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Archive for the ‘Aughagreagh Kiernan's’ Category

Group photograph taken after the marriage of Mr paul McGovern, solicitor, Enniskillen, to Miss Helen Kiernan, Granard, At University Chapel. Left to Right are - Dr Brian Cusack TD, Miss M Kiernan, Mr Basil McGuckin, Miss D Colye, Bridegroom, Bride, Miss P Delany, Mr Michael Collins TD, and Mr EJ Duggan TD - and behind Dr P Cusack and Mr Kiernan. Irish Independent Photos.

Group photograph taken after the marriage of Mr Paul McGovern, solicitor, Enniskillen, to Miss Helen Kiernan, Granard, At University Chapel. Left to Right are - Dr Brian Cusack TD, Miss M Kiernan, Mr Basil McGuckin, Miss D Colye, Bridegroom, Bride, Miss P Delany, Mr Michael Collins TD, and Mr EJ Duggan TD - and behind Dr P Cusack and Mr Kiernan. Irish Independent Photos.

Jack Kiernan got this press cutting from Cathryn Roche (nee O’Brien), a daughter of Ethne O’Brien (nee Tutty), who is a grand-daughter of Helen’s uncle Francie – (Yes, it does sound complicated). The Miss M. Kiernan mentioned is Maud, Helen’s sister. The Mr Kiernan mentioned is Margot Gearty’s father Larry, Helen’s brother. He gave the bride away in place of her deceased father.

Margot remembers her aunt Helen as a very beautiful woman and a very warm and lovely person. She told me that  she remembers her aunt Helen returning home to Granard, in her early forties, to die.

It is a known fact that Michael Collins fell for Helen when he first met her, as mentioned elsewhere on this blogsite but, because of her marriage, turned his attention to her sister Kitty. To quote from a previous post,

“Frank O’Connor claimed that ‘on the night before her wedding [Michael] went to her hotel and pleaded with her not to go through with her marriage’ and that during the wedding speeches he was so agitated that he shredded his handkerchief.”

None the less he figures prominently in this picture. The romantic among us, which includes Margot, like to think he does not look happy wittnessing his object of affection throwing in her lot with an Enniskillen solicitor. The unsentimental among us think it might just be a case of indigestion. Another consideration could be his reported aversion to cameras at a time when Dublin Castle did not have a good picture of him – Michael being a wanted man at the time.

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We owe a great debt of gratitude for this article to Jack Kiernan, son of Larry Kiernan and my father’s second cousin. Jack is a great character with a good recollection of people and places, and a touch of gentle wickedness in his wit. His personal impressions and analysis of  his story, which came out more in conversation, will be a very interesting addition, if Jack will write it. It is an excellent overview,  full of little stories and hints of former times and a vanishing culture.

This is a brief history of the Kiernan family, since their arrival in Aughagreagh in the late 1700s. The title specifically mentions the Larry Kiernan’s, as that is how the family was known in the area, and distinguished from the other Kiernan families, namely the Dan Kiernan’s, the Paddy Kiernan’s, and the Pee (Peter) Kiernan’s.

It will not be a comprehensive account of people or events, as information was not passed down from father to son in the usual way, as such a relationship did not exist in our family for many years. My own father died when I was a few months old and his father died before he was born, back in 1893. The last patriarch to reign in that household was my great grandfather Larry Kiernan during the famine times.

Aughagreagh (Achadh Grach in Irish), meaning “field of the mountain flat” lies, as the name implies, at the foot of a steep hill, this hill being situated as one descends from Molly, through Gelsha and down into Aughagreagh. The town land is 3 ½ miles long, containing 1,145 acres, some of which is bog, the rest being classified as arable land.

Michael Kiernan, my great-great grandfather, came from the town-land of Roose in the neighbouring parish of Clombroney to take over the lease on a 39 acre holding, vacated by the former tenant James Lee. This farm was situated at Hilltown, Aughagreagh lower, 2 ½ miles north of the village of St Johnstown, now called Ballinalee. This is believed to have occurred towards the end of the 1700s.

He married a member of a family known locally as the “Larry Wallaces”. This is how the much used Christian name of Larry or Laurence (or Lorcan, in Irish) within our family came about. Prior to my father’s death in 1938 there were five Larry Kiernans, at this point in time there are four people in our immediate family circle with this name.

