Gallery dedication in honour of the O’Hanrahan Family from Tullow Street

On Saturday 11th March 2017 the Carlow County Museum temporary exhibition gallery has been dedicated in honour of the O’Hanrahan Family/ Uí Annracháin for their contribution to Irish independence. They lived at 90 and 91 Tullow Street in the late 19th and early 20th century. The dedication and plaque unveiling was performed by Pearse O’Hanrahan, great grand nephew of the Richard and Mary O’Hanrahan, and grandnephew of their children Harry, Micheál, Edward, Áine (Ciss), Máire and Eily. Richard was a member of the Fenian’s and 2017 marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of their rebellion in 1867. Pearse was accompanied by his brother Harry and several other O’Hanrahan relations were present including Deirdre Lawlor a grand and great grandniece of the O’Hanrahan’s being honoured.

Present at the unveiling were Cllr. John Murphy, Cathaoirleach of Carlow County Council; Cllr. Fintan Phelan, Chairperson of the Carlow Ireland 2016 Committee and Cllr. Fergal Browne, Chairperson of the Board of Carlow County Museum.

Image of Pearse O'Hanrahan and Dermot Mulligan, Curator of Carlow County Museum

Pearse O’Hanrahan and Dermot Mulligan, Curator of Carlow County Museum

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St Brigid of Kildare 451-524

A wooden carving of St Brigid holding a bible in her hands

St Brigid as carved in the 20 foot high pulpit on display in Carlow County Museum




Debate over realty

There is debate over whether St Brigid is a real person or not, since St Brigid shares the name of the Pagan Irish goddess associated with Spring, healing and blacksmithing.

The goddess Brigid[i] is celebrated on February 1st [ii} which is the same as St Brigid’s feast day.

This makes some people believe that she is a Christianisation of the god. Continue reading

Thompsons Engineering

The original company was established in 1878 by Thomas Thompson[i].  The business now has over 120 years of experience and has traded through many economic cycles producing engineering products which have been specified by their customers.  Those have included farm machinery, turbines, haulage wagons, hydroelectric installations, ammunitions, aeroplane parts, peat processing machinery and much more.  First under its founder and afterwards under the late Fred Thompson, the firm expanded to acquire premises and business in Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Wexford, Carrick-on-Suir and Ballyellen[ii].

A wooden frame hanging from the ceiling in Carlow County Museum

A portion of the wing from the Bristol F.2 Fighter


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Celebrating The Feast Of St Willibrord, Patron Saint Of Luxembourg & His Carlow Connection


On Monday the 7th of November at 7.00pm in St Laserian’s Cathedral, Old Leighlin the Feast of St Willibrord, Patron Saint of Luxembourg and his Co Carlow connection will be celebrated with an ecumenical service led by the Right Reverend Michael Burrows, Bishop of Ossory, Cashel, Ferns, Lismore, Waterford and Leighlin along with the Most Reverend Denis Nulty, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin. This will be followed by a lecture by Professor Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, Department Of History, NUI Galway on Clonmelsh, Willibrord, and Carlow’s Contribution to the Anglo-Saxon mission on the continent in the 8th century. All are welcome to attend.

St Willibrord was born near York in England and he is the Patron Saint of Luxembourg. He was trained and ordained at a religious site located in the townland of Garryhundon, Co Carlow commonly referred to as Killogan, Rath Melsigi (Rathmelsh) or Clonmelsh Graveyard. During the seventh and eighth centuries this site was the most important Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical settlement in Ireland. It was here from 678AD to c. 720AD that Willibrord and many other Englishmen were trained for the continental mission. He is buried in the Basilica of Echternach, Luxembourg which is the centre of his monastery.

The evening in St. Laserian’s Cathedral will begin at 7.00pm with ‘Vespers of Saint Willibrord’ an ecumenical service led by the Bishop Michael Burrows, and Bishop Denis Nulty. This will be followed (7.45pm) by a lecture by Prof. Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, Department of History, NUI Galway on the history and importance of Clonmelsh, Willibrord, and Carlow’s Contribution to the Anglo-Saxon mission on the continent in the 8th century. Since the early 1980s Prof Ó Cróinín has been researching and publishing articles on the connection with Carlow and the continental missions. In 690AD Willibrord led a successful mission from Carlow, made up of Irishmen and Englishmen. As part of his abbey in Echternach he established a very important scriptorium and for a considerable period of time the Abbey produced many of the bibles, psalms and prayerbooks that are to be found today in the great libraries of Europe. It is likely that the first generation of these scribes were from Co. Carlow or had trained here. Many of the earliest Anglo-Saxon manuscripts were written in Irish script either by Irish monks based in Britain or by Anglo-Saxons who were trained by the Irish. From Echternach he continued to co-ordinate missions to the surrounding countries until 739AD, when he died aged 81.

