Remembering Patrick Street, Tullamore in the 1950s and 1960s. By Patrick Hennessy

A contribution to our Heritage Town series

Despite being out of the town for more years than I care to count I still get a kick out of telling people “I’m from Tullamore”. This often leads to “are you from the Town”? To which I readily reply in the affirmative, mentioning that I grew up on Patrick St. This invariably brings back memories of those happy days long ago. As a youngster in the 50s and early 60s I felt – and still do! – that Patrick St was the centre of the universe, a fantastic microcosm of daily life at the crossroads of the known world (well, High Street and William Street). To my young eyes it was Times Square, Piccadilly and the Istanbul souk all rolled into one. I remember the great variety of shops, with all kinds of enticing and exotic goodies, and behind the counters a wonderful collection of “grown-ups”, friendly but also each a source of curiosity to this young shopper. There was Talbots, definitely first among equals, where all your sweet fantasies could be fulfilled: ice creams (“wafers”) went from 2 pennies to 6 pennies (though I also remember a one penny half portion), while every cavity inducing confection was available from big glass jars. Particularly good value was the two-penny chocolate covered Trigger toffee bar. Turning right out of our house, you came to Cathy Dunne’s sweet shop, cousins of my dad, and always with an encouraging word for the “little fella”.

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Trade Directories for Offaly one hundred years ago. From Offaly History

A contribution to marking the Decade of Centenaries in Offaly and recalling the past generations and the towns and villages on the eve of the War of Independence

In marking the years from 1912 to 1923 we may think that the years around 1916, the War of Independence and the Civil War were times of unmitigated strife. Not so. Normal life continued, if punctuated by violent acts, such as the shooting of policemen in Kinnitty, Kilbeggan or Tullamore. The finding of bodies of spies, ‘the disappeared’, in Mountbolus or Puttaghaun. The holding of brief gunbattles in Ballycommon or Charleville Road. Worst of all the organised state violence condoned by Churchill and Lloyd George in the form of the Black and Tans racing through towns and villages in the dead of night and taking shots at anything that moved. Yet normal life continued and no better illustrated than by the issue, almost every week, (Offaly Independent excepted as the printing works was destroyed by British forces ) of the three or four local papers in Offaly and from time to time trade supplements or special publications such as trade directories that very much illustrate local business in most of the Offaly towns. Recently Offaly History acquired the 1919 MacDonald’s Trade Directory for Ireland to add to its collection at Bury Quay, Tullamore.

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The Gill Drapery Store in High Street Tullamore, 1900–22. From Gills to Guy Clothing. Recalling also the Mills and Muller families. By Michael Byrne. Updated by John Wrafter

Marking Tullamore 400th, Decade of Centenaries and Sustaining the country towns in the 21st century

August 1922 was a wicked month with the death of two Irish leaders, Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins. At local level we had the death in July 1922 of the Ulster Bank manager Tullamore in the course of a robbery and at Bunaterin the death of a Free State soldier, Matthew Cullen, on 29 August 1922. Raymond Cullen wrote about this in our blog last week and in July we carried a blog on the Ulster Bank robbery by the Republican IRA. The Republicans departed Tullamore on 20 July 1922 just before the Free State army reached the town. Before leaving the barracks, courthouse and jail were burnt. Later in the month and in August it was the turn of the Big House owners including Screggan Manor, Geashill Castle and Brookfield. Thucydides (d. 400 BC) wrote of how civil war exhibited a tendency to extremism. We were fortunate in Ireland that things, while bad, was not by any means on a par with the American of Spanish Civil Wars. That said the killings in the North of Ireland were terrifying.  But enough of that lets go back to our story for today which is about shopping in Tullamore in the early 1900s, living over the shop and the tragedy of early death for the family of the owner Michal J. Gill in September 1922.

High Street late 1940s with Gill’s as a ruin, third from left

Affable is a word I find myself using to describe the business people of High Street over the last 50 years from J.J. Horan, to McGinns, Daly’s shop, John Clifford, Midland Books, Kilroys Matty Coyne, Paddy Cleary, P.J. Carragher, Tom Lawless and so many more one could mention.  In the course of a family wedding recently I had the pleasure of being ‘fitted out’ by Anthony Kearns, his ‘affable’ father, and the staff of the shop. Now I am revisiting, but today to look back at the history of the store and the building here since the 1750s, but more especially in the time of Gill’s Drapery from 1901 to c. 1922. This was a good time for drapers and opposite Gill’s (on the corner) was the Rafter drapery. In William/Columcille St. was Tullamore Drapery and Scally’s (to become a massive new store in 1912), and of course there was Morris’ shop in Patrick Street and later Church Street.

