Eat, heat and drink: piped water for Tullamore 125 years ago. A contribution to Tullamore 400th from Offaly History

Piped water for Tullamore town was first provided in 1895. In these blogs we have already looked at listings of shops since 1824, the provision of piped gas lighting in 1860 and electricity in 1921. The provision of piped water to a home is a wonderful facility and yet many homes were without it even as recently as fifty years ago. It took a while for the Irish country towns to procure the service largely because the local ratepayers were directly concerned in footing the bill. Tullamore had town commissioners from 1860 and an urban council with more sanitary powers from 1900. The waterworks was undertaken by the board of guardians with the help of loans from the Local Government Board.

Join us on Friday 30th in Millennium Square, Main Street, to see #OffalyHistory blogs presented in a picturesque timeline to celebrate #Tullamore400. We have entertainment from 2pm to 6pm in association with Up Close & Personal Promotions with thanks to the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media for their #LocalLivePerformance support.

A ready supply of water and of turf for the people of Puttaghan and Clontarf Road. All that was needed was the tea. Pic about 1910.
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Tullamore – Places to visit to mark Tullamore’s 400th anniversary. Contributed by Offaly History with water colours courtesy of Fergal MacCabe

Township could be said to have begun in Tullamore in 1622. On 30 September the anniversary will be marked with an outdoor exhibition of drawings by Fergal MacCabe and a Timeline of Events showing the story of the town since the earliest times. We have covered many stories of Tullamore in over 420 blogs published in this series. All can be accessed on www.offalyhistory.com. For a quick link to all these resources see @offalyhistory

[Offaly Heritage Office writes on 24 9 2022]

Offaly Heritage identifies the wonderful engaging blogs by Offaly History outlining how the town of #Tullamore has developed.

Join us on Friday 30th in Millennium Square, Main Street, to see #OffalyHistory blogs presented in a picturesque timeline to celebrate #Tullamore400. We have entertainment from 2pm to 6pm in association with Up Close & Personal Promotions with thanks to the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media for their #LocalLivePerformance support.

Visit Offaly Tullamore Chamber

#Offaly #SpaceToExplore #SpaceToGrow ]

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Tullamore ‘in the good old coaching Days’. Tullamore 175 years ago.

Historical Notes by a contributor writing in 1912, edited by Offaly History

This contribution to local studies was made in 1912 and was based on the writer’s access to a copy of the Tullamore entry in Slater’s Trade Directory published in 1846. At the time there was no public library in Offaly and private reading rooms were few. Neither was there photocopying or digitized copies.  Books were expensive and access confined to only a few. There is unlikely to have been any bookshop in Offaly in 1912. By that time Sheppard’s in Birr, the only decent bookshop in Offaly in the mid nineteenth-century, was concentrating on stationery.

The only original comment from our contributor of the 1912 article was in reference to the coming Home Rule and the appointment of Catholics to public office. The War of 1914–18, 1916, The War of Independence and the Civil War were yet to come. The writer remarked:

Judging by the names of those filling public positions in Tullamore sixty odd years ago [in 1846], Catholics and Nationalists had very little influence in the administration of public funds. But times are changed, and even in the comparatively brief period which has elapsed since the above described state of things existed, one cannot but marvel at the immense strides made in science, mechanical engineering, and the arts generally, while the rapid development of National political ideas and aim points to the rapid approach of a golden era for our country.

What a pity the writer did not say more about 1912. That is the gap we have been trying to fill with our blogs on the Decade of Centenaries and our new Decade platform on www.offalyhistory.com. We are now working on a book to bring all these article and photographs together and to be published in late 2023. In the meantime we share this article on Tullamore in 1846. In 1912 the article was probably written out by hand from the rare book and then typeset with hot metal type for publication in the local press. To think that in those days people depended entirely on the printed newspaper for news of things past and pressing matters then current. The new telephone was first tested in Clara in 1898 and the motor car locally in the same year. It was only ten years later in 1908 that telephone services began to develop in the county and likewise with the motor vehicle. To quote the article of 1912:

