Imagine passing construction work on the street or in the countryside, what might you expect to come across or see? Perhaps old masonry, historic detritus or nothing at all?! How about a skeleton? Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century it was not too unusual to come across human remains during construction work or in sand pits owing to the historic nature of an area. This blog post looks at some of the human remains uncovered around Offaly over the past 200 years which were reported in local newspapers.
In August 1860 a party of soldiers found the skeleton of fully grown man while digging earth works in the Fourteen Acres, adjacent to Birr Barracks. The skeleton was found three feet underground. There was no trace of a coffin or clothing. Despite no signs of trauma to the remains it was assumed at the time that the remains belonged to a murdered man. The burial almost certainly pre dates the barracks (1809-1812) and it would not be surprising if it had been there a great deal longer.
On the eve of the Great Famine in 1845 the backwardness of Irish agriculture was seen by many as the reason for much of the country’s economic woes. About Irish farmers, it was stated that they knew nothing of the ‘English’ method of farming or indeed welcomed its arrival. However, there was amongst many Irish landlords, and their agents, a growing understanding of the benefits of the ‘science’ of agriculture and many had willingly adopted such methods in the management of their estates. In particular, many land agents were the leading pioneers of better agricultural practice. The employment of agriculturalists; the establishment of agricultural societies and the trips undertaken to observe foreign models of agriculture all highlight the progression of Irish agriculture by the early 1840s.
One in every three illegitimate children died within one year of birth in 1924. The mortality rate was said to be five times higher than that for parented children.
The death rate of infant illegitimate children in the institutions was high as they were undernourished.
The high level of infant mortality seemed to cause surprise when research on Tuam workhouse and infant mortality in the 1920s was published in 2014 (Sunday Independent, 15 June 2014). However, as long ago as 1941 in an article by M.P.R.H. on ‘Illegitimate’ in The Bell, vol. 2, no. 3 (June, 1941), pp 78-87 it was stated that in 1924 one in every three illegitimate children died within one year of birth. The mortality rate was said to be five times higher than that for parented children.
The first hotel constructed in Tullamore in 1786 cost £200. The second in 1801 about £4,5,00. Even by multiplying by 200 for the cost of living today, this expenditure was light in the context of the three new hotels in Tullamore in 1997- 2008 which may possibly represent a total expenditure of €25 million for 270 beds. And yet the canal hotel of 1801 was a major investment and may have never made a return to the Grand Canal Company. The need for it disappeared within five years of its construction. By contrast the deprecated Bury Arms (Hayes/Phoenix Arms) in the centre of town was in business for over 200 years.
The first hotel (that we know of) to be constructed in Tullamore was the Bury Arms Hotel (later the Phoenix Arms, demolished 2000, now Boots Pharmacy), erected in 1786 as an inn for Tullamore at a cost to the landlord, Charles William Bury, of £200. We know that in 1798 it had 13 beds for letting. The hotel was first leased to John Tydd at a yearly rent of £20. John Tydd and his son Benjamin were both dead by 1798 at which point the innkeeper was one Mr Doherty. Captain William Evans, who had been a director of the Grand Canal Company until c.1796, but remained with the Company providing engineering advice until 1805, was critical of the Bury Hotel on his visit there in 1798. His departure from the company in 1805, possibly following soon after the completion of the works to Shannon Harbour in 1804. Notwithstanding Evans’ criticism of the Bury Arms hotel Sir Richard Colt Hore who stayed at the hotel in 1806 wrote: ‘At Tullamore I found a good inn and accommodation at Doherty’s (the Bury, now Charleville Arms) near the Bridge’ (Tour, p. 32). The hotel had changed its name in line with that of the ennobling of the town’s landlord who became Lord Tullamore in 1797, Viscount Charleville in 1800 and earl of Charleville in 1806. It should be mentioned that there was at least one earlier inn in Tullamore, that of Hugh Clough in the 1760s and other smaller hotels post 1800.
This is our first blog of 2021 and we are pleased to have a growing number of contributors as the interest in local studies continues to expand in Offaly and in Ireland. Last year our blog posts (82) reached over 103,000 and amounted to 144,000 words. Michael Goodbody has two important articles on Clara houses, Drayton Villa and Inchmore, in Offaly Heritage 11 (published in December 2020). The latter house now in a very different state to 2007 and the former lately bought by Offaly County Council. Robert Goodbody was the founder of the Clara dynasty of Quaker merchants and was born at Mountmellick in 1781 and died at Drayton Villa, Clara (later the Parochial House) in 1860. In 1825 he moved to Clara to set up his sons in business at the Brosna mills. He built Inchmore, Clara in 1843 and for a time lived at Tullagh House, Tullamore. During the Famine years he practised as an amateur doctor. He had six sons of whom five survived to make a huge contribution to industry in Clara and Tullamore.If you have an article on Offaly history for the blog, email us at email@example.com.
