via Offaly History Centre.

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FAITHFUL IMAGES: Offaly through the eyes of artists. Fergal MacCabe

031040 Clonmacnoise book pages, 2003
Clonmacnoise from the Harris’s edition of Ware’s Antiquities (Dublin 1739) showing the work of Blaymires and Dempsy his companion. 

It must be conceded that the unassertive landscapes of County Offaly have never been a great source of inspiration to painters, most of whom just made a quick stop at historic Clonmacnoise before dashing on to record the West of Ireland.
Yet, others took the trouble to look more closely (or were paid to do so) and found inspiration in its lush farmland, bogs and woods, slow rivers, rolling hills and ancient ruins. Happily, their numbers have grown in the recent past.

The Cotton Map
The first, and in my opinion the finest, artistic image of Offaly is the Cotton Map of 1565. Prepared to assist the Elizabethan Plantation, this is an imaginative creation more akin to Harry Potter’s ‘Marauder Map’ or Robert Louis Stevenson’s chart of Treasure Island than a realistic cartographic exercise. One wonders if its unknown compilers ever visited Offaly or were relying on travellers’ tales.

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Heritage Events from Offaly History 18-31 August 2019

Yes we are extending our events to conclude on 31 August with the Mary Ward book launch about which more in our blogs of 24 and 31 August. In the meantime you
can download a PDF from Offaly County Council Heritage Officer Amanda Pedlow of all the county events. Lots of things including book launches in Geashill and Banagher. Read below about the very special Mary Ward book launch and commemoration in Birr on 31 August. It will be available at the launch and from 1 September at our bookshop. Order now so as not to be disappointed. Here we look at events being organised by Offaly History and with a note from Amanda Pedlow, county heritage officer. Continue reading

Jane Molony, the hot lover from Clonony Castle near Ferbane by Cosney Molloy


Spring is in the air and I decided to tip down to Offaly during the week of St Valentine’s and see my old friends in Killoughy and Banagher. There are a still a fair number of Molloys in that part of the world. Everywhere I go now I hear about Tullamore because of the new distillery and I think back to the time when some of my ancestors had distilleries in Tullamore, Kilcormac and Banagher. As to Molonys I was told once by a Tipperary man that there are at least 22 variants of the name so good luck with the searching for this family.

Clonony Castle August 2018 with Barrister Molony and Sir Matthew de Renzi

Clonony Castle
I was down before Christmas and got to visit Clonony Castle where the charming woman Rebecca Armstrong resides and is the hostess for seasonal and summer events there and has the old castle open to the public. I believe she restored it herself and is there about sixteen or seventeen years. She has done a great public service and I suppose got no grants of any kind. Had the OPW done the job you can be sure it would have cost millions and be closed half of the year.
De Renzi and Clonony
Anyway enough grousing. We Molloys are nothing if not resilient. I asked some of the big wigs in the Offaly Historical Society to find out more about a barrister by the name of Edmund Molony because I came across an inscription that he put up for his wife in a London church which seems to have been as ample as was her love for the same Edmund. It struck a chord because of my pre-Christmas visit to that lovely old castle which is near the Grand Canal and the town of Ferbane.

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One hundred blogs is a reason to celebrate this September day in 2018

One hundred blogs is a reason to celebrate this September day in 2018. Yes 100 articles, 150,000 words, at least 400 pics – and the 100 stories have received 64,000 views and climbing every week. In 2018 alone we have received over 32,000 views. The list of all that has been published can be viewed on Offalyhistoryblog. We have lots more lined up. We welcome contributors, so if you have a history story you want to share contact us. The other big story is happening on Monday night with the launch of Offaly History 10.
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MacCoghlans, De Renzy and West Offaly Castles.


So it’s Heritage Week and Saturday 25 August 2018 was given over to a tour of the West Offaly castles in the company of Kieran Keenaghan and James Scully. It was a full day starting at the lovely Crank House, Banagher at 10. a.m. This house is a tourist facility and a community endeavour from a community co-operative society. Banagher needs all the support it can get in the form of incentives and tax relief schemes to bring the older houses, including the Shannon Hotel, back into use. Continue reading