A NEW guide to the buildings of Kildare, Laois and Offaly has been hailed as the “go-to source for anyone interested in architecture in the three counties.”
The comments were made by the Cathaoirleach of Offaly County Council, Cllr Peter Ormond who performed the official launch of “Central Leinster” at a function in Offaly History Centre, Tullamore on Thursday night last.
The Shinrone based public representative’s comments were endorsed by Banagher and Tullamore historian, James Scully who said the guide was an essential for the glove compartment to inspire and accompany people on field trips in the region.
Mr Scully, who proposed a vote of congratulations to the author, Andrew Tierney following his short lecture at the launch, outlined that “quality oozes from this publication.”
Earlier distinguished local historian, Michael Byrne said the guide comprised 700 pages of closely edited text, “which means another 700 pages has probably been edited out.”
“There is no bull, just good quality text,” stressed Mr Byrne.
The publication is promoted by the Buildings of Ireland Charitable Trust and forms part of the prestigious Pevsner Architectural Guides series to the architecture of Britain and Ireland.
“Central Leinster” is the fifth volume in the Ireland series and covers an area where many of Ireland’s most rewarding and distinctive buildings are found.
On the westernmost flank, by the Shannon, is Clonmacnoise, a cradle of early monasticism, with its Hiberno-Romanesque ruins, sculpted crosses and round towers while much of the best Georgian streetscape appears in the settlements further west, at Mountmellick, Portarlington, Birr and Tullamore.
Professor Alistair Rowan, the former journalist who has overall responsibility for the Irish guides, said the country’s provincial divisions were respected in the series.
He said work on the first volume in the series on North West Ulster began in 1967 while the Central Leinster guide had taken a total of ten years to research and write.
Paying tribute to the author, Professor Rowan said he had produced a magnificent volume on three of the richest counties in Ireland from an architectural viewpoint.
Cllr Peter Ormond pointed out the Offaly Heritage Plan [2017-’21] prioritises support for key publications and the council had been glad to support work on the guide over a period of several years.
He continued: “I understand that Amanda Pedlow, Heritage Officer with the council , did her time on the Heritage Council’s board and we would like to acknowledge their support through their grant programme for the delivery of heritage plans in all three counties.”
Cllr Ormond also commended Offaly History for supporting the volume at a time when they were commencing their very ambitious project of building a professional county archive building.
“We in Offaly County Council look forward to working with them to deliver the county archive service for researchers,” he added.
Cllr Ormond thanked the Society, the County Library and the County Architect, Rachel McKenna for supporting the guide’s author in his research.
“This is the fifth volume in the Ireland series and this publication has a proud place in the overall series being developed by the Board of the Buildings of Ireland series,” concluded Offaly’s first citizen.
Author Andrew Tierney said a lot of work on the architecture of the region had already been completed by Offaly History which he described as one of the “most active and progressive history societies in the country.”
He recalled that as a young academic ten years ago Alistair Rowan has asked him to research and compile the guide. “It was a huge vote of confidence and he accompanied me on many of my field trips, was a mentor and has written some of the contributions in the guide.”
Mr Tierney, who is originally from Nenagh in neighbouring Co. Tipperary, said the Irish landscape was characterised by the “ubiquity of ruins.”
“This is something that people from continental Europe comment on,” noted Mr Tierney who speculated that their presence reflected Ireland’s “dark history of conquest and displacement.”
“Central Leinster” is available from Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore and also at their online bookshop, www.offalyhistory.com, at the special price of €50, including postage in the UK and Ireland.