This is the second and final part of the interview with Molly Hartin.
Posts Tagged ‘Longford’
This is an interview with Molly Hartin, in Danmel Reilly’s house, Glascarrick, Co. Cavan, conducted on the 28th December 2007. We covered a wide range of topics in this clip about family history and Molly, even though in her late eighties here, was articulate, lucid, and witty.
Molly is one of the oldest living descendants of Bernard Kiernan, Kilmore, Mullinlaghta, Co. Longford – and my father’s second cousin. It was our first meeting with Molly; in fact I had not seen Danmel and his sister Phylis in forty years. Phylis arranged the meeting, for which we are very grateful.
Trying to understand family history, relationships, context, culture, and all that defines who we are and where we are from, at least in temporal terms, can be a difficult task. Being able to speak with an elder as bright as Molly is a great boon in this search.
My sister Gilíosa did the filming and I tried to keep the conversation flowing – although it was not a difficult task with our lively partner, Molly.
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.
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.
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.
Posted in Aughagreagh Kiernan's, Kitty Kiernan, tagged Granard, Greville Arms, Kiernan, Longford, Louise Gavan Duffy, Michael Collins, Padraig Colum, Padraig Pearse, St Enda’s College, St Ita’s, Thomas McDonagh on 16 May, 2009| 1 Comment »
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
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.
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.
I rang Margot Gearty today, the daughter of Larry Kiernan, Granard, who was son of Peter Kiernan and brother of Kitty Kiernan. Peter’s sister, Rose Ann was my Great-Grandmother, and my Grandfather was called Peter. We had a lovely chat and it was good to make the connection between these families again after so many decades. Margot is very bright, articulate, and awake to family history. After our call she very kindly wrote the following peice to help our understanding.
The Granard Connection
Every family has its own unique history. My own particular connection to Granard began the day my grandfather Peter Kiernan walked to Granard in the early 1870s to seek his fortune. Being a younger son, he left his home in the townland of Aughagreagh which is about five miles west of Granard. His family had worked a small farm there for many generations and continue to do so up to the present day.
Within ten years of learning his trade in the grocery/hardware business in Granard, Peter was ready to fulfil his dream of owning his own place. But meanwhile, and most significantly, he had met the woman who would be his wife, his friend and support for the rest of their lives together. Bridget Dawson, of Cloncovid, and Peter Kiernan were married in the old church of Mullahoran, Co. Cavan on October 4th 1886.
Business flourished in their new premises ‘The Corner House’ Granard. Bridget, the Cavan woman, was shrewd and diplomatic while Peter was popular, respected and had a flair for business. A photograph from the Lawrence Collection (late 1890s) shows a thriving and lively three-story premises in a busy town.
Having lost their first baby at birth in December, 1887, Bridget gave birth the following year to twin girls Lily and Rose. After them came Christine, Lawrence Dawson, Catherine (Kitty), Helen and Maud in quick succession. The family remembered nothing but happiness from the years that followed. Twenty years later (1921) Kitty would write to her ‘very dear Micheal’
I’d love to feel you wanted me always beside you just the way Daddy and Mother used to be (Extract from Dermot Keogh and Gabriel Doherty. Michael Collins and the Making of the Irish State. Cork.1998. P.38)
Family folklore has it that after a busy day in the shop, the money counted and the children in bed, Peter would take Bridget into ‘the snug’ for a nightcap together. On the night of the 31st March 1901 he must have felt a happy and fulfilled man as he recorded on his census form that seventeen people resided in his home – his wife and seven children, six shop assistants and two domestic servants. He was also in 1899 elected as a member of Longford County Council.
Peter and Bridget purchased the Greville Arms Hotel after it’s proprietor William Mullen died in 1903. He also bought the shop next door which later became Kiernan Stores which stocked everything (according to adverts) ‘from a needle to an anchor’. Despite all these advances however, there was great cause for anxiety. In 1907 nineteen year old Rose was sent off to a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland in the desperate hope of a cure for her tuberculosis. It was not to be. She died there in a strange land, while her twin sister Lily, too ill for treatment, died at home in Granard on 27th November 1907. Exactly a year later, their mother Bridget died suddenly – her life cut short at only forty five years. Two months later Peter himself died on January 19th 1909.
Their only son Larry (my father) had to return home from St. Mel’s College, Longford to take over the running of this little empire at only seventeen years old. His older sister Chris stayed at home in Granard to help him while Kitty, Helen and Maud were sent by their guardian – their uncle Andrew Cusack – a draper in Granard (where Durkins reside now), to a new experimental school for girls at Cullenswood House, Ranelagh, Dublin. This school was St.Ita’s ,(a sister school to St. Enda’s school for boys in Rathfarnham) – both of which had as their director Padraig H. Pearse, BA, Barrister-at-Law. Sadly, this school closed down in 1912 and the girls all returned home to Granard. Each took responsibility for one or other aspect of their expanding business. A new era for the family had begun.
