We welcome this week Dr Diarmuid Wheeler on an important subject for Ireland and for the midlands, being the colonial experiment known as the Leix-Offaly Plantation. For those interested in the Decade of the Centenaries, the resurgence of interest in the Irish language, 1916 and the War of Independence, knowing the roots of the conflict is essential. The fort of Philipstown would soon be adopted as the county town for the new King’s County of the 1550s. The courts of assize to display the might and power of English law continued to be held in King’s County until 1921 while the name of the county was changed only in 1920 to Offaly. The Civil War of 1922–3 would witness the burning of houses such as Ballyburly, owned by the Wakely family, who had come to Ireland as soldier settlers in the time of Elizabeth.
Dr Wheeler will give his lecture on the Leix-Offaly Plantation to Offaly History from his home in the United States on Monday night 22 March at 7.30 p.m. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading ‘Zoom Wheeler’ for the access code [Ed.]
The beginnings of the midlands colonial project can be traced back to the early sixteenth century when the Tudor government, who firmly believed that Ireland rightfully belonged to the English crown and that the country’s keeping was essential to England’s overall safety, sought to restore the island to its twelfth century “conquered” state from which the crown hoped to profit. Brendan Bradshaw argues that the Tudors and the Old English of Ireland were heavily influenced by Renaissance humanism that encouraged them to bring reform to Ireland. But the administration lacked significant knowledge and experience of the country, particularly during Henry VIII’s reign and quickly realised that reforming the island would take significantly more military and financial resources than they had anticipated. By the final years of the 1530s, it was apparent that a certain degree of coercion and military force would be necessary to bring about wide scale reform. Yet the Tudors were also aware that they could not employ outright force to achieve their objectives, lacking the necessary resources to do so. Instead, the Tudor administration recognised that they would need to accommodate the natives of Ireland, at least somewhat, in order to make their aspiration a reality.
Shannonbridge A History of Raghra c.1600-c.1900 was published in 2019. Research for it began many years ago when I decided to learn more about my family and family home in Shannonbridge, County Offaly. That interest spread to other houses in the village. When Brendan Ryan and I decided to write a book about Shannonbridge I concentrated on the genealogy of those who lived there in the past. Gradually the history and stories of families emerged. My main goal in writing the book was to pull the names of the people of Shannonbridge out of the past. Sometimes we found interesting stories but often we just learned their names and the bare facts of their lives. However it felt wonderful to put those names in a book, to prove those people had been there, to acknowledge their existence. They all played a part in the story of a village. Oh, they had hard lives! And yet, many survived and thrived. Their descendants span the globe. What struck me most in learning about them was that often their stay in the village was short-lived. Many of the families who settled in the village only stayed for a generation or two and are long gone now. Keeping track of people moving in and out was a challenge.
The modern official street-names of Tullamore town were adopted by the Tullamore Urban District Council in the early 1900s, replacing earlier street-names which were used in the nineteenth century and often adopted in honour of the town’s principal landlord, Charles William Bury (1764–1835), the first earl of Charleville (second creation). He presided over the fortunes of the town in its most formative phase from 1785 until his death in 1835. These honorific names replaced in some cases other more functional names used in the eighteenth century.
The street-names are generally as follows: first the functional name, e.g. Pound Street, secondly the landlord’s choice of name (post 1785 to c. 1905) such as Charles Street, William Street and Bury Quay. After 1905 the choice of Tullamore Urban District Council, i.e. Columcille Street, Clontarf Road and Benburb Street, O’Carroll Street, O’Connor Square. The council, at the behest of the Gaelic League, adopted names based on local saints, families and famous Irish battles where the Irish won, or put up a good fight. The only example of a marketing name is that of Main Street (2003) and formerly known as Water Lane.
Some of the nineteenth-century names are still in use, for example, William Street. Whereas, Patrick Street is now seldom called Barrack Street as it was up to the 1960s. Henry Street (1820s) is after Henry Bury, a child of the second early of Charleville, who died in 1830 at a young age. Henry Street is still much used instead of the post-1905 official name of O’Carroll Street. The earliest names were related to the function served such as Market Place from about 1713 for the present O’Connor Square, Pound Street for the present Columcille Street. These functional names were later replaced by names paying homage or regard to the owner of the town, the Moore family and post 1764, the Bury family. Even the name of the town was amended to read Tullamoore instead of Tullamore, something that came into common use during the time of Charles Moore, first earl of Charleville (of the first creation of this title) and who died childless in 1764.
