Putting on a Show! 

There’s no place like home Carlow County Museum!

Janice De Bróithe, Director and Producer behind Slapdash Theatre Co. visited us to see a poster for her 2015 show the ‘Wizard of Oz’ on display in our Performing Arts section. All cast and crew are welcome to the museum to see how their hard work has been turned into an exhibit for all of Carlow to see.

Janice de Bróithe stands in front of the poster for her 2015 show.

Janice de Bróithe stands in front of the poster for her 2015 show.

Visit from the Belgian Ambassador

Four men in suits standing beside one another surrounded by objects in Carlow County Museum

His Excellency, Pierre-Emmanuel de Bauw being brought around the museum by our curator Dermot Mulligan.

On Friday August 31st 2018 we were delighted to welcome His Excellency, Pierre-Emmanuel de Bauw, Ambassador of Belgium to Ireland, to visit Carlow County Museum and Carlow Cathedral. Ambassador de Bauw visited both locations to hear about St. Willibrord’s connection to the county, as Belgium is one of the countries his 7th century mission visited and still has devotion to him to this day. Continue reading

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


  Continue reading

Printing Press Research

A large black Albion printing press in front of a framed copy of the Nationalist & Leinster times newspaper

An Albion Printing Press, 1856, currently on display in Carlow County Museum. It was used for decades by local newspapers The Nationalist and the Leinster Times.

How printing started

Printing was not invented by Johannes Gensfleisch Alias Gutenberg instead, it was actually in China that, about 600 years after Christ, the first one sided prints were made. By about 150 years after Christ, the Chinese had also invented paper, the most important medium for printing.

The power of knowledge was, as result of Johannes Gutenberg’s idea, no longer the privilege of only a few. From now on information was not passed as a result of human communication alone. It developed into an asset which was available when needed, could be carried around and was easy to come by. Gutenberg’s idea was to widen the horizons of printing, to become flexible, versatile, and independent. Gutenberg’s “system” was an ideal combination of multiple individual well-thought out inventions, completely equal with modern technical complexes. Letters which could be varied as required, a metal mould, a manual casting device, a special alloy, a press, printing ink with particular properties and a certain kind of paper- only with this combination was success possible.

Printing was called the “black art” in the beginning as people could not understand how someone could produce books so quickly or how they could all be exactly alike, people feared printing and thought it derived from Satan yet despite this the use of printing became very popular and quickly spread all throughout Europe.1

Different types of printing

  1. Letterpress printing- With Letterpress printing, the printing parts are raised. The flat type form is inked with small rollers, then the impression cylinder, which carries the sheet of paper, rolls over the printing surface.
  2. Rotary relief printing- This process is mainly used by daily newspapers. Here, too, the printing parts are raised but the type form is round. The impression cylinder presses the paper against it.
  3. Offset printing- Offset printing is based on the physical law that water and oil repel one another. The printing surface is treated photographically and chemically so that the printing parts absorb ink and all the other parts repel it. In offset printing a zinc aluminium plate bearing the type form is wrapped round a cylinder and first prints onto a rubber cylinder, which then prints onto paper. Because the type form does not come into contact with the paper (hence “off set”) it is possible to produce large numbers of copies.
  4. Rotogravure printing- This is used mainly for producing coloured magazines with a high circulation. The printing parts are carved into the surface of a copper cylinder. After the whole cylinder has been inked, a scraper, or doctor blade, moves across the surface, and only the ink on the engraved parts of the cylinder remains and is taken up by the paper.2

Printing in Ireland

Printing did not arrive in Ireland until 1551 when Humphrey Powell printed The Boke of Common Praier. This first book in Irish type was paid for by Elizabeth I and was probably manufactured in London.

In 1571 an unidentified printer printed Aibidil Gaoidheilge Agus Caiticiosma, the first book using the Irish character.3

In the 1800’s, the newspapers cost sixpence each- quite a lot of money in those days- one penny of which was a special “tax on knowledge” put there to inflate the price so that lower orders would not be able to purchase papers and be influenced by their ideas into anti-government activity. Published weekly, and very rarely bi-weekly, their circulation normally varied from 3,000 upwards.4

Local printing

It is not known exactly when the printing press was established in Carlow… it was early in 1770, when the “Carlow Journal” was founded by William Kinnier, Kinneir or Kinnear, as it was variously spelled.5

The founders of the Nationalist and Leinster Times, Patrick Conlan and his brother John extended the circulation of the newspaper through counties Carlow, Kildare and Laoighs. On the death of Patrick Conlan at an early age of 46 his brother John continued for some time to direct and edit the Nationalist.6


  1. ‘A History of Irish Printing’, National Print Museum, https://www.nationalprintmuseum.ie/
  2. ‘How the job is done’, Hans-Werner Klien, The Nationalist and Leinster Times 1883-1983 p.13
  3. ‘A History of Irish Printing’, National Print Museum, https://www.nationalprintmuseum.ie/
  4. ‘Carlow Newspapers 1828-1841’, Brother P.J. Kavanagh, M.A., Carloviana 1975 p.26-28.
  5. ‘Printing In Carlow’, Brian W. Keogh, Carloviana 1994/1995 p.12.
  6. ‘How, where and when they founded: The Nationalist’, William Ellis, The Nationalist and Leinster Times 1883-1983 p.2


This piece has been researched and written by Andrea Istrati, 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.


