2023 will be remembered as the year in which Tullamore tried to reinvent itself: the Dream Team. By Fergal MacCabe

Last year Offaly County Council and Waterways Ireland appointed advisors to prepare regeneration plans for the town centre and for the Grand Canal Harbour at the heart of it. The consultants brief required ideas for the redevelopment of the key underused sites, proposals for linking them all within a coherent, livable, safe and attractive town centre whose crowning glory would be an accessible Harbour containing dramatic new buildings full of vibrant day and night-time attractions. A date in mid to late 2023 was set for the delivery of their proposals.

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Anthony Dowling and the finding of the De Burgo-O’Malley chalice in an attic in High Street, Tullamore in the 1890s. By Michael Byrne

The finding of the De Burgo-O’Malley Chalice in a house in High Street, Tullamore in 1896 was a significant event and the chalice now features in A History of Ireland in 100 Objects.[1] Other artifacts in the 100 series include the Clonmacnoise Crozier, Old Croghan Man and the Ballinderry Brooch.  Surprising omissions from the 100-book were The Shrine of St Manchan, The Book of Durrow and MacRegol’s Gospel. Never mind, these manuscripts were included in the British Library exhibition in 2018–19, and the wonderful new book The Shrine of St Manchan will make the locally held shrine known to a much wider public.[2]

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Have an ‘Offaly History’ Christmas with over a dozen new books this year

It has been a good year for new publications contributing to the history of County Offaly and helping us to get to know ourselves and our place better. When the annual report of the Tullamore Credit Union is dropped in the door you know Christmas is close. Seeing the cover and that the credit union is now sixty years old set us thinking of phases in our history. The year 1923 marked the end of the civil war. After a period of growth from 1891 to 1918 things got difficult. You could write off 1923–63 in terms of the economic engine. It was mostly switched off with exceptions in Tullamore Yarns, the Bacon Factory, Tullamore and the Williams and Egan businesses serving the midlands. The emerging Bord na Mona and ESB were providing jobs in west Offaly from the 1950s and east Offaly later, but it was the 1960s before a general ‘all boats’ lift up occurred. Equally you could say that since September 2001 (and the mobile phone) we have been living with anxiety which seems to grow every year especially since Brexit 2016 and now the war and climate change. Not to mention all the things we have to do online to comply with the requirements of banks and government. These books are all available from Offaly History, Bury Quay (and online http://www.offalyhistory) and our friends in Midland Books, Tullamore.

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St Manchan’s Shrine book by Griffin Murray and Kevin O’Dwyer launched to great acclaim

Contributed by Offaly History to mark the occasion

The new book, St Manchan’s Shrine, by Griffin Murray and Kevin O’Dwyer was launched to great acclaim by the CEO of the Heritage Council Virginia Teehan on Friday 21 October 2022 at Offaly History Centre, Tullamore before a large and distinguished audience. Proceedings began at 5 30 p.m. with Amanda Pedlow ably acting as chair and introducing the four speakers. First was the author of the text Griffin Murray, followed by silversmith and photographer Kevin O’Dwyer. The County Offaly CE Anna Marie Delaney skillfully chartered the progress being made in regard to the county’s heritage while CEO Virginia Teehan paid tribute to the county for its wide-ranging involvement in heritage projects and availing of the funding available. The new Offaly Archives was a leading case but one among many successful projects undertaken. Another is that of the funding received to create the post of a biodiversity officer. Offaly has demonstrated its ability to secure funding for projects and that was a reflection of the work being done in the county. Ms Teehan congratulated the authors, Griffin Murray and Kevin O’Dwyer, on a job well done. Yet another exemplar.

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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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A presentation on Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society, 1969 – 2022 for Heritage Week.

This is a new 20-minute video recording on the history of the Society, now better known as Offaly History with lots of interesting photos especially recorded for Heritage Week. We want to thank all who have contributed to making it so successful so far with activities across the county, and continuing until Sunday. The lecture on Larkin’s maps and their predecessors we shall post next week, also a video on the Durrow Pattern. Our next lecture is on 5 September on Michael Collins and is important. More information next week.

