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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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Death of Mr Lorcan Kiernan

The People Newspaper, Wexford, January 1977

A legion of friends and acquaintances, deeply mourn the death of Mr Lorcan Kiernan, “Loma”, Newtown Road, Wexford, which occurred at Ely Hospital, Wexford, on Thursday of last week.

Lorcan Kiernan at his desk, County Hall, Wexford

Lorcan Kiernan at his desk, County Hall, Wexford

Aged 48 years, Mr Kiernan was born in Dublin. He was son of the late Peter and Ellen Kiernan, and lived in Enniscorthy. He was a student of the local Christian Brothers’ schools. He commenced work in the County Hall, Wexford as clerical officer, with the County Council 30 years ago.

He first worked in the Housing section, then following a period in the Morter Taxation office, General Purposes, Rates, and he had been Housing Officer for 18 years.

In 1956 he was promoted to Staff Officer, and here he proved himself to be a most capable and able officer.

He served in various capacities, on the Officer Board and the Committee of the Wexford Branch of the Local Government and Public Services Union.

In 1965, he secured the Diploma in Local Administration of the Institute of Public Administration.

Mr Kiernan had a great interest in history, and when in Enniscorthy was secretary of the Local National Monuments Advisory Committee, working in close co-operation with that wonderful historian, the late Rev Joseph Ransome.

He found that the Wexford County Council Staff’s Social Club and took an active part in the social and charitable activities of the group.

Many times he visited the hospitals in Wexford and Enniscorthy, with the County Hall carol singers and around Christmas time this year he was rewarded when the singers came to the gate of his residence to cheer him with songs and hymns traditional of the festive season.

Lorcan was a leading member of the County Hall, “Tops of the Town” group and was well known for his performances in drama and variety shows in Dun Mhuire, with his equally gifted colleague Billy Ringwood. He wrote many brilliant scripts for the variety shows and on a couple of occasions he helped his group to carry off the premiere award. Last year the group reached the all Ireland “Tops of the Town” semi-final, and on that occasion, the great comedy team of Lorcan Kiernan and Billy Ringwood played in a brilliant sketch entitled “Electionitis”.

One great love in the late Mr Kiernan’s life was acting. At the age of seventeen he founded the “St Patrick Players” in Enniscorthy, and produced many plays, the proceeds of which went to the CBS Building Fund. These plays usually entertained the patients of St John’s Hospital.

He was president of the Wexford Parish Drama Group for the past four years and was an active member for many years previously, participating in several drama festivals. For some years he did the make up of the Wexford Light Opera Society.

Mr Kiernan was a lovable character, kind and unassuming and was greatly devoted to his wife and family to whom numerous friends offer sympathy on the severe blow they have sustained.

Lorcan and Mairín with their first born, Lorcan, in Arklow 1956

Lorcan and Mairín with their first born, Lorcan, in Arklow 1956

There was an extremely large attendance at the removal of the remains to the church of the Immaculate Conception, Wexford. Rev Denis Doyle, CC, Rev John O’Brien, St Peters College, and Rev W. Howell, do., officiated.

Mass of The Resurrection was celebrated on Saturday by Rev Fr Doyle. Amongst the other clergy in attendance were – very Rev Declan Cleary, PP, Castelbridge, very Rev Seamus de Bhal, PP, Oulart; Rev Michael Funge, CC; Rev P O’Brien, SPC, and Rev H Sinnott, CC Caim.

The readings were taken by Billy Ringwood, County Hall, and Tomas Murray of the Wexford Parish Drama Group.

Interment took place afterwards, in St Ibar’s Cemetery, Crosstown.

Chief mourners – Mrs. Mairin Kiernan, (widow); Lorcan, Peter, Timmy, Colm, Giliosa, (children); Mrs Dympna Doyle, 25 St John’s Villas, Enniscorthy (sister); Padge Kiernan, London; Seamus Kiernan, Dublin (brothers); Mr and Mrs Timothy Kennedy, Arklow (parents in law); Mark Doyle, Thomas Kennedy, USA, John Grogan, USA, Maurice Byrne, and Noel Gavin (brothers in law); sister Nuala Kennedy, Mercy Order, Coolach, Dublin; sister Caroline Kennedy, Mercy Order, Goldenbridge, Dublin. Mrs Aideen Gavin, Longford; Mrs Maurice Byrne, Templeogue, Dublin, Mrs Padge Kiernan, London (sister is in law); uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews and other relatives.

Rev Denis Doyle CC officiated at the graveside, and many other clergy were in attendance. RIP.

An Appreciation

To some men is given the capacity, temperament and personality to enrich our lives simply by their friendship. They are good to know and a joy to have as a friend. Such a man was Lorcan Kiernan.