The following few years have been well documented. Suffice to say that the family settled down to hard work and a variety of social activities bringing with them the creative skills and broad education they had had both at Loreto and at St. Ita’s. Many suitors came on the scene for the four girls but it is Kitty’s blossoming romance with Michael Collins that concerns us here. This was a high profile love affair with hundreds of letters being exchanged between the two – the first being written by Collins in February or March 1919 – the last from Kitty on 17th August 1922.
For the purpose of this article I have included two letters from Michael Collins which have references specifically to Granard and County Longford. Despite the great affairs of State with which he was involved these letters show that he could still take time to show his interest not only in Kitty but in the minutia of life and business in a small midland town.
In one such letter, written on 8th November, 1921, having just arrived back in London for the Conference on the Treaty, he tells Kitty he has just been to at 8a.m.Mass and lit a candle for her. He continues
How did you get on yesterday?. Granard Market is held on an ill-chosen date.Monday – how could anyone be in a proper mood or manner for buying or selling on Monday morning? Of course this is the real explanation of the late hour of starting – isn’t it? Anyway I hope the day was not very strenuous for you and that you got through all right. Let me know please. ( Leon O’Broin. In Great Haste .The letters of Michael Collins and Kitty Kiernan. Dublin 1983)
Then in reply to a letter from Kitty written on May 22nd 1922 telling him of the death of Joe McGuinness (of Longford) whom she describes as “a very genuine sort of man and I liked him very much and got on well with him” Collins writes:-
He is a great loss to us, but apart from that I feel the personal loss much more keenly.He was the one responsible for the recent peace. (ibid)
Towards the end the letters become more somber. Collins and Kitty write to each other of Harry Boland’s death – each stricken by the tragedy and thinking back without bitterness on happier times. Kitty prays all day and goes with Larry to the funeral. Then came Arthur Griffith’s death. Someone has told Kitty, she writes to Collins ‘that if you go to the funeral to-morrow you will be shot, but God is very good to you, and we must do Lough Derg sometime in thanksgiving.
But it was not to be. The awesome tragedy of Collins death at Beal na Blath on August 1922 was the final grief for Kitty, her devastation total. Instead of the planned double wedding – Maud married Gearoid O’Sullivan in October of the same year – Kitty sat by her sister dressed in black from head to foot. My parents Larry and Peggy married in January, 1923 but Kitty does not appear in any of the photos. She lived with them in Granard for a few months, sitting in the drawing-room responding to the thousands of letters she received from Ireland and abroad. When she left to stay with Maud and take up a small government position, she seldom returned. The Pain of the memories was too great. In 1925 she married a friend and colleague of Collins – Major General Felix Cronin and had two sons.
I was born into the Greville Arms in 1933, the youngest of four children of Peggy and Larry. While having a rich and vibrant childhood we were touched by the spirit of the past. As we ate our meals in the coffee room, the framed eyes of Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith looked down upon us from handsome framed portraits on the walls. We children had black-bordered mortuary cards of Michael Collins in our prayer books. When we had measles and mumps the two impressive volumes of ‘Michael Collins’- by Pieras Beaslai were eagerly read.
Old family friends from ‘the Movement’ some by now government ministers or people in high office in the new state – called regularly and spoke of ‘the girls’ in hushed tones. ‘The girls indeed came themselves with their children, bringing excitement and glamour as ever. In 1940 Helen came back to Granard to die –aged only forty, elegant and lovely to the end. Six months later Maud died of the same ailment. Kitty lived only a few more years (1945) and was buried near the grave of Michael Collins at Glasnevin Cemetry. We watched sadly as our parents grieved for ‘the girls’ but on the 22nd December, 1948, a few days before Christmas, my father Larry died suddenly at home and with him the little empire that had been Kiernan’s Stores virtually came to an end. The depression of the 1950s took its toll and the next generation followed other paths. The Hotel changed hands in the early 1960s.
I lived near Granard up to 2004 but still return regularly, sometimes to have lunch in the Hotel or to take my visitors to climb the Moat. I tell them of Collins letter to Kitty written from Cadogan Square Gardens,London SW, on his birthday 16th October 1921, during the treaty negotiations:
and how I wish I were there now – on the Moat. Last time I was on the Moat, early morning,. Do you remember? I looked across the Inny to Derryvaragh over Kinale and Sheelin (and thought of Fergus O’Farrell) and turning westward saw Cairnhill where the beacons were lighted to announce to the men of Longford that the French had landed at Killalla. (Ibid)
Margot contributed a fuller article called, ‘the Granard Connection’, to an edited volume, Michael Collins and the Making of the Irish State, edited by Gabriel Doherty and Dermot Keogh. The collection also includes an article about Gearoaid O’Sullivan, friend of Collins and husband of Maud Kiernan.