 Slater’s Directory compiled so far back as the year 1846 – [over 175 years ago] – contains some interesting particulars at this distance of times regarding the towns, villages and parishes with which it deals. One frequently hears this period in our history referred to as “the good old coaching days,” though famine and pestilence wasted our land, and the exodus of our kith and kin may be said, as a consequence, to have been inaugurated amid the distressful scenes of “Black Forty – Six and Forty – Seven.” Railways had not then intersected the country, nor had the electric telegraph spreads its message-bearing network round the world. “Wireless” was unknown, and the telephone lay hatching in the cradle of its inception. Business moved in a slow and happy manner, with neither rush nor worry, such as crush the life out of our present-day business men, Heavily-laden carriers carts moving lazily along with their burdens of merchandise from town to town, were a frequent and picturesque sight along the high roads, while the sounding horn of the “Royal Mail” coach awoke the echoes in vale and mountain, as does the shrill steam-blast of its successor at the present time. Carriers’ inns were a feature of our towns, and around the fires in winter, or about the doors in the summer’s eve, many jokes were cracked, and stories told of “life on the road”

 Of deeds of valour done ‘gainst robber bold.

Or encounter with a ghostly visitant.

A Bianconi coach in Clonmel, probably 1830s by John Harris, after Michael Angelo Hayes. In 1836, Hayes produced what was to prove one of his most popular pieces of work. It was a series of four illustrations entitled “Car Driving in the South of Ireland” and featured the famous Bianconi coaches, one of the main forms of public transport in Ireland at the time. They were engraved by John Harris and published by Ackermann in 1836. Concerning them, Crookshank and Glin remarked: “They were extremely popular, were often reprinted and clearly made his name.”

The hotel from which the Royal mail coach took its departure upon its daily or nightly journey was regarded as a place of importance in the community, and was generally the scene of much animation as the coach was being prepared for the road. Ostlers bustled around their well-groomed horses, getting them into position, with loud-voiced orders to their dumb friends as to good behaviour, while the scrutinising eye of the driver beamed upon them, sometimes in anger, but more often with a look of happy approval. In a by no means softly modulated voice he gave his directions as to traces, bits, reins, swing bars etc., while porters buzzed about like a flock of bees, getting passengers’ luggage into the “boot” of the coach under the driver’s seat, paying scant need to its owner’s inquiries as to possible safety. Highwaymen were not unknown in those days. Passengers took leave of their friends and become seated inside or scrambled to the top of the coach by means of steps conveniently ‘placed for the purpose, and the “Guard, “splendidly robed in brightest of scarlet, bearing the Royal insignia on each shoulder, strutted, peacock-like, up and down the pavement, frequently consulting his watch as the hour for departure approached. At least he become seated, and a huge blunderbuss on each side of him, warned all and sundry that something unpleasant awaited those who, ventured to exhibit an impertinent curiosity as to the content of Her Majesty’s mails. A loud blast of the guard’s horn, and the driver whipped up his horses – they were off.—

Off on their journey for good or for ill,

Down thro’ the valley, up over the hill;

Some to return – some future to roam—

While fond hearts are grieving behind them at home.

TULLAMORE

The authority from which we quote says, that according to the Census of 1841 the parish of Tullamore contained 9,608 inhabitants, and the town 6,343 of that number. The post office was situated in William Street; and the post-master was John Alexander Bradley. There was a delivery of letters daily; those from Dublin and the North arriving every morning at half-past five o’clock, and those from Parsonstown, Mountmellick, and the South and West every evening at seven. Letters from Dublin and the North were dispatched every evening at half-past seven, those from Parsonstown , etc., at six o’clock every morning. A one-day delivery of letters would hardly meet present-day business requirements.

The entry for Tullamore from Slater 1846. Note the number of bakers

In the historical sketch the “Directory” says: – “Tullamore, or Tullamoore, the latter appellation said to be derived from the moor on which it stands [in fact the surname of the Moore family] is the county and Assize town of the King’s County, and a parish, in the barony of Ballycowan, 57 miles W. by S. from Dublin, 25 S.E by E from Athlone,12½ N.E. from Ballyboy, 10 west from Philipstown, and six south from Kilbeggan The Grand Canal passes the end of the town, affording water communication with Dublin and Shannon Harbour ; and the small river Clodagh (a branch of the Brosna) runs through, and is crossed by a neat bridge. The town is arranged in the form of cross and the houses being white, and the streets wide, it is in appearance airy and cleanly. The surrounding country is level, and the bogs are numerous, causing turf to be cheap and giving employment to great numbers of persons in producing and bringing it to market. The public structures, besides the places of worship and schools are a noble and admirably constructed gaol, with a graceful courthouse, market house, barracks, and a convent. The Assizes, having been removed from Philipstown, are now held here, and petty sessions every Saturday. The municipal government is vested in a Seneschal, and the local magistrates. The headquarters of the constabulary force is in this town, which is the residence of the county inspector. The principal business establishments are two breweries, the same number of tanneries, a distillery, a branch of the Bank of Ireland, and four hotels.

