That Beats Banagher – What does it mean?

If you announce a connection with the town of Banagher almost anywhere English speaking in the world, you’ll be likely to get the response “Well, that Beats Banagher”.

It’s history is a strange one. The phrase in it’s best known form is “That beats Banagher” but that’s not it’s only form. Some say “Well, that beats Banagher”. Then others claim that the complete phrase is “That beats Banagher, and Banagher beats the band”, while others claim it to be “That beats Banagher and Banagher beats the devil”. Another variation is “and Banagher beats the world”. Then there are some that say “That bangs Banagher.

It’s not even universally agreed that the phrase pertains to Banagher in Co. Offaly. This Irish Times article from 2001, claims the phrase to be from a town in Co. Derry and references the use of sand from a grave to “beat the devil”. Ironically, this Irish Times article from 2016 seems to link the phrase to Banagher in Co. Offaly and even credits the That Beats Banagher festival with prolonging the life of the phrase. That article though uses the “and beats the band variation”.

The Wikipedia entry on Banagher posits various explanations for the phrase including that it may refer to a wandering minstrel named Bannagher. A number of writers, even one of Banagher’s most famous literary residents (Yes Banagher has more than one) Anthony Trollope mentioned it in his writings. Also it apparently was used in the House of Lords in response to a particularly difficult to win borough. It’s unclear what Banagher this borough is referencing though. Eric Partridge’s “Dictionary of Catch Phrases” dates the phrase to before 1850.

How long will it be before people write that the phrase comes from the events of a lively festival in a town in the Irish midlands?

Come along to the festival and be a part of future history!


Remembering Past Festivals

As this is the fifth annual “That Beats Banagher” festival we thought we’d take a look back at previous years and see how we got to where we are today.

“That Beats Banagher” festival began in 2014 as a celebration of traditional skills throughout Offaly. The festival was the culmination of a year long series of workshops and events exploring the wealth of traditional skills available within the county. The success of the festival prompted a look to the past to see what else in the area deserved attention. The past didn’t disappoint…

The second festival in 2015 honoured the writer Anthony Trollope in his 200th anniversary. Trollope lived and worked in Banagher for a number of years. The Trollope festival included a number of readings and activities based around his life and his writings and proved to be very popular.

The Anthony Trollope “That Beats Banagher” festival outdid the previous one and plans soon were drawn in hopes of repeating it’s success. In any other town, this would mean a yearly Anthony Trollope festival, given that he was the main point of historical interest. In a town where there are several main points of historical interest this was not to be so.

Coincidentally, where the first festival celebrated Anthony Trollope’s 200th anniversary, the 2016 festival celebrated another famous author with Banagher connections. The second festival was in honour of the author Charlotte Bronte who had a brief stay in Banagher. The town was also home to her husband Arthur Bell Nicholls. Anthony Trollope was born 24th April 1815 while Charlotte Bronte was born 21 April 1816 almost exactly a year apart. Among the events of the Charlotte Bronte festival were a beautiful miscellany of readings and music held in St. Paul’s church, followed by a birthday celebration for Charlotte on the grounds of Charlotte’s way where she stayed in Banagher and where her husband lived for many years following her death.

The 2017 festival left Charlotte and Anthony in peace for the moment and the festival instead celebrated and remembered Banagher families who had been involved in World War I. The festival included a miscellany of readings and music and an Edwardian Tea Party where guests arrived dressed in period themed outfits.

Each festival was filled with activities both on and off the Shannon, including workshops and demonstrations which were given by local craftspeople, and food and craft fairs. On Saturday evening every year people can be found relaxing, eating and listening to music at Banagher park while they await the festival highlight, the magnificent fireworks display over the river Shannon.




Culture Night – Banagher

Banagher celebrates Culture Night

Military Manoeuvres Projected is an open-air screening of a short film created by artist, Patricia Hurl, local school children, parents and the wider community of Banagher. In 1891 artist, Richard Moynan created the painting “Military Manoeuvres” – illustrating a crowded street-scene depicting a group of children amusing themselves by pretending to be a regimental band. On Culture Night 2016, a re-imagined version of the original painting was created and documented. On Fri 22 Sept, for Culture Night 2017, a public screening of this re-enactment will take place in Banagher Town from 8-10pm.

Free event.

J.J. Houghs invites you to join them for an evening of moving image with a very special screening of Patrick Hough’s And in a Thousand Years narrated by Lisa Dwan, which was commissioned by the Jerwood/FVU Awards 2017. Also on the bill is an extract of a screenplay The Barman’s Lament written and directed by Gerald Hough. And a reel of films by video artist Stephanie Hough. Screenings begin at 8.30pm on Fri 22 Sept as part of Culture Night Offaly. Free event.

