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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The Egans of Moate and Tullamore. By Maurice Egan

Who were the Egans and where did they come from? What national and international impact did they have on nineteenth century Irish political reform? How did they become successful lawyers and businesspeople? For many years, my cousin David and I would pose and tease out these and many other unanswered questions. Too often the anecdotal and evidential answers were vague at best and often hearsay or random recollections from family members. We both eventually concluded that there was enough intrigue to pique our interest into doing proper research on the period of social history of the 1800s and early 1900s. We discovered a treasure trove of fascinating stories which we felt warranted publishing.

Why write this book now, one may ask? The surviving older Egan generation have fond memories of the days past and several of them learned the business of business and held their first jobs in the family firm. Many local people also retain fond memories of the firm and the employment offered to themselves and their antecedents. Continue reading

The Bustle of High Street, Tullamore in the old days. Cosney Molloy

010 Motor Works
Motor Works and Drea’s house to the left

I once more visited by friends in Tullamore, Killoughy and Banagher after an unexpected gap of almost six months. Young Covid intervened and I did not get down from my perch in D4 until ten days ago.

Upper East Side Tullamore

It was great to see my old town looking so well and all the works in the square and from High Street to Kilbeggan Bridge almost finished. Walking from the railway station down to the square brought me back to the 1950s and 1960s when I lived in the town and the High Street was a busy spot. The footpaths are wide now but there were few walking and even on Saturday the street was quiet. I see no space to park for my mother (if she were alive God rest her) to pull up in the old Prefect that she had. Sure that is progress. Maybe the plan for High Street got mixed up with O’Connell Street or Grand Parade! Anyway, today I am writing about the east side of High Street, what I will call ‘Upper East Side’, and I will talk about the west side of the street on another visit – if the pause button is not changed to stop!

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Local history: ‘gone to pot’ or some remarks on Goss Ware/crested china by John Stocks Powell

Home Rule china mug
Home Rule/Rome Rule. A china mug with a portrait of Pope Pius X (1903-14) who
increased the devotionalism of the Catholic church, who promulgated the Ne Temere
decree concerning the children of mixed marriages, whose orders on the role of women in
church music (1903) was commented on by the Morkan sisters in James Joyce’s story ‘The
Dead’, and who oversaw the excommunication of Fr. George Tyrrell (1861-1909) on a
charge of heresy, whose childhood had been spent at Dangan’s Farm between
Portarlington and Mountmellick. He also enjoined the admission of children to regular
communion at the age of reason.
(Autobiography … of George Tyrrell, 2 vols. 1912, p.20-22)

We welcome a new contributor to the blog this week with this article by John Stocks Powell. Enjoy and remember we have almost 190 articles to read at http://www.offalyhistoryblog. Like to get it each week and share to your friends.

There is a hierarchy of sources for the historian, local historians and those with the wider landscapes. The principal material is the written word; evidences from the time, written archives, and later written published assessments such as county histories, church memoirs, Ph.D. studies gone to print. On-line developments have made for more in quantity, and more exciting revelations, from the checking of dates on Wikipedia, or the digitised sources such as Irish and British newspapers online, and directories. Yet we know the old cliché that history is written by the winners, and that is especially true when trying to write about the history of the losers, the poor, and the illiterate. Every source has its importance.

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