Decade of Commemorations 2020
In 2020 Offaly County Council is supporting Offaly History in their work to produce a book profiling the social history on the Rathrobin Estate in Offaly. The Biddulph family lived there at the turn of the century and they took photographs of their tenants and their house providing a unique insight into the social and farming history of the Mount Bolus area of Offaly, some of the big houses and the pursuits of their owners. What is important is the empathy Biddulph had with own tenants, taking particular care to photograph the local families and their farming pursuits. The house was subsequently burnt in 1923. The collection provides a unique insight into farming and estate life over a period of significant change from 1902 to 1920. This collection of photographs has been preserved by their descendants, the Magans. They in turn have made the collection available to Offaly History.
The Biddulph Collection, 1870 –1920
The Biddulph Collection of photographs first came to public knowledge through the generosity of Brigadier William Magan (died January 2010) who generously presented the pictures to the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society. The Magan Collection of photographs might better be known as the Biddulph Collection because it was Middleton Biddulph of Rathrobin near Tullamore who took the photographs over the period from 1873 to 1920. The story of the Biddulph and Magan families is lovingly told in William Magan’s, Umma-More: the story of an Irish family (Salisbury, 1983) and in his second volume An Irish Boyhood (Durham, 1996). Middleton Biddulph was an early motoring enthusiast and progressive farmer and kind landlord. Notwithstanding this he could not save his great house against destruction by the IRA in 1923. The Great War and the War of Independence saw the demise of the ascendancy in Ireland. The onset of the War of Independence and ill health, saw ‘Uncle Middleton’ move to Cheyne Walk, London where Middleton died in 1926 and his wife Vera in 1938 (aged 75).
The total number of pictures in the collection amounts to almost 1,500 taken over a period of about fifty years from c. 1873 to 1920….almost 800 pictures cover the period from 1901 to 1920 and are great interest for the midlands with particular reference to the Rathrobin estate, both farm and house together with the smaller country houses in the immediate vicinity. Biddulph’s photographs of the tenants on the estate and in the Killoughy area provide a unique record of rural life before and during the Great War and up to 1920.