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Offaly History (short for Offaly Historical & Archaeological) was first formed in 1938 and re-established in 1969 and is located at Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly since 1993(next to the new Tullamore D.E.W Visitor Centre).

We are about collecting and sharing memories. We do this in an organised way though exhibitions, supporting the publication of local interest books, our website , Facebook, open evenings, our library and offices at Bury Quay.

Our Mission
To promote Offaly History including community and family history

What we do:

  • Promote all aspects of history in Co. Offaly.
  • Genealogy service for counties Laois and Offaly.
  • Co. Offaly photographic records for study and sale in addition to a limited number of publications on Laois and Irish general historical interest.
  • Purchase and sale of Offaly interest books though the Society’s book store and website.
  • Publication of books under the Society’s publishing arm Esker Press.
  • The Society subscribes to almost all the premier historical journals in Ireland.

Our Society covers a diverse range of Offaly Heritage:

  • Architectural heritage, historic monuments such as monastic and castle buildings.
  • Industrial and urban development of towns and villages.
  • Archaeological objects and artifacts.
  • Flora, fauna and bogs, wildlife habitats, geology and Natural History.
  • Landscapes, heritage gardens and parks, farming and inland waterways.
  • Local literary, social, economic, military, political, scientific and sports history.

Offaly History is a non-profit community group with a growing membership of some 150 individuals.

The Society focuses on enhancing educational opportunities, understanding and knowledge of the county heritage while fostering an inclusive approach and civic pride in local identity. We promote these objectives through:

  • The holding of monthly lectures, occasional seminars, exhibitions and film screenings.
    Organising tours during the summer months to places of shared historical interest.
  • The publication of an annual journal Offaly Heritage – to date nine issues.
  • We play a unique role collecting and digitising original primary source materials especially photographs and oral history recordings
  • Offaly History is  the centre for  Family History research in Counties Laois and Offaly.
  • The Society is linked to the renowned Irish Family Foundation website and Roots Ireland where some 900,000 records of Offaly/Laois interest can be accessed on a pay-per-view basis worldwide. Currently these websites have an estimated 20 million records of all Ireland interest.
  • A burgeoning library of books, CD-ROMs, videos, DVDs, oral and folklore recordings, manuscripts, newspapers and journals, maps, photographs and various artifacts.
  • OHAS Collections
  • OHAS Centre Facilities

The financial activities of the Society are operated under the aegis of Offaly Heritage Centre Limited, a charitable company whose directors also serve on the Society’s elected committee. None of the Society’s directors receive remuneration or any kind. All the company’s assets are held in trust to promote the voluntary activities of the Society. Our facilities are largely free to the public or run purely on a costs-recovery basis.

Acting as a policy advisory body –  Offaly History endeavors to ensure all government departments, local authorities, tourism agencies and key opinion formers prioritise heritage matters.

Meet the current committee:

Our Committee represents a broad range of backgrounds and interests. All share a common interest in collecting and promoting the heritage of the county and making it available to the wider community.

2017 Committee

  • Helen Bracken (President)
  • Pat Wynne (Vice President and Joint Treasurer)
  • Niall Sweeney (Vice President)
  • Michael Byrne (Secretary)
  • Lisa Shortall (Deputy Secretary)
  • Dorothee Bibby (Record Secretary)
  • Charlie Finlay (Joint Treasurer)
  • Darrell Hooper
  • Brian Pey
  • Fred Geoghegan
  • Noel Guerin
  • Henry Edgill
  • Peter Burke
  • Angella Kelly
  • Rory Masterson
  • Shaun Wrafter
  • Ronnie Matthews
  • Oliver Dunne
  • Ciara Molloy
  • Stephen Callaghan (Heritage Items)

If you would like to help with the work of the Society by coming on a sub-committee or in some other way please email us or let an existing member know.

+353-5793-21421 [email protected] Open 9am-4.30pm Mon-Fri

Centenarian philosopher: Tullamore Man’s Recipe for Happiness “Take Life as it comes” – 80 years married and never quarrelled’ – Michael and Mary Coughlin of Rapp Road, Puttaghan, Tullamore. By Cosney Molloy

Take the good and bad in life as it comes; be satisfied with your fate; if you find yourself in an argument, get out of it as quickly as possible. This was the philosophy of Mr Michael Coughlin (or Coughlan), of Rapp, Tullamore, who celebrated his 107th birthday in November 1929. I am told by Offaly History that he was the oldest man to die in Tullamore in the history of record keeping. He and his wife ‘who is nearing her century, have based 80 years of married life on this happiness recipe and he guarantees that if this advice is followed it will bring contentment to thousands of married couples.’ News of their recipe for ’80 years of marriage and never having quarreled’ went around the world and is said to have featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Michael Coughlin was a native of Eglish and had worked for Malachy Scally as a gardener at Moor Hall, Tullamore in his later years. Rapp is the road to Tyrrellspass from the canal at Whitehall and was the main road from Tullamore to Dublin until the canal was completed in 1798. Housing there was decimated in the Famine years.