The savings bank was located in the former market house (centre) as was the Tullamore Charitable Loan Fund

The parish church of St. Catherine, which stands about a quarter of mile from the town, upon a lofty, sandy hill, is a new building, with a handsome pinnacled tower, conspicuous for a considerable distance round; and several finely sculptured memorials of the Charleville family adorn the interior. The Catholic chapel is a handsome building in the modern style of architecture, with two pinnacled towers at the east end: and the Methodist chapels, of which there are two, are neat structures. To the latter places of worship Sunday school are attached, and there is a valuable school, founded by the Earl of Charleville, for the education of an unlimited number of children of both sexes: a National School, the female branch of which is under the tuition of the Sisters of Mercy, and a free School, supported by their Baptist Irish Society of London, wherein public worship is held every fortnight are the other public educational establishments. A Savings Bank and a Loan Found dispenses their respective benefits here. About quarter of a mile distance, on the banks of the Canal, and near the old road leading from Dublin to Galway, art the ruins of Shragh Castle, built in 1588 by John [Bris]scoe, Esq., of Crofton Hall, in Cumberland, an officer of high rank in Queen Elizabeth’s army, and by his wife, Eleanor Kerny, and their son, Andrew Briscoe, Esq., as recorded on a tablet in the church. Within a mile of the town is the beautiful demesne of the Earl of Charleville, to whom the town is greatly indebted for its improvement. The delightfully-wooded park, with its grottos, rustic bridges, artificial caverns, cascades and lakes, constitute the demesne a terrestrial paradise. The market days are on Tuesday and Saturday. Fairs, March 19th, May 10th, July 10th, October 21st, and December 13th.

Slater 1846 on transport from Tullamore

   A mail car ran to Mountmellick every morning at six; to Mullingar every evening at seven, and to Parsonstwon every morning at six, passing through Frankford. Conveyance by water canal for goods to Dublin and Shannon Harbour was available by boats running daily-. Thomas Berry and Co., owners; and for passengers by same route, “swift boats,” started from the Quay [near Bury or Whitehall Bridge] for Dublin every morning at nine, and night at ten, passing Philipstown and Edenderry. To Shannon Harbour, swift boats left the Quay every morning at two, and afternoon at three, passing Gillen, and meeting the steamer for Limerick and Ballinasloe to Shannon Harbour. The Very Rev. James O’Rafferty, V G, was P. P. of Tullamore at this time, the curates were Rev Terence Devine, Rev Philip Callary, and Rev James Keegan. The Protestant congregation of St. Catharine’s were ministered to by Rev Edward Fleetwood Berry (Vicar), and Rev Peter Wilson, curate. Mrs Purcell was superiors of the Convent of Mercy, Bury Quay. The other religious denominations do not seem to have had any fixed pastor attached to their congregations.

 The public institutions were officered as follows: ____

 Constabulary Barrack, Charleville Square ____ William Henry Pearce, County Inspector ; John S. Stuart, Sub-Inspector ; James Hay, Head-Constable.

Miliary Barrack, Barrack street – Lieut. Henry Jepson, Barrack Master.

Charitable Loan Fund – Francis Berry Esq., Treasurer; John A Bradley, secretary.

County Gaol – Robert Harding, Governor; Very Rev James O’Rafferty, Catholic chaplain; Rev Edward F. Berry, Protestant chaplain; Thomas Whitfield Inspector.

County Infirmary, Church street – George Pierce, M.D., Surgeon ; Jane Henderson, Matron.

Courthouse adjoining the Goal – Laurence Parsons, Clerk of the Peace ; A.H.C. Pollock, Clerk of the Crown; Thomas Mitchell, Secretary to the Grand Jury, Parsonstown ; Thomas Whitfield, Inspector of Weights and Measure.

Town House, Charleville Square – Francis Berry, Esq., Seneschal.

 Union Workhouse Harbour Row – Thomas Prescott, Master; Ann Guirly, matron. Very Rev. James O’Rafferty, Catholic chaplain; Rev. C. F. Berry, Protestant chaplain; John Hussy Walsh, Esq., Chairman of the Board of Guardians; Francis Berry, Esq., Vice-Chairman ; Thomas P. O’Flanagan, Esq., Deputy Vice –Chairman.