There is no mention of any other offspring of Michael’s  union except Larry & Tom. Tom married a girl by the name of Monaghan from the “Island.” This so-called island was actually a relatively fertile strip of land in between two bogs. He died a young man, leaving a wife and four children behind (names unknown). His wife was evicted from their small farm for non-payment of rent, which was a common occurrence back then. She died fairly soon after him in the poor-house in Bunlahy.

The children were raised between the Kiernan & Monaghan families on a six month split basis. They later emigrated to America, where none of them were to marry, it appears their former experiences may not have instilled a sense of confidence in that institution. In or around 1942, the last of them died in America at a very advanced age, leaving a considerable amount of money, monies which would seem to have been passed from one to another upon their deaths. There was an advertisement in some of the newspapers here trying to establish their next of kin, (perhaps some of you out there got it).

Tommy Farrell’s wife, who was the daughter of Mariah Kiernan (see below), once came to our house to ask my mother to find out from the more senior citizens around home their names or any information she could about them. There were people well up in their nineties who’d heard of them but hadn’t grown up with them. Having personally been present at these conversations, I gleaned that Larry, my great grandfather, didn’t marry until Tom’s family were raised and ready for export.

Larry Kiernan (Wicked Larry) married a Sheridan girl from Dromard. They had seven children, Larry, Francie, John, Peter, Nannie (Ann), Mariah and Rosie (or Rose, Lorcan Kiernan’s grandmother). Both Francie and John were in the RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary), Peter had a shop in the town of Granard, while Larry inherited the family farm. My father said me that Larry used to pray in the corner of each field that the land would always be owned by a Kiernan.

All were born during or just after the Famine or Great Hunger of the 1840s/1850s. When the potato crop failed completely in 1847, most people sought to diversify. Some grew turnips which was no great substitute for the humble spud. Larry Kiernan had the good sense to grow a small field of carrots which were freely partaken of by the neighbours. The patch of ground referred to by us as “the little field along the lane” was known to previous generations as “the famine garden.”

John Kiernan married a Mulligan girl from Molly. He died a young man and left two children, John & Rose. His wife remarried, Rose was raised in the house of the Kiernans of Toome by her aunt Rosie, while John was raised in nearby Killcogey, by a sister of his mother who was married there. Both later emigrated to America. John was home visiting Larry & Maggie (This Larry is Lorcan Kiernan’s Uncle, or Larry the Rat) in the early 1970s at their place in Leitrim, Dring. Larry and John rode two bicycles to Aughagreagh but as it happened there was nobody there at that time. In 1989 a couple of newly-weds called to the house. The girl said her grandfather, who had a sister called Rose was born there, but she was a generation out. They departed, leaving no forwarding address or way of contact.

Francie Kiernan married Mary Garvin from Littleton, Co. Tipperary. They lived in Hollywood, Co. Wicklow, where Francie served with the RIC. They had two daughters, May and Elizabeth. May was a school-teacher who gave up the teaching job and bought a hotel in Greystones, Co. Wicklow. Elizabeth married Thomas Tutty, they had four children: Sean, Frank, Lil and Ethna. Francie Kiernan died at 59 years of age and is buried in Hollywood. This information comes courtesy of Molly Tutty, who is Sean Tutty’s wife, and Cathryn Roche (nee O’Brien), a daughter of Ethne Tutty, now O’Brien. Ethne O’Brien lives in Clontarf, Dublin and Cathryn Roche lives in Clara, Co. Offaly.

Peter Kiernan, who had a very successful business in Granard Town, was the father of Kitty Kiernan. He was married to Brigid Dawson and is mentioned elsewhere in this blog-site.

Rosie Kiernan (called Red Rose because of her red hair), often referred to as Red Rosie, seemed to have been my father’s favourite aunt. He visited her quite regularly. She married Pat Kiernan and is also mentioned in the blog-site.

Mariah Kiernan also married a Kiernan, (those women didn’t like giving up their maiden names), they had two daughters, one married Tommy Farrell from Mullinalaghta, the other a Gray from Dernafersh, near Gowna, in Co. Cavan.