The drapers of Tullamore were all to the fore in this issue of 13 April 1912. Thanks to Irish Newspaper Archive.

GV 6 and 7 High Street, Galvin’s ladies’ drapers, now Guy Clothing

Guy Clothing in recent times

The modern Guy Clothing shop was erected in the early 1960s by P. & H. Egan Limited in a contemporary style and replaced a five-bay, two-storey house erected in 1753. Why the old house had been allowed to go to ruin in the 1940s is not known. It seems to have been a fire in the 1930s. For many years in the 1940s all that survived was a high wall. By the way the number of the shop, GV 6 and GV 7, comes from Griffith’s Valuation (GV) of 1854 and settled the numbering of these houses for many years.

The layers of transactions in regard to GV 6 & 7 certainly confirm the many layers in leasehold properties and the use they were put to in order to shore up income maintenance for investors. In April 1753 Lord Tullamore leased to Robert Mills, a farmer, the dwelling house adjoining John Nightingale. Mills also held, by a lease of three lives, twenty-six acres of arable land and four acres of bog at Spollanstown. The lives inserted were those of John Mills, Thomas Mills and James Mills, annual rent £3, and double that figure in the event of Mills selling to a papist.[1] He mortgaged the Tullamore property to John Finlay of Dublin in 1758 and in 1767 – the latter for a loan of £113.

Gill’s with the rolls of Cloth outside. Courtesy of NLI, c. 1905. Sergeant Ahern in picture.

Miss Mills and Sergeant Major Muller strike up a match

This Mills family of Tullamore were recalled in a story in 2001 in connection with the marriage of a daughter to a soldier in the King’s German Legion (KGL) some of whom are buried in Kilcruttin graveyard.That the KGL settled in Tullamore and were popular is evident from matches that were made including that of Anne Mills, a Tullamore farmer’s daughter to Sergeant Major Muller and who were married at Middleton County Cork in November 1806.  She died at Osnabruck in 1845.  The story of Anne Mills was told to the Irish Times journalist, Richard Roche in 1961 while on a press visit to Germany by his guide to Berlin, a descendant of the same Anne Mills.  He noted in his Irishman’s Diary article of 9 January 2001 that Anne Mills was still remembered in her adopted Osnabruck but wondered was she remembered in her native Tullamore?[2]  Her name does not appear in the Tullamore parish registers of the Church of Ireland but other members of KGL feature in 1807 and 1808.  A daughter was born to the ‘Germans’ in December 1806 and baptized at the old church in Church Street in July 1807 while a marriage is recorded on Feb. 29 1808.  On 30 November 1808 is recorded a birth outside marriage to a KGL captain and an Irish girl.  Was the child sent to the Foundling Hospital in Dublin as was usual at that time?[3]

In 1790 William Finlay, administrator of John Finlay’s will sold the property to Samuel Bollard of Farthingston, Westmeath.[4] By 1843 the house was subdivided, the northern end of the building was occupied by Thomas Mullen (?McMullen) and later Robert Galbraith, possibly a draper. In 1854 it was occupied by Thomas Kenny and let at £12 a year. In 1843 the southern end of the house was occupied by Matthew Warren who ran an eating house, later Mary Bolan, and in 1854 John Flanagan.[5] Flanagan had cabins to the rear as shown on the 1838 5 ft scale town plan.

The first valuation in 1843

6. (24)     Thomas McMullen to be let (Robert Galbraith) [James Kenny, James Bollard].  This house was let at £12 a year.  The rere is small, enclosed with a lock up gateway – no garden, situation good.

                F.21, H.20, Q.L. 1B – YR (£14.0.0) LR (£10.4.0)

7. (25)     Matthew Warren eating house (Mary Bolan) [Rob Flanagan from James Bollard.  Warren holds from Susanna Smith of Wm. St. – there is no rere – and the house very inconvenient – part of the lower story is occupied by a poor tenant – the rent was £14 but reduced. The situation good.

                F.17, H.20, Q.L. 1B (1.C+) Y.R –£ 9.0.0 [L.R 9.0.0]

Kevin Fergus Egan sold the Egan interest in GV 7 to the Egan company in 1927 arising from an interest acquired in 1908. It is noted on the title to the property that Robert Bollard died a bachelor farmer, aged 64, in 1898. Meanwhile the occupancy was with Patrick O’Hanrahan from 1886 and subsequently Denis Fitzpatrick of Cappancur. Fitzpatrick was adjudicated a bankrupt in 1895 and the 99-year lease from 1886 was assigned to the Egan firm in 1896.  By 1898 the property was tenanted by drapers Richard J. Ranson and Thomas J. Adams and was known as ‘The Mart’. In 1901 it was leased to Michael J. Gill for £60 a year. Gill had been a draper with Malachy Scally in Columcille Street and opened on his own account. He was from Castlerea and has worked in Fitzgibbon’s drapery. Mrs Scally was a Fitzgibbon and there is the link. Anyway it was severed in 1901 when Gill went out on his own. After his death in 1922 his widow surrendered the lease to Egan’s in 1927/ and or sold the contents of the shop to McFaddens of Patrick Street. A second part of the High Street property was tenanted by John Flanagan and James Kenny. Flanagan had a 999-year lease from 1880. Egan’s acquired this or  another 999-year interest in the property in 1940.