There were four hotels – The Charleville Arms, Hannah Ridley, Bridge street; Garland’s Hotel, Mary Garland, Church street ; Grand Canal Hotel, Joshua Gill, Harbour; and the Shannon Hotel, John Shannon.

The medical practitioners comprised – Michael Joseph Moorhead, High Street; George Pierce, Charleville Square; John Ridley, Bridge street; and amongst the hardware and ironmongers the firm of Messrs T. P. and R. Goodbody is mentioned. Agent for the Bank of Ireland Branch, Mr. Bartholomew Maziere.

Savings Bank, Town House (open on Mondays) – Mr Anthony Molloy, treasurer; Mr. John Alexander Bradley, actuary.

Apothecaries – Philip Belton, William Street; John Quirk, Bridge street.

Attorneys – George Duigenan, John William Briscoe, Charleville Terrace; William Ridley, Bridge Street.

In addition to the four hotels mentioned above , the names of nine publicans and two spirit dealers, four pawnbrokers, three saddlers, two tallow chandlers, four tailors, two tanners, three millers, two dyers, two brewers, one distiller, while eating and lodging house keepers musters a total of nineteen. Grocers and provision dealers number thirty- one; blacksmiths, six; boot and shoe- makers, five, etc.

Note the number of hotels and eating and lodging houses

Building Improvements in Birr town since the 1850s. By Michael Byrne

Despite the low level of industrial activity in Birr in the latter half of the nineteenth century building contractors did well with a surprising amount of progress made in this area. This was in contrast to Tullamore where few new structures were erected until after the 1900s. The extent of the building activity tends to confirm the view that Birr owed its lack of industrial activity to want of entrepreneurs rather than want of capital. Among the public buildings and monuments to be erected or improved upon was St. Brendan’s Catholic Church which was completed in 1824-5. It was now remodelled and enlarged. Improvements were carried out at St. Brendan’s Church of Ireland church in 1879 under the supervision of Mr (later Sir Thomas) Drew, architect. The church was enlarged by extending the eastern gable. The organ was removed as also were the horse-box pews. In 1885 the stone was laid for a new Presbyterian church at John’s Place, beside the house of the parish priest,  Dr. Bugler.  The new church here was part of the redevelopment of the southern side of John’s Place. The old Crotty meeting house in Castle Street was sold for secular use in 1885.

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A length of material and other memories of Clara in 1919–23 and its aftermath: some recent changes for the better By Sylvia Turner

Michael Byrne’s recent blog article ‘The Gill Drapery Store in High Street Tullamore, 1900–22’ reminded me of the significance of drapery stores in the early 20th century and the Clara of my mother’s time. Amongst the correspondence between members of her family, frequent mention is made of the buying of material. The most common form of correspondence would seem to have been the postcard. Below, on the reverse of a postcard that depicted the ruins of Geashill Castle is an example sent on 27th of May?  1924. It was to my grandmother from her sister living in Clara and concerned the buying of material for ‘M’, May, her eldest niece.

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Decline and resurgence in Birr, 1850-1922. Michael Byrne

All the south midland towns declined during the fifty-year period after the Famine with the exception of Clara where the Goodbody jute factory provided employment for 700 workers in the 1880s. The towns of Birr and Banagher were most severely hit. The decline of Birr was exacerbated by the final closure of the large military barracks in Birr in 1922. The previous year the Birr workhouse was closed and amalgamated with Tullamore. At a time of depression and scarce employment opportunities it was not surprising that the county capital, Tullamore, should seek to draw to itself whatever job opportunities existed in the public service sector, but it was to cause a good deal of resentment in Birr up to the 1950s.

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The growth of middle class-owner occupied housing in Tullamore, 1900-1960. By Fergal MacCabe. A contribution to the Decade of Centenaries

The growth of middle-class housing after 1900 may be said to have begun with the building of four ‘villas’ at Clonminch in 1909 by Charles P. Kingston, the then county secretary to King’s County Council. It was preceded earlier by the substantial house of Daniel E. Williams completed at Dew Park in 1900. Were it not for the war and the scarcity of materials we might have seen more housing in the 1916–23 period. However, there was a further scarcity of building materials and high prices in the early 1920s and it was not until about 1930 that middle-class housing began to grow again and almost entirely on Charleville Road and Clonminch the period prior to the Second World War. After a slow start in the late 1920s council housing was constructed in earnest from 1933–4 and up to 1940, resuming again in the late 1940s (see my earlier blog).

