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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

Offaly evacuated,  not a British policeman or soldier now in the county.  Tullamore R.I.C. barracks occupied by I.R.A., troops march in with fixed bayonets, headed by St. Enda’s pipers. 7 March 1922. An Offaly History contribution to the Decade of Centenaries.

The dismantling of the barrack structure of the British military establishment advanced rapidly in the aftermath of the signing of Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921. The great exodus in Offaly began in February 1922. The newly issued Offaly Independent (absent since November 1920 due to its destruction by the British military) was now able to report that

11 March 1922 Offaly Independent

, “They are going with a vengeance,” but now it is the army of occupation, not the natives of the country, that is leaving our shores, going while a great sigh of relief goes up, and no pang of regret is felt at the departure of those who held is in bondage for so long. What a change the front of St. Conleth’s School in Daingean now presents from what it did a short time ago. The front gates are now thrown open for the first time in nearly two years, as when the local police barrack was destroyed the splendid group of houses inside the gates of St. Conleth’s School which had been used for the purpose of housing some of the tradesmen employed in the institution were commandeered and used as a barrack for police and Black and Tans until Wednesday of last week when the evacuation took place. From an early hour on that morning the residents of the barracks were astir and it was easy to see that something out of the common was about to take place. Before long it was evident that the long-wished for hour had come and that the Crown forces were about to clear out, bag and baggage. At mid-day lorries arrived from Edenderry carrying the Black and Tans from that district, and all assembled at the Grand Canal Bridge, Daingean for the final parting. Such musical instruments as accordions, mouthorgans, etc., were produced and the disbanded heroes made the welcome ring to the strains of “Come back to Erin” (we hope they won’t). “It’s a long way to Tipperary”, “You’ll Remember Me”, and other items. The townspeople viewed the scene unmoved and the farewells were not returned. On the following day the members of the old R.I.C. force prepared to leave Daingean, and by Friday not a single policeman was to be seen in the place, while a new force guarded the town (OI, 11 2 1922).

A week later the barracks at Crinkill, Birr was handed over to Commandant McCormack of the Third Southern Division of the IRA [Tuesday 6 February]. Newspapers of the time record there were around 50 members of the National Army present at the handover.

Hand over of Birr barracks to about fifty IRA men

 That at Shannonbridge was handed over soon after. Tullamore was handed over on 7 March. By 11 March the Offaly Independent was able to report that there was not a British policeman or soldier in the county.  The detail of these departures from the towns and villages in Offaly can be seen in the case of Tullamore reported on 11 March 1922.

‘Tullamore police barracks [west of Patrick Street] the headquarters of the R.I.C. in Offaly, was evacuated on Tuesday morning, [7 March 1922] when fifteen military lorries, laden with policemen, escorted by a detachment of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, and an armoured car, left for Gormanstown Camp where demobilisation of this force will take place towards the end of the month.

The British police in Edenderry also took their departure on the same morning, when the barracks there was surrendered to an Irish Republican Army Headquarters Officer.

The order to the Tullamore Police to clear, came last weekend and was quite unexpected. The Liaison Officer, Captain Grogan, lost no time in making the necessary preparations to the taking over of the barracks, and on Saturday two officers of the I.R.A. were engaged in the work of checking the stores which were to be handed over along with the barracks. Monday was also a busy day, the British policemen working to a late hour packing their belongings, and generally preparing for the evacuations.

Birr barracks about 1914

A detachment of Scots Fusiliers arrived from the Curragh on Monday afternoon as an escort. The departure was timed for 8 o’clock on Tuesday morning, but did not actually take place until 9.30 when the barrack gates opened and the first of the long convoy of military cars, laden with police, who carried their rifles, emerged into Patrick St. When Hayes’s corner [now Boots Pharmacy] was reached, a halt was made and the occupants of the first car hoisted a small Union Jack. Very few of the inhabitants were about the streets at the time, and there was no interest taken in the evacuation by the general public.

