The flat countryside around Tullamore left a deep impression on the future writer’s mind. And when, 20 years later, he wrote an existentialist murder mystery called The Third Policemen, set mainly in a nether afterworld, he used Offaly as his model.
Flann O’Brien (1911-66) was the well-known Irish novelist and political commentator. He was born in County Tyrone as Brian O’Nolan and raised mostly in Dublin. The writer spent about four years in Tullamore where his father, Michael V. Nolan, worked with the Revenue keeping an eye to the duty or taxes to be collected on Tullamore whiskey when it was removed from the bonded warehouse. From 1940 until his death, Flann wrote a political column called ‘Cruiskeen Lawn’ for The Irish Times under the pseudonym of Myles na Gopaleen; his biting, satiric commentaries made him the conscience of the nation. As Flann O’Brien, he published three novels, At Swim-Two-Birds (1939), The Dalkey Archive (1964), and The Third Policeman (1967). He also published a play, Faustus Kelly (1943). The Third Policeman is now considered his best and it was possibly in Tullamore he got his poky and spooky ideas for this quirky book which after a struggle in the late 1930s was published in 1967 after his death. Continue reading →
I left Tullamore years ago but I enjoy reading the Offaly History blogs. A friend of mine died there recently and it brought back many memories of my time in a flat in Church St, Tullamore. I was there in the late 1960s and 70s and it had certainly changed when I saw it lately. I came to work in the hospital from a small farm near the Mayo Sligo border and found the midlands a bit strange at first. I came to love Tullamore. I lived in hospital accommodation at first but eventually a friend and I branched out into a flat. There were lots of flats in Church St in those days. Nobody called them apartments! We were down near Merrigan’s furniture store in the terrace below the Methodist church. There were two of us. We had one bedroom and a living room. Our kitchen was actually little more than the passage between the two rooms with a two ring cooker and oven, a sink and a little press. Ikea eat your heart out! We shared a bathroom and toilet with the girls across the corridor and it was fine .We took turns to clean it and we never fought! We also took turns to answer the phone in the hall and answer the front door. We all certainly knew each other’s business! There were lots of people living in similar flats right along Church St and we knew each other well to see. You could set you watch by one lad who used to drive his car around from Church St to Harbour St every morning to collect his paper from Francie Gorry ! I think he was one of the teachers from near the Manor.
As Patrick Kavanagh might have put it, I was ten Christmasses of age and living in a place called Clerhane, a townland some two miles south of Clonmacnoise.
We were farmers, and there were five of us residing on the farm, my maternal grandparents, my uncle Joe, my mother and I. My father for economic reasons worked in Dublin, and I would only see him three times a year, the Easter break perhaps three days, his summer holidays that took place during the first two weeks in August, and of course for Christmas break which generally lasted two or three days depending, on how Christmas fell. You can imagine the excitement that built up in me as a child with the prospect of the approaching Christmas.
The Christmas I am talking about was 1954, indeed as time would prove, my last Christmas residing in west Offaly, as the following summer my mother and I moved to Dublin to live with my father, who had just purchased a house.
1954 is best remembered for the floods, the river Shannon reaching the highest level since 1925. I remember soldiers from Athlone assisting the farmers that year with the harvest. Folk were really looking forward to the bit of Christmas cheer.
New discoveries of old views or photographs of Tullamore are always of interest. Street scenes of Tullamore are not known to survive any earlier than 1902 (views of the jail and Charleville Castle excepted). These 1902 views are from old postcards and show only the main streets. We have none of the lanes of the town until later, and then only a few.
This photograph of O’Connor Square was taken about 1900, or a little earlier (and preserved courtesy of the National Library) shows the fine corner building erected by the distiller Joseph Flanagan in 1787 with its original glazing bar/windows and Georgian doorcases. This is the large building from the former Willie and Mary Dunne’s shop to the William Hill bookmaker’s office, beside Gray Cuniffe Insurance. Like the Adams-Tullamore House at the junction of O’Moore Street and Cormac Street it is a substantial three-storey house closing off the square on the southern side with some ten bays to O’Connor Square and six to High Street. The building was carefully planned as can be seen from this lovely old photograph, courtesy of the National Library of Ireland. This is the earliest surviving view of the building.
Also of interest are the bollards fronting the square, the shopfronts and the name Tullamore Brewery on what is now the Brewery Tap. Deverell’s brewery was in this location from about 1830 and was taken over by Patrick and Henry Egan about 1866. It continued to produce Egan’s Ale until the early 1920s. The ironwork in front of G.N Walshe and the fine doorcase on this house and what is now Sambodino’s and Kilroy’s showrooms (currently Mr Price) shows the changes on the town’s fine buildings since the 1900s.
