The most haunted castle in Ireland: the story of novelist Andrew Merry (aka Mrs Mildred Darby) of Leap Castle, Co. Offaly, by Noel Guerin

Whilst dressing I was startled by a loud yell of terror stricken male and female voices coming – apparently from hall, and ran out to see the cause. My husband was out ahead of me at his heels I passed through corridor of wing and onto the gallery running round two sides of hall. Two lamps on gallery, two more in hall below. On the gallery, leaning with ‘hands’ resting on its rail, I saw the ‘Thing’ – the Elemental and smelt it only too well.

Mildred Henrietta Gordon Dill was born on 13 March 1869 daughter of Dr Richard Augusta Caroline Dill, of Birchwood, Brighton, England.  She was the youngest of six children, educated at Oxford and afterwards set her heart on a literary career and this would be difficult as her parents were Plymouth Brethren and higher education was not allowed for a woman. Before Mildred got engaged she ran off and joined the Salvation Army with the intention of tending to London’s poor. On 6 November 1889 at the age of twenty she married Jonathan Charles Darby, fifteen years her senior, and heir to Leap Castle and the Darby estates in King’s Co/Co. Offaly. Although young and small in stature Mrs Darby would prove to be no shrinking violet of a bride. Continue reading

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Interview with Dan Lawlor, a Mount Bolus character of the last century Interviewed by Jim Kenny. Recorded on 22nd November 1994. Dan Lawlor died 20 years ago this month. “She’s a good girl, she’ll earn her keep”

Dan Lawlor was born in 1907 and in this interview (extract – for the full interview follow the SoundCloud link) he talks about his early memories of growing up in the early 1900s, attending national school in Mount Bolus. Starting to work at the age of 14, where the wage was 3 shillings for a boy and 5 shillings for men and the working day was 8 or 9 hours at least.  He also recalls growing up during very disturbed times, the 1916 rising, the Black and Tans and the First World War.  Going around the rambling houses and the stories he heard about the Famine 1846 – 49, the big wind in 1903 knocking down all 13 acres of Colonel Biddulph trees, the big storm around 1803 (or was it 1839).  The telling of ghost stories, attending wakes, clay pipes and match making where the father gave £100 and those who couldn’t afford it and gave nothing would say “she’s a good girl and will earn her keep”.  His love of hurling in Killoughy, making their own hurleys and using a tin can if they couldn’t afford a leather ball.  He also speaks about the 1920s not being great times, but the crops were good for anyone who minded them, farming all his life also all his family, the farm evictions and the Economic War.  He also mentions about 80 years ago there was a brewery in Monasterevin called Cassidy’s and a monk in Clara who worked miracles with the mortar, they called him Cassidy’s Monk. Continue reading

Remembering Michael McDermott, Durrow, Co. Offaly (1895-1976), an old IRA soldier of the War of Independence, by Máirtín D’Alton

My grandfather Michael McDermott of Durrow, County Offaly was born in 1895 and died on 30 March 1976. My mother later stated that he was actually aged 81 years (not 79 as on the gravestone) when he died. What caught my particular attention was that his gravestone records him as ‘CO (sic) North Offaly Batt. IRA’.  But he was not in fact the OC of the North Offaly Battalion as claimed. For the funeral, as is usual for old IRA men, the coffin was draped in the Irish tricolour, and the ‘Last Post’ was played, with a firing party over grave. My cousin still has one of the spent cartridges from the blanks. Continue reading

Durrow Abbey House, Tullamore A better future on the horizon for the monastic site, house and lands?

It would be nice to write that Durrow Abbey house, Tullamore is in course of restoration and that it, the High Cross and Church and the parklands adjoining will soon be properly open to the public. It’s possible but getting more difficult as the house continues to deteriorate. It has been vacant for a considerable time. Councillor Tommy McKeigue drew attention to it recently at Offaly County Council and Paul Moore has reminded us of it in his photographs that are too kind to its present sad condition. But there are hopeful signs. The footpath from Durrow Woods should be completed this year and will allow walkers to come close to the house and the old church at Durrow and High Cross. At least more people will see it and become aware of its potential to midlands/ Ireland East, or is it Lakelands Tourism.