It was not unusual for amateur doctors to practice their skills and theories among the poor in Ireland during the nineteenth century. One such was Robert Goodbody of Clara, who earned the gratitude of the Earl of Charleville for his activities around Tullamore during the Great Famine of 1846–49.
Offaly History intended to have a walk on 26 December 2020 through the historic Lloyd Town Park, Tullamore, but had to cancel due to the imposition of the third wave of restrictions since March 2020 designed to reduce the impact of the Covid-19 virus. An historic year and one we will be glad to see the back of. After fifty-years of mostly progress since the 1960s we have become accustomed to the shock of change for the worst since the banking crisis and the bail-out. Now it’s the Covid-19 virus and in the background climate change, and in Offaly the end of the bogs – so much a part of growth in Offaly from the 1950s. Today we are visiting the Lloyd town park, Kilcruttin, Tullamore and reflecting on its historical features and change in the landscape of the area and the town of Tullamore since the 1700s.
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’.
The modern official street-names of Tullamore town were adopted by the Tullamore Urban District Council in the early 1900s, replacing earlier street-names which were used in the nineteenth century and often adopted in honour of the town’s principal landlord, Charles William Bury (1764–1835), the first earl of Charleville (second creation). He presided over the fortunes of the town in its most formative phase from 1785 until his death in 1835. These honorific names replaced in some cases other more functional names used in the eighteenth century.
The street-names are generally as follows: first the functional name, e.g. Pound Street, secondly the landlord’s choice of name (post 1785 to c. 1905) such as Charles Street, William Street and Bury Quay. After 1905 the choice of Tullamore Urban District Council, i.e. Columcille Street, Clontarf Road and Benburb Street, O’Carroll Street, O’Connor Square. The council, at the behest of the Gaelic League, adopted names based on local saints, families and famous Irish battles where the Irish won, or put up a good fight. The only example of a marketing name is that of Main Street (2003) and formerly known as Water Lane.
Some of the nineteenth-century names are still in use, for example, William Street. Whereas, Patrick Street is now seldom called Barrack Street as it was up to the 1960s. Henry Street (1820s) is after Henry Bury, a child of the second early of Charleville, who died in 1830 at a young age. Henry Street is still much used instead of the post-1905 official name of O’Carroll Street. The earliest names were related to the function served such as Market Place from about 1713 for the present O’Connor Square, Pound Street for the present Columcille Street. These functional names were later replaced by names paying homage or regard to the owner of the town, the Moore family and post 1764, the Bury family. Even the name of the town was amended to read Tullamoore instead of Tullamore, something that came into common use during the time of Charles Moore, first earl of Charleville (of the first creation of this title) and who died childless in 1764.
The name Tullamore can be documented back to 1571 and there is an earlier reference in a Life of Colmán. The great resource for Irish placenames in now online at logainm/placenames.ie. Here is a copy of the archival record for Tullamore, also called Tullamoore from the 1670s to the 1850s.
So where is the big hill – Hophill or Windmill Hill behind O’Moore Street?
Enter the Gaelic League
The matter of the new names for the streets had come up at town council meetings in December 1904 and again in January 1905 and February of the same year. It was the Gaelic League (founded as to the Tullamore branch in 1902) who suggested to the council the appropriateness of new names reflecting the local saints, local native families and episodes in Irish history, and to be erected bilingually. On the proposal of John Wrafter and seconded by James Maher the changes were adopted. It was not difficult to see why the choice of names of the landlord or his agent should be disposed of. The good standing of landowners, had diminished during the Land War of the 1880s. Lady Bury had succeeded her uncle as owner of the Charleville estate in 1875, but being a woman and after 1885 a widow she was at a disadvantage. Furthermore she was very much an absentee and left matters to her agent, Ernest Hamilton Browne. Following the pattern set at national level in the 1890s the language, history and traditions of ‘Irish Ireland’ came again to be appreciated as a culturally distinguishing feature that separated the native from the foreigner. In Tullamore the Gaelic League enjoyed a strong period of growth after 1902 and during the tenure as president of local solicitor Henry James Egan, the delicate second son of Henry Egan, the town’s leading nationalist and merchant of the firm of P. & H. Egan Limited. Henry James Egan qualified a solicitor in 1900 and as coroner and county solicitor from 1903 was prominent for his few remaining years. He died in 1907 at the age of 29.
Among the streets and lanes closed before 1900 were: Emmet’s Lane, Willis’s Lane, Flanagan’s Lane, Molloy’s Lane and Sally Grove. The availability of the 1901 and 1911 censuses online makes all this information on families and streets so accessible.