Great devotion and religious festivals are still held to this day in his honour and in particular a hopping procession, a dance that dates back to, if not predates St. Willibrord’s life time. The hopping procession which takes place annually on the Tuesday after Pentecost Sunday sees thousands of people from across Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland and Germany descending on Echternach to partake This unique procession coupled with the European importance of the Abbey saw the procession granted UNESCO World Heritage Status in 2010.

In June 2017 both Bishop Burrows and Nulty will lead a joint Diocesan Pilgrimage to Echternach, the town in Luxembourg where St Willibrord is buried in the vault of the monastery he established there. This is one of the highlights of a programme devised for 2017 to celebrate the historical connection between the two areas. The pilgrimage bookings are being coordinated through Tully’s Travel Agents, Carlow Town.

The RIC in Carlow

Glass display case behind it is a big red banner and beside it is a radiator

Law & Order display in Carlow County Museum.

In 1825, a bill was introduced to reorganise the police system in Ireland. Its purpose was to create one force for the country – outside of Dublin, and replace the Peace Preservation Force established in 1814.  In 1836, on the 20th of May the bill became law and was known as the Constabulary (Ireland) Act, 1936.1

The strength of the constabulary was fixed by the Act at 10,500 men. However this strength was subject to change. In the 1850’s it was almost 13,000 and in the early 1880’s it reached an all time high of 14,000. It was spread over the country in about 1500 police barracks and established on semi military lines. The strength of Dublin Metropolitan Police stood at around 1,200 being divide into seven districts.  Its first recruit, back in 1837 was Constable Delaney, a native of Durrow, Co. Laois. 2

The first police barracks in Carlow town was in Burrin St, opened in 1840 and formerly the Yellow Line Inn. At Forge Cross, Graiguecullen, another police barracks was situated, serving Graiguecullen and the adjoining area. The police moved to the barracks in Tullow St., now occupied by the Gardaí, in 1870. County Carlow was divided into two police districts, that of Carlow and Muinebeag, Carlow town being county and district headquarters combined. 3

In the period 1903-05 the County Inspector in Carlow town was D.I. Samuel Carter who resided at Otterholt, Kilkenny Road and also had residence at the Monavea, Cettyyard, Co. Laois. At the same time the District Inspector in Muinebeag was D.I. Roberts, later Assistant Inspector-General of the R.U.C, in Belfast. 4

The last Head Constable was H.C. James McGlinchey. The Head Constable was actually the member in charge of the Barracks or station. Other Head Constables to serve in Carlow town in the early 1900’s were Head Constables John Reynolds and John McCoy.

A new contingent of the newly formed Gardaí arrived in Carlow in September 1922. The breakdown was three Sergeants and twenty-eight Gardaí. Those were the men charged with policing the county into the future. They were housed in an old R.I.C. Barracks in mid Tullow Street until arrangements were made to deploy them to other stations in the county.5 The military police force of the fledgling free state Army took over the Barracks on the withdrawal of the R.I.C and they now in turn control to the new presence as did also the judge of the Republican Court, Mr. John Foley. The members of the new force was very well received by the people of Carlow and the force were heartened by their welcome.6

On the day of their arrival the Republican Peace Commissioners, Nicholas Roche, Tullow Street and Patrick Donohue of Dublin Street also tendered their resignations. Everybody respected the neutrality of the Gardaí. A tribute must be paid to all those men who served all of us with great charity, common sense, and impartiality down through the years and still do to this day.  7

The last of the R.I.C departed from Carlow in February 1922 and on the 28th September, 1922, the first members of the Garda Force, then known as the Civic Guards arrived in Carlow. This force consisted of a party of three Sergeants and twenty eight Gardaí. The Sergeants were Sergeants Martin Walsh, John McGloin and Patrick Duffy. The Gardaí were:  Gardaí Denis Flynn, Peter Flanagan, John Rodgers, Martin Walsh, Martin Fennessy, and others whose names are unknown. 8

Sergeants in charge in Carlow town. 