‘Granny’s Christmas Pudding’ by Katherine Anne Monica McGill.

In our first blog of 2015 Katherine Anne Monica McGill outlines her project ‘Granny’s Christmas Pudding’, an installation that took place in Carlow County Museum from February to July 2014. It was previously part of a series of installations by Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) students in Visual Carlow in December 2013.


Granny’s Christmas Pudding’ installation of White table with several items on it including two glass boxes containing leaves and an open notebooks and pen between them

View of the ‘Granny’s Christmas Pudding’ installation on the Museum’s ground floor.


‘Granny’s Christmas Pudding’ was an installation acknowledging obsolete and disappearing information and skills.  Our modern world has superseded a lot of the old ways; others are lost to us now because people – like my Granny – have gone to their eternal reward.  Such people took with them the expertise they carried so easily at their finger-tips.  With the flippancy of youth, I omitted to garner such skills before it was too late, and now I do my best to recall them from hazy childhood memory.  I imagine this is a common experience, as applicable to other people as it is to me.


Ground floor of Carlow County Museum with two glass display cases or Vitrines

View of the installation on the Museum’s ground floor gallery.


The installation itself comprised fallen leaves I collected in Autumn 2013 from beneath the trees at Carlow College (St Patrick’s College) in Carlow town, and a notebook in which I wrote the information in “joined up” handwriting.  I used an old fountain pen and ink.  It remains with Carlow County Museum for future reference. Visitors were encouraged to collaborate in the display by including in the note book any disappearing skills they recalled.  Using Gregg shorthand (itself also a disappearing skill), I wrote various data on the leaves.  Older people might remember learning this by rote in their primary school days. Younger people might be intrigued to re-discover it. Included, for example, are old conversion tables of weights and measures.  These now seem so quaint: quarts, minims, bushels, perches, roods and leagues; old legal tender (pounds, shillings and pence), Morse code (long and short sound signals representing letters and numbers), some poetry, and commonplace prayers in Latin.  This project augmented my own knowledge: how to bone shoes was definitely new to me!

Most important of all, I discovered that Carlow people of a certain age remember with affection drinking Corcoran’s Mineral Waters, so I particularly appealed for anyone who might know the recipes or their whereabouts to include this in the notebook.


A close up photo of brown leaves with writing on them, Granny Christmas pudding

Close up of the writing on the leaves.


Why write on leaves?  Because they naturally become brittle and disintegrate, so the skills and information the leaves carried are once again apparently lost.  The project also echoed papyrus (another plant leaf) used by ancient peoples to record their important information.  Even though the information has been decoded, some of it is still obtuse to us today.

On the last day of July 2014, when the New Year’s leaves were fluttering on the trees at Carlow College, members of Carlow County Museum kindly agreed to crumble the leaves of the installation at Carlow College grounds.  The process was recorded by Museum staff.  It was a fitting end to a display inaugurated in February.


Dermot Mulligan and John McDarby standing under a tree in Carlow College with their hands in the air throwing leaves on the ground

Carlow County Museum staff Dermot Mulligan & John McDarby crumbling the leaves in the grounds of Carlow College.


My heartfelt thanks are given to Dermot Mulligan, Museum Curator and the staff of Carlow County Museum for their enthusiasm for my installation; to Cora Cummins, Print Tutor at IADT Dun Laoghaire and Emma Lucy O’Brien of Visual Carlow for their initial invitation to consider a Carlow project.  Visual Carlow is thanked for lending some equipment.  The visitors to Carlow County Museum are especially thanked for their many contributions to the notebook.  Thirty pages of responses exceeded my most optimistic expectations.  I hope they enjoyed their visits to this wonderful Museum and their collaboration.

And what of Corcoran’s Mineral Waters?  All is not lost, apparently.  Unlike my Granny’s Christmas pudding, it seems there is yet someone in Carlow who may hold the precious knowledge.  Perhaps some day soon people will be able to say with relish again “Ah, Corcoran’s!”

Katherine Anne Monica McGill under took this installation as a 3rd year student on the Visual Arts Practice course in Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT). The aim of this four-year course is to educate and inspire student artists through an integrated and multidisciplinary experience, helping them to create a comprehensive portfolio of work, tested against ‘real world’ situations. Carlow County Museum was delighted to host Katherine’s work.


Five Carlow County Museum staffs and Volunteers standing in front of a big glass display case holding leaves in their hands

Museum Staff and volunteers with Katherine at the instillation of the exhibition. (L to R) Brid Brett, Liam O’Rourke, Katherine Anne Monica McGill, Deirdre Hennessy and William Fallon.


