Tipperary author chronicles 300 years of his family’s farming history

Tipperary-born author Tom Carroll, has published a captivating chronicle of the O’Dea family, generations of whom have farmed in Laois since the 1700s.

While this book offers a rich, comprehensive history of the O’Dea family, their stories will resonate with farming families throughout Tipperary as the book opens an ancestral window to how life on the land was lived before, during, and after the Great Famine.

Born in Clonoulty to Tom and Margaret Carroll, the author spent summer holidays in 1950s Laois with his maternal grandmother, Mary O’Dea.

These holidays inspired Mr Carroll, a retired Shannon Development executive and business consultant, to invest years of research, unearthing compelling stories of triumph and tragedy in the O’Dea family history.

Mr Carroll charts the lives of O’Dea generations from 1700-2000, weaving the tales of Laois emigrants through Australia, America, Manchester and France. What emerges is a rich tapestry of the momentous political, economic, social and technological change witnessed in Laois and mirrored in rural communities across Ireland over those 300 years.

“This book’s origins go back nearly 70 years to the early 1950s when I spent several summer holidays with my widowed maternal grandmother, Mary O’Dea, my uncles and aunt on their farm at Lisnagomman townland near Abbeyleix,” Mr Carroll said.

“Back then, in the early 1950s, cows were hand-milked. My grandmother hand-churned butter for home use. Weeding and thinning of root crops – such as beet, mangles and turnips – were done manually.

“Culm, a gritty material derived from anthracite coal, came from a local colliery. My uncles mixed it with clay and, availing of the moisture on a wet day, trampled it to make culm balls for use as a domestic fuel.

“A Fordson tractor, purchased in 1948, had begun to sideline horses in farming tasks like tillage, bringing milk to Spink creamery, manure-spreading and haymaking,” said Tom.

The author decided to look at how farming and land-ownership had changed for his maternal family, the O’Dea’s, not just from the 1950s, but to try and trace them back to their origins.

“Through telling the stories of the generations who lived in Laois and the generations who left, I was sure the broader landscape of life in Laois would emerge through those 300 years,” Mr Carroll said.

The book retails for € 20 and is available at Allbooks, Lyster Square, Portlaoise; Heritage House, Ballyroan Road, Abbeyleix; Scully’s Pub, Ballyroan.

A digital version of the book is available to purchase on Amazon.

The book will be launched this Saturday, July 9, at 7.30pm in Scully’s pub, Ballyroan, Laois.


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