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Exploring the family history of the Bagley family in Offaly: Clara and Toberdaly. By Fourth  great-granddaughter, Ginny Birmingham Haen

Several of my ancestral families came from Ireland in the early to mid 1800s.  They came from Counties Dublin, Armagh, Tyrone, Westmeath and King’s (now Offaly) and surrounding midlands counties.  The one common factor was that they all migrated to Quebec, settling in several small communities in the area just southeast of Quebec City across the St. Lawrence River. 

After a generation, many of those families moved to western Canada or the United States, often settling together.  Many went to Wisconsin and Michigan where they worked in the logging industry and farmed.  In the next generation, some married into other Irish families, so studying one’s family gradually evolved into studying several.  My families were among those settling in Jacksonport, Door County, Wisconsin.

I had always wondered how and when these Church of England/Ireland families got to Ireland from England and Scotland, then migrated to the same places in North America. What did they have in common?  There are no relevant ship manifest lists for British Isles migrants going to Canada since it is a part of the British Commonwealth, and it was not like going from one country to another.

I have an old family Bible with some information, but for the most part all I had to go on was Canadian census records or church records which gave a child’s birthplace and age, indicating approximately when the families left Ireland, and if I was lucky, a more specific birthplace.  Usually, specific meant only a county.   Family lore told of one or two Bagley children being born in Clara, Kings County.  Other names of the Quebec families appeared in the Irish Midlands, so I concentrated my research there. 

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Trade Directories for Offaly one hundred years ago. From Offaly History

A contribution to marking the Decade of Centenaries in Offaly and recalling the past generations and the towns and villages on the eve of the War of Independence

In marking the years from 1912 to 1923 we may think that the years around 1916, the War of Independence and the Civil War were times of unmitigated strife. Not so. Normal life continued, if punctuated by violent acts, such as the shooting of policemen in Kinnitty, Kilbeggan or Tullamore. The finding of bodies of spies, ‘the disappeared’, in Mountbolus or Puttaghaun. The holding of brief gunbattles in Ballycommon or Charleville Road. Worst of all the organised state violence condoned by Churchill and Lloyd George in the form of the Black and Tans racing through towns and villages in the dead of night and taking shots at anything that moved. Yet normal life continued and no better illustrated than by the issue, almost every week, (Offaly Independent excepted as the printing works was destroyed by British forces ) of the three or four local papers in Offaly and from time to time trade supplements or special publications such as trade directories that very much illustrate local business in most of the Offaly towns. Recently Offaly History acquired the 1919 MacDonald’s Trade Directory for Ireland to add to its collection at Bury Quay, Tullamore.

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The Gill Drapery Store in High Street Tullamore, 1900–22. From Gills to Guy Clothing. Recalling also the Mills and Muller families. By Michael Byrne

Marking Tullamore 400th, Decade of Centenaries and Sustaining the country towns in the 21st century

August 1922 was a wicked month with the death of two Irish leaders, Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins. At local level we had the death in July 1922 of the Ulster Bank manager Tullamore in the course of a robbery and at Bunaterin the death of a Free State soldier, Matthew Cullen, on 29 August 1922. Raymond Cullen wrote about this in our blog last week and in July we carried a blog on the Ulster Bank robbery by the Republican IRA. The Republicans departed Tullamore on 20 July 1922 just before the Free State army reached the town. Before leaving the barracks, courthouse and jail were burnt. Later in the month and in August it was the turn of the Big House owners including Screggan Manor, Geashill Castle and Brookfield. Thucydides (d. 400 BC) wrote of how civil war exhibited a tendency to extremism. We were fortunate in Ireland that things, while bad, was not by any means on a par with the American of Spanish Civil Wars. That said the killings in the North of Ireland were terrifying.  But enough of that lets go back to our story for today which is about shopping in Tullamore in the early 1900s, living over the shop and the tragedy of early death for the family of the owner Michal J. Gill in September 1922.

High Street late 1940s with Gill’s as a ruin, third from left

Affable is a word I find myself using to describe the business people of High Street over the last 50 years from J.J. Horan, to McGinns, Daly’s shop, John Clifford, Midland Books, Kilroys Matty Coyne, Paddy Cleary, P.J. Carragher, Tom Lawless and so many more one could mention.  In the course of a family wedding recently I had the pleasure of being ‘fitted out’ by Anthony Kearns, his ‘affable’ father, and the staff of the shop. Now I am revisiting, but today to look back at the history of the store and the building here since the 1750s, but more especially in the time of Gill’s Drapery from 1901 to c. 1922. This was a good time for drapers and opposite Gill’s (on the corner) was the Rafter drapery. In William/Columcille St. was Tullamore Drapery and Scally’s (to become a massive new store in 1912), and of course there was Morris’ shop in Patrick Street and later Church Street.