Strange to say the 1901 census entry was not found in High Street or Charleville Square. Michael Gill, drapery manager, was living in William Street over Scally’s shop. An entry at no, 5 may mean this property was vacant in April of 1901 at the time of the census.

The census for 1911 census High Street (no. 59), GV 6 and 7 really shows us what living over the shop meant and how the drapers of those years had inhouse staff to make suits and other clothing. The Gill Family lived in what the census people called a 1st class private dwelling in a house/Shop with seven windows to the front. The house had three out-offices which were two stables and one shed. The household was comprised of the husband, wife, four sons, one daughter, six employees (four milliners and two draper assistant) and two servants (one female nurse and one servant).  It was largely a family concern with no less than seven family members and eight support staff to help in the house and the shop.

The Gill shop on census night in 1911

GillMichael JHead of FamilyRC40DraperMCo Roscommon
GillElizabethWifeRC30MCo Longford
GillMartinSonRC7SKing’s Co
GillMargaretDaughterRC5SKing’s Co
GillEugeneSonRC3SKing’s Co
GillMichaelSonRC2SKing’s Co
GillWilliamSonRC SKing’s Co
SmythPatrickDraper’s AssistantRC19Draper’s AssistantSCo Westmeath
MarronPatrick JAssistantRC41Draper’s AssistantSCo Louth
CarolanLizzieMillinerRC17MillinerSCo Longford
ColganKateMillinerRC18MillinerSKing’s Co
BasticBridgetMillinerRC16MillinerSCo Westmeath
ButlerKateMillinerRC17MillinerSKings Co
LawlorMaryServantRC20ServantSCo Westmeath
OwensLizzieServantRC38Nurse DomesticMKing’s Co

Michael Gill died at 51 in 1922 and his family departed for the United States. Michael Gill died at 51 in 1922 and was buried in Clonminch. His obituary noted: The death took place at his residence, High St., Tullamore, of Mr. Michael J. Gill, draper.  The deceased was a native of Castlerea and served his apprenticeship in the drapery establishment of the late Mr John Fitzgibbon, in that town.  He came as assistant to the drapery establishment of Mr. Malachy Scally, Tullamore, about 35 years ago.  He was a man of kindly genial disposition, and a citizen for whom there was great regard and esteem….[6] Mrs Gill carried on the business until the mid-1920s. It was closed by 1927 when the upper floor was used by Cumann na nGaedheal for the 1927 general election. It appears that Mrs Gill sold her interest in this property to McFadden drapers of Patrick St. for £1,200 in 1929 (MT, 23/2/29) which conflicts with surrendering the key.

Gill’s wife and ten children emigrated to New York in the late 1920s. A few of the children were back in Tullamore in the 1950s and 1960s In 1953 Rita Ryan née Gill attended a dinner for friends of the Old IRA. Ten years later Michael J. Gill, a son of the draper, visited Tullamore.[7]

Gill’s site c. 1952. Bus Bar to left.

The building  appears to have been vacant from 1927 or soon after (more information needed here) and was taken down by P.& H. Egan Ltd in 1952. It was then left for eight years as a walled in yard. In 1961, and to a very modern style, a newly constructed shop was opened by that firm as a hardware store focusing on electrical goods and the new products in demand in the early 1960s for the modernised home.[8] It was sold in the late 1960s with the winding up of the Egan firm and was acquired by Joe Galvin, the auctioneer, for offices on the first floor and ladies fashions on the ground floor. The new store, Galvin’s Ladies Drapery, was under the direction of Joe Galvin’s wife, Mrs Lily Galvin, having moved to much larger premises from her former shop in Harbour Street, established in 1957 twelve years earlier.[9] Joe Galvin was from a distinguished Tullamore-based business family headed by his father Michael (of the gravel business, later Readymix), and brothers John and Andy, and Brendan (among others) also in business in Tullamore. Joe Galvin died at the early age of 54.[10] His auctioneering business was continued for a time by his brother Andy and Enda Soden.