Nannie Kiernan married Jimmie McGovern, they had three children, Jimmie, Malachy and Annie. All three called to our house in Aughagreagh on the day of their mother’s funeral in the early 1940s. Malachy related a story about almost drowning in our well as a small child, only his uncle Larry rescued him. Some time later, when Malachy was ordained a priest, some people believed the well automatically became a holy well, while others blamed my grandfather for pulling him out.

Frank and Molly Kiernan, courtesy of Jack Kiernan

Frank and Molly Kiernan1928, courtesy of Jack Kiernan

Larry Kieran (my grandfather) married Maggie Smith from Kilcogey, Co. Cavan. He died in 1893. They had two children, Larry (my father, called Black Larry), (b. June 1893), and Frank. Frank was the elder of the two by one year., he wasn’t raised in Aughagreagh but was raised by his Granny Smith in Kilcogey instead, while his granfather, Peter Smith, came to live in Aughagreagh, (some form of prisoner exchange programme ostensibly).When the granny died she left Frank the sum of five hundred pounds, not a lot in today’s terms but quite a bit back in 1910. He came back to live in Aughagreagh at that stage. He had a small grocery shop and two farms of land when he died in 1941, aged 49. He left no family. His wife, who was Molly Keenan from Co. Offaly predeceased him in 1935 while giving birth to their first child.

Larry Kiernan (my father) married Mary Dermody, (b. 26 May 1891) they had five children, namely Peggie (28 January 1931), Larry (5 June 1932), Nancy (Anne, July 1933), Jim (3 November), and Jack (25 August 1937). My father was said to be a tall, broad-shouldered, strong and extremely fit man. He was suspected of having the cure of the chin-cough (whooping cough) because he never saw his father – which, if true, would have been a small recompense. He was leaving Aughagreagh at the time of his death. He had exchanged the farm there with the Land Commission for a bigger farm at Legan, in South Longford and was due to leave at the end of September 1938.

Nancy and Jack Kiernan, the author himself with herself to add the charm

Nancy and Jack Kiernan 1958, the author himself, with herself to add the charm

It often seems as if the whole world can conspire to create events in time. Before my father’s death there was an outbreak of scarlet fever, which adults as well as children contracted. Strangely he was the only one that died from it after three short days illness, and he did leave Aughagreagh permanently but under very different circumstances from those he had imagined. He died on the 5th August 1938, at 45 years of age, when I was 11 months old.

It has been said that the Kiernan’s were bad marriage material. The saying goes that they marry today and die tomorrow.

A feature among the Kiernans was red hair, my grandaunt Rosie was red haired, her brother Francie also, and my father’s brother Frank was red haired. There were redheads in the Granard faction also. Lorcan Kiernan’s two brothers in Enniscorthy had red hair. They say a rogue or a redhead can break out in a family up to the seventh generation, while both traits can be common to some. We have a redhead here in Mullingar, as well as a Larry.

I met Lorcan Kiernan & Mairín in Arklow in 1959. I was at a dance the evening before and danced with Norín Kennedy. While talking to her we realised that I may be related to her sister Mairín’s husband. We arranged to meet at the Kennedy family home the next evening, where I was well received and fed. Lorcan told me about the other Kiernan, a Kitty Kiernan from Mullingar, that Lorcan and Mairín had hosted lavishly at their home in Wexford, only to find out that she was not related at all. He jokingly wondered if our meeting would end the same way. We soon established that we were related but he had not realised that his grandmother, Rosie, was also a Kiernan. When I told him his grandfather was a Kiernan married to a Kiernan he said, “so, you’re not from the paternal side of my branch of the family and it appears neither are the Kiernans of Granard.”

This is written from the perspective of the paternal line, which is all about perpetuation of the name, and where it seems women don’t figure very prominently- although making their presence felt does not seem to have been a difficulty for Kiernan women.

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Another wonderful offering from Margot Gearty.

In November 1908 four young Granard sisters were called to the parlour in the Loreto Boarding School, Bray, Co. Wicklow. They were informed by the Mother Superior that they were to return home immediately as their mother had died. “But it’s our father who was ill!” exclaimed Chrys, the eldest. Three months later their father also was dead. The loss of their parents was a devastating blow for the girls and their only brother Larry. The previous year, their nineteen year old twin sisters had died of tuberculosis, Lily at home in Granard and Rose a lonely death in a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, where she had been sent in the hope of being cured. Now the remaining five teenagers had only each other.