After a delay of about five minutes, the convoy moved towards and down Church Street. In Church Street a Sinn Fein tricolour floated from an upstairs window in Mrs O’Brennan’s, which on many occasions during the last couple of years was raided by the Crown forces for “seditious literature,” and Sinn Fein emblems. The convoy was accompanied by County Inspector Ross, Capt. Cook, D.I., R.I.C., Capt. Duggan, D.I., R.I.C., and were being brought up by the Scot’s escort, followed at a distance by the armoured car.

The enthusiasm of the crowd, which surged down Patrick Street towards the entrance knew no bounds.

 At 11.30 Capt. McLoughlin, I.R.A., Headquarters Staff, accompanied by Capt. Grogan, Liaison Officer, took over the barracks and a quantity of stores from District Inspector Fox, who, with a couple of R.I.C. men had remained for the purpose. The checking of the stores by the Liaison Officer was not completed until 3 o’clock, shortly after which the barrack and its contents were handed over to Commandant A. Gallagher, O.C., No. 1 Offaly Brigade, I.R.A. [later Free State]

A detachment of the 1st Batt., with rifles at the slope, in command of the Commandant Sean McGuinness, Batt. O.C., [later leading Republican IRA member] and headed by St. Enda’s Piper’s Band, with standard, alongside of which was also borne a large Republican tri-colour, left the brigade Headquarters, Co. Infirmary Buildings [now Library Hall] at 3 o’clock, and followed by a huge crowd, marched to the barrack. As they entered through the gates, to the skirl of the Irish War Pipes, and the roll of the drum, the enthusiasm of the crowd, which surged down Patrick Street towards the entrance knew no bounds. For some minutes the excitement was intense, and as the detachment passed in through the gates the heartiest of cheers were given. A tri-colour was immediately hoisted over the gates, while another was run up on a pole in the centre of the triangular patch in the barrack square. As the flags unfurled to the breeze, the detachment presented arms.

The ceremony of taking over was witnessed by a large concourse of people, many of whom had come into town specially for the occasion. Being market day there were also many people from the outlying districts in Tullamore, and having transacted their business early in the day they waited over to witness the event. Indeed, there were many among the spectators who had painful memories of the early months of the year 1921, when British militarism and Black-and-Tannery were at the zenith of their power in Ireland, and who could scarcely realise the changed situation. Who amongst the vast crowd could have conjured up 12 months ago such a picture as that of St. Enda’s Pipers, at the heart of a splendid body of armed young men, passing in triumph, colours proudly flying, and with drums beating, through portals which so recently led to the internment camps and prisons in England.

The pipe band founded in 1911 included several members of the O’Brennan family of Church Street, Tullamore

The outstanding feature in connection with the evacuation of the British fortress is that the ancient territory of the O’Conor Failghe in which for centuries England contrived to hold sway and dominate the mere Irish, has been cleared of the Sassenach soldiers, and the auxiliaries, the R.I.C., whose origin dates from the Union.

The barracks were erected during the reign of George the Third, when Ireland also suffered martyrdom, and was used as a military station until about 40 years ago, when on its being evacuated by the British troops, it was utilised as a police barracks and was the headquarters of the “Force” in King’s County, the Co. Inspector residing on the premises.

The buildings, though old, are of substantial structure as were all similar ones erected in the early part of the last century, are in excellent repair, the dwellings contained in them being commodious. They are to be used as headquarters of the Offaly No. 1 Brigade I.R.A., and will also be, it is stated, probably the headquarters of the Tullamore Battalion.

 On Saturday the police barracks at Banagher, which was also an old British military barracks, with spacious accommodation, was taken over from the District Inspector R.I.C. by Capt. McLoughlin, I.R.A., who was accompanied by Comdt. Lawless of the 3rd Southern Divisional Staff I.R.A., and Capt. Grogan, Liaison Officer. It was subsequently handed over to Commandant Burke, O.C. Offaly No 2 Brigade, I.R.A., and will be used as a Brigade Headquarters for that area.

Within three months tensions were at a high and all of these barracks were destroyed by the Republican IRA before their retreat to the rural areas and the advance of the Free State army. That was despite the so called pact election of June 1922 which we have already noted in this series. Coming shortly the 1923 General Election.

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