The new store of c. 1961. Fergal MacCabe, the architect and town planner has commented on this article and the new building: ‘A very interesting addition to the study of the urban heritage of High Street. The 1961 shopfront was the first post war building in Tullamore in a modern style. Designed by the Tullamore born architect Paul Burke-Kennedy, its simple form and use of concrete bricks as a finish is reminiscent of contemporary Scandinavian architecture which was briefly popular with younger architects at this time. The contrast between the horizontal fascia and its modern lettering with the vertical panel of projecting bricks was well executed and was a device used by the Athlone based architect Noel Heavey also.’

Galvin for Ladies closed in 2014 after forty-five years in this location of which twenty-eight years was under the direction of John Galvin. In appearance the building has been changed radically on two occasions since the time of the Gill ownership from 1901 to 1922. The first was in 1961 for Egan’s and the second about 2007.  The store was continued as a drapery for younger women in a new location. 

The lovely new consumables of the early 1960s. Tullamore was a lead town in the midlands in that decade. What Tullamore child of the 1960s has not climbed those bricks?

The High Street store got a new lease of life with the opening of Guy Clothing by Anthony Kearns and Kara Kearns in October 2014. Their fine store has brought new business to High Street after the closure of Kilroy’s (both stores in 2007). We wish them well.

 If we had letters and diaries from the 1750s what a story could be told of this one house in High Street. We did hear that some members of the Gill family from the Unites States called to the town council about ten years ago and would hope to make contact. The same can be said to the Mills Muller family in Berlin. Maurice Egan has written in two books now of the Egan family and others in Tullamore.

If you have a story to tell why not email us info@offalyhistory.com. For over 400 stories so far see Offalyhistoryblog. They are nicely organised on our website www. Offalyhistory.com. There are about sixteen houses in O’Connor Square and over forty in High Street. Every building has a story. Have you archival material, memorial cards, photographs, diaries, letters? Why not call us. Offaly history is about saving memories. Visit our website and that of Offaly Archives. Our thanks to Offaly County Council, Decade of Centenaries and the Heritage Council. Only 55 more stories for High Street  and O’Connor Square!! Thanks to Offaly History Centre for so much help with this one.


[1] Offaly Archives/4/36, 6 Apr. 1753; RD, 154/592/107558. Charleville to Robert Mills; fee farm grant, 11 June 1880, RD, 1880/40/216.

[2] Irish Times, 9 January 2001.  This article first appeared in The Irish Sword in 1971, x, p.73.  A   Mills family lived at Spollanstown and were farmers and had property in High Street, Tullamore. Lord Tullamoore granted a lease to Robert Mills of Tullamore, a farmer,  in 1753 (Registry of Deeds memorial Book 154-592-107558).  A later deed of 1773 (Registry of Deeds 308-478-206673) refers to a Spollanstown address for Robert Mills and James Mills.

[3] Church of Ireland parish registers, Tullamore.  Index with OHAS, Research Centre,  Tullamore

[4] RD, 6 April 1753, Tullamore to Mills, memorial no., 154/592/107558; 10 March 1767, Mills to Finlay, memorial no., 297/637/196497; 4 November 1758, Mills to Finlay, memorial no. 199/346/132431; 13 September 1790, Finlay to Bollard, memorial no., 416/493/277814.

[5] MS valuation, Tullamore, property nos, 24-5; Slater, Directory (1846), p. 93.

[6] Midland Tribune, 30 Sept. 1922.

[7] Offaly Independent, 8 Aug. 1953, 2 Nov. 1963.

[8] Offaly Independent, 3 June 1961.

[9] Tullamore Tribune, 29 Sept. 1979.

[10] Midland Tribune, 16 June 1984.

John Wrafter writes from the United States

Enjoyed reading your recent blog re the Gill’s of High Street. Surprised that anybody remembered them.

The Gill family were longterm friends of my own family (Wrafter) – resident at 9 Church St. in those days
and the connection continued for decades after their departure to the U.S.

It’s my understanding that four of the Gill boys served, during WW2, in the U.S. army.  All survived.
Attached is a photo of Michael Joe Gill at Montecassino in Italy. You will be familiar with that famous
battle I am sure !.

Here also are a couple of photos of Michael Joe in later life. One chatting with my late mother (Mona W.),
the other with my uncle, P.A. Wrafter, late of 9 Church Street, where the Gills would usually stay during
their occasional visits to Tullamore.   Both photos were taken at Michael Joe’s residence in New York
sometime in the late 1960’s.

Best regards,
John Wrafter,
(Late of O’Moore St, Kilbride St, Church St, and Ballyduff.)