1925 Sgt. Phelan

1928 Sgt. Carney

1932 Sgt. M Farrell

1937 Sgt. J Hudson

Ex R.I.C members who enlisted in the Gardaí. 

627- O’Farrell, John

884- Doyle, John

1988- Murphy, Patrick

This piece has been researched and written by Akhimoni Uddin, Transition Year Student, St. Leo’s College, Carlow as part of her work experience in Carlow County Museum. The Transition Year ‘Be Involved Volunteer Programme’ is organised by the Carlow Volunteer Centre.




1 – ‘The Police in Carlow’, Jim Westman, Carloviana 1978/79 p.7

2 – ‘The Police in Carlow’, Jim Westman, Carloviana 1978/79 p.7

3 – ‘The Police in Carlow’, Jim Westman, Carloviana 1978/79 p.7

4 – ‘The Police in Carlow’, Jim Westman, Carloviana 1978/79 p.7

5 – ‘A New Law and Order We Bring to You’, Des Nolan, Carloviana 1998 p.62-64

6 – ‘A New Law and Order We Bring to You’, Des Nolan, Carloviana 1998 p.62-64

7 – ‘A New Law and Order We Bring to You’, Des Nolan, Carloviana 1998 p.62-64

8 – ‘The Police in Carlow’, Jim Westman, Carloviana 1978/79 p.7

Carlow County Museum Best Local Authority Museum Award.

As 2014 draws to a close it is therefore a good time to thank so many people that help and assist in the running of Carlow County Museum. All the more reason to say thanks is because Carlow County Museum operated by Carlow County Council has in recent months been selected as outright winner for Best Local Authority Museum in the ‘Excellence in Business’ awards organised by the Public Sector Magazine. The local authority is being recognised by the Public Sector Magazine for their outstanding achievement in developing Ireland’s newest county museum. According to the Public Sector Magazine ‘Carlow County Museum is a fine example of a community coming together in partnership with their local authority. Together they have brought the past into the present and they have created something very special for the future.’

A group of people from Carlow County Council standing close together indoors, two people holding a white plaque in their hands

On Monday October 6th last Cllr. Fergal Browne, Cathaoirleach of Carlow County Council, members of Carlow County Council and the Museum Board along with Mr. Tom Barry, Chief Executive of Carlow County Council and staff of Carlow County Museum & Tourist Office accepted the award in the Museum.


