The Birr Famous & Notables of Birr Trail presently commemorates 25 remarkable people and places from this heritage town's fascinating history. All famous, or infamous in their day but mostly forgotten in this era. The trail route begins in the main square, and largely takes a route within the heart of town.
A Hollywood icon; a Gaeilge-speaking-Argentinian-champion hurler; a romantic GP; a history-loving lawyer who should have stayed out of religion; a successful businesswoman and TD who harboured a German spy; a poetic cabinet-maker; a 'Little Theatre' that made a big impact; as well as a jazzy newspaper editor; a geologist who has a peak in Canada named after him. There are a few veterans of a former empire's battles, there are sportspeople and diplomats; strong threads within the arts; explorers and people of the Church. Along the trail, we have also included locations linked with 'dramatic events': there's a murder, a schism, an out-done Dame and a handful of revolutionaries. In 2018, two new plaques will be added to the trail, one for a world famous photographer with royal connections and the other a notable female nationalist whose revolutionary uniform is in the National Museum.
The FAN trail has been the creative collaboration of two artists of Birr, Jackie Lynch and Rosalind Fanning. It has also come to fruition thanks to their partnering with The Birr & Midlands Chapter of The Irish Georgian Society. With warm thanks to the committee for their unwavering support and help. And to Amanda Pedlow, Offaly's Heritage Officer for the vital funding for the printing costs of the Guide to the Trail which is available, free of charge from key locations in Birr. The trail was launched at John's Hall by the renowned actor Des Keogh on the 29th June 2016. The original launch guide was kindly funded by Birr Lions Club. To all, and particularly to the owners of the properties, the trail creators give their warm thanks. For further information, please see the Facebook page, entitled Famous & Notables of Birr - the FAN Trail Or contact Rosalind at 05791 21818 / e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In comparison to towns of similar size, Birr has an astonishingly high number of remarkable people connected to it. In their time these men and women of Birr, who lived extraordinary lives, made an impact locally, nationally and internationally. yet their names have mostly faded from memory in our century. Over a few years, this new and fascinating walking trail has been developed by two local artists: Jackie Lynch and Rosalind Fanning. From the beginning, their focus has been asmuch about the people of the town itself, as it is to bring visitors beyond the walls of the main attraction and through the heart of town. The elements have been nurtured, researched and designed by this creative partnership and now, elegant blue and white plaques mark and grace where remarkable men and women of past centuries were born, dwelt, performed, died or worked. 'Fame' is ephemeral – a chimera. This is perhaps, a philosophical nudge to those who devour this era's gossip columns? But through the Famous & Notables of Birr Trail, it is hoped that some of the people who were significant in their day, are in these days, honored again.
In bringing their achievements and influence to light, it is to be noted that within our selection of renowned people, we have sought a reasonable gender balance. Aspects of their stories are likely to captivate and engross imaginations of all generations, in different ways. In presenting snippets of their stories, they are also linked, connected and name-dropped to more exceptional, creative, brave, learned, witty and memorable Irish people as well as to historic events nationally and in the wider world. However, in this first stage of our Famous & Notables of Birr Trail, there were some we could not include if no firm evidence of where they lived or stayed could so far be found; and there are some we might have noted and included but budget constraints, curbed our enthusiasm. On the whole, 'one-nighters' have been excluded, unless it was written of in their biographies. However, we greatly hope that fellow townsfolk will share such gems of 'who stayed here', with those interested in listening. And, for example, the astronomers, engineers, botanists and photographers were not chosen as they are well-covered at the Historic Science Centre, about whom, visitors can read copiously within the demesne. This selection of notables gives an eclectic mix and a flavor of the broad social history and influences within the town itself.
In honour of the strong links many of them had to the Irish language, and a revival of enthusiasm for it here, their professions are shown on the plaques in Irish as well as English. RF & JL
PLAQUE NAMES LIST & LOCATIONS Note: More minor biographical details will follow on this site, but all on the following list can be looked up on line.
Dame Nellie Melba (Emmet Square)
- Alice Dwyer Joyce (O'Connell Street)
- Birr Little Theatre (Emmet Street)
- Thomas Lawlor Cooke (Emmet Street)
- Eamon Bulfin (Emmet Street)
- Aengus Fanning (Oxmantown Mall)
- Thomas Waters (Oxmantown Mall)
- James Franklin Fuller (Oxmantown Mall)
- Lord Dugan (Oxmantown Mall)
- Susan Mitchell (Rosse Row)
- Fanny Copeland (Rosse Row)
- Jim Connell (Rosse Row)
- Fr. Michael Crotty (Castle Street)
- Kate Dunne (Bridge Street)
- Thomas Hackett VC (Moorpark Street)
- Joseph Keele (Seffin)
- Mother McAuley (Wilmer Road)
- Monsignor Hamell (John's Place)
- John Murray (Newbridge Street)
- Bernadette O'Farrell (John's Place)
- John de John Frazer (Connaught Street)
- Tim Finnerty (Mill Street)
- Lorna Reynolds (Saint Brendan Street)
- Caitlin Kingston (Market Square)
William Cunningham's Hotel (Main Street)