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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

Try again, Explain Better: A Revolution in Profiles, the Offaly Story. By Aidan Doyle

There is a popular saying in politics sometimes attributed to Ronald Reagan ‘When you’re explaining, you’re losing

History often involves explaining, but in recent times I’ve regularly watched people’s eyes glaze over as I described my latest research project.                           

Q: What’s it called.             

A: ‘A Revolution in Profiles’.

Q: What’s it about.

A: Its about Offaly in the Revolutionary Decade.

Q:  Okay. How many words in it?

A: Over 60,000, but it’s divided into profiles, each about 600 words long

Q: Is it a book?

A: No, it’s a website with over 100 different profiles of people from the period.

Q: So, it’s a blog?

A: Not really, it’s modelled on the RIA’s Dictionary of Biography.

Q: How much are you charging for It?

A: No, there’s no charge. Access is completely free. The RIA provided a bursary to build the website as part of the Decade of Centenaries programme, but anyone can view the profiles and there’s no fee.

At this stage the questioner runs the entire gamut of emotions from confusion, disbelief, pity and finally suspicion. ‘If its free there must be a catch’.

If we’re lucky the conversation shifts to the height of the Shannon or which senior clubs are still looking for a hurling manager, if not it peters out into a prolonged awkward silence.

‘I’ll tell what it’s not’

The site is not a definitive history of Offaly in the revolutionary period. That will come later, written by others more qualified to do so. It is a reference tool designed to educate on and simulate interest in Offaly’s revolutionary story. In time perhaps it may provide other researchers with a foundation from which a deeper understanding of the era might be developed. One of the ways it aims to do so is providing readers with the opportunity to compare and contrast different people from the period. 

Don’t tell, show me! 

Mark Twain reportedly once said ‘Don’t just say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream!’ Having struggled to explain the site, I usually take a leaf out of Twains book an give an example. Offaly History have been kind enough to host two profiles from the site dealing two elected officials.

The People’s Choice 

Between 1918 until 1923 the constituencies of Kings County and Laois-Offaly were represented by Dr. Patrick McCartan. A leading member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood from Tyrone; McCartan spent most of those years on diplomatic missions to the United States and the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile Hugh Mahon from Killurn outside Tullamore sat as a Labor representative in the Australian Parliament until his expulsion in 1920. His ejection was carried out in response to Mahon’s public condemnation of the British Empire in the aftermath of the death of Terence MacSwiney on hunger strike in Brixton prison.  

Mahon and McCartan’s biographies are among 30 extra profiles which will be added to the site over the next year, but for now the focus centres on two other parliamentary representatives from Offaly, representing two different traditions. Frank Bulfin and Sir Robert Woods. 

Frank Bulfin

Frank Bulfin was born in 1874 at Derrinlough, where his parents William and Ellen Bulfin (nee Grogan) owned a large farm.

His uncle Patrick Bulfin acted as Lord Mayor of Dublin and a cousin General Edward. S. Bulfin served with distinction in the British Army during the Boer and Great Wars. In 1900 it was reported that Frank’s brother, J.V. Bulfin had died while serving with the Rimington Guides in the Boer War. Frank and his brother Joe (who was later associated with Clonony and Edenderry) were keen agriculturists. During the Ranch War both men were vocal advocates for small farmers and imprisoned for their involvement in cattle driving.

Frank’s uncle Fr. Vincent Grogan served as provincial of the Passionist order in Argentina. The South American connection was to have important ramifications for the family, as Frank’s older brother William emigrated to Argentina where he enjoyed considerable success and eventually became owner of the Southern Cross newspaper. On his return to Ireland, William Bulfin helped to stabilise the Derrinlough farms finances, wrote a popular nationalist travel book Rambles in Erin, promoted the Gaelic League and political movements of his friend Arthur Griffith. William died aged 45 in 1910.

William’s son Eamon attended St Enda’s school and fought under his former teacher Patrick Pearse in 1916 Rising.

Following the release of republican prisoners from internment in late 1916, Eamon and Frank were involved in establishing the republican movement in south Offaly. They were arrested as part of the German Plot in the Summer of 1918 and imprisoned in Durham Gaol. Eamon was later deported to Argentina where he acted as an emissary for the republic during the War of Independence.

On his release from prison Frank Bulfin returned to Derrinlough, where he was involved in sheltering Sean Treacy, Seamus Robinson, Sean Hogan and Dan Breen during the summer of 1920. The so called ‘Big Four’ were on the run following shootings at Soloheadbeg and Knocklong.