Thanks to:
Cllr. Fergal Browne, Cathaoirleach of Carlow County Council, Members of Carlow County Council. The Board of Carlow County Museum: Cllr Ann Ahern, Chairperson; Cllr. Fergal Browne, Deirdre Kearney, Cllr. Walter Lacey, Eoin Lyng, Martin Nevin & Noreen Whelan.
Carlow County Council: Tom Barry, Chief Executive; Pat Delaney, Director of Services; Michael Brennan, Town Clerk and the Carlow Local Authorities Management Team. To all the former staff of Carlow Town Council (abolished May 2014).
Museum Staff & Volunteers: Dermot Mulligan, Museum Curator; John McDarby, Staff Officer; Martin O’Rourke, Building Maintenance Superintendent; Museum Assistants – William Fallon, Amanda O’Neill, Deirdre Hennessy, Pawel Kucharski, Geraldine O’Boyle and Gordon Cleere.
Thanks to all our volunteers who have and are assisting in the running of the Museum:
Andrew Ashmore, John Aughney, Tim Bartasevics, Sinead Bayly, Judy Bolger, Bernie Bolger, Barbara Bolger, Jennifer Bracken, Mary Brennan, Una Brennan, Sheila Brennan, Stephen Brennan, John Breslin, Bríd Brett, Tony Broderick, Shane Burke, John Byrne, Dan Carbery, Kay Carbery, Michael Carbery, Joseph Clancy, Gerry Coen, Seamus Colloton, Michael Connolly, Teresa Connolly, John Courtenay, Miriam Courtenay, Kitty Courtney, Tom Cox, Eleanor Cuddy,
Mary Cunningham, Des Dalton, Michael J Daly, Christine Davis, Andrew Deane, Pamela Deegan, Kathleen Delaney, Leanne Donohue, Claire Donegan, Tom Doolan, Michael Dooley, Keith Douglas, Conor J Dowling, Diane Dowling, Caragh Doyle, Gerry Duffy, Paul Dwyer, Lynn Earls, Aideen Egan, Margaret Ellis, William Fallon, Kathleen Farrell, Seamus Farrell, Elodie Faye, Niall Fitzpatrick, Josephine Fitzgerald, Rachel Fitzsimons, Brigid Fox, Martin Galligan, Ciara Gilbert, Daniel Gillen, Marianna Giordano, Nicola Gray, Patrick Halpin, Jason Hanley, Áine Harte, Con Haughney, Rory Healy, Patrick Healy, Peter Heary, Gary Heary, Donna Heffernan, James Hoctor, Ciara Hogan, Gillian Holden, James Hutton, Sylvester Hutton, Foo Shen Hwang, Deirdre Kearney, Mary Keating, Kevin Keenan, Brídín Kelly, Philip Kelso, Arthur Kennedy, Catriona Kyles, Alberto Lopez, Billy Lyons, Matthew Ma, Paul Maher, Patricia May, Martin Mc Andrew, Joseph D McDonald, Kate McDonald, Sean McGee, Margaret McKenna, Owen McManus, Ann Meaney, Michael Monahan, Clare Mooney, Gerald Moore, Margaret Moran, Annemarie Mullins, Kevin Murphy, Fiona Murphy, Conor Murphy, Mary Murphy, Roderick Murphy, Cian Murtagh, Annette Nash, Rachel Nolan, Dermot Nolan, Donie Nolan, Liam O Discín, Pauline O’Brien, Orna O’Doherty, Bernadette O’Donoghue, Betty O’Gorman, Funmi alake Ogunsanwo, Kathleen O’Keeffe, Hugh O’Neill, Áine O’Neill, Gregory O’Neill, Sean O’Reilly, Hugh O’Rourke, William O’Rourke, Amanda Pitcairn, Lorraine Purcell, Aisling Reddy, Rachel Richardson, Tom Roche, Nicholas Ryan, Carmel Ryan, Sean Savage, Mustafa Serbetci, Denis Shannon, Aoife Sheehan, Ann Siney, Kae Slattery, Rosemary Slattery, Yvonne Slye, Deimante Stankevicikte, Margaret Sweeney, Kathleen Treacy, Anne Twomey, Tanya Van der Westhuizen, Ingrid Wall, Anne-Marie Wall, Jacqueline Walsh, Peter Walsh, Noreen Whelan, John Whittaker, Arthur Willlis and Andy Yule.

Four Carlow County Museum volunteers smiling at the camera sitting around a table with cups and saucers on the table in Carlow Delta Centre

Some of the Museum’s Volunteers enjoying their recent Christmas party.

Four Carlow County Museum volunteers smiling at the camera sitting around a table with cups and saucers on the table in Carlow Delta Centre