The name Tullamore can be documented back to 1571 and there is an earlier reference in a Life of Colmán. The great resource for Irish placenames in now online at logainm/placenames.ie. Here is a copy of the archival record for Tullamore, also called Tullamoore from the 1670s to the 1850s.
So where is the big hill – Hophill or Windmill Hill behind O’Moore Street?
Enter the Gaelic League
The matter of the new names for the streets had come up at town council meetings in December 1904 and again in January 1905 and February of the same year. It was the Gaelic League (founded as to the Tullamore branch in 1902) who suggested to the council the appropriateness of new names reflecting the local saints, local native families and episodes in Irish history, and to be erected bilingually. On the proposal of John Wrafter and seconded by James Maher the changes were adopted. It was not difficult to see why the choice of names of the landlord or his agent should be disposed of. The good standing of landowners, had diminished during the Land War of the 1880s. Lady Bury had succeeded her uncle as owner of the Charleville estate in 1875, but being a woman and after 1885 a widow she was at a disadvantage. Furthermore she was very much an absentee and left matters to her agent, Ernest Hamilton Browne. Following the pattern set at national level in the 1890s the language, history and traditions of ‘Irish Ireland’ came again to be appreciated as a culturally distinguishing feature that separated the native from the foreigner. In Tullamore the Gaelic League enjoyed a strong period of growth after 1902 and during the tenure as president of local solicitor Henry James Egan, the delicate second son of Henry Egan, the town’s leading nationalist and merchant of the firm of P. & H. Egan Limited. Henry James Egan qualified a solicitor in 1900 and as coroner and county solicitor from 1903 was prominent for his few remaining years. He died in 1907 at the age of 29.
Among the streets and lanes closed before 1900 were: Emmet’s Lane, Willis’s Lane, Flanagan’s Lane, Molloy’s Lane and Sally Grove. The availability of the 1901 and 1911 censuses online makes all this information on families and streets so accessible.
As to the names we will have to come back to review them in more detail. Names such as Bachelors Walk, Chancery Lane and Swaddlin Lane. The latter is accessed between the two Italian restaurants in Patrick Street. The first Methodist church was in this lane until destroyed in the Balloon Fire of 1785. Every street and its name have a detailed history such as this paragraph on Brides Lane formerly Ruddock’s Lane or Swaddling Lane. The early Methodists were often called Swaddlers.
Bride’s Lane (Patrick St N.). Swaddling Lane 1821 (FDJ). Ruddock’s Lane 1838, 1890; Brides Lane 1912 (OS). One-storey houses each side (OSN 1885).The home of the first Methodist chapel c. 1762 (Craig, 1907; see Methodist chapel). Ruddock was a property owner with a dwelling house to the front of the street (OHA, 24 Mar. 1786, lease, Bury to William Ruddock). Described as Ruddock’s Lane (RD, 18 Mar. 1833, Ruddock to Wade, 1833/9/73). 38 cabins in 1843–54 (Val.1, Val. 2). 87 inhabitants in 1901 with 27 houses and 27 families (Census). The modern name is derived from the name of the parish, Kilbride. In giving evidence to a housing inquiry in 1910 it was described as a very congested district surrounded by a high wall with no thoroughfare through it (MT, 3.9.1910). It later became known as the Wade estate and was sold in 1912 (TKI 2.11.1912). The name Ruddock’s Lane was still in use in 1918 when twenty-five cottages here were offered for sale of which twenty-four were weekly tenants paying 1s. 4d. per week (TKI 30.3.1918). Clearance order published for demolition of dwellings (MT 21.12.1935). Now it the home to the name provided by the developers – Haviland Court.
Another interesting name is that beside the Bridge Centre known as Distillery Lane.
Distillery Lane: This lane is now greatly changed and was made into a wide street in 1992 as part of the construction of the Bridge Centre. It was known as Parvin’s Lane in 1783 and later Still Yard Lane. It connected Bridge Street with the distillery in use from the 1780s to 1954. In 1995 the lane was greatly widened to facilitate access to the new Bridge Centre. The widening followed on the demolition of the former Hoey & Denning premises in 1992 and was carried on to Water Lane off Patrick Street and after 2000 to Main Street.