As to the names we will have to come back to review them in more detail. Names such as Bachelors Walk, Chancery Lane and Swaddlin Lane. The latter is accessed between the two Italian restaurants in Patrick Street. The first Methodist church was in this lane until destroyed in the Balloon Fire of 1785. Every street and its name have a detailed history such as this paragraph on Brides Lane formerly Ruddock’s Lane or Swaddling Lane. The early Methodists were often called Swaddlers.
Bride’s Lane (Patrick St N.). Swaddling Lane 1821 (FDJ). Ruddock’s Lane 1838, 1890; Brides Lane 1912 (OS). One-storey houses each side (OSN 1885).The home of the first Methodist chapel c. 1762 (Craig, 1907; see Methodist chapel). Ruddock was a property owner with a dwelling house to the front of the street (OHA, 24 Mar. 1786, lease, Bury to William Ruddock). Described as Ruddock’s Lane (RD, 18 Mar. 1833, Ruddock to Wade, 1833/9/73). 38 cabins in 1843–54 (Val.1, Val. 2). 87 inhabitants in 1901 with 27 houses and 27 families (Census). The modern name is derived from the name of the parish, Kilbride. In giving evidence to a housing inquiry in 1910 it was described as a very congested district surrounded by a high wall with no thoroughfare through it (MT, 3.9.1910). It later became known as the Wade estate and was sold in 1912 (TKI 2.11.1912). The name Ruddock’s Lane was still in use in 1918 when twenty-five cottages here were offered for sale of which twenty-four were weekly tenants paying 1s. 4d. per week (TKI 30.3.1918). Clearance order published for demolition of dwellings (MT 21.12.1935). Now it the home to the name provided by the developers – Haviland Court.
Another interesting name is that beside the Bridge Centre known as Distillery Lane.
Distillery Lane: This lane is now greatly changed and was made into a wide street in 1992 as part of the construction of the Bridge Centre. It was known as Parvin’s Lane in 1783 and later Still Yard Lane. It connected Bridge Street with the distillery in use from the 1780s to 1954. In 1995 the lane was greatly widened to facilitate access to the new Bridge Centre. The widening followed on the demolition of the former Hoey & Denning premises in 1992 and was carried on to Water Lane off Patrick Street and after 2000 to Main Street.
The old street names coming down in 2000 courtesy of Michael Hayden
In the week of 23 December 1978, the Tullamore Tribune published an interview with the late John Carroll on the history of Salts/Tullamore Yarns. He had been with the company for its full forty years in Tullamore. The Tribune noted that John Carroll might be called the ‘Bill Riley of Tullamore Yarns’ – which means, as fans of the popular television serial of that time ‘The Brothers’ will realise, that he came into the firm at the bottom, without any special advantages, and worked his way up on merit alone. He made his appearance on the scene as a young teenager, helping to unpack and clean the machinery arriving for setting up of the Salts textiles factory in 1938. By 1978 he was works manager. He took a keen interest in Tullamore and was for many years a director of Tullamore Credit Union.
Salt’s spinning mill, erected on the site of old Tullamore jail, was the largest employer in Tullamore for about thirty years. Prior to its completion in 1938 there had been no major factory in the town from with the loss of the Goodbody tobacco factory due to a fire in 1886. Any tradition the town had in textiles was gone since the 1820s. A linen factory building had been constructed in 1754 but was out of use by 1800. Salts decided on Tullamore after making a short list of suitable towns, interviewing the town council and satisfying themselves in regard to the site at the old jail which had been largely destroyed in 1922 during the civil war. Nothing could have been done without the support of the townspeople, William Davin, TD and the Minister for Industry and Commerce Sean Lemass.
The owner of the new woollen mill was Salts of Saltaire in Yorkshire and employed 3,500 workers in the textile industry. Salts (Ireland) Ltd. was established in 1937 to supply the requirements of the Irish market in worsted yarns both weaving and hosiery. The leading figure on Salts’ side was R. W. Guild who was from Scotland. At about the same time as Guild was establishing Salts (Ireland) William Dwyer, the founder of the Cork-based Sunbeam Wolsey, was working to develop his own plant.
The Molloy family in Tullamore have distinguished antecedents and can include among their number two of the town’s most prominent citizens in the 1820s to the 1840s, Michael Molloy and Anthony Molloy. Michael Molloy founded the Tullamore Distillery in 1829 and from it came the Bernard Daly distillery and that of Tullamore DEW. Michael Molloy was a patron of schools and of the new Mercy convent of 1838-40. The family were the owners of Tullamore up to the 1620s and were the principal landowning family in the baronies of Ballycowan, Ballyboy and Eglish until the Jacobite and Cromwellian plantations. Some such as Charles Molloy had extensive landholdings at Greatwood in Killoughy up to the 1850s. Constantine is a recurring name in the family and one of our regular contributors to this blog, Cosney Molloy, is proud to be called after an early king of Cornwall. Kilcormac and Rahan are strongholds of the family.