It is also appropriate to thank all those who have assisted in developing the wonderful facility we have here on College Street. This is a copy of the ‘Credits’ panel that is displayed as visitors exit the Museum galleries before descending the wonderful ‘nuns stairs’ that leads to the ground floor. As well as thanking all these organisations and people it also gives an insight into the variety of people, skills and organisations that combined to develop the new museum, Ireland’s newest county museum.
Carlow County Museum Project Credits/ Details (April 2012)
Board of Carlow County Museum:
Martin Nevin, Chairperson; Michael Brennan, Town Clerk, Cllr. John Cassin, Cllr. Rody Kelly, Cllr. Walter Lacey, Seamus Murphy & Noreen Whelan.
Carlow County Museum Design Team:
Architect: Michael O’Boyle, Bluett & O’Donoghue Architects, Dublin
Design Team Leader & Structural Engineer: Ivor Bowe, Bowe Consulting Engineers, Carlow
Quantity Surveyor: Andy Quinn of McCullagh Lupton Quinn, Kilkenny
Structural Engineer: Tom Gleeson (R.I.P), Carlow
Mechanical & Electrical Engineer: Eddie Doyle, Doyle Environmental, Ullard, Co. Kilkenny.
Michael Brennan, Town Clerk, Carlow Town Council
Tim Madden, Clerk of Works, Carlow County Council
Overall Project Coordinator & Exhibition Design Leader: Dermot Mulligan, Museum Curator, Carlow County Museum.
Carlow County Museum Contractors:
Main Contractor: Bam Building Ltd, Kill, Co. Kildare
Electrical Contractor: Seamus Byrne Electrical Ltd., Carlow
Mechanical Contractor: Murphy & Kelly, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny
Lift Contractor: Kone Ireland Ltd., Dublin
Leaded Windows Contractor: Irish Stained Glass, Dublin
Gilding Contractor: Naomi McBride & Associates, Co. Sligo
Oil Painting Contractor: Naomi McBride & Associates, Co. Sligo
Display Cases: Armour Systems Ltd, Milton Keynes, England; Click Netherfield, Scotland
Conservators: Liz D’Arcy, Studio for Paper Conservation, Co. Wicklow; Susannah Kelly Archaeological Conservator, Dublin; Rachel Phelan Textile Conservation, Dublin; On the Edge Ltd, Co. Wicklow.
Picture Framing: Fine Framers, Carlow Town
Moulding: Old Mould Company, Co. Wicklow.
Historical Researcher: Dr. Margaret Murphy, Co. Carlow.
Irish Translation: Máire Ui Iarnáin, Co. na Gaillimhe
Graphic Design & Printing: Lightning Print & Design, Carlow; Carlow Graphics.
Environmental Monitoring: Instrument Technology, Co. Meath
Gerrie Dunne Building Contractors; Edwards Engineering, Tullow, Co. Carlow; James J Farrell, Carlow Town; Paul Hoey Decorator, Carlow Town; Thomas O’Neill & Sons, Carlow Town; Proctory Carpentry, Carlow Town; Walls Engineering, Carlow & Xenon Security, Carlow.
Museum Staff:
Dermot Mulligan, Museum Curator; John McDarby, Staff Officer; Martin O’Rourke, Building Maintenance Superintendent; Museum Assistants – Deirdre Kearney, Sinéad Marshall, Shannon Basso Gaule, Tom Roche, David Halpin & Jake Duggan.
Grant Aid & Specific Funding Received from:
Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
Carlow County Development Partnership
European Regional Development Fund Interreg 111A Programme
Fáilte Ireland
The Heritage Council
The National Roads Authority
Thanks for help, support, guidance to the following organistions, societies, groups & individuals:
Cllr. Tom O’Neill, Cathaoirleach of Carlow Town Council, Members of Carlow Town Council – Cllrs Michael Abbey, Anne Ahern, Eileen Brophy, John Cassin, Des Hurley, Rody Kelly, Walter Lacey, Jennifer Murnane O’Connor.
Cathaoirleach and Members of Carlow County Council; Cathaoirleach and Members of Muinebheag Town Council.
Tom Barry, County Manager; Michael Brennan, Town Clerk and the Carlow Local Authorities Management Team. The Board of Carlow County Museum. To all the staff of Carlow Town Council. Josephine Coyne, County Librarian and the staff of Carlow County Library. To the staff of Carlow Local Authorities. To the staff of Carlow Town Amenity Trust.
The President, former Presidents, committees and members of the Carlow Historical & Archaeological Society and Museum Committees for their vision, foresight, enthusiasm and pioneering spirit in founding and operating Carlow County Museum since 1973.
Director and staff of the National Museum of Ireland including Dr. Patrick Wallace, Raghnall Ó Floinn, Ned Kelly, Paul Doyle, Anthony Read, Gregory Kelly, Isabella Mulhall, Nessa O’Connor, Mary Cahill, Maeve Sikora, Carol Smith, Christopher Harbidge, Padraig Clancy, Andy Halpin and Mathew Parkes.
Michael Murphy, Chairman and the Board of Carlow Tourism, Eileen O’Rourke CEO and the staff of Carlow Tourism – Gwen Brennan, Lorraine Brennan, Kay Farrell, Alison Fitzharris, Alberto Urbina and Carolyn Wilkinson.
Rónán Swan, Acting Head of Archaeology & Noel Dunne, Archaeologist, National Roads Authority (NRA)
To the Chairperson, Festival Directors and staff of Eigse, Carlow Arts Festival for their help and support over the years.
To the Presentation Sisters for their invaluable information, support and eternal encouragement to all associated with this project.
The Staff of Bam Building Ltd including Leo Harmon, Derek O’Connor, Kieran Brophy, Tavin Broaders; The Local Authorities Museums’ Network (LAMN); Carlow – Kilkenny Energy Agency; Former County Managers: Matt O’Connor, Tom Dowling & Joe Crockett; Mary Walsh and staff of Carlow County Development Partnership; Michael Starrett and the staff of the Heritage Council; Sergeant Mary Corcoran, Crime Prevention Unit; Carlow Gardai; Carlow Civil Defence; Chris Corlett, Archaeologist Department of Environment, Community & Local Government; Fr. John Cummins, Fr. Rory Nolan, Bernard Gerraghty and the Cathedral Parish; Monsignor Caoimhín Ó Néill, Dr. Thomas McGrath, staff and students of Carlow College; Jarlath Judge and the staff of CRISP Carlow; Mark Thomas and the staff of the Pembrokeshire Museum Service, Wales; Judith Martin and the National Council for the Blind; Emma Whitmore, Glór Cheatharlach; Grace Marshall, Office of Public Works; Staff of Visual and the George Bernard Shaw Theatre; Fiona Cunnane and the staff of Carlow Volunteer Centre; FAS; Jobbridge – National Internship Scheme; Dr. Gillian Barrett; Alan Cashin, Tom Clowry; Ger Deering; Therese Jackman; Matt Kelly; Dr. Peadar McArdle; Hugh Maguire; Paddy Matthews, Declan O’Connor; Mary O’Neill, Bobby, Mary & Gemma Quinn, Lorcan Scott, Joe Watters, Town Clerk (retired); Pat Mealey, John Kavanagh, Bill Flemming, Dr. Declan Woods & the residents of Presentation Close;
To all the people who since 1973 have presented the Museum with artefacts and objects for display. Together these objects give us a greater understanding of our rich past.