They were placed in the charge of their uncle, Andrew Cusack, a draper in Granard. He took Larry, who was sixteen, out of St Mel’s College, Longford in order to run the family hotel, grocery and hardware business. Chrys was also kept at home to help. The three younger girls, Kathleen, Helen and Maud returned to the Loreto Convent in Bray.

But after the summer holidays of 1910 there was to be another change for the younger girls. Their guardian, an autocratic and

P H Pearse. My father carred his surname as his middle name

P H Pearse. My father carried Pearse's surname as his middle name

unconventional man, had decided to send them, together with his own daughter, Mary Cusack, to a new experimental school for girls at Cullenswood House, Ranelagh in Dublin. The school was called St Ita’s. The director was Padraig H. Pearse, B.A., Barrister-at-Law, a gentle idealistic visionary. His objective was to attempt for Irish girls what had been so successfully achieved for Irish boys at St Enda’s College in Rathfarnham.

From the prospectus I quote:

The primary aim of St Ita’s will be to foster the elements of character. It will endeavour to ground its pupils in sound moral and religious principles; to train them in practical Christianity and to awaken in them a spirit of patriotism and a sense of duty and obligation to their country.

The house-mistress was Mrs Bloomer, a Cambridge graduate. Others on the staff included Louise Gavan Duffy and the writter and critic Mary Maguire who would later marry Longford poet Padraig Colum. Willy Pearse was the Art Master. There were three teachers of music – for Irish Harp, strings, piano and singing. A wide variety of subjects appear on the school curriculum, including the sciences, classics, English, French and German while retaining an Irish tone to the school which would be bilingual.

Thomas MacDonagh

Thomas MacDonagh

Again from the prospectus I quote:

The grounds, which command a delightful view of the Dublin mountains, include a tennis lawn, a beautiful flower garden with vinery and conservatories, a well stocked orchard, a playing-field and an open-air gymnasium. The house is large and the rooms spacious and airy. The school will maintain that private and homelike character which has made St Enda’s so beloved of it’s pupils.

Small wonder that the three young Granard orphans and their cousin settled in quickly and happily to their new environment. Kathleen was appointed school captain while her cousin Mary Cusack became school secretary and co-editor of the Annals. In this booklet a photograph of Kathleen shows her wearing spectacles, looking studious and serious. She wears a high-necked broderie-anglaise dress and has quite an elaborate hairstyle. From the Annals also, one discovers that the school opened with only forty pupils – small in numbers perhaps but rich in experience. There were visits to the Municipal Art Gallery, to the Botanic Gardens and to the Abbey Theatre. The students had visiting lecturers, among them Sir Shane Leslie and a Miss Laird of London who spoke on Botany. They were addressed regularly every fortnight by Mr Pearse himself.

Visits were exchanged with the boys of St Enda’s for ceilidhes, debates and discussions. All Saints’ Day 1910 was celebrated by a fancy dress ball of major proportions with the girls making all their own imaginative costumes. Among the guests for the evening were the Pearses, Thomas McDonagh and Longford Poet Padraig Colum.

An entry in the school Annals dated the 6th of December records:

Five of our older girls went to a debate at St Mary’s University College, Eccles Street. The paper was read by Miss Askins on the topic ‘Self Government for Ireland’. We are all invited to a debate in University College on Wednesday the 14th of December which we hope to attend in a body. We also intend going to the Aonach to buy our Christmas presents.

St Ita’s closed it’s doors after only two years and with it ended this extraordinary experience for our young Granard friends. They went on to receive some business training before returning home to help their sister and brother in running their family business. They took their work seriously, stayed close as a family and started their own musical ensemble with which to entertain their many friends. They loved country life and went on long walks absorbing the beauties of their surroundings. They often took their visitors to climb the Granard Moat, just as we do today. St Ita’s had greatly enhanced their lives and instilled in them a love of nature their home and their country.

The story of Padraig Pearse would play a central role in the evolving Irish nation, while our little friend Kathleen, later known as Kitty, would become legendary simply because of Michael Collins, the man she fell so heart-breakingly in love with and who was to die at Beal na Blath on 22nd of August, 1922.

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