Ferbane's Aidan Doyle, and the cover of 'The Poacher's Yarn', which is being launched this Saturday.

Ferbane author's new book of West Offaly stories being launched this weekend

Ferbane's Aidan Doyle is preparing to launch his second book, which features a variety of stories about historical connections between West Offaly and the wider world.

Entitled The Poacher's Yarn: Local stories in a global world, the book is being launched this Saturday, January 28, in Gallen Community School from 7pm to 9pm.

West Offaly historian James Scully, who has written extensively on the area's castles, railways, canals, and military defences, will officially launch the book at 8pm.

The publication follows on from the release of Aidan's previous book, Blood, Cage and Gore, in 2021.

The Poacher's Yarn is described as a collection of five short essays. The first, entitled 'Justly proud of the connection,' is an account of Nellie Armstrong's visit to King's County in 1886.

"The daughter of successful Melbourne builder, Nellie married Charles Armstrong in Queensland in 1882," explained Aidan.

"During a visit to her husband's family at Gallen Priory, Ferbane, she sang several times in nearby Birr. Later in life she became internationally famous as the opera singer Dame Melba. Today her face graces the Australian $100 bill, and her name a Birr nightclub."

The second essay explores the popularity of cricket in west Offaly in the 1860s and 70s, while the third tells the story of the Clara to Banagher railway line, which operated between 1884 and 1962.

'From Shannonbrige to Westminster' is the fourth essay in the collection, and it profiles Michael Reddy, a Shannonbridge farmer, Fenian, Land Leaguer and Home Rule MP.

Lastly, an essay on the Belmont Hibernian Hall examines how the political and economic climate of the early 20th century led to the formation of a division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Belmont village, and how the hall which the organisation erected came to serve the community for half a century.

Speaking to the Offaly Independent this week, Aidan said there was a variety to the stories which were loosely based around the theme of West Offaly and its global connections around the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

"There are some common strands that run through the stories, but there are different aspects to each of them as well," he said.

All are welcome to attend the book launch on Saturday.