Showcasing Laois History and Heritage
An Initiative of Laois Library Service


Read articles on the history of Laois contributed by local historians and researchers.

The Shooting of Geoffrey McDonald

On January 26th 1922 Maryborough Courthouse resounded to cries of “Up the Republic” from the gallery as a self-described “Republican soldier” was taken from the dock denouncing “the informers of Ballinakill” as he went. The prisoners were Peter Campion, John Campion and Alphonsus O’Hara. The charge was murder. Despite the defiant posturing this speech from...
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The Shooting of Thomas Lawless

On 20th January 1921 Thomas Lawless, a 47 year old military veteran and father of seven, was shot dead by a group of 'Black and Tans' in his home on Lyster Lane. Lawless, who had fought for the British Empire abroad, became one of its' victims at home.
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Researching a family revolutionary: Edward Holland

Learn how a small newspaper article published a hundred years ago inspired and facilitated a deeper investigation into the revolutionary activities of a family member.
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Cissie Cahalan and the shop workers of Rathdowney

On Sunday the 4th of June 1922 open-air rallies took place in Portlaoise and Rathdowney in support of Labour candidate for the Leix-Offaly constituency, William Davin. In this article we are going to look at Cissie Cahalan — one of the speakers at the rallies and at shop workers more generally. Cissie Cahalan was then...
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The Royal Irish Constabulary Dead of the Queen’s County

In the frontline of meeting the challenge of guerrilla insurgency was the Royal Irish Constabulary. The Dead of the Irish Revolution lists five Laois men among the fatal casualties from the ranks of the R.I.C. in the year 1921. They were John Doogue, Michael Quinn, Joseph Hughes, William Walsh and Thomas Dowling.
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Ernest Mercier and a Protestant meeting in Durrow

On Wednesday the 12th of April 1922 there took place a meeting of, what some newspaper reports called, the “Protestant Unionists of Durrow and District”.[1] This assembly was in response to events in the north-east of Ireland and for this reason in this article we’ll have to delve into Belfast for a while before returning...
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Maryborough to Portlaoise (4): The Treaty

Following 'The Treaty' the last major evacuation and hand-over was the surrender of Kellyville R.I.C. barracks in Portlaoise on Saturday the 18th of March 1922. In the words of historian Michael Rafter that was “seen by the people as being the end of British rule in the county.” This was the culmination of a series...
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Maryborough to Portlaoise (3): The Barracks

The removal of the British Army was perhaps the most profound transformation following the establishment of the Irish Free State. Today we are accustomed to thinking of the role of the British Army in Ireland in terms of repression. Doubtless this was, at times, the case, and certainly the case in the years of the...
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Maryborough to Portlaoise (2): The Market Square

The pivotal urban public space in the revolution in Laois was the Market Square, Portlaoise. This was the centre piece for a range of demonstrations and rallies —with the focal point often the sadly no longer present Town Hall. We’ll look at a couple of these mobilisations here.
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Maryborough to Portlaoise (1): The Prison

In this article, and the next couple of articles, we’ll look at how public space and public buildings were used in the revolution or transformed in the revolution and at the role of these places in the story of how Maryborough became Portlaoise.
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The Orange Pole

The Orange Pole in Mountmellick became the Loyalist testament to the suppression of the Nationalist Insurgents in 1798. It was located upon the Market House which was once situated in the centre of the Market Square, which we now know as O’Connell Square.
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Funck77, Capard House, CC BY-SA 4.0

Capard House and the Pigotts

The Pigotts came to Laois as part of the Plantation of Queen’s County in the 1550s. John Pigott was an English captain who accompanied Thomas Radcliffe, Earl of Sussex, into Queen’s County circa 1558. He came from Salop and was connected to the ancient Pigott family established at Chetwynd Edgmont. For his service John Pigott...
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The Masonic Hall of Mountmellick

The building which we now know as the Masonic Hall on Church Street was built in 1765 and functioned originally as the first Methodist chapel in the town of Mountmellick. When the Methodist Body moved in 1882 to the Gideon Ousley Memorial Chapel on Market Street (now Parnell Street), the Freemasons of Lodge No.660 took...
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