In our very first Blog Dermot Mulligan, Museum Curator gives an insight into how the new Carlow County Museum was developed.

In April 2012 the new Carlow County Museum on College Street in Carlow Town was opened. The Museum has been developed by Carlow Town Council in partnership with the Carlow Historical & Archaeological Society (CHAS). The Carlow Historical & Archaeological Society (CHAS) founded and opened the Museum in 1973. In 2002 Carlow Town Council took over the operations of the Museum and has worked in partnership with CHAS to undertake the redevelopment. To further this partnership a Board of Carlow County Museum was established in 2005.


Construction work on the extension to the museum with Carlow Cathedral in the background.

The Presentation Convent

The building in which the Museum is now housed is a landmark building within the centre of Carlow town. Until 1989 it was home to the Presentation Sisters. The new Museum occupies the College Street end of the former Convent. The front of the building, facing Tullow Street, houses the Carlow Library. The Museum is accessed through the Fáilte Ireland Tourist Office. The Museum occupies the rest of the building which has four exhibition rooms; the two largest houses the Museum’s permanent collection while the two smaller rooms are used for temporary exhibitions.

The Museum’s ground floor was used as the Convent’s primary school until 1960. Originally there were three classrooms separated by a partition. To provide the Museum with a flexible display gallery it was decided to open up the ground floor as one large display space. An original fireplace backing onto the Tourist Office has been retained in its original position.


Construction work on the ground floor – the original fireplace can be seen in the background.

Restoration and Renovation

The large north window above the stairs had all its broken panes of glass replaced. Through this leaded window, a framed view of the Cathedral steeple can be enjoyed.

The Former Chapel

At the top of the stairs, one enters into what was the Convent’s former Chapel. This is now arguably the most impressive room within all of Carlow Local Authorities public buildings. Considering the many architectural features in this room particular care and attention was given to the care and restoration of this room. Apart from the exhibitions that have been installed here, the former Chapel is an exhibit in its own right.

The reardos (back of the altar) contains Victorian glass and many of its edges contained gilding. This was extensively cleaned and re-gilded.


Ongoing repair and restoration of the chapel ceiling, including re-gilding the 50 panels.