Shops and pubs designed by Michael Scott in the 1940s for D.E. Williams. By Fergal MacCabe

At a time of economic stringency, the architect Michael Scott delivered several elegant retail buildings for a prominent midlands business family. These were executed in a Modernist style and incorporated natural materials in an innovative fashion.

D.E. Williams

In a recent Offaly History blog, Michael Byrne described the expansionary retail strategy of the notable Offaly commercial firm of D. E. Williams in installing high quality shops and pubs in virtually every town and village across the county in the period 1884-1921.

This courageous approach had not deserted the go ahead commercial family when during the Second World War, then modestly referred to as ‘The Emergency’, they ambitiously embarked on the redevelopment of their most prominent retail outlets in Dublin, Athlone and Birr and and most importantly, delivered a flagship shop and public bar in Patrick Street in Tullamore. To implement their progressive strategy they turned to Michael Scott.

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Demolish or Preserve?  The dilemma for the future of the architectural  heritage of Tullamore and of many other Irish towns. By Fergal MacCabe

The Architectural Heritage of Tullamore

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.

The building behind the Mr Price facade in High Street, dating to about 1750. This picture in 1959
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Scallys of Kilbeggan and Tullamore: the height of fashion, mechanics and aviation. By Maurice Egan

One could only marvel at the grandness of the shopfront, its curved plate glass display windows, its fine chiselled limestone three-story edifice, as well as the coming and goings of customers. This was what was on view to the townsfolk and visitors to Tullamore when coming across the shop owned and operated by proprietor Malachy Scally of Kilbeggan. In 1901, for his thirty first birthday he visited London and picked up retailing insights, ideas on cash handling systems, and street facing window placings from the likes of Selfridges and Harrods retail establishments.1 He completed the magnificent frontage, between 1912 and 1914 at a cost of £5,000-.

            In the 1960s, I remember putting my back against Noel O’Brien’s shop on the opposite side of the street and watched the same comings and goings to the famed shop under new owners, the Melville group. The most intriguing sight was seen from within, the mesmerising swishing sound and rapid movement of the railway wire line carriers with its overhead mechanical system. It was just fascinating to watch. (Mrs Jo. Morris and her sons Philip and Kenneth, had a similar but smaller version, at their family shop, J Morris draper on Church Street).

Fig 1. The magnificent edifice of Malachy Scally’s drapery on Columcille Street (Pound Street), Tullamore. Designed by architect T F McNamara (who also designed the Church of the Assumption, Tullamore), it was completed between 1912 and 1914. Courtesy NLI and set here in the jacket of Maurice Egan’s new book to be published in mid-December by Offaly History.

While my mother bought her items from the various departments, she chatted at length to the attendants, I was only too happy to sit all day and watch the mechanics of the ‘rapid wire’ system. In fact, I recall pleading with her to buy each item for cash, so I could observe the railway workings in detail. The Lamson ‘rapid wire’ system was developed in 1888 and consisted of a cylindrical wooden cup with screw-on base which was projected by a catapult mechanism along a taut wire, travelling on grooved wheels suspending the cup from the wire. These cups would travel a good distance, including around corners, without the need of gravity by incline.At Malachy Scally’s this system would travel to and from the ground floor centrally located, elevated cash office.

Fig 2. The Lamson Store Service                 Fig 3. From Anscombe’s in the UK, the cashier                                                                       returning the customers change along the ‘rapid                                                              wire’ system.

The Scallys of Rahugh, Kilbeggan and Tullamore

The Tullamore drapery store Scallys were originally farmers who hailed from Attyconnor, Rahugh, close to the Westmeath/Offaly border. The farm is still owned and worked by the family and lies between Kilbeggan and Tullamore.

            Loughlin Scally (b c 1808, d 16 October 1896) and his wife Rose (b c 1809 d 21 August 1885) had three sons and one daughter that we know of: James, Patrick, Daniel, and Clara Scally. James Scally (b c 1841 d 8 December 1903) was a Kilbeggan merchant and licenced premise owner based on Main Street Upper, Kilbeggan, and was a leading local member of the Land League. He married Clara Christina Horan (b c 1846 d 13 January 1917), a prosperous farmers daughter from Muiniagh, Tullamore. They were married at Durrow church on 17 January 1868 by Tullamore curate Fr Joseph Flood C C. The bridesmaid was Clara Scally. They had ten children. James was an enterprising entrepreneur and with the assistance of his father-in-law, Mathew Horan, James expanded his business to Tullamore. Luke Horan, second eldest son of Mathew (b c 1841 m Bedelia Clavin of Clara on 18 April 1866, b c 1846 d 4 November 1896), was a merchant tailor by trade, and was set up in business on Tullamore’s Colmcille Street (Pound Street) in a shop leased to him by his father. They had one son Mathew Joseph Horan who died of TB in early childhood (b 16 September 1867 d 24 March 1871). Sadly, Luke did not escape the ravages of TB, and suffered from its effects for many years.