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O’Connor Square, Tullamore, 1700s to 2020: a story in pictures of an evolving streetscape over 300 years.

A PowerPoint presentation narrated by Michael Byrne explores the identities of O’Connor Square, Tullamore as part of a project to know and appreciate our distinctive town centres. This Streetscape project is in partnership with Offaly County Council and part funded by the Heritage Council.

The Making of O’Connor Square, Tullamore since the 1700s: the buildings, business and people

O’Connor Square is Tullamore’s most impressive open space and the gradual development of this area into its principal square is reflected in its fine houses, market house and the variety of names it has had.  Despite the course of building for over some fifty years, from 1740 to 1790, it has a uniformity of scale even with the much later vocational school of 1936–37, now the Tullamore Library. In 1713 this area was simply known as the Market Place and, with the opening of one-third of the square in 2019 to pedestrian access only, is now enjoying a comeback to its original function as a meeting place, albeit now to barter ideas and stories and not agricultural produce. Our thanks to the Heritage Council and Offaly County Council for supporting this project and rejuvenation of the square. A special thanks to Fergal MacCabe for his watercolours that bring out so much of what is wonderful about townlife.

Take a look at the video below for more about Tullamore’s meeting place and prime residential location for so long.

Tomorrow, we look at Castle Street, Birr over 400 years of history in that one street.

The Discovery of the Bronte Family Portrait in Hill House in Banagher, Ireland in 1914

The Offaly Heritage Office and Amanda Pedlow have been working with Dr Maebh O’ Regan of National College of Art and Design supporting a project with the Banagher Crafting Group exploring the Banagher and Bronte connections.  Some of you may have attended events at the recent That Beats Banagher Festival.

One of the outputs is a short fifteen-minute film about the discovery of the Bronte Family Portrait in Hill House in Banagher in 1914 and an interview with Dr Sarah Mouldon of the National Portrait Gallery London who care for it now.  Please see the video link for you tube of a very fine presentation adding greatly to our knowledge of how the portrait was received when first presented to the public in 1914. We attach some background material on the discovery of the painting at Hill House, Banagher and how it came to be there from an earlier Offaly History blog. Our thanks to Amanda Pedlow and all concerned with this fine and informative production.

This is one of the projects supported by Offaly County Council through the Creative Ireland programme.

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That beats Banagher festival, 22-24 July 2022. From our correspondent James Scully

This year’s That Beats Banagher Festival will take place over next weekend Friday to Sunday, 22 to 24 July with a multiplicity of literary, heritage,  cultural and sporting events including a food and craft fair in the Bridge Barracks Yard at the West End on Saturday, 12 noon to 4.30 p.m. craft workshops, children’s events, water events, children’s outdoor cinema and other surprise events. We are a day early with the blog to help promote this interesting festival.

Book Launches 

The programme is particularly strong on literary events with the launch of two books on Charlotte Brontë’s honeymoon in Ireland, the first called Arthur & Charlotte, by Pauline Clooney (published by Merdog) and the second, Charlotte Brontë: An Irish Odyssey by Michael O’ Dowd (published by Pardus Media). Pauline & Michael recently spoke with much acclaim at the prestigious Bradford Literary Festival under the title No Net Ensnares Me: Charlotte Brontë Abroad. The event will be held at 6.30 p.m. on Friday 22nd July in the Long Room in The Crank House.

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The limestone quarries of Ballyduff, Tullamore.  Part 3: From Tullamore to Tasmania. By John Wrafter

In the second article on the quarries and stonecutters of Tullamore, I wrote about members of the Bracken family that left Ireland with their stonecutting skills and brought them to Australia. That was around 1910. However, stonecutters from the Ballyduff quarries had been emigrating and practicing their trade abroad for many years before that. Australia, in particular, was the destination for many. In this article, I will focus on two families, the Molloys and the Cronlys, and their involvement in stonecutting both at home and abroad.

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