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.
For about forty years Tullamore was home to the production, bottling and marketing of a world-class product, Irish Mist liqueur. The background to the project to establish a whiskey-based liqueur came from English contacts of the Williams distillery company, B. Daly, and arose out of the scarcity of whiskey in England as the war came to an end in 1945. By late 1947 production of the liqueur compound – a mixture of honey, sugar and whiskey – commenced in Tullamore. Sales were good initially, but with the return of competitors to the market, such as Drambuie, and difficulties with the English shareholders progress slowed.
The good news is that with the support of Creative Ireland and Offaly County Council we are on an excursion to find out what made Irish Mist a product distributed worldwide and using the best designs for packaging. It was all started in Tullamore in 1947 so you can help fill in the gaps. We want to hear from people with memories. We want to record it in book form while there are people who can give first-hand accounts.You have a story to tell and you may have pictures.Please contact John Flanagan, Ardan Heights, Brian Jaffray or Michael Byrne. Why not email us firstname.lastname@example.org or call to Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore.The work on the project has now started so get in earlywith your contribution of a memory or a picture.
Desmond Williams, a grandson of the founder of the firm was with the product from the start. He concentrated his sales skills on the wealthy Irish in America and by 1953 had established a small market there. It was his famous father-in-law, Oliver St. John Gogarty, who introduced Irish Mist to the U.S. when he personally conveyed four miniatures to a trade agent there in late September 1949, by way of samples of the new product. Later, it was Irish connections such as that with Jim Costello (formerly of Ferbane, Offaly) and owner of a unique bar and restaurant in New York with an avant-garde clientele who gave an order for two cases and was willing to take another eight of a small shipment in 1950.[2
Sometime in the 1830s, the architect William Murray (1789-1849), best known for designing mental hospitals all around Ireland, presented a quick outline of a new public square in Tullamore which would be bounded on three sides by fine houses and dominated on the fourth by the imposing portico of the recently erected County Courthouse.
The title of his drawing’ Thoughts for a Square at Tullamore, Ireland facing the Courthouse to be called ‘The Beaujolais’ suggests that it was not an actual commission but more likely a broad brush and quickly executed response to a remark by Lady Beaujolais Bury the wife of the local grandee, perhaps exchanged at a social gathering. Architects do this a lot to get business and Murray may have been trying to reconnect commercially with the family who had given his cousin Francis Johnston such valuable and prestigious commissions as Charleville Forest and St Catherine’s Church.
Of course Murray’s elegant scheme was never realised and was to be the last proposal for a civic design set piece in Tullamore for some time. In the 1950s, the urban planner Frank Gibney suggested the creation of a parkland setting for the Church of the Assumption but this notion was eventually shelved and for the following seventy years no further interventions which would combine coherent built form with public benefits were to be advanced and the planning of the town remained firmly in the hands of engineers whose principal spatial concern was the accommodation of the motor car.
Collecting books on your favourite topics is an ever present challenge that can give great satisfaction and broaden as well deepen one’s knowledge of a subject. On 8 October 2022 Offaly History Centre is hosting a book fair, such as not seen in the town for three or four years. Many dealers are coming so why not call and talk books from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but don’t get caught in the callows! Bring money and enthusiasm.
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.
This weekend sees the start of Heritage Week 2022 and a very welcome return to exploring the county in person with some great material coming on-line too from Offaly History. We are launching six new videos via Offaly History YouTube and Heritage Week 2022. Our thanks to Amanda Pedlow, county heritage officer for all who work in coordinating the programme. She writes:
With over 30 events here is a reminder for Saturday’s events as a starter’…@offalyheritage @HeritageHubIRE Our thanks to Fergal MacCabe for the use of three of his wonderful watercolours of Srah Castle (1588), Ballycowan (1626) and Bury Bridge (1801).
Our architectural heritage may be defined as those structures which by their very great beauty, important historical connotations or unique scientific value contribute to creating a memorable experience.
