Next meeting 21 April 2017
It is probable that some form of racing took place in Kilbeggan before the first recorded meeting on 9th March 1840, which according to tradition was held in the townland of Kilbeg. The main race was the Challenge Cup worth 40 guineas and an entry fee of £3, which clearly indicated that it was for the gentry and not the common people. The race was won by T. Crofton’s Razor but “not without very keen stroping”. The races were held over three heats of two miles- all run on the same day. It was stated that 30,000 attended and “on every side was to be seen happy hearts, smiling countenances and sparkling eyes”. The races continued during the famine years and mass emigration with the support of families like the Locke’s, Codd’s, Connolly’s of Loughnagore, Clarkes of Meldrum, Colgans, Kelly’s, etc. The racing ended in 1855 due to financial problems & faction fighting. The first ever races in the current Loughnagore site was held in 1846. Continue reading
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)
Birr Barracks was constructed by Bernard Mullins between 1809-1812, during the height of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) in Europe. The Barracks saw various regiments of the British Army stationed there. The Barracks was burned to the ground in July 1922 by North Tipperary Brigade, IRA. In 110 years of existence there were many notable, interesting events and scandals, one of the more macabre events was the murder of Adjutant Robertson Mackay of the 5th Fusiliers by Private George Jubee, this is their story. Continue reading
Arthur Bell Nicholls first came to Banagher in 1825 when he and his brother Alan were adopted by their uncle, the Rev. Alan Clerke Bell, master of Banagher Royal School and his wife, Harriette. Following a successful education there he entered Trinity College Dublin and graduated in 1844. The following year he was ordained and entered the curacy at Haworth in Yorkshire where Patrick Brontë was perpetual curate. He remained there for sixteen years. During this time he became a dedicated and trustworthy friend of the Brontë family and would have witnessed at close quarters the joyful and heartbreaking events that befell them. Within the first three years of his curacy the Brontë sisters had their poems and first novels published. Jane Eyre by Charlotte, Wuthering Heights by Emily and Agnes Grey by Anne were all highly acclaimed. Tragically between September 1848 and May 1849 Branwell, Patrick’s only son, and both Emily and Anne died leaving Charlotte as the last surviving of the six Brontë siblings. Continue reading
This year marks the 160th anniversary of the birth of Hugh Mahon, a native of County Offaly, who, after a difficult start in Ireland, found fame and fortune in Australia, where he rose to high political office, as a Labor member of the Australian parliament and a government minister. A new book, Hugh Mahon: Patriot, Pressman, Politician tells the fascinating life-story of this son of the county, whose relations still live in and around Tullamore. The book will be launched at Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore on Thursday 27 April 2017 at a lecture to be given by the book’s author Australian historian Jeff Kildea. Continue reading
Kilbeggan is Tullamore town’s nearest neighbour to the north and was once part of the Tullamore Poor Law Union. It has been part of the county of Westmeath since the 16th century. Like Tullamore it depended greatly on milling and distilling. Locke’s Distillery fell into decay in the 1960s and was restored by the local community in the 1980s. It is again an active distillery. Thanks largely to the foresight of John Teeling the name of Kilbeggan is once again known throughout the world. Two midland towns, Tullamore and Kilbeggan, have given their name to world-class products. Both towns now have thriving whiskey distillery visitor centres.
Community activist and historian, Stan McCormack tells the story and looks to the future.
We seem to be living in this strange twilight zone, where a billionaire reality TV host becomes President of the USA, with issues regarding women, immigrants, tax, and ‘alternative facts’; where Britain exits the EU almost by mistake; Putin waits for his next move on Ukraine; and Kim Yong plays with nuclear bombs in North Korea, plus other right wingers waiting in the long grass. It is a reason to be, at the very least, afraid economically. The recovery of metropolitan areas in Ireland, where almost all the multi-national jobs have gone, has not travelled to rural areas. The myth of recovery
The Muniments Room
The Muniments Room in Birr Castle is a special space. Based in the eastern flanker of the castle, it was once a smoking room and contained a much painted-over and practically hidden Jacobean plaster frieze, the oldest complete example of its kind in Ireland. In 1980, on inheriting the castle, the present Earl of Rosse, set about restoring the frieze to its former glory and applied for an Irish Georgian Society grant which allowed master stuccadore Séamus Ó hEocha to undertake the painstaking restoration work soon after. It was the first act of modern restoration work in the castle and its results were startling. Continue reading
To coincide with the release by Offaly History Archives of a collection of Offaly GAA minute books and records (1906-1980), Dr Paul Rouse takes us through the history of the GAA in Offaly from its establishment in the county in the 1880s to the present day.
Without Gaelic games, there is nothing that unites Offaly. The county boundaries were first laid out in 1557 during the plantation of Leix-Offaly – but this was effectively a nominal administrative division that did not translate from maps, bore no relation to the divergent customs of the region and was largely ignored by the populace. Offaly sprawls across five Catholic dioceses and includes within its area, the ancient fiefdoms, or parts of fiefdoms, of a host of Gaelic chieftains. Continue reading
O’Connor Square has been an open space and at times a crowded place over its 300 years in existence. Described as a market place as early as 1713 it was not until 1789 that the market house (now the Rocket restaurant) was built. For over 250 years the square fulfilled the important market function of any provincial town. A place where town met country and where people came to sell their farm produce and livestock. Trading was carried on in the formal setting of the market house for just thirty years. By 1820 that function in the square was modified with the provision of a new Cornmarket (now the Market Square) off Harbour Street and close to the Grand Canal harbour. Continue reading