1. Sculpture of Mick the Miller by artist Elizabeth O`Kane on Killeigh village green.
Mick the Miller was the first great star of greyhound stadium racing in Britain. Born in Killeigh, Co Offaly in 1926, he had a successful Irish career before he began racing in England in 1929. By the time he retired in 1931 he had won 5 classics including the English Derby twice, the Cesarewich, the St Leger and also the Welsh Derby. He was the first greyhound to win the English Derby twice in succession and the first greyhound in the world to win 19 races in a row (both records remained unequallled for over 40 years). He won 51 of his 68 races, finished out of the top 2 positions only 6 times and also won 10 of his 13 one-on-one matches. His total prizemoney was £9,017 (€485,000 in today`s money) and he won 18 silver and 6 gold trophies. Mick equalled 2 track records and set 7 new ones (6 of which were also new world records).
He was a very exciting dog to watch and people flocked in their thousands to see him run.
The Christian Brothers have enjoyed a mixed press in Irish history. Earlier generations tended to ‘canonise’ the order, founded by Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice, while in later years the tendency has been to ‘demonise’ it. Much of the criticism has, of course, related to issues around the alleged sexual abuse of boys attending residential institutions such as Letterfrack and Artane, while the order has also been accused of taking an excessively nationalist line. Getting a balanced picture of its contribution is not easy, but there is no denying the success achieved by many of its past pupils and the hurt caused to others.
In Tullamore, the order first came in 1862 and after withdrawing for some years due to a dispute with the parish priest over accommodation, returned in 1912, locating at St Columba’s Classical School, a building neighbouring the Parochial House. The building later became the De Montfort Hall, a parish building, and later an apartment block.
By the time I was a pupil of the old primary school in 1968-73, and the secondary in 1973-78, the Brothers were located at High Street, in a prefabricated structure built by Kenny’s Bantile in 1960. An extension was built in the 1980s but it, along with the bulk of the prefabricated structure, was demolished in 2011 to make way for the present school building.
Dr William Moran, a distinguished man of letters and former parish priest of Tullamore (1949–65), published the article below in 1962 and in the same year as his pamphlet on the history of Tullamore. In many ways it was a seminal overview that has not as yet been superseded. Material has of course been published by the late Sister Dolores Walsh on the history of the Mercy schools in Tullamore while others have written of the Presentation schools in Rahan and Birr, Mercy Birr, Mount St Joseph, Tullabeg College, vocational schools in county Offaly including Tullamore, and primary schools in Durrow (See Irishhistoryonline and the OH Library catalogue online for guidance). Dr Moran’s strongly held and trenchantly expressed views come across in this piece.
The name of Kathleen Cowan is virtually synonymous with accounts of the suffrage movement in Co Offaly during its most vital phase. As secretary of the Birr Suffrage Society, she reported on its activities in the local and suffrage press, organized and spoke at meetings in the town and throughout the county, and represented it at suffrage gatherings in Dublin. Beyond the fact of her involvement, however, little is known of her background. I was, therefore, particularly pleased to come on her name in the context of some unrelated research, and to realise that *my* Kathleen Cowan was the person described by historian Margaret Hogan as ‘tireless in the cause of women’s issues’ and one of the moving spirits in the campaign locally. This short account of Cowan’s life is intended to fill in some of the blanks in her story.
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.
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:
Townland: BALLYNASRAH OR TINNYCROSS
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.
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
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.
I am always intrigued, and fascinated to learn of a person, who in their time was famous, but somehow or other has faded into the mists of time. Such a person is our subject Joseph Stirling Coyne. He was during his lifetime a very famous dramatist, writing upwards of 100 plays, a theatre reviewer and one of the first editors of Punch magazine. His story is worth telling and hopefully this blog may restore him to public conscientiousness, especially in his native town.
He was born in 1803 in Birr, then known as Parsonstown. The year 1803 was a pretty good year to be born, for he shares it with Gerald Griffin, John Henry Newman and James Clarence Mangan no less, and of course with his fellow Birr man the poet John De Jean Frazer.
About two kilometres from Shannonbridge on the Clonmacnoise road (R444), in the townland of Clerhane, a narrow laneway leads to the site of all that now remains of a once thriving industry in limestone quarrying. While the origins of the quarries are lost in the mists of time it can be assumed that the stone for all the major building projects in the area was sourced locally. The heyday of the operations can be regarded as being from the early nineteenth to the mid twentieth century. While their many monuments and buildings in stone will stand for centuries, the memories of the quarries that produced them, their owners, the workforce and methods of operation are in danger of being totally forgotten.
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 (1577-1635)
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.
April 16th 2023 was the 100th anniversary of the death of James Perry Goodbody, a significant figure in business and political life in County Offaly. His family were connected with the commercial life of Clara from 1825 and were by the 1900s the largest employers in the county. He was a contributor to local government and pushed forward the provision of facilities for TB patients when nobody wanted such a hospital in their neighborhood.
James Perry Goodbody was the second son of Marcus Goodbody and Hannah Woodcock Perry (a daughter of James Perry) and a grandson of Robert Goodbody who came to Clara in 1825. He was born in 1853 and married in 1875 Sophia Richardson, a daughter of Joseph Richardson, a prominent linen merchant of Springfield, Lisburn at the Lisburn Quaker meeting house. She predeceased him in 1917. He graduated with a B.A. from Trinity College, Dublin. James Perry Goodbody was the principal partner in the Clara mills, M. J. & L. Goodbody, and also in Goodbody businesses in Tullamore and Limerick. The three main family businesses of M., J. & L. Goodbody, J. & L.F. Goodbody and T.P. & R. Goodbody (besides the peripheral businesses) probably employed about 1,500 people in the 1920s. Of this number about 700 jobs were in Clara, down from perhaps 1,000 in 1890, in the businesses, the houses and the farms. This employment figure may be conservative. He served on the King’s County Grand Jury and was high-sheriff in 1893–4. He was said to have been the only member of the old grand jury to be returned in the 1899 county council election and served as a member of the council up to 1920. He was elected by the members to the vice chair of the county council in 1912. The Midland Tribune commented at the time that his dissent from a grand jury motion in 1895 against Home Rule was noted in his favour. He was valued by the council members for his business acumen and chaired the Finance and Proposals Committee from 1899. In 1916 he was instrumental in securing a dispensary for tubercular patients in Tullamore built at no cost to the council. He served for many years as chairman of Clara Petty Sessions where his motto was ‘fair play’ to rich and poor alike and, it was noted, always disposed to temper justice with mercy.