Great Nonsense

“A great deal of nonsense is talked nowadays about brides not wishing to take the “obey” vow, but I’m thinking they are making a poor start in life by arguing before they have properly set out,” said Mr Coughlan. There is my wife, now. She never would have thought of a thing like that, and we have lived agreeably all our married life. Maybe a ruffle here and there but we always got out of an argument before it went too far. A reporter noted that:

‘When I called at the home of Ireland’s Darby and Joan I was told Mr Coughlin was in Tullamore and might not be back until evening. I found him in the town walking fairly briskly. He carried a stout stick, and was apparently oblivious that it was a bitterly cold day, with a keen wind and hailstones dancing on the pavement, for he wore no overcoat.’

Michael and Mary Coughlin of Rapp Road, Puttaughan. Probably in the late 1920s.

I’m Only 107.

“Talk has got round that I am 109,” he complained, after walking a mile for the second time that day back to his cottage, “but I am ‘only’ 107.” Mr Coughlin has had scarcely a day’s illness , and the reason, he thinks, is due to his moderation in all things, especially tobacco, and food.

He takes a peculiar pride that a few of his front teeth are broken in two rows that are otherwise perfect. These broken teeth remind him of the glorious youthful days when he was s champion bog barrel-lifter. He might have been a boy in his ‘teens telling of how he had lifted barrels and of how he left the tailoring trade for gardening and forsook all to start on a 48 years career of rabbit-catching.

His eyes gleamed and he chuckled delightfully to himself over thoughts of days, and nights, too, of following the “game.” “Memories of the “Big Wind.” When I was not able to stay out at nights (he added) I had to leave the rabbit catching and go back to gardening. I left that two years ago (he sighed), for my hands are not as steady as they used to be. Yet I can still do a little, so I can’t complain. Mr Coughlin remembers a big storm in Ireland nearly a century ago, when as a lad he helped to rescue people from houses blown down by the gale. He can recall the potato famine of 1845-46, and the excitement of famous elections. The diet of the present generation is not to Mr Coughlin’s liking. He thinks that the right kind of food is not eaten and that too much tea is drunk.

Unlike some centenarians, he does not use glasses, his hearing is good, his brain is clear, and his hair, although white, is plentiful.

In 1930 the Mercury reported the story as

Irish Couple Married 80 years. Only one holiday.

Probably the oldest married couple in the British Isles are Mr. and Mrs Michael Coughlin, of Rapp House, Tullamore. King’s County who claimed to be aged 109 and 106 respectively. They have just celebrated the 80th anniversary of their marriage. During this long period they haven’t taken only one holiday – on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of their wedding day.

“Who are known through the length and breadth of Ireland as the Irish Darby and Joan” remarked the old man, as he was returning home from a walk to the town to get domestic supplies. “I will challenge you to beat me in a race home” he added with a smile. .

Mrs. Coughlin attends to her domestic duties with ease and ability. “It seems but the other day when Michael and I married.” She said “although that was in the 40s. I always practised the adage “Early to bed early to rise”

I am afraid that the modern young lady! I’d be too keen on amusements, a high life, and a late hours !” I am not in love with her fashions.”

The old couple’s eldest son John, is 78.

The walk to Michael Coughlin’s house on the left

In September 1931 the Offaly Independent reported that Michael Coughlin had died at the age of 110. Mary Coughlin died at the age of 86 in 1930 (was it 70 years married or 80!). For the 1911 census given to Sergeant Ahern they stated they were 49 years married and had 10 children and all living. He gave his age as 85 and she as 72. Two sons Michael (41) and James (27) were living with them. A third son, Patrick, was killed in a collision with a car at the Kilbeggan Bridge in 1916. He was retired from the Connaught Rangers due to injuries and his death is recorded in a memorial in Clonminch cemetery. A 1936/37 Voters List puts the surviving and intending to vote members of the family living at Rapp as Christina, James, Joseph and Michael.

Michael Coughlin’s obituarist noted that Michael remembered when men worked for four pence a day and when the working day continued from dawn to dark. One of his most vivid recollections was in connection with a big fire in Birr when the people in the countryside were call upon to help in extinguishing the flames (Was this the 1889 distillery fire?). He and his companions had to work under difficulties conveying the water long distances in every available kind of vessel. He was industrious and hard-working all his life, and, as be used to remark, hard work was one of the things which kept him interested and made him happy. At an age when most men had passed the allotted span he would be seen, day after day, in the early morning, proceeding to his work, and passing kindly salutations to those he met on the way, “as was the custom,” he would say, “in the good old days.” He attributed his long life to simplicity of living and hard work. He enjoyed good health to the last. Up to five or six, years ago he carried out his duties as a gardener for Mr M. Scally, Tullamore, and within the last few weeks was out and about chatting with his friends to whom his visits were always welcome. He was a man of fine physique and retained his faculties unimpaired to the end.

It is good to see Mr Cosney Molloy back with us after a long break due to the Covid crisis. A pity he missed seeing all the bunting in O’Molloy Street, Tullamore last year. We hope he will not stay away as long and wish him well and good health. Ed.

Next week the earls of Huntingdon of Shinrone by Stephen Callaghan

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