The ghost of Charleville Castle, Tullamore! Eleanor Ridley (specially contributed)

021 Charleville Castle, front, April 17th 1889

As somebody from an old Tullamore family that lived in County Offaly for almost 150 years I feel I still have a place there in my old country, though I seldom visit now. I prefer the mild climate of Jo’burg and the Cape. My extended family had happy (and some sad) recollections of the old days in Tullamore. We were there from the 1760s as shopkeepers, hoteliers and, latterly, we were a medical family for two or three generations.
Our family owned what was later Hayes’ Hotel and is now, I am told, a Boots Pharmacy. Our old hotel in Tullamore was demolished nearly twenty-years ago. Some of our family lived in Moore Hall in Earl Street, Tullamore before emigrating to South Africa about the time of the Boer War. We left in a sad state as a great granduncle had cut his throat on the morning of the inquest into the death of a political prisoner in Tullamore jail – a man called Mandeville in the late 1880s.
Ireland is still a fine country and I owe much to it. Having sat at the feet of a kindly grandmother I know something of Tullamore and its old families. The story I have to tell  is of a lovely young girl who was killed on the stairwell in Charleville Castle in the 1860s, over 150 years ago. Some say that she still haunts the place. Continue reading

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OFFALY AT THE ARSENALE- Yvonne Farrell, Grafton Architects and the Venice Biennale. By Fergal MacCabe

To be invited to participate in the Biennale is one of the highest accolades for an architect – to be asked to curate it, set the theme and organise the gigantic assemblage into a coherent whole, is simply stratospheric and lifts the reputation of the organisers into the top most rank.

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This year’s show is entitled ‘FREE SPACE’ and runs from May to November. It is curated by Grafton Architects who have established their international reputation with new university buildings in Milan and Lima. Grafton is the creation of two remarkable women, Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell who are recognised as among the most important female architects of our time. Critics have marvelled at the bravura, confidence and muscularity of the architecture of the quietly spoken, almost excessively modest pair

 

.                     Views of the Boconi building in Milan (Universita Luigi Bocconi, Milan, Italy).

Yvonne Farrell is, of course, from Tullamore (Clara Road and St. Philomena’s Convent School) and acknowledges the formative experiences of growing up in the town on her subsequent career. She sees architecture as an essentially collaborative process produced by the entire team at Grafton, which includes her fellow director Ger Carty from Walsh Island. The Offaly tinged firm is now engaged in work in London, Toulouse and Paris but in particular have two important projects in Dublin, the redevelopment of the former ESB offices and the new City Library in Parnell Square. Early sketches suggest that these will be exciting additions to the capital city.

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The exhibition hall in Venice

The Biennale exhibition which is spread over three different locations around Venice has fifty five national pavilions and individual projects/presentations by one hundred architects. All are stimulating and I wish I had the space to discuss them in detail, but would single out just one entry that appealed to me. For the first time ever, the Holy See was invited to participate and responded by commissioning seven well known architects to create seven chapels (or contemplative spaces, as the more secular might call them) on the island of St. Giorgio and each is delightful yet profound in its own way.

The scale of the whole exhibition can be overwhelming and I would not be the first to observe that while architects can be fluent in their visual presentations, the impenetrability of the language used to describe their projects can often be daunting. The Irish Pavilion is devoted to an exhibition entitled ‘FREE MARKET’ which is a study of the market square as a place of social, cultural and commercial exchange in smaller Irish towns. Fifty examples are cited including those in Edenderry, Portarlington and Mountmellick. This entry has attracted a lot of attention and has featured in reviews in the international media, attesting to the universality of this seemingly Irish typology. Regrettably, while offering comprehensive surveys and a degree of analysis, no case studies are supplied of successful transformations. Indeed, the only example given is that of Dungarvan in which the sole change would appear to be that of providing a better quality of paving under an otherwise unaltered carpark.

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Boconi building,  Milan

As the controversial pedestrianisation of both Emmet Square in Birr and O’Connor Square in Tullamore has shown, the role of market squares and the approach necessary to converting them in whole or part to public spaces is a lot more complex than the Irish entry suggests. I believe that such initiatives can only be realised in the context of well laid overall plans which consider, traffic, parking, land uses, retail needs, urban design, architectural conservation and a myriad list of other issues which can justify their future scale and nature. Standalone building projects just don’t work.

These minor quibbles should not diminish our pride in the prestige which Yvonne and Shelley have brought to Irish architecture and to their own roots. In a commentary on the Biennale, the distinguished architectural critic Shane O’Toole has written of how Irish architects of the past ‘would have been amazed to learn that less than half a century after we ‘joined’ Europe, Irish architects have resolutely clambered to the top of the international architecture mountain range, and that Shelley and Yvonne have planted our flag of values at its very summit’.

