Two new history books on Offaly

THE Offaly Archaeological and Historical Society is hosting a launch celebrating the publication of two new books on Offaly’s history: John Plunket Joly and the Great Famine in King’s County by Ciaran Reilly from Edenderry and William Steuart Trench and his management of the Digby Estate, King’s County, 1857-71 by Mary Delaney (a native of Bracknagh).

THE Offaly Archaeological and Historical Society is hosting a launch celebrating the publication of two new books on Offaly’s history: John Plunket Joly and the Great Famine in King’s County by Ciaran Reilly from Edenderry and William Steuart Trench and his management of the Digby Estate, King’s County, 1857-71 by Mary Delaney (a native of Bracknagh).

These books will be launched at 8pm on September 22 in Hamilton’s, Geashill.
Copies of both books will be available for purchase on the night and all are welcome to attend.

John Plunket Joly and the Great Famine in King’s County by Ciarán Reilly: While a plethora of works have been published about the Great Famine, particularly during the sesquicentenary commemoration in the mid-1990s, few have examined areas that were not as adversely affected by the calamity. Most Famine studies (if not all) highlight poverty, distress, disease, death, eviction and emigration.

This study examines the social world of John Plunket Joly (1826–58) and his family during the Great Famine in King’s County (Offaly). For the Joly family it seems life was undisturbed by the Famine and their daily activities of music, dancing and other activities remained features throughout the period. Their lifestyle, as recorded in the diaries of John Plunket Joly, is one of the few first-hand accounts from people who actually lived through the Famine.

The world of the Jolys, a gentry family, contrasts greatly with the plight of the inhabitants of the parish of Clonsast in King’s County in which they lived.

William Steuart Trench and his management of the Digby Estate, King’s County, 1857–71 by Mary Delaney: This book set out to establish what the true ‘realities’ were on the Digby estate in King’s County from 1857 to 1871, under the management of William Steuart Trench. Trench was a professional land agent who had previously worked on the Bath Estate in Co. Monaghan and the Lansdowne estate in Kerry.

The barony of Geashill experienced a golden age of prosperity. There were vast improvements in both the architecture of the village and in the topography of the landscape during the Trench years. Such improvements gained both national and indeed international recognition for Lord Digby and earned Trench the legacy of an improver who was well ahead of his time. However, not all members of the community shared in this prosperity and while the physical legacy of Trench lives on, it is overshadowed, by the realities of an agent who broke leases, levelled people’s homes and banished the poor and in so doing was ruthless in his management of Lord Digby’s estate. Trench’s realities were therefore not the only realities experienced by the people of Geashill.

These two books are out now. Both in paperback. Both 64 pages and both retail for €9.95 each. See website at: www.fourcourtspress.ie for additional details