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Memories of the old days on Charleville Road, John Mahon, sleeping sickness, school to the nuns, O’Moore Street people, Mrs Kenny’s dancehall, Mahons of Killurin and more. Part 2, By Nuala Holland (nee Mahon)

You can read part 1 of this story on Offalyhistoryblog. This is our 51st blog this year and have had almost 16,000 readers. Enjoy this one and thanks to all our contributors living and remembered. Nuala Holland, now deceased, late of Charleville Road, Tullamore lived in England in her later years. About fifteen years ago she wrote for Offaly History of her childhood memories in Tullamore. She was a daughter of Sean or John Mahon (the county accountant with the first Offaly County Council) and her mother hailed from Kerry.  They lived at Knockaulin, Charleville road. This was one of the first of the new houses on Charleville Road and was almost opposite the entrance to Dew Park on the Birr side. Nuala recalled the War of Independence, saving turf in Ballard bog, and schooling and living in Tullamore. Part one appeared in our blog last week. This week Nuala has recalled for us her own father John Mahon, the sleeping sickness in Tullamore, school in Bury Quay, Killeavy’s butcher’s stall, some people who lived in O’Moore Street and Mrs Kenny of the Tullamore musical  family. 

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Memories of the old days on Charleville Road, Dillon Street, Tullamore and saving turf on Ballard Bog by Nuala Holland (nee Mahon)

Nuala Holland, now deceased, late of Charleville Road, Tullamore lived in England in her later years. About fifteen years ago she wrote for Offaly History of her childhood memories in Tullamore. She was a daughter of Sean or John Mahon (the county accountant with the first Offaly County Council) and her mother hailed from Kerry.  They lived at Knockaulin, Charleville road. This was one of the first of the new houses on Charleville Road (1911) and was almost opposite the entrance to Dew Park on the Birr side. Nuala recalled the War of Independence, saving turf in Ballard bog, and schooling and living in Tullamore.

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Brigadier General James P. Cullen (retired U.S. army), a fine Offaly man who served Ireland and his adopted homeland, 1945-2017. Died, New York, 8 December 2017.

 

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Brigadier General James P. Cullen died at his home in Scarsdale, New York on 8 December 2017 at the age of 72. He was born in Queens, New York on 27 January 1945 to Agnes Gorman and Patrick Cullen but came to Ireland and to Rahan, Co. Offaly when he was four and spent almost four years in the Offaly parish before returning to New York where he took his first job soon after. Thereafter Jim never stopped working, giving of his time whether for remuneration or in a voluntary capacity. Continue reading

The closure of Alesburys timber factory in Edenderry, by Dr Ciarán Reilly

The extension and building of the railway line to Edenderry in the 1870s gave much needed employment to the area which was further bolstered by the arrival of two Quaker entrepreneurs from Bristol, England namely Daniel and John Alesbury. There had been a large Quaker community in Edenderry since the end of the seventeenth century and Daniel Alesbury commenced working with one such family, Williams, who owned a timber factory located in the towns market square. He subsequently married into the family and quickly commenced his own business before these premises were burned by fire in 1888. From here the factory moved to its location along the Grand Canal opposite New Row Corner at the junction which leads to the village of Rhode. Continue reading

Liam Ó Briain visits Tullamore on Easter Sunday morning 23 April 1916 to issue countermand orders to the Volunteers and tell them the Rising was off.

Ó Briain set off early on Easter Sunday morning 1916 in a motor taxi to deliver the countermand order to  the local Volunteer contacts in Offaly and Tyrrellspass. Beatty he located in Edenderry but not finding Smith in Tyrrellspass, went on to Tullamore to a small shop owned by Eamonn Carroll. O’Carroll had worked in Scally’s shoe store  in Columcille Street, now the AIB bank, but was dismissed after the fracas on 20 March and how had his own store in the same street. In the kitchen of a house in Church Street Ó Briain met Séamus O’Brennan, who was on the run since the fracas in Tullamore and had been in Kimmage.

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Collections relating to 1916 in Offaly History Archives

December 2016 sees the publication of two new books on the subject of the 1916 Rising in Offaly. The first is the latest edition of the journal of Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society, Offaly Heritage 9, a collection of essays to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, edited by Dr. Ciarán Reilly. A sister publication from the Society, a new book by Michael Byrne, Tullamore in 1916 – the making of the Tullamore incident, looks at Tullamore town as a place to live during this tumultuous period of Irish history Continue reading