 

Department of Finance, 7-9 Merrion Row, Dublin 2: top left.

Right: University of Engineering and Technology in Lima, Peru, won the RIBA’s inaugural International Prize last December

 

How marvellous it would be if they were commissioned to design an important building here in Offaly! The imminent redevelopment of the Harbour in Tullamore would present an excellent opportunity here in Offaly!

 

The City Assembly House, South William St, Dublin. By Róisín Lambe

Róisin Lambe is the Membership and Events Administrator with the Irish Georgian Society. A Blueball native, she is member of Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society, and has happily agreed to host the Society in the newly refurbished City Assembly House during its summer outing to Dublin on 30 June. 

The Irish Georgian Society

In 1957, Desmond Guinness wrote to the Irish Times to notify them of his intentions to revive the Georgian Society. The original aims were to ‘bring the photographic records up to date, publish further volumes of the Georgian Society books, and fight for the preservation of what is left of Georgian architecture in Ireland.’ Distressed by the neglect of Ireland’s architectural heritage and the demolition of two Georgian townhouses in Kildare Place, Desmond and Mariga Guinness were spurred into action and called interested volunteers together at their home Carton House. The Irish Georgian Society was founded on 21 February 1958. Their first conservation project was the restoration of Conolly Folly which is now the logo of the Irish Georgian Society. Continue reading

Tullamore jail: 1830-1924 the early years to the end of public executions in the 1860s. By Michael Byrne

Undoubtedly, the history of Tullamore jail would make a study in itself for besides the mundane occurrences which are themselves worthy of historical analysis there were a few extraordinary events such as the imprisonment of some of those involved in the Plan of Campaign including William O’Brien and John Mandeville in 1887-88, the women’s suffrage prisoners in 1913, the Tullamore Incident prisoners of 1916 and, of course, the executions, the last being in 1903 and of a woman, Mary Daly. A study of the jail might also involve a study of the pattern and frequency of crime in the nineteenth century and now the law was administered. These questions were raised from time to time as with the death of the Alice Dillon of Geashill, aged 79, imprisoned in Christmas Week 1861 for allegedly begging for alms; again with the botched executions of a brother and sister in 1870; and the treatment of the Plan of Campaign prisoners in 1887-8.

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The changing face of Charleville Road, Tullamore, Cosney Molloy

The old town of Tullamore has gone through many changes in recent years and I see now that the settled Charleville Road has not escaped. For many years it was one of the best addresses in the county town, but now others can seek that title such as Spollanstown, Tegan Court, Mucklagh and, perhaps, Charleville View. Yet, for my money Charleville Road is still the best. It is on the high ground that starts to rise from Bridge Street and reaches a plateau at the site of Acres Folly on Kilcruttin Hill at Cormac Street. On the opposite site behind the junction of O’Moore Street and Cormac Street I read that two windmills were located from the 1700s until around the time that Napoleon was finally trounced in 1815. It all seems long ago, but to us Molloys who were here in number before anyone else its only yesterday.

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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

Renovating a period house in an Irish country town – No 6 High Street, Tullamore, by Tanya Ross

Tanya Ross tells the story of herself and her partner buying the former Kilroy dwelling house in High Street, Tullamore. It had been on the market for a considerable time and it did seem as if nobody wanted to live there. Probably a combination of lack of mortgages, fear of noise and nuisance from pubs and lorries contributed to the delay in selling what was and now is again a fine period house and one of the last houses in High Street to be occupied as a residence and not used for offices or a shop. Its restoration may be the catalyst for other such work in High Street and O’Connor Square and with best wishes to the owner of the house in Cormac Street recently and tastefully restored. The former Offaly Inn at Deane Place also looks attractive and adds to that part of Harbour Street and Market Square. Another blog will explore these additions and improvements to the town’s heritage.

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Birr Courthouse, 1803-2013, part 2.

This is the second part of the article on Birr courthhouse. It was held over from last week to allow for an article on the 100th anniversary of de Valera’s visit to the county. 

We welcome blogs. An article can reach from  a few hundred to 10,000 people.  Please email us at info@offalyhistory.com should you want to contribute to this  series. We publish every Saturday at 12 noon. To  receive notification by email of issue  of the blog subscribe to our free newsletter at http://www.offalyhistory.com. Better still join the society and make life-long friends. Continue reading

The Birr Courthouse: From Cooke to Courts Service 1803-2013, Part 1

The Birr courthouse has been in the news again lately in the context of its being used as an arts school for painters and others. It would be good to find a use for it that ensures the conservation of the building. Some years ago the idea was put forward that Birr should be considered the Bath of Ireland because it has such fine terraces, good shops in its narrow streets, fine churches, a Pugin convent (now the Birr library), the workhouse, John’s Hall, Oxmantown Hall, the Crotty church, maltings, a distillery and more. Continue reading