To be frank, the town centre of Tullamore contains few buildings or spaces which meet these criteria but it does have its own distinct local qualities and is a decent if unpretentious town whose stock of late 18th and early 19th c. buildings are worthy of consideration.
Yet, over the past eighty years many fine buildings which contributed to the architectural heritage of Tullamore have been lost. The removal of the Tarleton House in 1936 radically changed the spatial character of O’Connor Square. The Grand Canal Hotel which closed the vista on the Daingean Road and the wonderful Tudor style castellated Mercy Convent were removed in the 1960s and early 1970s. The architectural quality of both the former Charleville Estate office by Richard Castle and the facade of D.E. William’s shop on Patrick Street by Michael Scott was compromised and the wonderful Modernist Ritz Cinema partially demolished. The landscaped setting of the County Hospital was built over. Many original shop fronts were replaced.
As Andrew Tierney has observed in his ‘Buildings of Leinster’ a lot of the original features of Protected Structures around the town have now been removed or insensitively altered.
Skating on Charleville Lake, Tullamore was a popular pastime when I was a young lad. I remember the cold icy winters of 1962, 1982 and 2010. I can recall as a young man the Tullamore people skating on Charleville Lake in 1962. I am a long time now in D 4 but I got down a few weeks before Christmas to the nice butchers in Tullamore – old Tormey’s is still going strong and now you have, Hanlon’s, Crossan’s of Main Street, Ray Dunne and Fergus Dunne, and a few more I would not know. I was sorry to see Grennan’s shop closed for now. I miss Paddy Mac’s, Cleary’s and Joe ‘the Butch’ Kearney and not forgetting Dunne’s butchers off the Square. It was Treacy’s later. Liver we got a lot of and sheep’s hearts in that fine shop. Many old friends gone to the heavenly pastures. I always like to get my turkey in Tullamore and a nice ham even though I am out of the town now for over forty years. What with the bacon factory open until 1989, and now Tullamore Meats, the town has a long tradition in fine food. Come to think of it the bacon factory did a huge business in turkeys back in the 1940s and 1950s when my father was rearing same.
Starting in Tullabeg as a boarder in September might mean not getting home until the following June. Tullabeg, the Jesuit boarding school near Tullamore was opened in 1818 and closed in 1886 as a boarding school, following amalgamation with Clongowes Wood. This account of the four years spent there as a schoolboy was written in 1951 and published almost seventy years after the event.
On the 2nd of September, 1882, close on seventy years ago (almost 140 now), my father left me at St. Stanislaus’ College, Tullabeg. At that time Fr. Sturzo, an Italian, was Rector ; he was succeeded later by Fr. George Kelly. Fr. Wisthoff was Higher Line Prefect, Fr. Vincent Byrne, who lived to be ninety years of age, was Third Line Prefect. I forget who was Lower Line Prefect, though I remember that Mr. Charles Farley, S.J., held that position sometime later; whoever it was, I am sure that he had a hard time. The captain of the Third Line, known to us then as Billy O’Leary, was afterwards the famous seismologist at Rathfarnham Castle, Fr. William O’Leary. The youngest and, I think, smallest boy in the house at that time was Paddy Rath, who became Captain of the House in Clongowes in 1890. The oldest person in the house was, strange to say, Fr. Young, S.J.
Over the years, Tullamore has been known as ’Towllaghmore’,‘Tullaghmore’ or ‘Tullymore’ -all anglicizations of ‘Tulach Mhór’ and most likely deriving from the high land to the south of the river. By the middle of the 19th c. the name of the now extensive town had morphed into ‘Tullamoore’- reflecting the influence of the Moore and later the Bury families and their ownership of all the lands around.
As urban developers, these skilled entrepreneurs with cultural pretensions reached their highest point during the overlordship between 1785 and 1835 of Charles William Bury, the first Earl of Charleville. Whether motivated by commercial considerations, a desire for social prestige and the admiration of his peers or by pure aesthetic sensibility, the development of Tullamore as promoted by Charles William, resulted in a coherent urban form which survived without much amendment into the middle of the 20th c., largely still exists today and will influence any future reconfiguration of the town centre.