Nominated as one of four Sinn Féin candidates, Bulfin was elected unopposed in the Laois-Offaly constituency at the 1921 general election. Arrested and interned at the Curragh, he was released with other TDs in August following the arrangement of the Truce.

Bulfin did not take a high-profile stance during the Treaty Debates but voted to accept the agreement. He was re-elected in the pact election. His nephew Eamon opposed the treaty but took no part in the Civil War following his return from South America and Frank’s niece, Catalina ‘Kid’ Bulfin a member of Cumman na mBan went on to marry well known anti-treaty republican Sean MacBride.

 In August of 1922, Frank Bulfin was one of the pall bearers who carried Arthur Griffith’s coffin.

Although he rarely spoke in the Dáil, Bulfin continued to vote with the Cosgrave Government throughout the Civil War. In a statement to the Bureau of Military History Ernest Blythe suggested that because of republican intimidation, Bulfin attempted to resign his seat, but after the intercession of armed Free State Intelligence officers was convinced…

It might be more dangerous to resign from the dail than stay in it’. (1)

The veracity of Blythe’s story is difficult to authenticate.

Addressing an election meeting in July 1923 Bulfin commented…

Many unpleasant things we have had to do —many very distasteful decisions had to be made, but we never sought popularity at the expense of the real interests of the nation’. (2)

After his re-election, rifts appeared in Cumann na nGaedheal. Bulfin did not support the Army Munity of 1924. Nevertheless, he was understanding of those who left the party at that time to establish the National Group and critical of some in the cabinet whom he felt were self-important and drifting too far from the party’s roots in Sinn Féin commenting …

‘Let these people not get their heads swelled. Greater men than they, Griffith and Collins, had to be done without.’ (3)

At local level his electoral machine was considered ineffective, and he lost his seat in 1927.

In the 1930’s Bulfin moved to Barrysbrook, Croghan close to his mother’s birthplace and farmed there until his death in 1951. He was buried at Rhode cemetery.

Sir Robert Henry Woods

Robert Henry Woods was born at Tullamore in 1865. His father Christopher and mother Dorothea (Lowe) operated a shop and held property in the town.

Sir Robert Woods

Educated at Wesley College and Trinity, he qualified as a doctor. An expert on the ear, nose and throat; Woods was considered a world leading physician. President of the Royal College of Surgeons he was knighted for his services to medicine in 1913.

His son Thornley died in 1916 while serving with British Army in Flanders.

In 1918 general election Woods was elected to Westminster for the National University constituency, a seat held until 1917 by Edward Carson.

Elected as an Independent Unionist, Woods was a moderate in personality and politics. He did not take up his seat at the first meeting of the Dail in January 1919. However, unlike other unionist MPs he did send a formal reply to decline his invitation to attend.

In July 1921 he was part of a delegation of southern Unionists who met with Eamon de Valera in the Mansion House Conference which facilitated the announcement of the Truce.

A rare contributor at Westminster, he made his last speech there in the aftermath of the signing of the Treaty when he told the House of Commons…

‘I hope the Prime Minister will permit me to offer him my congratulations on having brought this Conference to so successful a conclusion. If I may say so without offence, he has done a big thing, and he has done it in a big way. The Unionists in the South of Ireland have received the news of this agreement with feelings of satisfaction that can only be appreciated by those who have lived there in recent years, and perhaps by those who have got imagination to visualise what would have happened had these negotiations fallen through. I think I am correct in saying that the majority of Southern Unionists have for a long time seen that there was no other possibility of settlement of the age-long struggle, and the healing of this Irish sore, except through a Conference… I believe that the end of this Agreement will be an accession of strength, not only to Ireland herself, but to the peace and the prosperity of the world at large, and particularly of that great community of nations of which Ireland will, in the future, herself form an integral part.’ (4)

His last political intervention was an unsuccessful run for the Senate in 1925.

A collector of antique furniture, he was also musical enthusiast, president of the Dublin Zoological Society he donated several animals to the Zoo following trips to Asia.

Robert Woods died at his home in Marino in September 1938 and was buried at Deansgrange Cemetery. At his own request the funeral service was private and attended only by his immediate family and household staff.

On his death the Irish Independent commented…

‘Although a Unionist, his liberal and free-minded attitude on all Irish questions was very marked. Rather abrupt and unconventional in manner, the late Sir Robert was a man with a big heart. He was charming in private conversation and his humour was never hurtful, while his wit was always kind. He was extremely popular with his professional colleagues and was ever helpful to the young men attending’ his school. Physically a splendid type of Irishman, he was a familiar figure in Dublin, his broad shoulders, well-shaped head and rugged- features arresting attention.’ (5)

Further biographies online at

Online launch 8pm Thursday December 14th at


(1) Bureau of Military History. Ernest Blythe (Witness 939)

(2) Offaly Independent 7 July 1923.