Now with shopping moving out to the suburbs there is a case for more restoration of what were residential properties in the town based on the new realities of greatly reduced turnover in town centre shopping.
The road surface was not yet steamrolled – that would have to wait until after 1914–15.
It will be interesting to see how any pub and club in the former Woodchester building will retain the façade of the existing building (the former Dixon residence erected in 1752) and what lighting and advertising will be permitted by the planning authority.
Now the old post office has been painted and a carpark provided to the rear for 100 cars. This is forty more than in the square and should mean that the entire square saving the road to the Tanyard should be considered for presentation to the public as most other squares are in fine European towns.
What has gone in the picture includes the bollards, the house where Galvin’s Ladieswear was located (formerly Gill’s drapery and now Anthony Kearn’s Guy Clothing). The former McMullen three-storey house opposite Guy Clothing was demolished in the 1940s to make way for the Ritz Cinema. The cinema, in turn, was demolished in 1982 and part of the site acquired for the access to the Roselawn town houses.
Views of the Flanagan building in the early 1900s and again in the 1980s
Good buildings have survived including the offices of Conway & Kearney and much of the square. The lovely old 1740s building where the library is now located was demolished in 1936 to make way for the new Tullamore Vocational School. The 2011 façade to the old school (later library) appears to have worked well. The Bank of Ireland restored the facades of its buildings in 1979 as did the Northern Bank the former town hall, now Eddie Rocket’s. Finally, a few gas lamps can be seen in the picture. These may date back to 1860 when gas lighting was first introduced. It was the era before the telegraph and later telephone poles and, of course, the motor car.
The county council’s works for O’Connor Square are likely to commence soon. After many requests the war memorial will stay where it is. It was erected in 1926 on the site of the old town fountain of the 1890s and before that a solitary gas lamp stood there from the 1860s. It was the first public memorial erected in Tullamore and was centrally placed for obvious reasons.
Picture: O’Connor Square and High Street about 1900 and changes thereafter.
Terry Adams was born in Cormac Street, Tullamore, to parents Terry and Kathleen Adams. He has spent all but two of the last 34 years living abroad. Living four years, 1984 to 1987, in the United States and, since 1990 in Luxembourg. He began writing after the death of his father in 1976 and has penned novels, collections of short stories and books of poetry. His true passion is poetry, a passion passed on to him by his father. In this essay he recalls the town of Tullamore in the 1960s – a town that has now greatly changed. The conviviality of the old pool and the leisure to spend the entire day at the pool side has vanished. Terry’s uncle, P.F.(Paddy) Adams, it was who proposed in the mid-1930s that the town council build an outdoor pool. It was completed in 1938 and opened on the same day as the new houses in O’Molloy Street. Continue reading →
Tanya Ross tells the story of herself and her partner buying the former Kilroy dwelling house in High Street, Tullamore. It had been on the market for a considerable time and it did seem as if nobody wanted to live there. Probably a combination of lack of mortgages, fear of noise and nuisance from pubs and lorries contributed to the delay in selling what was and now is again a fine period house and one of the last houses in High Street to be occupied as a residence and not used for offices or a shop. Its restoration may be the catalyst for other such work in High Street and O’Connor Square and with best wishes to the owner of the house in Cormac Street recently and tastefully restored. The former Offaly Inn at Deane Place also looks attractive and adds to that part of Harbour Street and Market Square. Another blog will explore these additions and improvements to the town’s heritage.
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Patrick and Henry Egan are perhaps the two brothers whose names are most synonomous with the Tullamore business of P. & H. Egan Ltd. However it was Patrick and Henry’s father, Patrick Egan snr, who first established the business in 1852, and under whose name the company traded in the early years.
Recently, I purchased a little booklet ‘The Kings County: Epitome of its History, Topography & C. by J. St. George Joyce ’ at the Offaly History bookshop at Bury Quay, Tullamore. Joyce was the first editor of the Midland Tribune in 1881. This pamphlet style read was published by him in 1883. It is remarkable that the original booklet would be a rare treasure to have today (maybe you should check your loft…). I enjoyed the old advertising with sentences like: Liver Complaints cured by Dr. King’s Dandelion and Quinine Liver Pills (without Mercury). Hair loss and Gout were all curable thanks to newly discovered ointments. Also monthly painless dentistry visits from Dublin Surgeon Dentists to the midland towns are listed, and every advertisement promises ‘modest rates’ for the product! (The book can be ordered online at http://www.offalyhistory)