Decade of Centenaries

Offaly County Council has partnered with Offaly History to deliver the Decade of Centenaries Programme.

For Offaly History Blog news and updates visit https://www.offalyhistory.com/offaly-and-the-decade-of-centenaries/decade-of-centenaries-blog

For Offaly History youtube lectures and videos see Offaly History youtube channel 

July 2022 marks the centenary of the burning of Birr Barracks in Crinkill. Below are two links to Offaly History YouTubes providing background and context to this event.   

Interview with Dr Christopher Fitz-Simon 

On December 3rd 2021, Dr. Christopher O'C Fitz-Simon presented an album of Leinster regiment photographs to the Offaly Archives on the centenary of the Leinsters' disbandment. During the presentation Dr. Fitz-Simon was interviewed by military historian Stephen Callaghan about the album, and the career of his father, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Fitz-Simon with many an interesting insight and story! 

Stephen Callaghan’s talk on Birr Barracks,an overview from construction to destruction

With the approaching centenary of the burning of Birr Barracks, join Stephen Callaghan for an insight into the history of Birr Barracks from its construction at the start of 1800s, during the height of the Napoleonic Wars, to the evacuation of the British Army and handover to the Free State Army, and finally its destruction by fire during the Irish Civil War in 1922. Stephen’s talk will focus on how the barracks’ use evolved over time and how it shaped the Birr and Crinkill we know today. Notable and interesting events which took place over the barracks’ lifetime will be recounted, such as the murder of Adjutant Robertson Mackay or the presentation of new colours to the 53rd Regiment of Foot by the duke of Connaught to the construction of mock trenches in the Fourteen Acres during the Great War.

Upcoming Events

Saturday 16th July 2022 - Walking Tour of Birr Barracks, Crinkill by Stephen Callaghan organised by Offaly History

Birr Vintage Week Saturday 6th & Sunday 7th August 2022 - Commemorating Birr Barracks - details to follow

Publications

A series of publications have been supported through this programme. These can be borrowed from the library service or purchased from Offaly History's bookshop.

100 years of Clara History by J. Harold Goodbody and Michael Goodbody

Clara has long been associated with the textile industry; stretching from the bleach greens of the early 1700s to development of the country’s largest jute factory, which gave employment to the district from 1864 and ran as a very successful business for the next hundred years. Reading the diaries if his Victorian great-aunt during world war II Harold Goodbody realised that she had kept a day-to-day record of how this industry had been created and how her family’s flower milling activities had supported the local community. Harold made extracts of the more relevant parts of the diaries and added his own notes and recollections, creating a history of the Goodbody family in Clara and how a modest Offaly village had been turned into one of Ireland’s leading industrial centres. His work has now been edited to what will be a valuable local history source. Harold’s own historical research, covering the period from the late 1800s to the 1940s, is particularly insightful in the context of a period of significant change in Ireland and in the fortunes of Clara its leading entrepreneurial family. The work is illustrated with over 200 carefully selected photographs.

Offaly Heritage - Volume 11

This is the eleventh volume of essays produced by the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society on the history of this Irish midlands county. Some of the county’s leading historians, writers and academics have contributed to this important and pioneering collection of essays. To mark the Decade of Centenaries, there are ten specially contributed essays and a number of short biographies of figures from the revolutionary period in Offaly.

Rathrobin and the two Irelands: the photographs of Middleton Biddulph 1900–1920 by Michael Byrne

Offaly County Council supported 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.

Magan Collection Image