Archive for the ‘Research Notes’ Category

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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1 August 2008

Telephone Conversation with Nuala Fox

This was my first contact with Nuala Fox, who I was directed to by a number of people, saying she had a lot of information on Bernard Kiernan’s side of the family.

Nuala is the headmistress of the school at Mullinlaghta and is very friendly and helpful. She explained how she had helped one of our American cousins organise a family reunion for the descendants of Bernard Kiernan, in Lough Gowna.

She said Bernard’s father, Patrick married Mary Reilly, from the family called the ‘Hollow Reillys’, who lived in Kilmore, Dring. Patrick inherited the house from this family. Bernard inherited the house and land from his father; Bernard’s son Johnny stayed on the farm and his son, Noel lives there now.

Nuala said her grandmother was Bernard’s daughter, Lil Kiernan, a member of Cumman-na-mBan. Bernard had two daughters called Kathleen and two sons called Patrick, one each of whom died very young. She said, Eileen’s sons are Seamus and Sean Sorohan. Bridget married a man named Brennan, and his daughter is Kathy Reilly. Jim’s daughter lives in New York and Kathleen’s son lives in Florida. Brian’s daughter, Ann May lives in Granard.

Nuala remembers, uncle Larry very well. She said that he was very warm, into music, and an excellent dancer. She said I should speak with Pat Kehoe, Larry’s neighbour, who would be happy to tell me stories about him.

She told me that Sr Stephen, Delia Kiernan’s daughter, lives in a Louis Convent in Ramsgrange, Co Wexford.

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Longford 1885

Longford 1885

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25 November 2007

Telephone Conversation with Phyllis Reilly

Phyllis spoke to Molly Harten, now in her late eighties. Molly is the daughter of Rose Ann Kiernan (married to Smith), who was a daughter of Bernard Kiernan, who was the brother of Patrick Kiernan (Pat the Rat).

Bernard and Patrick were born in Kilmore, Dring, Co Longford. Bernard had 11 children, most of who emigrated to the US, and Molly lost contact with them.

Uncle Larry (called Larry the Rat) lived in Letrim, Dring, Co. Longford.

Patsy, Larry’s brother, bought Larry’s farm from a Mrs Kelly.Mullinalaghta

Larry and his wife, Maggie are buried in Mullinlaghta Parish Church, Co Longford. There are no markers for anyone except Larry and his wife, although Phyllis thinks that other family members are buried in the same plot.

Rose Ann Kiernan, wife of Patrick, was from Aughergray, Granard, Co Longford.

Her brother, Peter Kiernan, was father of Kitty Kiernan and Laurence (Larry ) Kiernan, from Granard. Kevin Kiernan, who owned stables in Granard was son of this Larry.

James Cosgrove, Bernigha, Moyne, Co. Longford, inherited Larry’s farm.

Margret (Margo) Geraghty (nee Kiernan), moved from Granard to Longford after her solicitor husband died.

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5 April 2005

Provided by Lorcan Kiernan from the family Bible, bought in the USA, and handed down by Patsy Kiernan, Letrim Dring.


Pat Kiernan and Rose Kiernan 2nd Feb. 1888

Micheal Sheils and Mary F Kiernan 2nd Mar. 1917

Peter Kiernan and Nellie Treanor 18th Feb. 1925

Dan Reilly and Rose A Kiernan

Laurence Kiernan and Maggie Cosgrave 26th June 1946

Laurence M Kiernan and Mairin Kennedy 11th Oct. 1955

Patrick Kiernan and Marie Cleere

Mark Doyle and Dympna Kiernan 7th Oct. 1972


Mary A Kiernan 12th June 1885

Patrick J Kiernan 15th Aug. 1887

Mary Frances Kiernan 19th Dec 1889 (Pat)

Patrick Kiernan 2nd Dec. 1890 do

Laurence Kiernan 18th Mar. 1893 do

James Kiernan 31st Aug. 1895 do

Peter Kiernan 29th June 1898 do

Rose A Kiernan 27th July 1901 do

Matteaw Shiels 6th May 1919

Patrick Sheils 5th Sept. 1921

Rose Anne Sheils 25th Feb. 1920

Patrick Kiernan 6th Jan. 1926 (Peter )

James Kiernan 6th Jan. 1926 do

Laurence P M Kiernan 2nd May 1928 do

Dympna Mary Kiernan 9th Oct. 1931 do

Mary F Sheil Dec. 1930

Kathleen Reilly Dec. 1930

Laurence J Kiernan 17th Aug. 1956

Peter G E Kiernan 14th Oct. 1958

Timothy A Kiernan 18th Feb. 1961

Mary Giliosa Kiernan 27th June 1963

Colm D Kiernan 25th Dec. 1968


Patrick Kiernan 26th Nov. 1927

Micheal Sheils 12th June 1930

Rose Kiernan 28th Feb 1935

Patrick Kiernan 1st Aug. 1937

James Kiernan 30th June 1954

Mary F Sheils 17th June 1957

Peter Kiernan 18th June 1957

Ellen Kiernan 29th Dec 1957

Rose Anne Reilly 17th Nov 1971

Laurence P M Kiernan 6th Jan. 1977

Laurence Kiernan 30th April 1978

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