The Chapel Ceiling

The main part of the Chapel ceiling has fifty panels and each panel was gilded during the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, sometime during the 1960s, the ceiling was painted over. When the main construction works were completed and prior to the installation of the exhibitions all fifty panels were skillfully re-gilded.

The Pulpit

The Chapel houses the Museum’s largest object – the magnificent hand carved 19th-century pulpit from the next door Cathedral of the Assumption. The pulpit, made in Bruges in Belgium, was controversially removed as part of the mid-1990s reordering of the Cathedral. When the pulpit was removed from the Cathedral it was brought into the former Chapel area and re-erected.

The stained glass window in the chapel – then vs now. The black x’s mark places where panels are broken or missing.

Temporary Exhibitions

Directly behind the Chapel and at first and second-floor levels directly above the Tourist Office are the Museum’s two temporary exhibition galleries. This area was previously the Sacristy and the Sister’s cells (bedrooms). Alterations were made to this area including installing a new staircase along with the addition of a lift, thus making the entire Museum building fully accessible to those with physical disabilities. At the end of the tour, visitors egress the Museum and returns to the ground floor via the beautiful original main Convent staircase.

Extensions to the Building

It was decided early on in the design process that the existing convent building would be maximised as the Museum’s new exhibition galleries. Therefore to accommodate the ancillary facilities an extension would be required. The extension is clad in cut Carlow limestone to complement the existing convent building which was built of mainly limestone rubble.

The exhibition design and installation was led in house by the Museum staff. It was decided to lay out the exhibitions thematically and not chronologically. Major themes of Carlow’s history were identified and this was compared to the Museum’s collection.

large room shot from below, showing a converted chapel housing museum objects

First Floor Gallery as it looks today

Among the new displays are exhibitions dealing with:

  • John Tyndall, Carlow’s prolific 19th-century scientist whose discoveries still have an impact to this day, he is arguably the Father of Fibre Optics, discovered the greenhouse effect and was a renowned mountaineer.
  • Captain Myles Keogh was in the 7th US Calvary and killed in the Battle of Little Big Horn along with General Custer.
  • Kevin Barry, a medical student from Co. Carlow was executed in 1920 in Mountjoy Gaol at the age of 18 for his role in the War of Independence.
  • For centuries during the Bronze Age Dinn Ríg was the seat of the Kings of the Province of Leinster and from where the name Leinster came from.
  • Carlow Sugar Factory, Ireland’s first and largest sugar factory, was in 1925 the first public-private partnership in the history of the State and an innovative agricultural business.
  • The former convent Chapel exhibition gallery houses the Museum’s largest object – the magnificent hand carved 19th-century pulpit from the Cathedral of the Assumption. It is considered one of the finest pulpits in Ireland.
  • The Museum collection contains rare archaeological specimens of axes, swords, Bronze Age food vessel and an exquisite eleventh-century piece of Irish silver which is part of the Jackson collection.
  • The ground floor contains a display of trades and commercial life such as the forge, shop, bar, Boot Factory, plumber, carpenter, barber and a kitchen.
  • The law and order section displays the original trap door from the gallows of Carlow Gaol, possibly the only one on display in a Museum in Ireland.
  • All of the exhibitions will be added to and enhanced over the coming years.

The majority of the project costs were met from within Carlow Town Council’s own resources but have received grant assistance from the Heritage Council, the Department of Tourism, Culture & Sport, Carlow County Development Partnership and Fáilte Ireland.

Carlow’s Cultural Quarter

The renovation, extension and conversion of the building into a museum must also be viewed in the overall context of its setting in Carlow’s Cultural Quarter. The cultural quarter runs from Tullow Street along College Street to the Old Dublin Road encompassing the County Library, Archive, Tourist Office, the Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow College, the Visual Centre for Contemporary Art & The George Bernard Shaw Theatre to the magnificent early nineteenth century Carlow Courthouse.

Carlow is now the second County/City Museum in Leinster, the other being in Co. Louth. All the County/City Museums work closely with the National Museum of Ireland, particularly in the area of Archaeological Finds.

The new Museum’s two temporary exhibition galleries will accommodate both travelling exhibitions and those created in house. Through the temporary exhibition galleries a topic can be expanded and explained in more depth than may be possible in the permanent galleries due to constraints of space.

Carlow County Museum is opened all year round and admission to the Museum is free.