(3) Cork Examiner 20 January 1925.

(4) Hansard online at

(5) Irish Independent. 9 September 1938.

1901 and 1911 Census. Search online at

Bureau of Military History Statements: Ernest Blythe (Witness 939) Patrick Colgan (850)

Hansard online at

Patrica M. Byrne & Cathy Hayes. ‘Sir Robert Woods’ Dictionary of Irish Biography online at

Michael Gallagher. ‘Politics in Laois Offaly 1922-1992’ in Laois History and Society edited by Padraig G Lane and William Nolan online at

John Gibney RIA Dictionary of Irish Biography profile of Eamonn Bulfin online at

C.J. Woods RIA Dictionary of Irish Biography profile of William Bulfin online at

Belfast Telegraph. 6 March 1925.

British Medical Journal. 17 September 1938.

Butte Independent. 26 February 1910.

Freeman’s Journal. 5 August 1921.

Irish Independent. 15 June 1907. 22 July 1918. 9 September 1938.

Irish Press. 12 September 1938

Irish Times. 29 June 1907.

Leinster Leader. 31 March 1951.

Leinster Reporter. 20 January 1900.

Nationalist and Leinster Times. 19 Aug1922.

Offaly Independent. 26 March 1966.

Sunday Press. 1 April 1979.

Index of those profiled

George Adam 1894-1922. Great War Veteran, RIC Constable.

Patrick Adams 1881-1939. Politician.

George Adamson 1897-1922. Great War Veteran, IRA Leader, National Army Officer.

Phillip Ahern. 1862-1918. RIC Sergeant.

Thomas Allen 1892-1919. British Army Sergeant.

Andrew Harvey Armstrong 1866-1922. British Army Officer.

Sean Barry 1897-1931. IRA Officer, National Army Officer.

Alan Bell 1858-1919. Magistrate, retired RIC Officer, Intelligence Advisor, Financial Investigator

John Bergin 1889-1922. IRA Officer

Harry Biggs 1897/ 1899-1920. Great War Veteran, RIC Constable.

Sean Blaney 1898-1922. IRA volunteer. National Army Solider.

Patrick Boland 1890-1962. IRA Police Officer, County Councillor Neutral IRA Association Official.

Joseph Boyle 1889-1944. Teacher, IRA Officer.

Peter/Peader Bracken 1887-1961. Easter Week participant.

Caitlin Brugha/Kathleen Kingston 1874-1951. Sinn Féin TD, Republican Activist.

Eamon Bulfin 1892-1968. Easter Week participant. 

Frank/Francis Bulfin 1874-1954.  Sinn Féin and Pro- Treaty TD.

Emily Weddall-Burke 1867-1952. Irish Irelander, Cumann na mBan Activist.

James Burke 1892-1920. RIC Constable.

Fr. Thomas Hilary Burbage 1879-1966. Republican Priest.

Thomas Francis Burke/ Bourke 1898-1955. IRA Officer.

James Carroll 1879-1938. Easter Week participant.

Alice Cashel 1878-1898. Cumann na mBan Officer, Republican Judge.

Charles/Charlie Chidley 1903-1975. British Solider, Anti Treaty IRA man.

Cherio/Count Louis William Warren Hammon of Normandy. 1866-1936. Occultist, Entrepreneur.

Christopher/ Christy/ Chris Clarke. 1891-1923. RIC Segreant.

Joseph Connolly 1896-1979. IRA leader, National Army Officer.

Michael Cordial 1898-1972. IRA leader, National Army Officer, Hurler.

John Cooke 1863-1916. Ex-Serviceman,Civilian.

James Corrigan 1891-1918. Irish-Irelander, Republican Activist, Hurler and GAA official.

Felix Cronin 1890-1961. IRA leader, National Army Officer, Hurler, Golfing Official.

Henry Cronin 1873-1920. RIC Sergeant.

Matthew Cullen 1901-1922. IRA Volunteer, National Army Officer.

Thomas Cunningham1871/1876-1921. Ex-Serviceman

David Daly 1895-1970. IRA Officer.

Dr Patrick Gabriel/ Paddy Daly 1898-1983. Republican Gunrunner.

Liam/ William jr/ Willie Dignam 1898-1921. IRA Officer.

William Dolan 1896-1918. Civilian.

John Francis Doody 1899-1963. IRA Volunteer, National Army Solider, Anti Treaty IRA Man.

Edward/Eddie Donoghue/O’Donoghue 1910-1922. 12 year old Civilian.