One outstanding quality of life which endures above all others is good humour, and God bestowed Lorcan with this great quality and generous measure. Add to this an equal measure of loyalty, humanity and an amazing artistic talent, and the total person. That was Lorcan comes into focus. To all who knew him well these wonderful qualities made him stimulating companion and a loyal friend.

Lorcan had another profoundly attractive asset – he never grew up, and never lost his incredible sense of boyhood fun. When the occasion demanded seriousness, Lorcan had to work at it.

During his memorable years in the County Hall, while the rest of us pondered, frowned and worried over work problems, Lorcan instantly saw the inherent humour in them, adopted a light-hearted approach to their solution and then proceeded to solve the problem with an elegance that few could match. To his quick-fire mind, and with his unique descriptive talents, a programme of work became a military operation, a mundane occurrence was material for instant wit, a simple episode became an hilarious adventure. He had a startling capacity to argue, but none to quarrel.

Outside of his working life, to the people of Wexford, Lorcan will probably be best remembered for his talents on the stage. Excelling in either drama or a variety, a fierce love for the stage which he developed in his boyhood years never faltered and for many years he was the powerhouse of St Patrick’s Players, Enniscorthy and subsequently, Wexford Parish Drama Group.

In recent years, his priorities for his family and his profession left him insufficient time to devote to the dramatic stage, but he continued to delight Wexford audiences in his inimitable fashion. As an outstanding performer in “Tops of the Town” and variety shows, invariably performing for charitable causes. His reward was the roars of laughter from a packed Dun Mhuire Hall, which was heady wine to him.

His death in the fullness of life has left all who knew him well with a profound sense of personal loss. Above all, our hearts are with his wife, Mairin, and his family, who mourn him as a gifted husband and father but who must rejoice that they knew and loved him during the previous years.

I know you would want his final curtain call to resound with the words of the immortal Bard whose works he loved and interpreted so well:

Now cracks and noble heart, Goodnight, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Ar dheis De go raigh a anam dilis.

– BR  [Billy Ringwood]

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http://www.goreyguardian.ie/news/kilmuckridge-the-big-winners-1680595.html
Gorey Gaurdian, Wednesday March 18 2009

KILMUCKRIDGE and Wexford Drama Groups were the big winners at the culmination of the Wexford Drama Festival.

A packed Dun Mhuire theatre enjoyed Bridge Drama Group’s production of ‘Same Old Moon’ on Friday night, which brought to an end the eight night run of the very successful 47th Wexford Drama Festival.

The first award, the Audience Cup, was presented to Paul Walsh of Wexford Drama Group by patron, Dick Trappe for their production of ‘Holy Day’.

The Tomás Murray Award for best newcomer, was presented by Mary and Aoife Murray to Kilmuckridge Drama Group’s Peter Corboy for his role as Johnny Boyle in ‘Juno and the Paycock’. The Lorcan Kiernan Cup for Best Performance by a Wexford actor went to Fergal Kelly, of the Bunclody/Kilmyshall Drama Group.

Wexford Drama group got an Adjudicators Award for Lighting, Sound and Costumes, as did Kilrush for a wonderful scene in ‘A Skull in Connemara’ and Kilmuckridg e for ‘Juno and the Paycock’.

In the Confined section Best Set went to Castlebridge’s Bridge Drama Group, while overall Kilrush came third with ‘A Skull in Connemara’, the Bridge Players came second with ‘Same Old Moon’ and Kilmuckridge were crowned Confined champions with Andy Doyle also winning Best Producer for ‘Juno and the Paycock’.

In the Open Section Wexford Drama Group won Best Set, while overall Bunclody/ Kilmyshall Drama Group came third with ‘The Wake’, the Estuary Players came second with ‘The Last Days of Judas Iscariot’ and the overall Open section winners were Wexford Drama group for their production of Andrew Bovell’s ‘Holy Day’, with Wexford’s Paul Walsh also winning Best Director.

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The Colour of Life by Geoff Cronin, Moyhill Publishing, Dublin, Paperback, illustrated, 192 pages, price €9.95.

Extract from a review in the “Wexford Echo” 17 May 2006, by Nicky Furlong

“In 1967 the Wexford Drama Group (along with Monaseed) won top award, as they did consistently in those decades. It was Walter Macken’s “Twilight of a Warrior”. Cronin starred and the cast list aches with memories now: Pauline Rice, Billy Ringwood Jean Goold, Lorcan Kiernan, Nuala Doyle Fergal Cardiff, Noel McGrath and John Pierce Who produced? Who else: but Ned Power.

Geoff won Best Supporting actor the Festival. His involvement was constant while he was in Wexford He was manager of Irish National Insurance with offices in the Bullring. He preceded Dermot Carbury.”

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