NGI 4364


SUP – Stand up Paddle boarding on the Shannon

If you have an interest in water sports and want to try something new, then look no further. On the 22nd of July, Mid Ireland Adventure will host a stand up paddle boarding event. The event will begin at 10am and end at 1pm, will cost €10.00pp that can be paid on the day and will be available for everyone over the age of ten.


  • Safari 1 leaving at 10:15am
  • Safari 2 leaving 11:30am


  • Safari 1 leaving at 11:15am
  • Safari 2 leaving 12:30am

Pop- Up Book Shop

A pop-up bookshop called MARTELLO TOWER BOOKSHOP will be open all day Saturday & Sunday, 9.30 to 5.30, opposite the Crank House, (the large pink Georgian house) on Lower Main Street, Banagher.
Most books on sale are from a private collection, some are new but all are competitively priced. Books relating to Irish  Literature, Art, Architecture & Heritage will make up the bulk of the stock.
Local history publications,  maps and collectibles will also be available.This event is part of the That Beats Banagher festival and is organised by Jas. Scully & Sons Co.Ltd.

5k Fun Walk, Run or Jog!

Come along and join in this Fun Walk, Run Jog …. whatever your fitness level allows! A great family Fun morning – if running to hit a time is not your thing this is the perfect run for you.

All funds raised on the day will go towards Banagher Tidy Towns.

Registration at Crank House on the morning from 10.40.

If you’d like to register beforehand or if you have any queries please contact Carmel Rourke.

Cost €10 adult  €5 child

Heritage Walk

On Saturday, several notable locals will lead a short field trip to places associated with Anthony Trollope and Charlotte Brontë, the two great Victorian writers associated with Banagher.

The meeting point for this event is outside Charlotte’s Way Guesthouse at the top of the Hill, Banagher at 5.30p.m. After visiting St.Paul’s Church participants will move by car to look at the four Napoleonic fortifications built in the early Nineteenth Century to defend Banagher Bridge against the anticipated arrival of French invaders. These include Fort Eliza, the Bridge Barracks, the Martello Tower and Cromwell’s Castle.

World War One Exhibition and Talk

An exhibition entitled Banagher’s War Dead & Banagher in 1914 – 18, curated by Caitríona O’Meara and Doreen McGouran will be on display in the Long Room, in Crank House, over the weekend.

On Saturday afternoon at 3p.m. Steven Callaghan, local historian and authority on Birr’s military history and graveyards, will deliver an illustrated talk in Crank House. Steven’s talk will focus on Banagher’s experience in the First World War.

Edwardian Tea Party

Immediately after the Miscellany on Friday evening an Edwardian Tea party will be held in the Courtyard of Crank House, Lower Main Street where a lighter mood will be created by the acclaimed jazz musician Mr. Bob Batty.

Participants are strongly encouraged to dress in period costume be it Victorian, Edwardian or Military with prizes being awarded to those best attired.

Launch of the Inaugural That Beat’s Banagher Festival at Crank House, Banagher. Picture: Ger Rogers/HR Photo.

Aileen and Sean Corrigan with their daughters Rosey and Blaithin at the Launch of the Inaugural That Beat’s Banagher Festival at Crank House, Banagher. Picture: Ger Rogers/HR Photo.

Eddie Alford, Monica Kelly, Josephine Devery, Carmel Rourke and Patrick Kenny at the Launch of the Inaugural That Beat’s Banagher Festival at Crank House, Banagher. Picture: Ger Rogers/HR Photo.

Banagher Remembers World War One Miscellany

Banagher presents a World War One Miscellany

As part of this year’s That Beats Banagher Festival some events have been organised which will remember Banagher in the time of World War One, (1914 – 1918). On Friday 21st July a miscellany of short new writings and associated music entitled Banagher Remembers World War One, will be held in St. Paul’s Church on the Hill, commencing at 7p.m. Admission is free but booking is required and can be made on line at or by ringing 087 134 8779.

The readings will be delivered by Stephen Callaghan, Cora Stronge Smith, James Scully, Jim Madden, Caitriona O’Meara and Doreen McGouran. Musical pieces strongly associated with World War One will be performed by the Tullamore Town Band under the baton of Mr,Lorcan Daly. Among the tunes selected are familiar songs from the period such as A Long Way to Tipperary, Pack Up Your Troubles and Roses of Picardy. Other works by Thomas Moore, Ivor Novello and Kenneth J.Alford will be also be performed. The evening will conclude with a rendition of The Last Post and Réveillé.

While the event is free those in attendance will be invited to make a donation towards the festival’s funds as they leave the church.

Immediately afterwards an Edwardian Tea party will be held in the Courtyard of Crank House, Lower Main Street where a lighter mood will be created by the acclaimed jazz musician Mr. Bob Batty. Participants are strongly encouraged to dress in period costume be it Victorian, Edwardian or Military with prizes being awarded to those best attired.