Family of John Ahern
John Ahern was listed in Pigot's Directory of 1824 as the proprietor of an establishment on Main Street in Mallow under the following headings: Grocers, Tallow, Chandlers, etc.; Vintners, Spirit Dealers, etc.; and Timber Merchants. This suggests that he was a prosperous merchant. Another Ahern, Patrick, was listed at Main Street in the same directory under Tailors.
John Ahern served on the Board of Guardians of the Mallow Union Workhouse, from its first meeting on Friday the 19th of April 1839. Also present at that meeting were 23 others including Lord Doneraile, and William J. Voules, Esq., Assistant Poor Law Commissioner, and another John Ahern [sometimes spelt Aherne] from Kilshanick. This second John Ahern, and the two other commissioners from Kilshanick, resigned from the Mallow Union Board on 21 April 1840.
At the meeting in Buttevant on 14 June 1839, John Ahern was appointed to the Board of Appeals to review valuations, and the following month, at a special meeting on 15 July it was decided to split three townlands off to join another Union so as to make it sensible to locate the workhouse in Mallow. This proved to be advantageous because of the proximity to the Great Southern & Western Railway which employed men from the workhouse at 1 shilling and sixpence per day, which was three times the going rate.
In the Spring of 1842, construction of the workhouse was almost complete and a contract was put out to bid for the furniture. A Mr. Roche submitted a bid of £138, but Mr. Talbot, the architect in charge of construction persuaded Roche that he could never do it for that price, whereupon Roche increased his bid to £180, by which he lost out to a lower bidder. The lower bidder turned out to be one Mullane who then employed Talbot's apprentice to do the actual work. A complaint was made and the matter was reviewed at the meeting of the Board of Guardians on 21 May 1842, but the decision was not reversed. It is not known whether the Roche who got cheated out of this contract was the future son-in-law of John Ahern, but he might well have been.
The Mallow Union workhouse opened its doors on 2 August 1842 and for the half year ending September had served 199 paupers in rates. The following year this number dropped to 196, but with the advent of the great famine which resulted from the potato blight, the number shot up to 477 in 1846, 802 in 1847, 1164 in 1848 and 2134 in 1849. The devastation and misery brought about by the British government's incompetent response to this emergency fed the fires of rebellion for many years to come.
John Ahern worked for the freedom of Ireland by political means, being an outspoken supporter of Daniel O'Connel in the great Repeal movement of 1843-44. He was also a finacial supporter. In The Southern Reporter for 10 February 1844 it was reported that the Parish of Mallow had contributed £100 to the O'Connell "Tribute" for 1843. John Ahern is listed as giving £2, as are four others, with two contributors giving £3, 25 donations of £1 and the balance in shillings and pence.
One of the rewards for this support was a seat at the head table when Daniel O'Connell came to Mallow and made his "Defiance" speech, so called because for the first time he hinted at the possibility of armed rebellion when he said "The time has come when we must be doing. Gentlemen, you may soon have the alternative to live as slaves or die as free men. I think I perceive a fixed disposition on the part of some of our Saxon traducers to put us to the test. In the midst of peace and tranquility they are covering our land with troops." The country became inflamed with talk of war. The British fleet set sail for Ireland. British troops came to church on Sunday fully armed, while Catholic regiments were kept in barracks. The Duke of Wellington asked for a report on the percentage of Irish in each regiment so that he could decide which would be most reliable in putting down the rebellion. A funeral procession in Limerick was stopped and the coffin searched for weapons. All that was found, aside from the deceased, were pipes and tobacco for the wake.
It was all too much for O'Connell. Fearing that his words had incited the people to armed revolt, he tempered his remarks in a speech at Skibereen two weeks later, saying "I am not determined to die for Ireland. I would rather live for her. For one living repealer is worth a churchyard full of dead ones." This was the end for O'Connell. After his speech the Young Ireland faction broke away from the Repeal movement and abandoned O'Connell's cause, starting instead down the path to the armed rebellion of the 1848 Rising and the Fenian movement.
Having failed in his challenge to the British government, O'Connell lost the support of the people and died a broken man in 1847. The Mallow speech was the high water mark of the Repeal movement and it was as a result of the Mallow meeting that a marble statue was commissioned that stands today in the foyer of the Dublin City Hall.
It is not known to what extent the defeat of John Ahern's political ideals may have influenced his children, but within the next two decades almost all of them emigrated to America and settled in Arlington, Massachusetts.
John Ahern married Catharine Ahern. Catharine's maiden name was also Ahern, and that is how it is given on the death certificate of their son, Patrick who died in 1915 in Arlington, and also on the baptismal records of their children born in Mallow. The record of their marriage not having yet been found in the parish books of St. Mary's in Mallow suggests that she was from another parish.
Their children were:
This page maintained by Dennis Ahern.
visitors have accessed this page since April 2, 1998.