Hugh Mahon: Patriot, Pressman, Politician (1857-1931) From Killurin to Kalgoorlie

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 – a reason to believe

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

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The Rosse Papers in Birr Castle Archives

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

Offaly GAA: Slivers of History

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

The Crowd in O’Connor Square, the spatial strategy and Tullamore as the ‘Kilkenny of the midlands’.

 

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

The war memorial in O’Connor Square: the first of the public memorials in Tullamore Town

The 2016-17 €3m enhancement plan for Tullamore town contains a broad proposal that the war memorial in O’Connor Square be moved to a widened footpath opposite the Brewery Tap. The reasoning is unclear, but may be to have a broad sweep in the square for a covered market or band stand idea to the front of the library. A Fergal MacCabe drawing of 2013 was able to provide for the retention of the war memorial where it was first placed in 1926. The purpose of this article is to provide a history of this and other memorials in the square with a quick overview of Tullamore’s monuments to recall ‘those who should not be forgotten’. Continue reading

The families of O’Connor Square, Tullamore over two centuries

There may be no families resident in O’Connor Square in 2017 and the area is now almost entirely a public and commercial space with well-designed buildings, a memorial in memory of the war dead of 1914-18, a public library, the restaurant ‘Bake’ and a market house/’town hall’ to which the public have access for the most part due to its being a restaurant at ground level. The great footfall recipient today is the Post Office, fulfilling in the square what the credit union does in Patrick Street. Continue reading

Tullamore is the best town in the county and ‘Little inferior to any town in Ireland’

 

Some of the options around the €3m Enhancement Plans for Tullamore town envisage O’Connor Square as a tree-lined open space with perhaps a band stand and from time to time one assumes the holding of local markets including a Christmas market. The market function goes back over 300 years and survived intact for the first 100 years up to the 1820s. By that time the town had expanded and a new market function, near the commercial harbour (an inland port) was developed in a rectangular area perhaps twice the size of O’Connor Square. Even so the main square continued to be used for the sale of light goods on the big trading days or Fair Days. That custom pertained until the 1980s when it came under fire from a pincer movement Continue reading

Planning in Tullamore and the making of O’Connor Square

Agreeing on what will make Tullamore better is not a simple task

O’Connor Square, Tullamore is in the news because of the proposed enhancement works for Tullamore based on a budget of €3m which will see Main Street connected to the Bridge Centre, the laying underground of cables in some of the streets and the re-ordering of O’Connor Square to remove the motor car, in so far as politically possible. What are proposed now are enhancement works to have more pedestrianisation Continue reading

Collections relating to 1916 in Offaly History Archives

December 2016 sees the publication of two new books on the subject of the 1916 Rising in Offaly. The first is the latest edition of the journal of Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society, Offaly Heritage 9, a collection of essays to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, edited by Dr. Ciarán Reilly. A sister publication from the Society, a new book by Michael Byrne, Tullamore in 1916 – the making of the Tullamore incident, looks at Tullamore town as a place to live during this tumultuous period of Irish history Continue reading