History of the Aherns
|Originally, Ó hEachthighearna meant "lord of the horse". The family were said to be descended from Echtigern who was a brother of the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru. They were of the Dalcassians, an important sept in the area between Sixmilebridge and Limerick in County Clare, east of the Owenogarney River which flows past Bunratty Castle.|
|In 1151, five chieftains of the Uí Echthigrirn family were killed in a bloody battle at Móin Mhór near Mourne Abbey. They were mostly driven out of the area by the MacNamaras in about 1318 and do not appear again in concentrated force until the 16th century in East Cork where they seem to have become professional soldiers in the service of the Norman lords, particularly Lord Roche and the Fitzgeralds of Desmond.|
|Despite often being on the losing side, the Aherns continued to offer their services as soldiers. Several of them were officers who fought for James II and the Jacobites against William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, and in the early 18th century several went to Spain and were officers in the Spanish army. And there was many an Irish lad who, for want of employment or an overindulgence in poteen, took the King's shilling and joined the British army. One such was Timothy Ahern of Co. Cork, who on a hot June day in 1775, found himself climbing up Breed's Hill in Charlestown, wearing a bright red coat with a heavy pack on his back. The climate was made even more unpleasant by the steady shower of hot lead which was falling at the time. On the opposite side in this conflict was another Timothy Ahern who was listed as a deserter from the Continental Army on 13 July 1780. In 1805 an Edward O'Ahern was a Captain of the 1st Battalion Irlandais in Napoleon's army.|
|Not all of the Aherns were bloodthirsty warriors. There were several who attained high clerical office in the 14th and 15th centuries, one Alan ÓHachierane having been Bishop of Kerry from 1336 to 1347, and in the 18th century there were several notable Irish poets of the name. In 1754 a Limerick man, Jon Aheron, was author and illustrator of the first book on Irish architecture to be printed in Ireland. In America, one Michael Ahern was the Chicago newspaper reporter who invented the tale of Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicking over the lantern that started the great Chicago fire of 1871, and another Chicagoan, Mike Ahern, was Al Capone's lawyer.|
|Aherns have also been involved in politics. One John Aherne was a United Irishman and close friend of the Irish revolutionary, Wolfe Tone. After the failed rising of 1798, he fled to France and became an officer in Napoleon's army. In January of 1922, a Thomas Ahern was one of 240 political prisoners who were unconditionally released from Dartmoor Prison in England after the signing of the Anglo Irish Treaty of December 6, 1921. And, of course, the most prominent Ahern in recent memory is Bertie Ahern, former Taoiseach of Ireland and leader of the Fianna Fail party.|
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This page copyright © 2000-2012 by Dennis Ahern.
accessed this page since July 15, 2000.
This page was last updated 30 September 2012.