‘Mike the Man of the Rás ‘73’ (Part 2 of 2) Dermot Mulligan

This is part two of a Blog ‘Mike the Man of the Rás ‘73’, part one was published last month. In May 2013 Carlow County Museum unveiled a special temporary exhibition to mark the fortieth anniversary of Carlow man Mike O’Donaghue winning the Rás Tailteann (now the An Post Rás), Ireland’s premier bike race in 1973. This Blog gives a summary of Mike’s great win and some career highlights. Continue reading

‘Sojourn’ a visual art exhibition among Museum displays

Saidhbhín Gibson outlines her project ‘Sojourn’; a solo exhibition that took place in Carlow County Museum in June 2013. It was launched during Éigse Carlow Arts Festival and supported by Carlow Arts Office.

Interior image of Carlow County Museum, which includes a large bell, a Pulpit and Saidhbhín Gibson: ‘Comfort and Joy’

Saidhbhín Gibson: ‘Comfort and Joy’, 2013 located in the Museum’s first floor gallery


The exhibition ‘Sojourn’ was the outcome of a longstanding interest to exhibit a body of work in a museum context. This project was installed among the displays at Carlow County Museum creating a trail through the building offering carefully planned juxtapositions between the artworks and the museum’s historical artefacts.

One such piece in the exhibition was ‘Merit’. It was placed amid the Museum’s ‘Mike – the man of the Rás’73’ display. It contained a lively, rotund lichen (Usneas subfloridana) atop one end of a speckled tree bark. At the other end there was a brightly coloured insignia, similar to that which features on certificates. This circular shape mirrored the form of the organic matter while also linking in with the brightly coloured cycling jerseys featured in the museum’s exhibition. The artwork suggested a celebratory status of the organic matter.

Saidhbhín Gibson: ‘Merit’, tree bark with lichen and yellow piece of paper , abstract art

Saidhbhín Gibson: ‘Merit’, 2013 located in the Museum’s temporary exhibition gallery.


‘Lichen gilt’ was another piece in the exhibition that contained similar collected material but of a different species and format. The edge of a decoratively printed saucer was adorned with a Candelaria concolor lichen. The small organic matter contained a number of colours and gave the impression it had been hand painted onto the pottery. The piece was fittingly displayed on a dresser in the museum’s kitchen installation. Many of the pieces in the exhibition brought the outdoors inside to inhabit our surrounds and indeed, be viewed along side the preserved and protected.

Saidhbhín Gibson: ‘Lichen gilt’, 2013, ceramic plate edged with lichen in Carlow County Museum

Saidhbhín Gibson: ‘Lichen gilt’, 2013 located in the Museum’s ground floor gallery.


Saidhbhín Gibson: 'Chuck’ a white frame with a smaller photo frame of a brown bird in Carlow County Museum

Saidhbhín Gibson: ‘Chuck’, 2013 located in the Museum’s ground floor gallery.


Carlow Cathedral pulpit: No. 85 on the Ireland in 100 objects trail


January 2014

Last year the wonderful publication ‘A History of Ireland in 100 Objects’ by Fintan O’Toole won the Best Irish Published Book of the Year in the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards. The book is based on the weekly series that was published in the Irish Times newspaper which featured a different object each week. The project was undertaken in association with the National Museum of Ireland and the Royal Irish Academy.

Carlow County Museum’s first floor exhibition gallery featuring the nineteenth century Pulpit and banner.

Carlow County Museum’s first floor exhibition gallery featuring the nineteenth century Pulpit and banner.

All of the objects are part of public collections both here in Ireland and abroad. We are delighted in Carlow County Museum that the magnificent 19th century hand carved pulpit from Carlow Cathedral has been included in the list. The pulpit was removed from the Cathedral in the mid 1990s as part of its major renovations. The pulpit is now on display on the first floor of Carlow County Museum, it is by far our largest object standing at approximately twenty feet. Pop in and have a look for yourself.

Last December Dr. Louise Nugent, Pilgrimage in Medieval Ireland visited the Museum and has written a piece about the pulpit. We are delighted to share it with you. Thanks Pilgrimage in Medieval Ireland for writing this piece.

Pilgrimage In Medieval Ireland

I am  getting a copy of Fintan O Toole’s  A History of Ireland in 100 Objects as an Xmas present,  I cant wait.  The book like the title says  tells the history  of Ireland through 100 artefacts. The chosen objects take us through the history of people in Ireland over 7,000 years, from a simple fish trap of the earliest inhabitants of the island to the first mass-produced microprocessor.

Off the back of this book there is a historic trail which allows the visitor to go and see the objects at the museums they are housed at. Last week as I happened to be in Carlow for the launch of the Carlow Archaeological and Historical Society Journal Carloviana,  I  began the trail with object No 85 which is housed  at the Carlow County Museum.

The trail does not demand you to start with any one object  and it really allows…

View original post 342 more words

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.