_________________________________________________________________________________Footnote: Muiniagh is the townland (218a) that extends from Tullamore’s Axis business park north to the Silver River and includes a portion of the residential estate called, Norbury Woods.

It is believed James Scally, his brother-in-law, took over the lease of the Horan shop and established it as James Scally draper in 1876.3 Luke died at the Whitworth Hospital in Drumcondra (a hospital for the chronically ill) on 30 November 1879. He was 38 years of age. His bereft widow Bedelia moved to Castletown, Clara to live with her two brothers.

Fig 4. Extract from the last will and testament of Mathew Horan 1880. Courtesy NLI.

Fig 5. Will and testament of Mathew Horan 1880. Courtesy NLI.

Fig 6. Clara (née Horan) and James Scally. Courtesy Malachy Scally.                                    

Established in 1876, this became the start of a great trot for the Scally drapery business, which was to continue for an uninterrupted eighty-five years. It is believed that James and Clara Scally lived at Bank House (alias Step House), on Main Street Upper North, Kilbeggan since around 1868. They later resided at their  fine hardware, grocery, provision, and licenced merchant house which continued as Scally’s for over sixty years until 1928. Malachy, their eldest son was born 8 April 1870. They had ten children, five boys and five girls. James now a successful businessperson, continued to grow his business and leased lands, some known as Towns Park, as well as property, including the Crescent store and Market Square store, Kilbeggan.

Fig 7. James Scally, grocer, provisions merchant and licenced premises, Main St, Kilbeggan. Their residence ‘Step House’ was six doors up the street to the right of picture. Courtesy the NLI.

Unbearable tragedy was not too far around the corner for James and Clara Scally. In 1884, in the space of just nineteen days they lost six (four daughters and two sons) of their ten children to scarlet fever and typhoid.

Malachy Scally

Malachy Scally (b 8 April 1870 d 3 October 1935) married Mary Anne Fitzgibbon (25 June 1874 d 9 May 1935), at St Michaels church, Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire). She was daughter of well-known M P in the House of Commons for Castlerea County Roscommon, John Fitzgibbon and his wife Marion, née O’Carroll. John Fitzgibbon (1845–1919) was also a merchant draper in Castlerea. John was a supporter of Home Rule and unity with Britain, as well as a member of the Gaelic League. He started his working life in his father’s drapery business in Castlerea. Seen as a spokesperson for the tenant, Fitzgibbon exercised his powers of persuasion and oratory at meetings across Roscommon. His political life spanned 30 years, from the land war to the ranch war.Mary Anne’s brother Michael Fitzgibbon (b 2 August 1886 d 15 August 1915, was an apprentice at the solicitors’ firm, Hoey & Denning, Tullamore) joined the British army during the First World War as a second lieut with the 7th Dublin Fusiliers. In July 1915 he was promoted to the rank of Captain and the regiment was shipped to the Dardanelles. One week into the disastrous Allied Gallipoli campaign, the popular twenty-nine-year-old Capt Fitzgibbon was killed in action on Turkish soil.

__________________________________________________________________________________Footnote: The ten children of James and Clara Scally were: Rose Mary (b 3 April 1869 d 25 September 1919 of TB, m 15 September 1892 Peter Joseph Joyce of Leenane Galway b 1859, a commercial traveller from Edgeworthstown and Longford d 9 September 1926), Malachy (b 8 April 1870 d 3 October 1935 m 19 June 1895 Mary Anne Teresa Fitzgibbon of Castlerea b 25 June 1874 d 9 May 1935), Joseph (b 29 September 1873), Mathew James Scally (b 20 July 1875 d 31 October 1884), John Frances Scally (b 4 December 1877 d 1 March 1907 m 1906 Annie White, daughter of P J White of Clara, widowed she later married James Kelly 17 June 1912), Bridget Christina (b 21 December 1878 d 3 November 1884), Mary Joseph (b 29 February 1880 d 24 October 1884), James Scally jnr (b 20 July 1881 d 24 October 1884), Agnes Scally (b 28 January 1883 d 11 November 1884), Clara Christina (b 18 July 1884 d 4 November 1884).5

Fig 8. Malachy Scally, merchant draper and entrepreneur. Courtesy Malachy Scally.