The drapers of Tullamore were all to the fore in this issue of 13 April 1912. Thanks to Irish Newspaper Archive.

GV 6 and 7 High Street, Galvin’s ladies’ drapers, now Guy Clothing

Guy Clothing in recent times

The modern Guy Clothing shop was erected in the early 1960s by P. & H. Egan Limited in a contemporary style and replaced a five-bay, two-storey house erected in 1753. Why the old house had been allowed to go to ruin in the 1940s is not known. It seems to have been a fire in the 1930s. For many years in the 1940s all that survived was a high wall. By the way the number of the shop, GV 6 and GV 7, comes from Griffith’s Valuation (GV) of 1854 and settled the numbering of these houses for many years.

The layers of transactions in regard to GV 6 & 7 certainly confirm the many layers in leasehold properties and the use they were put to in order to shore up income maintenance for investors. In April 1753 Lord Tullamore leased to Robert Mills, a farmer, the dwelling house adjoining John Nightingale. Mills also held, by a lease of three lives, twenty-six acres of arable land and four acres of bog at Spollanstown. The lives inserted were those of John Mills, Thomas Mills and James Mills, annual rent £3, and double that figure in the event of Mills selling to a papist.[1] He mortgaged the Tullamore property to John Finlay of Dublin in 1758 and in 1767 – the latter for a loan of £113.

Gill’s with the rolls of Cloth outside. Courtesy of NLI, c. 1905. Sergeant Ahern in picture.

Miss Mills and Sergeant Major Muller strike up a match

This Mills family of Tullamore were recalled in a story in 2001 in connection with the marriage of a daughter to a soldier in the King’s German Legion (KGL) some of whom are buried in Kilcruttin graveyard.That the KGL settled in Tullamore and were popular is evident from matches that were made including that of Anne Mills, a Tullamore farmer’s daughter to Sergeant Major Muller and who were married at Middleton County Cork in November 1806.  She died at Osnabruck in 1845.  The story of Anne Mills was told to the Irish Times journalist, Richard Roche in 1961 while on a press visit to Germany by his guide to Berlin, a descendant of the same Anne Mills.  He noted in his Irishman’s Diary article of 9 January 2001 that Anne Mills was still remembered in her adopted Osnabruck but wondered was she remembered in her native Tullamore?[2]  Her name does not appear in the Tullamore parish registers of the Church of Ireland but other members of KGL feature in 1807 and 1808.  A daughter was born to the ‘Germans’ in December 1806 and baptized at the old church in Church Street in July 1807 while a marriage is recorded on Feb. 29 1808.  On 30 November 1808 is recorded a birth outside marriage to a KGL captain and an Irish girl.  Was the child sent to the Foundling Hospital in Dublin as was usual at that time?[3]

In 1790 William Finlay, administrator of John Finlay’s will sold the property to Samuel Bollard of Farthingston, Westmeath.[4] By 1843 the house was subdivided, the northern end of the building was occupied by Thomas Mullen (?McMullen) and later Robert Galbraith, possibly a draper. In 1854 it was occupied by Thomas Kenny and let at £12 a year. In 1843 the southern end of the house was occupied by Matthew Warren who ran an eating house, later Mary Bolan, and in 1854 John Flanagan.[5] Flanagan had cabins to the rear as shown on the 1838 5 ft scale town plan.

The first valuation in 1843

6. (24)     Thomas McMullen to be let (Robert Galbraith) [James Kenny, James Bollard].  This house was let at £12 a year.  The rere is small, enclosed with a lock up gateway – no garden, situation good.

                F.21, H.20, Q.L. 1B – YR (£14.0.0) LR (£10.4.0)

7. (25)     Matthew Warren eating house (Mary Bolan) [Rob Flanagan from James Bollard.  Warren holds from Susanna Smith of Wm. St. – there is no rere – and the house very inconvenient – part of the lower story is occupied by a poor tenant – the rent was £14 but reduced. The situation good.

