Offaly, Irish Uibh Fhailaí county in the province of Leinster, Ireland. With an area of 771 square miles (1,998 square km), it is bounded by Counties Westmeath and Meath (north), Kildare (east), Laoighis and Tipperary (south), and Galway and Roscommon (west). The River Shannon forms its western boundary. Offaly consists mainly of a large section of the central lowland, though its southwestern boundary runs along the crest of the Slieve Bloom. Its terrain is primarily a mixture of peat bogs and cultivable land composed of glacial drift. A notable geologic feature is the fine series of eskers (long ridges of postglacial gravel), notably at Clonmacnoise, an ancient monastic site near the Shannon. Seven-tenths of the county is improved agricultural land. Peat bogs supply fuel for electric-power stations. Offaly has many raths (prehistoric hill forts) and a chain of mottes, commanding passes of the bogs.
Offaly formed part of the ancient kingdom of Offaly and was inhabited by O'Connors. Following the rebellion of Brian O'Connor, it was annexed to the English crown during the reign of Edward VI. Offaly was shired as King's County in 1556. A plan for colonizing Laoighis and Offaly was adopted by the government under Mary I, but the inhabitants resisted for the rest of the century, being subdued only at the beginning of the reign of James I (1603).
Offaly is united with Laoighis under a county manager but has its own county council. Birr and Tullamore are urban districts; more than two-fifths of the population live in villages and towns, the largest of which is Tullamore, the assize and county town (seat), which has a worsted mill, malting plant, distillery, and a bacon and sausage factory. Birr (q.v.) and Edenderry have footwear factories, Clara a jute mill, and Edenderry a furniture factory. Other smaller places serve as market towns with monthly livestock fairs. Two-thirds of the county's improved farmland is permanent pasture, one-fifth is under crops, and the rest is used as meadow. Wheat is prominent, and barley is sold to maltsters. Tullamore and Clara are on a branch railway line from Athlone to Portarlington, and a canal still carries cargo. Pop. (1981) 58,312.
Popular Surnames from Offaly County
Kelly, Dunne, Molloy, Carroll, Egan,
Dempsey, O'Connor, Daly, Fitzpatrick and Lalor.
Chief Towns and Cities in Offaly County
The main towns in Laois and
Offaly include Tullamore, Birr, Clara, Edenderry,
Portarlington, Portlaoise, Mountmellick and Mountrath.
Parishes in Offaly County
During the Great Famine, Offaly lost approximately 25% of it's population (some towns lost up to 50%). The most popular destinations were Australia, Canada and the United States.
The following publications are available through the Laois and Offaly Family History Research Centre
Annals of Clonmacnois
Tullamore Town Album
The Long Ridge (Killeigh)
Clara - A Pictorial Record
Quakers of Mount Mellick
Query Message Board
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County Offaly Coordinator:
Mary Ann Lubinsky
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