Malachy was deemed an astute and quick learner, and was schooled at the Christian Brothers, Tullamore and later at Navan. He finished his schooling at Rockwell College. He quickly learned the drapery business and was constantly looking out for new ideas in the world of fashion and retailing. He and Mary Anne had eleven children, the three eldest were born above the drapery store on William Street (todays Colmcille Street) . The businesses in both Kilbeggan and Tullamore were thriving, and he took out a lease on the architecturally impressive residential property Moore Hall on Earl Street (O’Moore St, Tullamore) in 1900. He learned much on his travels and brought back and implemented new ideas from a 1901 trip to visit Selfridges and Harrods, London. Malachy formally took over the running of the family business when his father James died in 1903.

          In April 1902, as his business expanded he took over the lease of the former Bradley boot and shoe warehouse next door (today’s AIB bank). Malachy Scally, grandson of Malachy snr recalls: ‘Around 1903, Malachy took a lease on number 2 and 3 Colmcille Street from Lady Emily Alfred Julia Howard Bury of Charleville Forest. Earlier, it was called William Street after Charles William Bury First Earl of Charleville.

          In 1912 he commissioned the office of architect William Hague (1836-1899) to design the magnificent shop and façade for 2 and 3 Colmcille Street. His daughter Philomena (Phlo) also had an input in the design. While accompanying her father on a buying trip to Brussels, she made sketches of shop fronts, which influenced the outcome. After Hague’s death, his wife took over the firm’s partnership with their managing assistant, the renowned architect T F McNamara (1867-1947) who had worked on the Church of the Assumption, Grand Central Cinema, and the Co-Operative Society premises in Tullamore. The shop was completed in 1914.’

Ever the moderniser with a keen interest in mechanics, he was the first to install the mesmerising Lamson overhead cash wire carriers in the town. He was fascinated with aeroplanes and encouraged his sons Manco and Frank in their pursuit to become qualified pilots.

            He continued to run the original family business on Main Street, Kilbeggan, and employed his first cousin Patrick Scally of Attyconner and later Moyvore, as an assistant shop hand. He thereafter put his son Manco in charge of the Kilbeggan store from around 1920. James A Scally the eldest son, worked with and was trained in the retail trade by his father, having completed his schooling at Clongowes. Together they introduced a new sales incentive at Scally’s drapery where paying customers were entered into Scally’s draw for their unique prize scheme. Uncollected monetary prizes were donated to charity. Increasingly James A was taking over more of the running of the business, assisted by his youngest brother Brendan and youngest sister Eithne Scally.

            Manco decided to spend more and more time engaged as a professional aviator, spending considerable time in Coventry, England. In 1928 Malachy decided to sell the old established Kilbeggan business inherited from his father James Scally. It was advertised for auction by the Kelly Brothers, Auctioneers at Kilbeggan on the 29 September that year.

            The free-spirited Manco had planned a huge adventurous solo flight from Ireland to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) via Baghdad. It would be the first private individual flying out of the new Irish Free State. His tiny plane (EI AAL) he called ‘Shamrocket’ and flew via Paris and then onto Marseilles. He was tragically killed while trying to land at nearby Berre on 21 February 1932.

We need 100 carefully researched stories for 2022. If you have one contact us info@offalyhistory.com. With thanks to all who have contributed the 330 so far and to you the readers of which we had 100,000 views so far this year. 120,000 is our target for 2021 so spread the word. We have published 83 on the Decade of Centenaries period.

A new insight into some Tullamore families.

Overview

In mid-December we publish a book by Maurice Egan, ‘Merchants, Medics, and the Military Commerce and Architecture’ It provides an exciting insight on the social history of Ireland from 1875 to 1925, as seen through the lives of influential Irish families. We are now taking orders and expect to be able to fill them from 13 December. You can order online or call to Offaly History at Bury Quay and at Midland Books in High Street, Tullamore. Email info@offalyhistory.com

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The D.E. Williams branch shops in the midlands, 1884–1921: A revolution in retailing. By Michael Byrne

There are only a few studies available on the development of retailing in Ireland, either of a general nature or in connection with particular firms. It is well known that in the first half of the nineteenth century and up to the Famine years retail outlets were not widely available and many in the smaller towns were no better than huxter shops. There were exceptions and that is clear from the photographs of c. 1900 of shops such as Williams. Egan, Goodbody and Lumley (in Tullamore); O’Brien in Edenderry and O’Meara and Fayles in Birr. In looking at the revolutionary period from 1912 to 1921 to mark the decade of centenaries it is also worth looking at revolutions in other areas such as transport, energy and shopping. Like the political revolution retailing exhibited signs of stress after 1921 and did not recover until the coming of the supermarkets to the provincial towns in the 1960s.