John Joseph/ JJ Donnelly B. 1897. US Army Veteran, National Army Officer. Garda.

Joseph Doolan 1883-1974. Easter Week participant.

Edward Doran 1897-1921. RIC Constable.

Frank/Francis Dolan 1896-1922. IRA Volunteer.

Dr. Patrick Joseph/P.J. Doyle 1892-1964. Easter Week participant.

John/Jack Drumm 1900- 1990. IRA Volunteer, National Army Officer.

James Duffy 1896-1922. Great War Veteran, National Army Solider.

John Dunne 1899-1921. RIC Constable.

Peter Fahey 1893-1916. Civilian

Thomas Feery 1860-1920. Civilian.

Jack/Sean/John Finlay 1897-1923. IRA Volunteer, Gaelic Footballer, Drayman.

Denis Fitzgerald 1895-1961. IRA Officer.

Michael Patrick Foley 1893-1960. Easter Week participant.

George Frend 1850-1921. Land Agent, Farmer, Magistrate

William Frith 1878-1916. Dublin Metropolitan Police officer.

Patrick Geraghty 1890-1923. IRA Officer.

John Greene/ Green 1870-1921. RIC Sergeant, Republican intelligence source.

Thomas Gibson 1897-1923. Great War Veteran, National Army Solider, Anti Treaty IRA man.

Patrick Gilligan 1882-1916. Instructor Irish Volunteers, British Solider.

John Gunning 1891-1923. Great War Veteran, National Army Solider.

John Hannon. D 1920. Retired RIC policeman reengaged as a Special Constable

Daniel/ Dan Hoey 1888-1919. Detective, G Division, Dublin Metropolitan Police.

Alfred/ James Albert/ John Alfred Hayes 1902-22. National Army Solider.

James Hayes 1888-1974. IRA Officer.

Rev. Francis Ryan Hitchcock 1867-1951. Church of Ireland minister.

John Joly 1857-1933. Polymath, Inventor, Academic.

Matthew Kane 1881-1921. IRA Volunteer.

Colum/Columb/Columba Kelly 1901-23. 

James/ Jimmy/ Seamus Kelly 1895-1986. Easter Week participant

Michael Kennedy 1902-1920. IRA Volunteer.

Kieran Kenny 1887-1922.Easter Week participant

Seamus/James Kenny 1884-1953. Easter Week participant.

Sylvester Rait Kerr 1849-1922. Agriculturist.

Joseph Lawlor 1895-1922. Great War Veteran, National Army Solider.

Gabriel/Gabe Lee 1904 -1937. National Army Solider

Patrick Joseph Lopeman 1893-1971. Great War Veteran, Connaught Ranger Mutineer.

Denis Patrick Maguire/ McGuire 1875-1920. RIC Sergeant.

Catherine Mahon 1869-1948. Teacher, Trade Unionist, Cumann na mBan leader.

Patrick McDonald/ McDonnell 1895-1921. RIC Constable.

Patrick McDonnell 1894-1949. Easter Week participant

Annie McGrath- Fleming 1897-1972. Cumann na mBan Officer.

Mary Anne Meleady-Treacy 1892-1978. Cumann na mBan Officer.

James Moran 1889-1987. All Ireland Football medalist, IRA leader.

Edward George Morley 1899-1920. Great War Veteran.

Aine ni Rian 1887-1955. Easter Week participant, Cumann na mBan leader.

Patrick Reardon/ Riordan 1892-1976. IRA Officer.

Seamus O’Brennan/ James Michael O’Brennan 1886-1968. Easter Week participant.

Thomas/Tomas/Tommy O’Connell 1900-1924. IRA Officer.

George Charles Payne 1903-1921. British Solider.

Richard (Dick) Pearson 1897-1921 & Abraham (Abe) Pearson 1902-1921.

Mike/ Michael Reilly D.1921. Ex-Serviceman.

Patrick O’Reilly 1892-1920. RIC Constable.

Sean/ John/ Johnny Robbins 1892-1960. IRA Officer, County GAA player and official.

Patrick/Paddy Seery 1889-1920. IRA Officer.

Eric Steadman D 1921. Great War Veteran.

Patrick/Paddy Tiquin/Tyquin 1896-1922. Great War Veteran, National Army Solider.

Constance/Connie Tynan 1901-1922. Civilian.

Leo White B 1887. Great War Veteran.

Patrick Columba/ P.C./Patsy White 1898-1923. IRA Volunteer, National Army Solider.

William Harding Wilson 1864-1920. RIC District Inspector.

Sir Robert Henry Woods 1865-1938. Surgeon, Independent Unionist MP.

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