Skip to content

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

Early Aviation in and around Offaly by Guy Warner

No 2 Squadron at Limerick in 1913.

In 1910, about six weeks before the first successful powered flight in Ireland by Harry Ferguson in Co Down, the King’s County Chronicle reported as follows, ‘Mr Michael Carroll, cycle mechanic, conducted experiments in aviation in the hills adjoining Birr reservoir. An apparatus constructed from calico and bamboo made one or two fitful attempts to ascend. The incredulous may laugh at his efforts but it should not be forgotten that every great invention has its beginning in failure.’ One week later it was noted that the Engineering and Scientific Association of Ireland [founded in Dublin in 1903] had been discussing aviation, ‘The opinion was expressed that flying through the air was not an accomplished fact, though eventually it would be, that flying was not of any practical use and that men now engaged in a series of experiments in aviation would not die in their beds.’

Aviation potentially came closer to the county in August 1913 when the Chronicle ran a small news item which stated that Birr, at which was situated the Depot of the Leinster Regiment, had been mentioned as a possible base for aircraft of the Royal Flying Corps [RFC] which would soon be flying to Ireland to take part in the Irish military manoeuvres, adding, ‘It is quite possible that the War Office will decide to have a flying squadron permanently in this country.

L-R Longcroft, George Dawes, Becke, Waldron, McLean, Tucker, Leonard Dawes.

The first association between the RFC and Ireland on 1st September 1913 was truly historic, being the first overseas deployment of the RFC. Five BE2a aircraft, flown by Captains JWH Becke, CAH Longcroft and ACH McClean, Lieutenants FF Waldron and L Dawes and a single Maurice Farman Longhorn, piloted by Captain GWP Dawes, all of No 2 Squadron based at Montrose, flew from Scotland on their way to take part in large-scale Irish Command manoeuvres centred around Rathbane Camp near Limerick.

On Tuesday 2nd September the Maurice Farman, No 207, with Captain Dawes and Lieutenant Harvey, flew over from Limerick towards Birr for the purpose of selecting a suitable landing ground and would have alighted in the Fourteen Acres of Birr Barracks but for the fact that sheep were grazing there and so obstructing a safe landing. The Midland Tribune stated that, ‘The aeroplane was first seen by officials at the railway and was then between the Birr Military Barracks and the station and was flying low. The two men seated in the machine could be seen quite distinctly. The buzzing of the engine attracted the attention of a number of people on the street in the immediate vicinity of the station. The aeroplane was first seen at 11.40 o’clock.’ When it got as far as Sharavogue [just a few miles south of Birr], it circled a couple of times and landed in one of the Earl of Huntingdon’s fields between the polo ground and the railroad.’ Unfortunately a gust of wind caught the Farman; the right wing tip touched the ground first and caused an inter-plane strut to break. This proved something of a bonus for the crowd of onlookers who gathered, as they had much more time to inspect the novelty. A telegram summoned a mechanic from Rathbane, who arrived by motor vehicle at 5.30 pm. Repairs were effected within 20 minutes and the two airmen (pilot and observer) prepared to depart, ‘the aeroplane ran rapidly along the field for four or five hundred yards and then rising over ‘mother earth’ was bidden adieu by loud cheers. It soared over the trees and in a few minutes came back at a fairly high altitude right over the field where it had met with the mishap, and heading for Limerick was eagerly watched till it was a mere speck in the sky and finally disappeared.’ More were to follow on Saturday 6th, ‘Three BE Biplanes arrived in Birr on Saturday from Limerick. They executed manoeuvres over the town, and the people were afforded a fine view of the machines as they made graceful turns and swoops high in the air. The biplanes descended in the Fourteen Acres, Crinkle, around which an interested crowd remained all day.

On 8th September, Captain Longcroft, en-route from Rathbane to the Curragh, in BE2 No 218, attempted to make a landing in a field owned by Mr J Gleeson of Rose Cottage, Brosna, a village in the south-western corner of the county, ‘On coming to the ground it landed in a hole, smashing some of the struts. It continued to run along, and got into a ditch, where further damage was done. The machine was dismantled on Tuesday and taken to Limerick on Wednesday. No one was hurt.’ The damage was quite severe as the undercarriage was torn off and about a foot from the tip of each propeller blade.


BE2 Serial No 218

also described progress at the manoeuvres, noting that the 5th Division was encamped at Roscrea and that severe ‘fighting’ had taken place around Shinrone, adding, ‘The aeroplanes seem to be about the best value of the lot – at least they are the most talked about. Some of them have been down, and more of them up, and some have got into difficulties. The aeroplanes seem to have an infirmary of their own. When one of them gets injured a motor aeroplane ambulance comes along and takes the injured plane off to Limerick for repairs. There was a lot of talk in Birr during the week about hangars being out up at the Fourteen Acres. Disappointment was felt when the scheme did not fructify. All are glad that none of the airmen, so far, at least, have come to grief. They go up with a laugh, taking their seats in the machine with as much sang froid as one would in an ordinary car.’

At Rathbane, seated in the BE2a is Captain Longcroft, standing is Lieutenant Waldron.


The continuing story of the pilots and their craft may be found in Offaly and the Great War pubished on 11 November 2018.

Back To Top