The Williams head office with the Barrack Patrick Street shop to the right before more intensive motorised transport from 1915. Branch house managers were appointed of which the last under the old system (before the switch to supermarkets) was T.V. Costello.

The trade directories, and from the 1840s the valuation records, will facilitate investigation of retail outlets. By the 1860s living standards had improved and this is reflected in the increasing number of shops; per capita tobacco consumption rose to English standards about 1870 and per capita consumption of tea was not far off the English level by the end of the 1870s. The considerable economic progress of the early 1870s, began to slow down by the end of that decade. The 1880s is looked on as a period of industrial crisis with industries closing down in all the principal towns, or destroyed by fire as with the Goodbody tobacco factory in Tullamore and the Birr distillery in 1889.The railways and the canals (especially in the midlands) facilitated the easy removal of heavy goods and livestock from towns all over Ireland, but it also left it easier to import foods easily and cheaply. As a result, the Irish industrial base (such as it was, especially in southern Ireland) receded while the retail and services sector began to grow albeit slowly.

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A ’roundy’ birthday tribute to John Flanagan, builder, Tullamore

We seldom write a blog on a living person but we are making an exception for John Flanagan, the modest man from the Meelaghans, Puttaghan and New Road, Tullamore who has invested his whole life (so far) in making Tullamore a better place for people to live, work, bank and even pray in. We in Offaly History occupy offices at Bury Quay rebuilt for us in 1991-2 by the John Flanagan firm and now we also occupy Offaly Archives, another Flanagan development located at Axis Business Park, Tullamore. Perhaps his greatest achievement was the building of Tullamore Court Hotel. Great in that it was against the odds and had been talked about in Tullamore for thirty years but nothing was done.

As long ago as 1977 the Midland Tribune in a review of Tanyard Industrial Estate commented that John Flanagan was a man whose vision and initiative has given the Tanyard its new lease of industrial life. John Flanagan had by then been 24 years a-building so successfully that John Flanagan and Sons Ltd. was one of the best known contracting firms in the Midlands.

He purchased the Tanyard from Messers. P. and H. Egan in the late 1960s, established his own offices there (modest of course with no frills) and almost immediately set about using some of the six-acre site to provide facilities for other local people to set up business and projects of various kinds. Some of the buildings on the property were suitable for conversion to new usage but John Flanagan also embarked on his own programme of factory construction. He subsequently purchased other premises in the same area from Messrs Tarleton. With about eleven firms thriving in the Tanyard already, about 3³/8 acres remain available for further development and Mr. Flanagan will be ready to respond to demand as it arises. The whole area was redeveloped in the 1990s and is now emerging as a retail sector in Tullamore, well adapted to the changing economy.

John Flanagan extreme right and beside him is loyal foreman Jim Larkin – in late 1984 after the fire of 31 10 1983 at Tullamore Church.

While his industrial estate has been steadily expanding, so too had his own business as a contractor. In the 1970s his major undertaking included construction of R.T.E transmitting Station at Ballycommon; Tullamore Vocational School; the Post Office in Portlaoise; Farm Centres in Edenderry and Portlaoise; Housing Carlow (a scheme of 57 houses); factories for Messrs Paul and Vincent; in Tullamore and Irish Cables, Athlone.

The old Tanyard Lane c 1996 with the first block of apartments on the right completed and a new carpark under construction

Jobs in hands in the late 1970s included a scheme of 40 houses in Clara for Offaly County Council; the Bank of Ireland premises at Bridge St. O’Connor Sq., a Welfare Home in Edenderry; reconstruction work at St. Loman’s Hospital, Mullingar.

‘Mr Flanagan – who incidentally is Chairman of Banagher Concrete was actively in recent formation of a Chamber of Commerce in Tullamore and is the inaugural President of a body which is expected to make a very significant impact on the industrial and commercial life of the town and district.’

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A Lived Memory: A History of Acres Hall, its Folly, and its Formal Gardens, Tullamore. By David F. M. Egan

Originally known as Acres Hall after the eighteenth century building developer Thomas Acres, this fine house with its Georgian features is now home to Tullamore’s town council chambers. In 1986 the house was acquired by Tullamore Urban District Council who undertook a refurbishment programme and extensions to the north and south wings, and at the rear of the house, to accommodate new civic offices. While much of the house was subject to a major reconfiguration, the development attempted to be sympathetic and sought to retain the house’s external architectural simplicity.  Acres built the house in 1786 and positioned it in a commanding elevated position at the confluence of High street, Cormac street and O’Moore street. The location of the house may be on the hill from which the town takes it name, Tulach Mhór (great hill). Acres Hall is listed as a protected structure in the Tullamore town development plan.

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