                F.17, H.20, Q.L. 1B (1.C+) Y.R –£ 9.0.0 [L.R 9.0.0]

Kevin Fergus Egan sold the Egan interest in GV 7 to the Egan company in 1927 arising from an interest acquired in 1908. It is noted on the title to the property that Robert Bollard died a bachelor farmer, aged 64, in 1898. Meanwhile the occupancy was with Patrick O’Hanrahan from 1886 and subsequently Denis Fitzpatrick of Cappancur. Fitzpatrick was adjudicated a bankrupt in 1895 and the 99-year lease from 1886 was assigned to the Egan firm in 1896.  By 1898 the property was tenanted by drapers Richard J. Ranson and Thomas J. Adams and was known as ‘The Mart’. In 1901 it was leased to Michael J. Gill for £60 a year. Gill had been a draper with Malachy Scally in Columcille Street and opened on his own account. He was from Castlerea and has worked in Fitzgibbon’s drapery. Mrs Scally was a Fitzgibbon and there is the link. Anyway it was severed in 1901 when Gill went out on his own. After his death in 1922 his widow surrendered the lease to Egan’s in 1927/ and or sold the contents of the shop to McFaddens of Patrick Street. A second part of the High Street property was tenanted by John Flanagan and James Kenny. Flanagan had a 999-year lease from 1880. Egan’s acquired this or  another 999-year interest in the property in 1940.

Strange to say the 1901 census entry was not found in High Street or Charleville Square. Michael Gill, drapery manager, was living in William Street over Scally’s shop. An entry at no, 5 may mean this property was vacant in April of 1901 at the time of the census.

The census for 1911 census High Street (no. 59), GV 6 and 7 really shows us what living over the shop meant and how the drapers of those years had inhouse staff to make suits and other clothing. The Gill Family lived in what the census people called a 1st class private dwelling in a house/Shop with seven windows to the front. The house had three out-offices which were two stables and one shed. The household was comprised of the husband, wife, four sons, one daughter, six employees (four milliners and two draper assistant) and two servants (one female nurse and one servant).  It was largely a family concern with no less than seven family members and eight support staff to help in the house and the shop.

The Gill shop on census night in 1911

GillMichael JHead of FamilyRC40DraperMCo Roscommon
GillElizabethWifeRC30MCo Longford
GillMartinSonRC7SKing’s Co
GillMargaretDaughterRC5SKing’s Co
GillEugeneSonRC3SKing’s Co
GillMichaelSonRC2SKing’s Co
GillWilliamSonRC SKing’s Co
SmythPatrickDraper’s AssistantRC19Draper’s AssistantSCo Westmeath
MarronPatrick JAssistantRC41Draper’s AssistantSCo Louth
CarolanLizzieMillinerRC17MillinerSCo Longford
ColganKateMillinerRC18MillinerSKing’s Co
BasticBridgetMillinerRC16MillinerSCo Westmeath
ButlerKateMillinerRC17MillinerSKings Co
LawlorMaryServantRC20ServantSCo Westmeath
OwensLizzieServantRC38Nurse DomesticMKing’s Co

Michael Gill died at 51 in 1922 and his family departed for the United States. Michael Gill died at 51 in 1922 and was buried in Clonminch. His obituary noted: The death took place at his residence, High St., Tullamore, of Mr. Michael J. Gill, draper.  The deceased was a native of Castlerea and served his apprenticeship in the drapery establishment of the late Mr John Fitzgibbon, in that town.  He came as assistant to the drapery establishment of Mr. Malachy Scally, Tullamore, about 35 years ago.  He was a man of kindly genial disposition, and a citizen for whom there was great regard and esteem….[6] Mrs Gill carried on the business until the mid-1920s. It was closed by 1927 when the upper floor was used by Cumann na nGaedheal for the 1927 general election. It appears that Mrs Gill sold her interest in this property to McFadden drapers of Patrick St. for £1,200 in 1929 (MT, 23/2/29) which conflicts with surrendering the key.

Gill’s wife and ten children emigrated to New York in the late 1920s. A few of the children were back in Tullamore in the 1950s and 1960s In 1953 Rita Ryan née Gill attended a dinner for friends of the Old IRA. Ten years later Michael J. Gill, a son of the draper, visited Tullamore.[7]

Gill’s site c. 1952. Bus Bar to left.