The old street names coming down in 2000 courtesy of Michael Hayden
John O’Donovan stayed in Banagher from 10-21 January 1834 where he was accompanied by Thomas O’Connor. As mentioned in a previous blog he used his time there to look at two historic sites in particular, in addition to his normal work. He first concentrated on Clonmacnoise, writing his first substantial and detailed letters on 15 January 1838. This followed on from his request that documents be sent from Dublin ahead of his arrival. He had visited Clonmacnoise and had collected a considerable amount of information about the church site and general area.
He first concentrated on the individual monuments on the site as detailed in earlier manuscripts and associated the monument to the relevant family names. His local contact was a man named Patrick Molloy but O’Donovan was sceptical about the accuracy of the information provided by him. In addition, he dealt with the map produced by Sir James Ware dated 1705; on this map Ware had identified 10 churches at Clonmacnoise, see below. For each monument O’Donovan checked the age of each as indicated in the Annals, checked the background of each one and compared that to a report in Petrie’s possession. Continue reading →
Townlands are the smallest official unit of administration in Ireland, followed by the Parish. Our townlands are ancient divisions and some have existed under other names since pre-Christian times.
By the early 1800s, local taxes were based on the valuation of townland units. These valuations were based on hopelessly obsolete information and poor mapping, and it was necessary for the boundaries of townlands to be mapped accurately in order to provide a framework for new valuations. There are 64,642 townlands in the Republic of Ireland, with over 1,000 in Offaly.
The Duke of Wellington authorised a survey of Ireland in 1824 in response to requests from his brother, the Marquess of Wellesley, who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland at the time. The task was given to Lt Col Thomas Colby and officers and sappers of the Royal Engineers with civil assistants. First established as a military office, all the staff were military employees until the 1970s, when recruiting of civilians started.
It was decided to carry out an experimental triangulation survey in 1824, using Ireland as a test area. When completed the Irish survey would be a model for Great Britain and other areas of the Empire. The aim of the survey was to standardise and anglicise the representation of the Irish landscape. Continue reading →
The Longworth family and George Dames of Tullamore
Reading in the National Archives some time ago I came upon a small envelope of papers that Athlone-born Revd George Stokes had put together on the Longworth family. He was constructing a family tree and it was that family’s connections with Athlone that appealed to him. The envelope included two Wills. One was that of George Dames of Tullamore, dated 1662, who died in June, 1666. In it, Dames is described as a yeoman. The Dames and the Longworth families intermarried in successive generations and it is no surprise that this Will was filed with some of the Wills of the Longworth family. They were both Cromwellian families that settled in the midlands.
It must be conceded that the unassertive landscapes of County Offaly have never been a great source of inspiration to painters, most of whom just made a quick stop at historic Clonmacnoise before dashing on to record the West of Ireland.
Yet, others took the trouble to look more closely (or were paid to do so) and found inspiration in its lush farmland, bogs and woods, slow rivers, rolling hills and ancient ruins. Happily, their numbers have grown in the recent past.
The Cotton Map
The first, and in my opinion the finest, artistic image of Offaly is the Cotton Map of 1565. Prepared to assist the Elizabethan Plantation, this is an imaginative creation more akin to Harry Potter’s ‘Marauder Map’ or Robert Louis Stevenson’s chart of Treasure Island than a realistic cartographic exercise. One wonders if its unknown compilers ever visited Offaly or were relying on travellers’ tales.
For Offaly History Mapping Offaly began as a project to map the archaeological sites in Offaly in the mid-1970s. The state archaeological survey was in progress but nothing had been published and some members of the society decided to embark on a project they knew little about but were excited about the prospects. The then president of the Society, Monsignor Denis Clarke, allowed a sum of £50 out of the Society’s savings of £120 to buy a full set of the county ordnance maps of 47 sheets at £1 each from the Stationery Office. This was almost half of the society’s capital and led to the quiet resignation of Society secretary Fr Conor McGreevy. When he saw that the young students joining up at that time were serious he came back to his history flock and went on to publish a history of Killoughy with the PP of Kilcormac. Continue reading →