Decade of Centenaries

Decade of Centenaries: Laois County Council Historian in Residence

Laois County Library is delighted to commence its third Historian-in-Residence Programme with the appointment of Terry Dunne as the new Laois Historian-in-Residence. The aim of the residency is to reflect national policy on commemorations at a local level, bringing to life the experience of all sections of Laois society a hundred years ago. Utilising the resources and archives of Laois County Library, Terry is developing a research and engagement programme that will explore various aspects of Laois history in the revolutionary period. The residency is supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and Laois County Council under the Community Strand of the 2021 Decade of Centenaries Programme.

Terry Dunne has a Doctorate in Sociology from Maynooth University. His doctoral research included an examination of social conflict in Laois in the 1820s and 1830s. He has published widely on agrarian social movements in the Irish past and hosts a blog on the topic. In Maynooth Terry worked with Professor Laurence Cox, specialising in the study of social movements, meaning a range of collective actions from protests through to revolutions. Terry is an avid supporter of public history and was formerly the chairperson of Castledermot Local History Group. He is a native of Kilkea in Kildare, only a few miles on the ‘wrong side’ of the Laois-Kildare border.

Terry’s academic work has been published in journals such as Critical Historical StudiesÉire-Ireland, Saothar and Rural History. He has also written on his research for more accessible publications such as the Old Kilkenny Review, History Ireland and Rabble. He is currently editing a collection of essays with Dr John Cunningham of NUI Galway, entitled ‘Spirit of Revolution.’ The collection looks at the Irish Revolution from below, examining local cases of popular mobilisation. This is due to be published with Four Courts Press in the spring of 2022.

Engaging in new research on the Laois experience of the Irish Revolution, Terry will focus less on the militaristic aspect and more on the mass mobilisation of ordinary people and local stories of revolution in Laois. His forthcoming series of short articles will look at such topics as the labour movement in Laois, Gaelic League activism and the role of public space and public buildings in the story of how Maryborough became Portlaoise. Visit the Articles section of the Laois Local Studies website for more of Terry’s work:


Opening A Window on the Past by Regina Dunne

This wonderful new publication by historian Regina Dunne explores the lives of two remarkable Laois women: Lucy Franks and Helen Roe.

Gertrude Lucy Maria Franks of the Castletown United Irishwomen (ICA), was instrumental in reviving the Irish Countrywomen’s Association in the late 1920s and establishing the Country Shop in St. Stephens Green, Dublin. In addition, Lucy Franks supported attendance at the Spring Fairs in the RDS, helped to establish the annual summer school which still takes place today, and was a founding member of the Association of Country Women of the World. Her impact on rural women’s associations both nationally and internationally is recognised in this publication. The publication tells the tale of the early days of the Irish Countrywomen’s Association in Laois and it’s revival through an era of turmoil in Irish history.

Helen Maybury Roe of Mountrath was the first County Librarian, first female President of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (RSAI), and a staunch advocate for local history, folklore, and opening the windows of the world to everyone in Laois both young and old through stories, and books. In her Ford Model T, she travelled the roads of Laois delivering lectures on local history, flora and fauna, recording local folklore, photographing ancient archaeology, and was a firm believer in preserving local history. Known widely in the area of Early Christian Art and ‘the world of stone’, this publication explores her extensive work on the local history of Laois and her life as the first County Librarian in Laois.

The book delves into the lives and times of both influential women, and acknowledges their pioneering work during an era of change in Irish history. The book is completed with the thanks to Laois County Library Services, the Laois Decade of Centenaries Programme, and supported by Creative Ireland Laois as part of the Creative Ireland Programme (2017-2022) in partnership with Laois County Council.

The book can be purchased in Allbooks in Portlaoise, Centra, Spar, Cosy Café, Eddie Phelan’s and Bloom HQ in Mountrath.  It can also be purchased in all Laois Library branches at the cost of €15.  To obtain the publication by post just contact library headquarters (details below), and additional postage charge will apply.

Address: Laois County Library HQ, The Old Mill, Church Street, Portlaoise, R32 HDA3.

Phone: 0578594982 /0578594983/05785 94985 (please use full number when dialing)



The Ronnie Matthews Collection

The archive collection of Portarlington historian Ronnie Mathews was acquired by Laois County Council in 2021. Ronnie  Mathews, a well-known historian and author of several books on Portarlington, had collected documents, maps and artefacts relating to the town over his whole life, and the collection also includes some items collected by his father.

The Mathews family ran a bakery in Portarlington for many years, and the collection includes ledgers and account books from that business, which will shed a fascinating light on many aspects of life in Portarlington in the past. Among the interesting artefacts are a series of glass plate negatives  showing all aspects of Irish life dating from around 1910, a cannon ball reputed to be from the site of Lea Castle outside Portarlington, and a hand painted chess board with the crest of the Dawson family of Emo Court. The documents include a map of Patrick Street dated 1889 and a large collection of postcards by Wynne of Portarlington, also showing Maryborough Mountmellick, Monasterevin and more. The acquisition of the Mathews Archive follows the announcement of funding through the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund for conservation and regeneration of the historic Market Square in Portarlington, with plans for the conservation and reuse of the Market House in the square, which has been leased by Laois County Council.


Creative Ireland Laois Support

The material will now be carefully archived and catalogued by the Laois County Library Service, and arrangements made for any necessary conservation. Funding has been made available through the Creative Ireland Programme (2017-2022) for essential archiving and cataloguing work, as we prepare the material to be made available for research and for future display.

It will be a wonderful resource for researchers and a great way to honour the memory of Ronnie Mathews.

Any enquiries about the collection should be directed to


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