The building  appears to have been vacant from 1927 or soon after (more information needed here) and was taken down by P.& H. Egan Ltd in 1952. It was then left for eight years as a walled in yard. In 1961, and to a very modern style, a newly constructed shop was opened by that firm as a hardware store focusing on electrical goods and the new products in demand in the early 1960s for the modernised home.[8] It was sold in the late 1960s with the winding up of the Egan firm and was acquired by Joe Galvin, the auctioneer, for offices on the first floor and ladies fashions on the ground floor. The new store, Galvin’s Ladies Drapery, was under the direction of Joe Galvin’s wife, Mrs Lily Galvin, having moved to much larger premises from her former shop in Harbour Street, established in 1957 twelve years earlier.[9] Joe Galvin was from a distinguished Tullamore-based business family headed by his father Michael (of the gravel business, later Readymix), and brothers John and Andy, and Brendan (among others) also in business in Tullamore. Joe Galvin died at the early age of 54.[10] His auctioneering business was continued for a time by his brother Andy and Enda Soden.

The new store of c. 1961. Fergal MacCabe, the architect and town planner has commented on this article and the new building: ‘A very interesting addition to the study of the urban heritage of High Street. The 1961 shopfront was the first post war building in Tullamore in a modern style. Designed by the Tullamore born architect Paul Burke-Kennedy, its simple form and use of concrete bricks as a finish is reminiscent of contemporary Scandinavian architecture which was briefly popular with younger architects at this time. The contrast between the horizontal fascia and its modern lettering with the vertical panel of projecting bricks was well executed and was a device used by the Athlone based architect Noel Heavey also.’

Galvin for Ladies closed in 2014 after forty-five years in this location of which twenty-eight years was under the direction of John Galvin. In appearance the building has been changed radically on two occasions since the time of the Gill ownership from 1901 to 1922. The first was in 1961 for Egan’s and the second about 2007.  The store was continued as a drapery for younger women in a new location. 

The lovely new consumables of the early 1960s. Tullamore was a lead town in the midlands in that decade. What Tullamore child of the 1960s has not climbed those bricks?

The High Street store got a new lease of life with the opening of Guy Clothing by Anthony Kearns and Kara Kearns in October 2014. Their fine store has brought new business to High Street after the closure of Kilroy’s (both stores in 2007). We wish them well.

 If we had letters and diaries from the 1750s what a story could be told of this one house in High Street. We did hear that some members of the Gill family from the Unites States called to the town council about ten years ago and would hope to make contact. The same can be said to the Mills Muller family in Berlin. Maurice Egan has written in two books now of the Egan family and others in Tullamore.

If you have a story to tell why not email us info@offalyhistory.com. For over 400 stories so far see Offalyhistoryblog. They are nicely organised on our website www. Offalyhistory.com. There are about sixteen houses in O’Connor Square and over forty in High Street. Every building has a story. Have you archival material, memorial cards, photographs, diaries, letters? Why not call us. Offaly history is about saving memories. Visit our website and that of Offaly Archives. Our thanks to Offaly County Council, Decade of Centenaries and the Heritage Council. Only 55 more stories for High Street  and O’Connor Square!! Thanks to Offaly History Centre for so much help with this one.


[1] Offaly Archives/4/36, 6 Apr. 1753; RD, 154/592/107558. Charleville to Robert Mills; fee farm grant, 11 June 1880, RD, 1880/40/216.

[2] Irish Times, 9 January 2001.  This article first appeared in The Irish Sword in 1971, x, p.73.  A   Mills family lived at Spollanstown and were farmers and had property in High Street, Tullamore. Lord Tullamoore granted a lease to Robert Mills of Tullamore, a farmer,  in 1753 (Registry of Deeds memorial Book 154-592-107558).  A later deed of 1773 (Registry of Deeds 308-478-206673) refers to a Spollanstown address for Robert Mills and James Mills.

[3] Church of Ireland parish registers, Tullamore.  Index with OHAS, Research Centre,  Tullamore

[4] RD, 6 April 1753, Tullamore to Mills, memorial no., 154/592/107558; 10 March 1767, Mills to Finlay, memorial no., 297/637/196497; 4 November 1758, Mills to Finlay, memorial no. 199/346/132431; 13 September 1790, Finlay to Bollard, memorial no., 416/493/277814.

[5] MS valuation, Tullamore, property nos, 24-5; Slater, Directory (1846), p. 93.

[6] Midland Tribune, 30 Sept. 1922.

[7] Offaly Independent, 8 Aug. 1953, 2 Nov. 1963.

[8] Offaly Independent, 3 June 1961.

[9] Tullamore Tribune, 29 Sept. 1979.

[10] Midland Tribune, 16 June 1984.